The power of argument: How to really (and I mean REALLY) write an effective supporting paragraph in your IELTS essay

I received a very interesting email last week.

In this email, an online reader of my blog compared the supporting paragraphs of my essays to the philosophical subject of syllogisms.

What is a syllogism?

A syllogism is a logically structured argument ordered in a manner that encourages the drawing of a common conclusion between debating people. For example, if I were to say to you:

(1) All people need to eat food.

(2) Some people are men.

(3) Therefore, all men need to eat food.

…it would be very difficult for you to counter that not all men need to eat food because the evidence I have provided above is logical.  This is the idea of syllogisms, or logical argumentation.

So how can syllogisms help us when we write our IELTS essay?

Part of what your examiner is looking for is to see how well you can communicate a position in English. This position could be your position (as is the case when we write an argument essay), or it could be the position of another person (as is the case when we write a discussion essay). In either structure, you need to provide sound evidence to either prove or disprove the position, depending on what your purpose for the essay is.  And this is where syllogisms come in.

So let’s say we are writing an essay in response to a Task 2 question that looks like this:

Technology will accelerate the rate of globalization. Do you agree or disagree?

OK.  Let’s pretend we agree with the above and have decided on the following as our supporting points:

(1) technology encourages cultural exchange

(2) technology makes people aware of international living standards

Now that we have decided upon our supporting points, we have to develop their logical application to the problem.So, if you recall our initial syllogistic example:

(1) All people need to eat food.

(2) Some people are men.

(3) Therefore, all men need to eat food.

…we need to apply this same logical progression to our essay’s supporting points.  Thus, in the case of the first point, technology encourages cultural exchange, perhaps we could logically argue:

(1) Technology encourages international friendships.

(2) International friendships quicken the development of a common global culture, a process better known as ‘globalization’.

(3) Therefore, technology accelerates globalization.

…and for our second point, technology makes people aware of international living standards, maybe we would reason:

(1) Technology makes people aware of international living standards.

(2) People actively work towards attaining the higher standards of living they see elsewhere.

(3) Therefore, technology accelerates globalization.

Now we’ve really got an argument that is difficult to disprove! But we’re not finished yet. An argument is still flimsy unless it has real world application, and this is where examples come in.  Examples help us link our argument to reality and show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the position we are taking is infallible.

So what would be a good example of a technology that encourages international friendships?

Let’s go with Facebook.

And what would be a good example of a technology that allows people to view the living standards available to others?

Let’s go with DVD technology and narrow it to Hollywood film distribution.

Now, we’re going to flesh out the syllogistic argument structures we wrote above into real IELTS supporting paragraphs, complete with examples (these would be the real paragraphs we would write on our exam):

Firstly, technology encourages international friendships. For example, Facebook now makes it possible for 800 million different users from a variety of countries to interact and exchange ideas and cultural understanding in a manner that was infeasible before. As this example shows, this establishing of international friendships is intrinsically linked to the development of a common global culture. Therefore, the conclusion can be drawn that technology is accelerating globalisation at an unprecedented rate.

In addition to this, technology has allowed people to educate themselves of living standards enjoyed in other countries. For example, Hollywood DVD movies have provided the world a glimpse of life in America. This has incited people to actively work towards attaining the material staples of the American dream, namely a car, house and financial security. As people strive for these common goals, it is clear that technology has played and will continue to play a large part in the speed of globalisation.

Great.  We’ve just written two ironclad paragraphs that when coupled with a solid thesis would be very challenging to refute.

Now please take a minute to reread the above supporting paragraphs. You should be able to pull them apart into their syllogistic components. Can you see how the argument progression entices the reader to agree? Can you see how the examples make it difficult for the reader to disprove what we’ve written? Can you feel how strongly the final sentence concludes the fundamental point of each paragraph?

This is the power of argument.  Now go out there and practice it!

About Ryan

I have been developing online IELTS training resources for over 10 years. For more information about me and how I can help your preparation for the IELTS, please email me:
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