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Nov 25 / B/R Quality Control Team

Argumentative Articles: Thesis, Rhetorical Structure, Factual Evidence

Part 6 of Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher ReportClick here for more information and to download all of Playbook for free.

The second of the three story types Bleacher Report evaluators consider is the Argumentative Article. In Argumentative Articles, the thesis plays a similar role that the story angle plays in News Reports, and the evaluation of this element is similar.

The piece’s first three paragraphs should include a definitive thesis statement, meaning a single sentence that lays out the article’s primary argument. That argument may be based on facts or judgment. That is, it may say that something is or is not, or it may say that something should or should not be.

Once an Argumentative Article’s thesis has been established, evaluators look for how well you develop that thesis statement and marshal factual evidence to support it.

The thesis should be developed through a sequence of two or more definitive sub-arguments, each of which should logically support the thesis. By “definitive,” we mean the sub-argument can be encapsulated in a single sentence. And, as we discussed regarding the News Report Story Angle, it must be both plausible and logical.

Something to watch for when developing the sub-arguments that support your thesis is avoiding substantive digressions. We define a “digression” as any statement that fails to advance the article’s argument. “Substantive” means the digression is two or more sentences long.

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Of course, it’s not enough to just present your thesis and sub-arguments. You also have to support them with facts. Each sub-argument must be explicitly supported by at least one fact, which should appear within one paragraph of the sub-argument. Assertions unsupported by facts are a major reason for evaluators to mark down a story.

Here’s a good example of supporting a sub-argument with facts. In Ciaran Gowan’s July 7, 2013, story Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce Will Ignite Brooklyn Nets-NY Knicks Rivalry, the thesis is “now that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are members of the Brooklyn Nets, their matchup with the New York Knicks is set to turn into a genuine rivalry.”


Even beyond KG and Pierce, we have the arrival of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in Brooklyn, who each have their own history with the Knicks.

Supporting Fact 1

Kidd was a major part of New York’s fantastic 2012-13 season, but he ran out of gas in the playoffs before retiring and taking over the Nets’ vacant head-coaching job.

Supporting Fact 2

In the playoffs, we also saw J.R. Smith strike an elbow to the head of Terry, which completely changed the first-round series between the Knicks and Celtics and will likely still mean something to the two players in question.

The final step in developing your thesis is to present a substantive conclusion that makes a meaningful point. Your conclusion should sum up your main argument and spin the thesis forward. The emphasis here is on the spinning forward rather than the summing up, but summing up is important too. You needn’t rehash your argument point by point, but you should at least restate enough of it so that your forward-looking conclusion appears in a context the reader can easily understand.

For instance, here is how Ciaran’s Knicks-Nets article did it:

What two other teams in the league can boast proximity, competitiveness and an intense dislike for each other like these two can?

NBA fans—especially those based in New York—are in for a treat next season. KG and Pierce are going to turn this rivalry into something special, and we get to see it play out four times a year and possibly in the postseason.

Next post: Ranked Lists: Ranking Logic
Previous post: News Report: Narrative Structure, Information Aggregation

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Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report Writers is an 18-part series outlining the metrics and criteria of B/R’s objective Writer Evaluation system. The system complements the subjective assessments made by members of our Editorial Team, which means that a solid evaluation is a necessary but not sufficient condition of success with B/R. You can find more information and download the full Playbook for free at this link

Playbook Table of Contents:

Three story types
News Report Story Angle
News Report Narrative Structure, Information Aggregation
Argumentative Articles: Thesis, Rhetorical Structure, Factual Evidence
Ranked Lists: Ranking Logic
Ranked Lists: Topic, List Composition
Attribution and Hyperlinks
Textual Correctness
Sentence and Paragraph Structure
Authorial Voice
B/R Style and Formatting
Multimedia Assets
Common Mistakes: General
Common Mistakes: Three Article Types