Claims and evidence

A brief introduction to argument mapping

It is important to teach students the basics of arguments from the beginning of the course. Not only do they need to identify arguments themselves when they read text books and articles, they also need to be able to construct their own arguments when they write their papers. In order to do this well, students need to be able to differentiate between facts and opinions - between claims and evidence.

The first step to help them understand what an argument is could be an exercise like the one outlined here.


Try to find an easy article where the claim(s) and the argument are easily identified, as the one presented here on the power of exercise. Ask the students to read the article and work with it using the SQR3 method.

Then discuss in class what should be noted in order to capture the essence of the argument and have the students take notes using the Cornell note taking system. The Cornell note taking system is a standardized way of taking notes. Here is one example of instructions for taking notes in this manner. and there are instructions on how to do that on the Internet.

It is important for students to see a sample of this note-taking method that includes a clear understanding of the main points and the supporting evidence of an argument. This exercise will help students to understand the benefits from active studying and taking notes.

Once the notes are taken, it is time to create an argument map. Explain the components of arguments to students: claims, evidence, and reason. Then have students work in pairs to do this based on their notes and have them present their results to the rest of the class. The first part of working with argument mapping is just to create a simple argument, that is no counter-argument is required in this exercise.

Finally, you could ask them to work out claims on their own based on something you have read in class or just something they are interested in. Ask them to consider how they would try to support their claims and why. What kind of evidence would be appropriate in a psychology paper and why? What would not be appropriate and why? You could also ask them to consider what would be enough as support for their claims if they were discussing the same topic with their friends. This encourages them to consider not only the academic aspect of the psychology papers but also the difference between evidence in daily conversations where own experiences is perfectly fine as evidence.

The SQR3 Method

Survey the text to get an overview of what it is about

  • Read the introduction to the chapter.
  • Look over the major section headings. Glance at the figures.
  • Skim questions, key words and summaries at the end of the chapter if this is provided.
  • If relevant, relate the information to previous knowledge
  • Try to get a sense of what is important in the text.

Question: Create and answer questions about the text

  • What are the main points? What is the argument which is made?
  • What evidence supports the main points? Is there empirical research to support the claims?
  • What are the applications or examples?
  • How is this related to what I already know?

Read the text actively and take notes

  • Read the section actively. Search for the answers to your questions.
  • Take notes using the Cornell Method to organize your thoughts.

Recite the main points in order to remember them

  • Look up from the text and try to remember what you have read.
  • Using the notes that you have taken, give the answers to the questions raised.


  • Go back and highlight or underline the main points in your own notes.
  • Add more notes in the text or margin in order to clarify ideas.
  • Review now and then in order to relate new knowledge to what you already learned but also just to refresh your memory

Materials for this exercise

For this assignment, the first thing that you will need is the key reading: The Power of Exercise.

When giving students the article for the first time, they should also be given the activity guide sheet (see below). The goal of this assignment is to have them interact with the text as well as be reflective on their own learning process.

Here are two examples of model notes using the Cornell method based on the article The Power of Exercise.

Cornell method notes, sample 1

Cornell method notes, sample 2

For argument mapping, students should be provided with a very simple form to fill in. Below is a generic form that you can adapt for any article, the form that would be used for this paticular article, and then a model map of the article.

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