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“Well, in the case of my mom…” : Personal stories as negotiable arguments in public forums

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Abstract

This article is guided by the question: What are the argumentative functions of personal stories in public deliberations? Drawing on the analytical traditions of argumentation theory and discourse analysis, we analyzed three public forums on mental illness, where personal stories were used in a number of argumentative functions. Our analysis reveals that in a deliberative forum personal stories were used as negotiable arguments rather than as mere assertions of individual experience. Personal stories were primarily used as arguments by example to challenge the framing proposed by the moderator and to pitch problem definitions that participants considered most relevant. In this function, personal stories were alternatively engaged as inductive or abductive arguments by other forum participants. Additionally, personal stories were used to support solution proposals and to uphold social ideals.

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Keywords: argument by example; argumentative function; narrative; personal story; public deliberation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 17, 2020

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