Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

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Legal skills and debates in Scotland

1.7  Developing your own argument

Arguments can be constructed in different ways and take different forms. The next activity provides you with an opportunity to think about the construction of arguments.

Activity 3 More than one argument

(Allow 10 minutes)

Read the following statements given below, which provide some facts about Killiecrankie Law School’s plan to produce an environmental law module.

Using the different statements, apply the principles that you have learnt about the construction of an argument to devise your own argument about whether Killiecrankie Law School is likely to succeed in their plan.

Statements

  • The Law School at Killiecrankie University will get approval from the University Approvals Committee for its new module in environmental law in September 2018.
  • The Law School plans to develop an environmental law module so that it is ready to present to students in June 2019.
  • It usually takes 12 months from approval of a new law module by the University Approvals Committee for it to be developed and made ready to be delivered to students.

Comment

You will probably have tackled this activity in different ways and come up with different arguments. Based on the information that you have been given in the different statements, several formulations are possible. They are likely to form some variation on one of the following:

  • ‘The environmental law module will not be ready for delivery in June 2019 as it takes 12 months to develop a module that would be ready to deliver to students.’
  • ‘The environmental law module is unlikely to be ready for delivery in June 2019.’
  • ‘There is considerable doubt about whether or not it will be possible for the Law School to deliver the environmental law module in nine months.’
  • ‘The Law School will have to work very hard to deliver the environmental law module in nine months as it usually takes 12 months from university approval being given to deliver a module to students.’

The first argument is the most categorical – it asserts that the module will not be ready in time. It leaves itself open to a counter-assertion that on occasions it would appear to be possible to deliver a module in a shorter interval of time as the use of the word ‘usually’ would seem to indicate that this is the case. The second argument is less categorical and appears to take this uncertainty into account, but does not explain the reason for the uncertainty – it gives no evidence for the premise and in essence offers only an opinion. The third argument does explain that it is probably not going to be possible to deliver the module by June 2019, but does not explain why this is so.

The final argument is more sophisticated as it makes the assumption that the Law School will have to do something different from the norm if they want to deliver a new module in nine months rather than the usual 12-month period. However, it may be the wrong assumption as the facts do not explain why it takes 12 months to develop a new module.

In this activity you have been given the facts on which to base your arguments. Developing your own arguments will involve finding facts and the evidence and evaluating these for yourself. This is an important skill whether being used for study, daily life or work. For example, it could be used to help construct a letter arguing for or against the granting of planning permission, to obtain funding for a project, to obtain support for a change in the law, to demonstrate entitlement to a right or benefit of some form, or to challenge a decision.

Box 2 contains some advice on how you can develop your own arguments. Section 2 will consider how judges apply the law.

Box 2 Practical advice on developing an argument

The way in which you choose to frame your argument depends on a variety of factors, including how and why you are arguing and whom you are arguing for.

So, it is helpful to think very carefully about the following points:

  • What point are you trying to make?
  • How are you going to back up your argument?
  • What evidence is available?
  • What evidence is most appropriate for the argument?
  • Does the evidence support the argument? What is the logical connection?
  • What gaps or inconsistencies are there in your argument?
  • Is your conclusion based on the evidence?

It is a good idea to consider the nature of any possible objections or contradictions to your argument. Doing so will help you to evaluate the strength of your own argument. It may be that more evidence in support of your argument is required or that your argument needs refinement. Always treat opposing arguments with respect as they will help to make your argument more robust – you will need to think carefully about why you disagree.

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