The Skills of Argument - How to Argue and Win - LAWS5890

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


The curriculum is in three parts:

(1) A historical, sociological and political contextualisation of argument and arguing. The aims of argument will be investigated through these perspectives, enabling students to develop a critical approach to argument, and supplementing the skills of argument by raising students' awareness of the premises and assumptions within which argument takes place. The distinction of argument from other modes of interaction and expression will be considered by relation to these contexts.

(2) The second part of the module treats argument and arguing formally, both by mapping the standard forms of argument, and by showing formally how to pick out a bad argument from a good one. This part of the module thus investigates deductive and inductive reasoning, argument by analogy, and the use of supportive evidence and the structure of justification, and attends carefully to the set of formal fallacies in argumentation. These topics are illustrated throughout by attention to real examples from law and elsewhere, with attention given to how formal argument is constructed and to the skills required to identify formal fallacies. This knowledge base is used by students to develop their own skills of formal argument and their ability to critique the argument of others.

(3) The third part of the module turns to the skills of rhetoric and persuasion, including examination of the ploys and devices that are often used to give bad or weak arguments persuasive force. Attention will be given to aspects of coherence and cogency arising from studies in linguistics and the philosophy of language, and a particular focus will be given to arguments drawing on authority, using law in illustration. Again, students will be expected to develop their own skills in these regards, using rhetoric and other devices both to support good argument and to lend weak argument greater persuasive force.


Contact hours

Total study hours: 150
Contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130


All social sciences undergraduate Law programmes

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

The module will be assessed by 2-hour examination (100%).

Students must achieve a mark of 40% in the exam in order to pass this module.

Reassessment methods

Reassessment Instrument: 100% exam

Students must achieve a mark of 40% in the exam in order to pass this module on reassessment.

Indicative reading

• Audi R., The Structure of Justification (CUP, 1993)
• Bickenbach J.E and Davies J., Good Reasons for Better Arguments (Broadview, 1997)
• Copi I.M. and Cohen C., Introduction to Logic (13th, Prentice Hall, 2008)
• Goodrich P., Legal Discourse Studies in Linguistics, Rhetoric and Legal Analysis (2nd, Pallgrave, 1990)
• Grayling A.C., The Art of Always Being Right – Thirty-eight Ways to Win when You Are Defeated (Gibson Square, 2005)
• Mills S., Discourse (2nd, Routledge, 2003)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the historical, sociological and political contexts for the use of argument and arguing.
2. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the concepts and principles at issue in contemporary approaches to argument, including the
use of deductive and inductive reasoning, analogy, coherence and cogency, the use of authority, and modes and devices of rhetoric and
3. Identify argument and distinguish it from other modes of interaction.
4. Analyse critically both simple and complex arguments.
5. Rank arguments in relation to weakness and strength in relation to a range of formal and critical criteria.
6. Present sustained and persuasive argument in writing.
7. Present sound argument with persuasive force.
8. Present weak argument with persuasive force.
9. Argue persuasively within given social, cultural or institutional parameters.
10. Engage in reasoned and informed discussion on the major themes treated on the module.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Apply critical, analytical and problem-solving skills in a wide range of different legal and non-legal settings.
2. Research an issue to find relevant principles and concepts, and to investigate those principles and concepts critically and analytically
3. Identify flaws and weaknesses in argument
4. Distinguish and rank simple and complex arguments according to weakness and strength
5. Use library and web resources, including journal articles, to research an issue
6. Present a sustained critical analysis of argument, including legal argument, in writing


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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