The ability to craft an argument and to defend one’s position in a logical and succinct manner is a critical skill for managers. To help my upper-level management students improve in this area, I searched for various resources in the management education literature. I found an article written by Julian Kolbel and Erik Jentges (2018) titled The SixSentence Argument: Training Critical Thinking Skills Using Peer Review. Obviously, the title caught my attention, and I pondered if it was possible to craft an argument using only six sentences. After reading the article and implementing this tool in my classes over the years, the answer to that question is a resounding YES!
For this month’s article, I want to introduce you to the Six Sentence Argument (6SA) framework, to provide you with a completed 6SA example, and to share some insights on how managers could use this tool.
The Six Sentence Argument (6SA) Framework
According to Kolbel and Jentges (2018), the Six Sentence Argument (6SA) is defined as “a mini-essay of six sentences that conveys one statement, supports it with one reason, and heads off one important challenge” (p. 120). The structure of a 6SA consists of six different functions and criterion:
- Introduction: “presents the topic of the 6SA. It guides the reader to the decision situation of the case.”
- Position: “states the course of action the author decides to argue for. The author can choose any position as long as it responds to the decision situation.”
- Reason: “supports the stated position. Authors need to choose the most compelling reason that can be expressed in one sentence.”
- Challenge: “anticipates a point of criticism that a reader might voice concerning the reason. The idea is to strengthen the argument by preempting criticism.”
- Rebuttal: “provides an answer to the challenge, for example, by limiting the position to certain situations. The purpose is to inform the reader that the author has weighed the pros and cons of the position.”
- Conclusion: “sums up the argument and states the result of the author’s reasoning. It should rest firmly on the previous sentences and avoid introducing new information.”
The goal is to write a sentence that meets each purpose or function in the argument. To ensure conciseness, each sentence is limited to 20 words or less.
The 2019 College Football Playoff Debate: A 6SA Example
Before providing you with a 6SA example, let me first provide some context concerning a debate that occurred during the 2018-2019 college football season. Each year, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee is tasked with selecting four teams to play in a playoff system to crown a national champion. There were three college football teams during that season (Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame) that were unquestionably deserving of the top 3 spots in the national championship playoff bracket. However, there was considerable debate among sports pundits regarding what team should get the fourth and final spot. There were three schools that equally had a strong case for being considered: Georgia, Oklahoma, and Ohio State. Some argued that the best team (regardless of their win-loss record or conference affiliation) should be selected. Others argued that only conference champions should be permitted to play for a national title. Given my love for college football and to model and teach the 6SA framework to my students, I posed the question: “Which team should get the final spot in the 2019 College Football Playoff?”. And I crafted a 6SA to argue and to defend my position. Please note that each function of the 6SA framework is referenced (in parentheses) at the end of each sentence below:
“The decision is to determine whether Georgia, Oklahoma, or Ohio State should receive the final spot in the playoff (Introduction). My position is that Oklahoma should be awarded the 4th and final spot over both Georgia and Ohio State (Position). Oklahoma won the Big 12 Conference Championship Saturday after beating Texas to avenge its only loss from earlier this season (Reason). If using the 4 best teams in approach, one could argue that Georgia should be awarded the final playoff spot (Challenge). While Georgia may be the better team, they have 2 losses, while Oklahoma only has 1 loss on the season (Rebuttal). Therefore, since Oklahoma is a 1 loss conference champion, unlike Georgia on both points, Oklahoma is more deserving (Conclusion).”
Two things to mention regarding this 6SA example. First, notice that each sentence meets the criterion and word limit for each function. Second, when drafting a 6SA, it is important to consider how the sentences are connected to each other (i.e., the flow). When reading the 6SA paragraph aloud, there is a natural flow and connection between the sentences. To accomplish this, appropriate transition words were included within each sentence during the editing and revision process.
Summary and Insights
The key thing to remember is that the 6SA is a framework that helps someone structure an argument. Once you understand and master the 6SA framework, you can adapt and modify it depending upon your needs. For example, it could be used to practice and to prepare for radio or TV interviews in which quick and to-the-point responses are essential due to limited time during segments. Or in circumstances where more written details and explanations are needed (e.g., a proposal or a position paper), one could still use the 6SA framework while eliminating the 20 words per sentence restriction.
I hope you find the 6SA tool to be beneficial and helpful to you. For more information on the Six Sentence Argument (6SA), please refer to the original article:
- Kölbel, J., & Jentges, E. (2018). The Six-Sentence Argument: Training Critical Thinking Skills Using Peer Review. Management Teaching Review, 3(2), 118–128. doi. org/10.1177/2379298117739856
Dr. Aikens can be reached at: [email protected]