New College Writing Program

Qualification

Qualification: To qualify a claim means to set some limits or boundaries on it. If someone tells us “it is always sunny in Phoenix,” we might ask that person to qualify the claim, restating it like this: “It is most often sunny in Phoenix,” or “sunny days far outnumber cloudy days in Phoenix.” Qualifying claims is important because we want to be precise in the claims we make, so that we can support them well and avoid misleading our audience.

Think again of our hypothetical student writer researching the impact of media violence on gun crime in the United States. She might claim that “representations of violence in the media increase actual violence.” However, given the mixed evidence on this question, she might want to qualify her claim carefully. For instance, she may claim that “Media violence may play a part in gun crime,” or “There is evidence to suggest that violence in the media is a factor in gun crime.”  She might even qualify further, specifying, “First-person-shooter games may be a factor in gun crime in the United States.”

Notice how each version narrows the scope of the initial, sweepingly broad claim. Audiences are more likely to accept well qualified claims that don’t overreach or generalize.

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