How to Structure A Strong MUN Argument

SEEC Method

If you can’t win the argument, correct their grammar.

If you can’t do that, insult their typography.

What is an argument? Why is it important? Does an argument inherently mean verbal fighting? Don’t we know how to argue (we argue with people all the time)? Why do we need to read an article about it? And why is argumentation important to MUN?

 

The following article teaches argumentation through the SEEC method in clear steps which are easy to understand and replicate. Whether to help focus research, structure a position paper, strengthen speeches or improve your negotiation during an unmoderated caucus, understanding the structure and formulation of strong arguments is an important tool to improve the effectiveness of every effective Model United Nations delegate.

Introduction

Words from the masters:
We learn to speak by copying those around us. We start from our parents and move to our teachers, friends and community.

This means that the foundation for our communication is built on imitating what we saw, not what is most effective. This reactive world of ineffective communication the reality Plato and Aristotle struggled with in the 400’s BCE and why Aristotle wrote down, and refined, the classical argument. They gave us tools for communication to make order of the unstructured chaos in our minds. A contract avoids vague language and gives specific detail in writing. So too, do we want to be specific in what we say, to say what we mean to say, and hear what others really mean. This is why understanding the structure of a strong argument is they key to better understanding others and to help them understand us.

Argumentation is the building block of clear communication. It is very useful for our MUN opening speeches, and compliments the ‘what to write’ of the CIA method by showing us ‘how’. The same structure can help us sort our MUN research in our minds as well as in our position papers and fact sheets. The SEEC structure is a simple, yet powerful, tool to compose strong arguments. Mastering how to make strong arguments will also bring you a new level of effectiveness outside of MUN. This guide will provide tools to create, analyze and break down arguments, as well as tips to use them effectively.

What Is An Argument?

An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition. As such, it is a reason, or set of reasons, given with the aim of persuading others that an action, or idea, is right or wrong. An argument is a reason or a justification or an explanation. An argument explains something.

How do you make an argument?

Statement + Explanation

However, a strong argument also requires at least one example and a conclusion.

The SEEC Method of Argumentation

SEEC is an acronym which stands for Statement, Explanation, Example, Conclusion

Statement + Explanation + Example + Conclusion

Statement

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

Examples of Statements

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

In your statement make sure to declare something. “Airforce”, “kitchen sink” 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 “Australia is beautiful”.

Explanation

An explanation brings justification to the statement. This should be a reason for why your statement is true. A single statement can have multiple justifications, one explanation is sufficient for an argument.

Examples of Explanations

  • Australia is beautifulbecause of the coral reef
  • Always fly with American Airlinesbecause they have the lowest prices

No one should possess nuclear weaponsbecause 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 in order to challenge the statement. The example comes as additional support to the argument to insure that it is not only correct but can also be proven in the real world.

Examples of Examples

  • Australia is beautiful – because of the coral reef – which was voted by National Geographic as the best coral diving in the world.
  • Always fly with 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 would be catastrophic – after the Hiroshima bombing of 1945, beyond the immediate loss of life, thousands died from dehydration and the land was contaminated for decades.

Conclusion

A conclusion is your closing remark which is reached through judgment and reasoning. You state your conclusion by repeating your statement. You can reformulate the exact phrasing, but you don’t have to. The conclusion needs to be similar to the introduction and summarize the argument.

Sometimes after the explanation and example the listener, or reader, might forget what the main point was. For this reason, you want to end your argument with a conclusion which will remind the audience what the point was (just as we did in this paragraph. See what we did there? 😉

Examples of Conclusions

  • 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 is why Australia is beautiful.
  • Always fly with 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 lesswhich is why you should always fly American Airlines.
  • No one should possess nuclear weapons – because if one is launched the damage would be catastrophic – after the Hiroshima bombing of 1945, beyond the immediate loss of life, thousands died from dehydration and the land was contaminated for decades and that’s why no one should possess nuclear weapons.

‘SEEC’ing Takes Time and Practice

For many first time Model United Nations delegates, research, speaking and writing MUN resolutions does not come naturally. Neither does making coherent arguments. That is okay. The SEEC method is a tool which gives clear instructions to make order of the chaos which may be the draft of an opening speech in front of you. Combined with the CIA method, which teaches what to write in a strong Model UN speech, SEEC method provides the “how” to organize and present your ideas in a clear and structured fashion. You should have one to two SEEC arguments woven into your speech. Depending on the length of the speech. With practice, the use of arguments will flow more easily and become second nature.

Important SEEC Rules

To understand arguments, you need to be able to break down the arguments into SEEC components.

  • Stagments need to be clear
  • Explanations need to actually explain the statement
  • Example needs to be relevant
  • Consultation should repeat the idea of the statement effectively

 

The following rules will explain how different parts of a SEEC argument work to help understand the structure, how the different parts interact with each other, and where they can go wrong. This same breakdown can be used to evaluate your own speeches, the speeches of other delegates, and even proposals brought forth by anyone in the MUN committee.

A Statement Must Have an Explanation

Without an explanation, we don’t have a reason to accept the statement. Often we will hear speakers make a claim without any justification. Fluff and generalizations are common, especially in beginners speeches. This is why making sure the word “because” is in your speech becomes second nature.

Example of a Statement Without Explanation

“Honorable chair distinguished delegates, Qatar is very happy to be here. Over the past years, Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) have become 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 example, as another delegate, you can write down what you hear in the SEEC format to see what they actually said.

Statement: AVs are not safe

Explanation: none

Example: none

Conclusion: none

In this case, we see that no argument is given, just a statement. To refute the statement above all you would need to do is bring one statement which contradicts it, followed by an explanation, example and conclusion. However, if your country sees value in the speech, you could also repeat their statement and build the argument for them. This would allow you to take credit for being the one to develop the idea.

Do Not Confuse Examples with Explanations

Sometimes delegates feel that additional explanation to a statement are examples. Without data to show that the argument is substantiated by something in the real world, the additional sentence is at best an explanation, and at worst irrelevant.

Example of a Speech with Multiple Explanations

 

“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 often think with their wallets. The world is not ready for AVs and it may never be.”

In this case, we see that there is an explanation supporting the statement. However, after the first explanation, Canada gives further explanations which have no relation to the first one.

Statement: AVs are not safe

Explanation: Humans are still needed for when sensors fail

Explanation 2: Not enough charging stations

Explanation 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 don’t really explain the statement. Furthermore, there are no dates or data which show it to be real-world proof. As we see here, sometimes further explanations can make us feel like we are giving examples, when in truth we are not. Unless there is a real example, with numbers, dates and correlation to the real world it’s either another explanation, a new statement or a sound byte which says nothing meaningful at all.

A Statement Can Have Multiple Explanations

Sometimes the explanation is not enough to cover an entire idea, and that’s fine. It is okay to say the word ‘because’ two to three times because not all ideas are so straightforward that you can capture the entire message in a single sentence followed by a single line of explanation. See what we did there? 😉

Example of Multiple Explanations

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 was relying on the automated system to work, and as a result, was not paying attention. If the world’s leading AV system malfunctioned in the last 3 years, we cannot risk our lives with it until it is safe. And for that reasons, the United Nations should require very strict guidelines before allowing AVs to drive on the road.”

This speech has a full argument with a statement, explanation and example. However, the speech also does something else. When we break it down we see the following:

Statement: AVs are not safe

Explanation: Humans are still needed for when sensors fail

Example: Tesla truck driver died in 2016

Explanation: He died because he relied on automation

Conclusion: The UN should require strict guidelines

This speech is much stronger than the previous examples because it made two separate arguments. The first is that sensors can fail. The second is that people may rely too strongly on automation and not pay attention when they need to.

Sometimes The Explanation Needs An Explanation

When building an argument, sometimes the explanation requires an explanation.

To do this turns the explanation into a statement. Read the new statement, add a ‘because’ and explain it as you would have if it were your original sentence. Sometimes a few of these are needed until a point is made, after which you provide an example and state the conclusion.

 

Following this rule we might do the following:

Statement: AVs are not safe

Why are they not safe?

Explanation: Because humans are still needed when sensors fail

Why are humans are still needed when sensors fail?

Explanation (part 2): Because only a humans can react quickly enough to avert a technical malfunction on location

Example: Google’s self driving cars had 272 failures between September 2014 and November 2015

Conclusion: The UN should require strict guidelines on AVs

As we can see, the extra line of explanation is needed to show that a human’s faster response time is what brings their additional value over AV sensors. To clarify this is why we need an explanation of the explanation.

Statements Can Also be Policies

Your statements don’t only need to be ideas or opinions, they can also be the policies you want to implement. We can see that AVs could be unsafe for many reasons. What we are going to do about it can be both a policy and a statement at the same time.

Statement: The UN should restrict the sale of AVs to the mass market until there is less than 1 accident for 100,000 vehicles

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 that a policy to solve the lack of safeties that AVs highlight is necessary. Because time and attention are limited, it is sometimes better to start with your policy and fill in the information and justification for why you want to talk about this later.

Helpful Terminology: Consensus Claims and Target Claims

Another thing we can learn from this previous example is that sometimes our statement, while correct, could be more specific. To understand this we can use consensus, claims and target claims.

A Consensus claim is a broad statement 

Example: We should limit self-driving cars

A Target claim is a specific statement

Example: Avs are not safe.

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 in cases where it clearly covers the consensus claim.

For many of us, incorporating a SEEC argument into our speeches is not easy the first time we try it. For this reason, it is better to write out the argument, and then put it into your speech instead of writing the speech and trying to find an argument in it. We can see in the examples above that the speakers clearly had an idea about what they wanted to discuss, but had a long way to go before they could say it in a clear way. When you know what your Statement, Explanation, Example and Conclusion are, it will be clearer for everyone.

7 Tips for Using SEEC Arguments in a Speech

“Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.” 

Leonardo DaVinci

1

Use an Attention Grabber When Opening

This is particularly important in large rooms or when you are in the middle of the alphabet. Tactically, the best time is when other delegates are zoning out or you need attention. Give an introduction which grabs their attention and is relevant to your speech. The introduction can be data, a joke, a short story or a good soundbyte. In any case, it’s most important that you stay relevant and quickly move on to your main statement. Otherwise, you will risk losing your audience. Depending on speech length, it is preferable to get to your point within 10 seconds.

2

Keep it Concise

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 these cases less is more. Give one statement clearly and then you can, move on to others. Basically, SIZE MATTERS – SHORTER IS BETTER.

3

Make Sure To Explain Why

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). Sometimes your explanations will need 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 has been adequately conveyed.

4

There Are Alternatives to Examples

The example should be a real world one, preferably with numbers, dates and names. It needs to prove that your argument is correct in the real world. 

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 and the hardest to come by. With time, understanding your audiences, or certain segments of them, and tailoring your speeches to persuade them, will involve taking the art of argumentation to the next level.

5

Summary Insures Clarity

Conclude the argument by briefly summarizing your speech. This is often a repetition of your statement, but can also be a reformulation addressing new information you brought in your argument, in a more compelling and dramatic manner.

6

Make Sure Your Argument Supports Itself

When all the parts of the argument are there, review them and make sure that they work well together and support each other. For example, if the example supports the statement but the explanation doesn’t fit, now that you can identify it you can replace it with an explanation that is a better fit.

7

Show Ideas That are Correct and Important

Your argument will be measured against other arguments during the Model UN simulation. To make sure you stand out amongst the crowd, make sure to 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

Model UN speeches, whether opening statements, general speakers list speeches or moderated caucus speeches, are made up of one to two main statements. These statements have a few explanations which will have a few supporting examples.

Most speeches will be spent supporting your main statements, supporting our allies statements or refuting the other side. Structuring your arguments is what turns a good reason into a great reason, and a good speech into a great speech. It will take time and practice, but eventually structured arguments will become second nature to you, and your arguments will be strong both on the floor and in the rest of your life.