Checklist for Worthy Claims

Not all claims are a good basis for academic and professional arguments. Here are four questions that will help you evaluate whether your claim is worth arguing. Check each item to see the next.

Question #1

Can you imagine that someone would argue for the opposite of your claim?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Your claim is contestable<.

  • Your claim is not contestable. You do not need to argue in favor of a claim your readers already accept. Revise this claim or find another one that someone might not be willing to accept without an argument.

Question #2

Can you imagine any evidence that might prove your claim wrong?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Your claim is contestable and supportable<.

  • Your claim is not supportable. If you can’t imagine any evidence or arguments that would change your mind, then your readers are not likely to change their minds either. If your claim—or its opposite—is the kind of belief that people will hang onto no matter what the evidence says, then you have no basis for making a rational argument about it. Revise your claim to make it subject to evidence.

Question #3

Will your claim lead people to act immorally or to accept immoral or unjust beliefs?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Your claim is not ethical. Sometimes claims that seem to take a bold position might not be ethical in the real world. Revise your claim so that your readers do not feel as though it asks them to engage in behavior or consider an argument that they consider fundamentally unacceptable.

  • Your claim is contestable, supportable, and ethical.

Question #4

Will your claim create problems that are worse than the one you started with?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Your claim is not prudent. If your claim could create a problem worse than the one you are trying to solve, your readers are unlikely to accept it—nor should they. Revise your claim so that it makes things better, not worse.

  • Your claim is contestable, supportable, ethical, and prudent.