A research argument is the logical structure of your paper, how you go about convincing your reader that your position is correct.
1. Begin with a Research Question
For an academic paper, you need to ask a question which you will then answer and support in your paper.
Your research question should be clearly presented in your introduction.
A good research question typically begins with the interrogatives "how" or "why."
You might ask, for instance, "How effective are short-term missions in Africa at evangelizing unreached peoples?"
2. Answer Your Question
The answer to your question (see step 1) is called your main claim or your thesis.
The thesis guides the argument and structure of your paper.
It is essential that this answer be clear to your readers.
The thesis is generally given at the end of your introduction.
For example, to the question, "How effective are short-term missions in Africa at evangelizing unreached peoples?" you might answer that short term missions are very ineffective at evangelizing unreached people in Africa.
3. Support Your Answer with Reasons
Whatever answer you give for the research question you asked (see step 2), it must be supported with reasons.
Reasons begin with a generally implied "because."
Following our example, some of your reasons might be as follows:
Short-term missions fail to build lasting relationships.
Short-term missions take money away from other missions projects.
You will include as many reasons as you think necessary to convince your readers that your answer is correct. You can find reasons in the sources you read, and you can make up reasons on your own, because all of your reasons will be supported by evidence.
4. Support Your Reasons with Evidence
All of your reasons (step 3) must be supported by evidence.
What counts as "evidence" will vary depending on what sort of research you are doing. It may be data that you have collected, eyewitness accounts, quotes from a scholarly study, or the Bible. Evidence will always be information or facts that are accepted as relevant grounds for knowledge about your particular research question.
If you give the reason that short-term missions take money away from other more lasting missions projects, you will need to support that reason with evidence to support that claim. A quote or statistics from an article whose author has done a serious study of the economics of short-term missions would be treated as evidence.
In theological studies, evidence is in the form of quotes or summaries from primary sources and scholarly secondary sources.
5. Interact with Sources That Disagree with You
Your argument will be made stronger by acknowledging and responding to those sources that disagree with you.
For example, you may present a sub-argument in your paper. For example, Author X says this; but he's wrong (a claim) for these reasons supported by this evidence.