"An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition."
– the Monty Python Argument Customer.
But since propositions, statements, claims and assertions are all the same, an arguments is simply made up of assertions some (at least one) of which are meant to give reason to believe another. The claim that is being supported is called the conclusion. Those statements giving reasons are called premises.

Arguments must be distinguished from explanations. Explanation aims at giving an account of how something came about, while argument aims at persuading one to accept the truth of the conclusion. For example: "I wore a coat today because it was cold out." gives an explanation of my wearing a coat. But: "I wore a coat today because Sam saw me walk in with it on." gives an argument.

There are indicator words that help us identify conclusions and premises. Unfortunately these are not always used, so their absence does not mean that there is no argument. Also, some of these words may indicate an explanation rather than an argument (for example: ‘because’, ‘for’, or ‘since’).

Premise Indicators
Conclusion Indicators
Given that
Assuming that
Inasmuch as
The reason is that
In view of the fact that
As a result
It follows that
Which means that
Which implies that
Two kinds of arguments may now be distinguished. In some arguments the premises work independently of each other (V-Arguments), while in others (T-Arguments) the premises only give reason if they are all true (they depend on each other to give a reason). The premise's relation to a conclusion may be diagrammed in the following ways:
Basic V-Argument T-Argument Multi-Step Multi-Conclusion
Premise   Premise
Premise + Premise
Conclusion  Conclusion
Complex (still a V-Argument)
Premise + Premise   Premise
 An intermediate conclusion is both a premise (in relation to the final conclusion) and a conclusion (in relation to its premise or premises).

An argument that has more than one step can be no stronger than the weakest step.

An argument that has independent premises in a single step is as strong as the strongest branch (independent reason).

Sometimes a premise will be left unstated. In analysing an argument one may acceptably fill in a missing premise provided that it is necessary to close a logical gap between the other premises and the conclusion, and one does not thereby commit that author to more than necessary. Be fair. You need not fear that being too fair will hurt your own case because any bad argument will require a bad (improbable, false, impossible or absurd) premise.

  Warning: Web Page Notes are not intended as a substitute for attending lectures.