How to structure a strong argument – The SEXC method

If you can’t win the argument, correct their spelling.
And if you can’t do that, insult their typography.

What is an argument? What do people mean when they say argument? Does an argument inherently mean verbal fighting? Why is it important? And if we already know how to argue, because we argue with people all the time, why do we need to read an article about it?

Words from the masters:

We learn to speak by copying our parents and those around us. This means that the foundation for our communication is usually built on imitating what was on hand and not what is most effective. Plato and Aristotle struggled with, and worked to refine, the argument. They gave us rules with which to make order of the chaos in our minds. Just as a contract tries to avoid vague language, so too, do we want to make sure that we say what we mean to say and hear what others really mean. Understanding the structure of an argument is they key to better understanding others and helping them understand us.

Learning to structure an argument breaks down what we claim into a clear format which is easy to understand and easy to present. It also lets us break up the various components of the argument, analyze which of them could be stronger, or doesn’t fit, and through that make the most sound and persuasive arguments we can. Whether for speeches, lobbying during the unmoderated caucus or when writing a position paper, the tools to make a strong argument are very important and very useful to be an effective Model United Nations delegate.

What is an argument?

- A reason, or set of reasons, given with the aim of persuading others that an action, or idea, is right or wrong.
- A reason / justification / explanation.An argument explains something.

How do you make an argument?

Statement + Explanation
However, a strong argument also required an example and conclusion
A strong argument is SEXC - Statement Explanation eXample Conclusion

Statement + Explanation + eXample + Conclusion

The SEXC method of argumentation

Statement - A declarative sentence that is either true or false.

In your statement make sure to declare something! “airforce”, “kitchen sink”, “walk to the open fire grill” or “the many folders on my computer desktop” are not statements. A statement needs to commit to something, even if it is as simple as “a triangle has three corners”

EXAMPLE

Australia is beautiful
Always fly using American Airlines
No one should possess nuclear weapons

Explanation

Give a justification for the statement. This should be a reason for why your statement is true. A single statement can have multiple justifications but one is sufficient for an argument.

EXAMPLE

- Australia is beautiful – because of the coral reef
- Always fly American Airlines – because they have the lowest prices
- No one should possess nuclear weapons – because if one is launched the damage would be catastrophic

eXample

An example is a warranty that you bring as support to show that what you are talking about is true, and / or, to explain what you mean. Without an example one needs to simply disprove the explanation to challenge the statement. The eXample comes as an additional support to the argument to insure it is not only correct but is also proven in the real world.

EXAMPLE

- Australia is beautiful – because of the coral reef – which was voted by National Geographic as the best coral diving in the world
- Always fly American Airlines – because they have the lowest prices – last month they had a promo where they said they would match any price you showed them and charge $10 less
- No one should possess nuclear weapons – because if one is launched the damage the damage would be catastrophic – after the Hiroshima bombing of 1945, along with the huge loss of life, thousands died in pain from dehydration and the land was contaminated for decades

Conclusion

Conclude by repeating your statement. You can reformulate the exact phrasing but the conclusion needs to be similar to the introduction and summarize the argument.After the explanation and example, sometimes the listener, or reader, might forget what the main point was. For this reason you want to end your argument with a conclusion which reminds the audience what the point was (just as we did in this paragraph. See what we did here 🙂

Australia is beautiful – because of the coral reef – which was voted by National Geographic's as the best coral diving in the world - and that’s why Australia is beautiful
Always fly American Airlines – because they have the lowest prices – last month they had a promo where they said they would match any price you showed them and charge $10 less – and that’s why you should always fly American Airlines
No one should possess nuclear weapons – because if one is launched the damage the damage would be catastrophic – after the Hiroshima bombing of 1945, along with the huge loss of life, thousands died in pain from dehydration and the land was contaminated for decades – and that’s why no one should posses nuclear weapons

To Sum Up

For many first time Model United Nations delegates speaking, and writing, proper arguments does not come naturally. The SEXC structure is a tool to give clear instructions to make order of the chaos which may be the draft of the speech in front of us. Combined with CIA, which is what to write in a good Model UN speech, SEXC is the “how” to organize and present it. You should have one to two SEXC arguments in your speech, depending on the length. With practice, writing and speaking in the form of arguments will flow more easily and become second nature.

How to use the SEXC argument

When you structure your own speech break it into components. See if each explanation supports the statement given. Once they explanation explains the statement in the manner you would like, make sure the example supports the same explanation. The following examples will look at different parts of the SEXC argument to help us understand the structure of an argument and how the different parts interrelate.

When you structure your own speech break it into components. See if each explanation supports the statement given. Once they explanation explains the statement in the manner you would like, make sure the example supports the same explanation. The following examples will look at different parts of the SEXC argument to help us understand the structure of an argument and how the different parts interrelate.

Example 1:

Honorable chair, distinguished delegates,Qatar is very happy to be here. Over the past years autonomous vehicles (AVs) have becomes more commonplace but they are far from safe. People could be in danger and the loss of life is almost assured. We look forward to a fruitful discussion and yield our time to the chair.

When evaluating this as another delegate you can write down what they say in the SEXC format and see what they actually said.

Statement: AVs are not safe
Explanation: none
Example: none
Conclusion: none

In this case we see no argument being given, just a statement. To refute this all that would be needed would be a statement contradicting this, followed by an explanation, example and conclusion. However, if your country sees value to Qatar's speech, you could also build on that and fill their argument for them, thus taking credit for being the one to actually develop the idea.

Example 2:

Fellow delegates,Canada completely agrees with Qatar that we are not ready for AVs to move freely on the roads of today. The reason for this is that when the sensors malfunction a human is still needed to prevent an accident. Even after decades of existence, there are still almost no electric charging stations. People also do not know how to use them and think with their wallets. The world is not ready for AVs and might never be..

In this case, we see that there is an explanation but after that Canada starts giving further explanations, which have no relation to the first one

Statement: AVs are not safe
Explanation: Humans are still needed when sensors fail
Explan 2: Not enough charging stations
Explan 3: People do not want to spend a lot of money on cars / AVs
Example: none
Conclusion: none

We can also see that explanations 2 and 3 do not even explain the statement. There are also no examples, as we have no dates or data which shows it to be real world proof. Many times we feel that further explanations are examples but in truth, unless there is a real example there, it is simply another explanation, a new statement or sometimes a soundbyte saying nothing at all.

Example 3:

Fellow delegates
Canada completely agrees with Qatar that we are not ready for AVs to move freely on the roads of today. The reason for this is that when the sensors malfunction a human is still needed to prevent an accident. A Tesla driver died in 2016 because he didn’t respond when the computer system malfunctioned. He didn’t respond because he expected to automation to work and as a result was not paying attention. If the world's leading AV system malfunctioned last year, we cannot trust our lives with it until it is safe. And for that reasons the United Nations should require very strict guidelines before allowing AVs on the road.

This speech has a full argument but also does something else. When we break it down we see the following.

Statement: AVs are not safe
Explanation: Humans are still needed when sensors fail
Example: Tesla truck driver in 2016
Explanation: He died because he relied on automation
Conclusion: The UN should require strict guidelines

This speech is much stronger but still makes two separate arguments. The first is that sensors can fail, or possibly be hacked. The second is that people may rely to strongly on automation and not pay attention when it is needed.

This leads us to a very important rule. When building an argument, sometimes the explanation requires an explanation. This turns the explanation into a statement, which then requires an explanation of its own. Sometimes a few of those are needed until a point is made, after which we bring the example and conclusion.

Following this rule we might do the following:

Statement: AVs are not safe
Why are they not safe?
Explanation: Humans are still needed when sensors fail
Example: Google self driving cars had 272 failures between September 2014 and November 2015
Conclusion: The UN should require strict guidelines on AVs

he other thing we can learn from this example is that sometimes our statement, while correct, could be more specific. The broader statement is also called a consensus claim and a more specific one a target claim. Comparing our statement to our conclusion, we can see that AVs could be unsafe for many many reasons.

Statement: The UN should restrict the sale of AVs to the mass market until there is less than 1 accident in 100,000
Explanation: Humans are still needed when sensors fail
Example: Google self driving cars had 272 failures between September 2014 and November 2015
Conclusion: The UN should require strict guidelines on AVs

As seen above, while the statement is also a policy / call to action, it is more specific and clearly shows the target claim, that AVs are not safe. Because time and attention are limited, it is sometimes better to start with a target claim when it clearly covers the consensus claim.

To Sum Up

For many of us, weaving a SEXC argument into our speeches is not easy or natural. For this reason it is better to write our argument and then our speech. We can see in the examples above that the speakers clearly had a general idea for what they wanted but had a long way to go before saying it clearly. When we know what our statement, explanation, example and conclusions are, we are more clear both for others and ourselves.

7 rules for using SEXC arguments in a speech

1.Introduction - Give an introduction which gets attention and is relevant to your speech. The introduction can be data, a joke, a short story or a good soundbyte. However, you need to stay relevant and quickly move on to your main statement you will risk losing your audience. Depending on speech length it is preferable to get to your point within 10 seconds.

2. Statement - Following your introduction, give your statement. It should be short and clear. You may need multiple statements to persuade the other delegates of your case but in this case less is more. Give one statement clearly and then you can move on to others. Basically, SIZE MATTERS - SHORT ALWAYS WINS.

3. Explanation - Explain your claim, with an emphasis on the why, using logic and reasoning. If your statement involves a policy / call to action, you need to explain how it is going to work.
There can be more than one explanation to your claim (For example cigarettes are bad because they cause lung cancer and tooth deterioration). Also, sometimes your explanations needs additional explanations to move from a consensus claim to your target claim. In such cases, treat the explanation as a new statement and continue explaining each statement until you feel the idea is adequately conveyed.

4. eXample - The example should be a real world one, preferably with numbers, dates and names. Tangible objects, statistics and the empirically measurable
The example can be replaced with an illustration, analogy or allegory but in those cases the reliability of hard proof is replaced with a deeper, or more colorful and intuitive understanding. For beginning Model United Nations delegates it is best to go with examples, as using hard data is often the least natural for us. With time, understanding your audience, or a certain segment of them, and tailoring the speech to persuade them will be taking the art of argumentation to the next level.

5. Conclusion - Conclude the argument by briefly summarizing your speech. This is often the statement but can also be a reformulation addressing new information you gave or even presented in a more compelling and dramatic manner.

6. Review - Now that all the parts of the argument are there review them and make sure that they work well together and each support each other.

7. Test the argument - Your argument will be measured against other arguments during the Model UN simulation. To make sure your stand out make sure they show why your case is both important and correct. If your argument is sound, has all the steps and is both important and correct you are ready to go!

To Sum Up

Our Model UN speeches, whether opening statements, general speakers list speeches or moderated caucus speeches, will be made up of one to two main statements, a few explanations of those statements and then examples. Overall, most of our speeches will always connect to supporting our statements, our allies statements and refuting the other side.
Structuring our arguments is what turns a good reason into a great reason and a good speech into a strong and sound one. It takes time and practice but eventually structured arguments will be second nature and your speeches will be strong both on the floor and in the rest of your life as well.