Task 1: What issue do you plan to address? [Try wording the issue as a one-sentence question.]
Task 2: What is your tentative answer to the question? [Write out this answer and put a box around it. This answer is your beginning thesis statement or claim. You might write out a few other answers, directed at a neutral audience.]
Task 3: Why is this a controversial issue? Is there insufficient evidence to resolve the issue? Is the evidence ambiguous or contradictory? Are definitions in dispute? Do the parties disagree about basic values, assumptions, or beliefs?
Task 4: What personal interest do you have in this issue? What are the consequences for you if your argument succeeds or doesn't succeed? How does the issue affect you? Why do you care about it? [Determining why you care about it may help you get your audience to care about it.]
Task 5: Who is the audience that you need to persuade? If your argument calls for an action, who has the power to act on your claim? Can you address these persons of power directly? Or do you need to sway others (such as voters) to exert pressure on persons in power? With regard to your issue, what are the values and beliefs of the audience you are trying to sway?
Task 6: What obstacles or constraints in the social or physical environment prevent your audience from acting on your claim or accepting your beliefs? What are some ways these obstacles can be overcome? If these obstacles cannot be overcome, should you change your claim?
Task 7: What is your plan for the main body of your paper? [In this task, you will use freewriting or idea mapping to think up the main reasons and evidence you could use to sway your intended audience. Brainstorm everything that comes to mind that might help you support your case. Because this section will eventually provide the bulk of your argument, proceed rapidly without worrying whether your argument makes sense. Just get ideas on paper. As you generate reasons and evidence, you are likely to discover gaps in your knowledge. Where could your argument be bolstered by additional data such as statistics, examples, and expert testimony? Where and how will you do the research to fill the gaps?]
Task 8: Now reread what you wrote for Tasks 5 and 6, in which you examined your audience's perspective. Role-playing that audience, imagine all the counterarguments people might make. Where does your claim threaten them or oppose their values? What obstacles or constraints in their environment are individuals likely to point to? ("I'd love to act on your claim but we just don't have the money" or "If we grant your request, it will set a bad precedent.") Brainstorm all the objections your audience might raise to your argument.
Task 9: How can you respond to those objections? Take them one by one and brainstorm possible responses?
Task 10: Finally, explore again why this issue is important. What are its broader implications and consequences? What other issues does it relate to? [Thinking of possible answers to these questions may prove useful when you write your introduction or conclusion.]