Argument for Scientists

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L. Michelle BakerL. Michelle Baker, Ph.D.
441 Walina Street, Apt. 703
Honolulu, HI 96815
304 283 4573
Author: Writing in the Environmental Sciences: A Seven-Step Guide

Scientists are trained to be neutral, objective, and unbiased. Government scientists are trained to hedge, to qualify, and to guard their statements. However, many documents written by government biologists require them to take a position on behalf of an agency and clearly explain the rationale for that position. This type of writing is commonly called “argumentative” or “persuasive.”

The techniques that comprise good science and the techniques that comprise good persuasion seem to be so far at odds that government scientists struggle to find an appropriate tone, resort to passive and bureaucratic forms of communication, and state the position of their agencies in ways that feel obscure, unclear, or even contradictory to their readers.

This class will outline the difference between the argument strategies that are used (oftentimes unethically) in advertisements or popular media and legitimate modes of discourse that are employed in civic discourse. These strategies are the very basis for decision-making and include such concepts as drawing conclusions from data, experts, and examples. You’ll learn how to clearly state the problem; the position that is being taken by your agency; and the reasons for your position, regulatory and scientific.

This was such a great class. You rock!

You’ll see how to employ definitions both from the regulations and from your background in biology that will demonstrate to your reader the accuracy of your findings. You’ll learn how to speak to your reader in a tone that is authoritative and informative rather than bureaucratic and obscure.

Finally you’ll be able to show the implications of your position, the next steps, what can and should be done to protect America’s natural resources, which is the very heart and soul of the work that you do.

Argument for Scientists is an excellent learning opportunity. I appreciated the personal touch Michelle put into this class. It was clearly designed with us in mind, and I could see that Michelle spent a lot of time developing the class, reading our previous work, and constructing recommendations to improve our unique situation.


  1. Define a problem within a context.
  2. Select and define the principles required to support your position.
  3. Articulate your position.
  4. Use data, authorities, and examples to support your position.
  5. Outline a series of implications and suggestions.

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