TRADE C is a really simple way to structure an argument, whether in writing – such as for a GCSE AO2 answer or A Level essay – or when presenting an argument orally, such as in a debate.
THESIS: Begin by stating what you will argue in the simplest, clearest terms possible. Answer the question, in a sentence, always using the wording of the question to signpost that this is your thesis and that you have answered the question.
- For example, if the question is “Capital punishment is never justified!” Discuss, your thesis might be “Capital punishment is sometimes justified.”
- For another example, if the question is “Critically evaluate the view that abortion is never justified”, your thesis could be “Abortion is never justified.”
- For a final example, if the question is “Critically compare Aquinas’ version of natural law with John Finnis’ version of natural law. Which offers the most practical approach to making decisions about sex in the 21st Century?” then your thesis could be “Aquinas’ version of natural law offers a more practical approach to making decisions about sex than John Finnis’ version of natural law.”
REASONS: Follow your thesis with 2/3 developed reasons to support your argument. Conclusion because of this, this and that. At GCSE a developed point is 3 sentences, Point, Evidence (ideally a quotation), Explanation – so at GCSE PEE, PEE, PEE. At A Level a developed point follows the same PEE structure, but is more detailed, so demands a Link sentence at the end of each point to connect it back to the Thesis – so at A Level PEEL, PEEL, PEEL.
AGREE: Remember to include reference to a scholar and/or religious denomination who agrees with your argument. You can either use scholarship / religious teachings in the Evidence of your Reasons paragraph, or failing that add another developed PEE(L) point here. At GCSE you cannot get more than half the AO2 marks without referring to Religious teachings. At A Level, you would struggle to get many marks at all – A01 or A02 – without referring to Scholarship, so a single point is a bare minimum… aim to get Agree into every Reasons paragraph.
DISAGREE: In the second half of your answer, outline at least one – ideally two – counterclaims, relating each to Scholarship and/or Religious teaching. Point, Evidence (ideally quotation), Explain, Link back to your thesis, showing the implications of this counterclaim for your argument. PEEL, PEEL
EVALUATE: Either after each counterclaim or after you have outlined both, explain why you do not find the counterclaim convincing, using evidence (including quotations, scholars, religious teachings) and defending your thesis. You MUST make judgments about the counterclaims in this section, signposting that you are doing this by using phrases such as:
- This argument is poorly supported because…
- This is not persuasive because…
- This does not follow because…
- This seems to ignore the fact that… therefore this argument is weak…
- This argument makes the assumption that… which is unreasonable because…
Evaluation is the key to getting high marks at both GCSE and A Level, so don’t cut this section short and make sure that you develop it as much as possible, using evidence to back up your judgments and making clear LINKS to the thesis after each evaluation point to show how you are advancing and defending your argument, not just describing ways to attack it! PEEL PEEL.
CONCLUSION: Finish your answer / essay by starting a new paragraph with “In conclusion” then restating your Thesis, using exactly the same words. This signposts the fact that you have answered the question and proves that your argument has been coherent and well-structured (i.e. the Thesis and Conclusion match!). If you have time, follow this by summarizing your best reason(s) and by acknowledging any limitations your argument has (i.e. what might change your mind, what your argument depends on, any areas for further consideration or research) and the implications of your conclusion (i.e. how people should think or act going forward). PEEL
So, in summary…
- T, RA(pee), RA(pee), DE(peel), C
- [Intro]T, RA(peel), RA(peel), RA(peel), DE(peel), DE(peel), C(peel)
NB: Be very careful about Introductions, either at GCSE or A level. There is a big temptation to write down lots of irrelevant background information and forget to get down to the business of arguing your case until it is too late. Stick to clarifying the wording of the question and/or limiting the scope of your answer.