In Step 5 of our Writing Lessons, you will notice that we not only ask students to write down their reasons for why they believe their claim, we also ask them to explain their reasoning. Naturally, this can be confusing for students and teachers alike.
Here, we break down the difference between these two terms and provide some resources for explaining them to students.
Skillful argumentative writing requires students to both give reasons and explain their reasoning as they support their claim. Students often conflate the meaning of "reason" and "reasoning," including one but not the other. Each serves an important and distinct purpose.
The Writing Prompt & Claim
Argumentative writing is grounded in the concept of a claim. A strong claim lays the groundwork to state your reason and reasoning. A claim is an evidence-based statement in response to a debatable question.
Writing Prompt: Should local governments pass laws that focus on nutrition—like bans on trans fat in restaurants—to keep their residents safe?
Claim: Local governments should pass laws focused on nutrition.
Your reason is a logical statement that supports your claim. To come up with a reason, think about a general statement you would make if someone asked you why your claim was correct. If someone asks you why cities should ban trans fat, the most logical answer is that it will make people healthier.
Reason: These laws would keep residents healthy.
Reasoning always lays out how a piece of evidence—either a fact or an example from the text—supports your claim. Many students feel that it is redundant to include reasoning, but the goal of an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to agree with your claim. If you just give evidence and reasons without reasoning, you give the reader the opportunity to interpret the evidence however he or she wants.
Evidence (facts or data from a text): Trans fats are linked to heart disease and obesity.
Reasoning: When residents eat fewer trans fats, they will become healthier.
To help students practice the difference between reason and reasoning, print out our handy Reason and Reasoning Graphic organizer.