To be convincing, an academic argument must be objective and unbiased, so that its analysis is thorough and its conclusions are rigourously tested, and based on neutral and rational views. Conclusions are drawn cautiously, to avoid exaggeration. Demonstrating these attributes in the way that you work is fundamental, but you can also reflect and reinforce them in the way you write.
Below is a sample of academic writing, with sections of the text underlined to show where it demonstrates this quality:
Shakespeare's sonnets demonstrate that he exploited the potential of literary forms as a means of argument.Argument is not a purely cognitive activity in which one's case is always made cogently and explicitly; both in life and literature it is reliant upon suggestion and an appeal to the emotions, as is evident in Sonnet 42. On a superficial level, the argument appears to be that of the poet within himself; he seems to have successfully convinced himself through witty conceit that his ‘grief' is in fact a ‘joy'. However, the true argument is directed at the reader; Shakespeare suggests that the offered consolation is entirely insubstantial. The apparent retreat to internality (‘thee' becomes ‘my friend' in the thirteenth line, indicating that the poem is no longer addressed to the friend) suggests a lack of confidence which prevents the poet from making public the conceit-based argument, while the flat contradiction of the preceding lines in ‘she loves but me alone' means that this effect does not rely on any exophoric reference on the reader's part; the inconsistency is a fundamental aspect of the poem's design. Although the sonnet is an entirely different medium from the play, this poem demonstrates two aspects of Shakespearian argument which, it will here be contended, are evident in the problem plays: firstly, that Shakespeare's argumentative method is to appeal to the emotions rather than to reason, and secondly that he argues through negation (as, for example, he negates the abandoned lover's consolation in Sonnet 42). The term ‘problem plays' will here be taken as referring to The Merchant of Venice, All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. Although other plays, notably Troilus and Cressida, have also been placed in this category by critics, they have much less in common with these three than they do with each other.
- The first person 'I' is avoided, and passive constructions are used instead: 'it will here be contended' instead of 'I contend'. Sometimes this strategy may become unnecessarily wordy: 'will here be taken as refering to' could have been phrased more concisely as 'here refers to'.
- Hedging language is used to distinguish between statements which can be made with confidence (with red text) and those which could be contested, eg 'suggests'.
- The language is neutral and avoids emotive words.