Mapping the world's opinions

Style Guide

Parlia is an encyclopaedia of opinion; we want to map all relevant and important arguments about everything.

Key points:

  • Explain don’t Judge: Describe all opinions sincerely, neutrally and in value-free language.
  • Describe don’t Prescribe: we want to record all the relevant and important arguments - arguments that are held by large or important groups of people, even if they’re invalid.
  • Accessible to All: ideas may be complicated, but we should strive to explain them as clearly and as concisely as possible.
  • Civility: we’re a wiki, and wikis only work if everyone shows each other respect. Any breach of that approach will not be tolerated.

Parlia follows the Guardian writing conventions. For information on referencing Parlia pages, click here.



Parts of a Question

Click on a term for further information, qualifiers and examples.

Question: Any issue that generates a discussion.
Position: A stance taken on an issue. You can have up to eight Positions for a Question.
Argument: A set of reasons that support a Position.
Counter Argument: Rebuttals to the Argument.
Framing: What fundamental beliefs underpin this argument? What hidden premises does this argument take for granted?
Premises: Single sentence summaries of the Argument, describing it in its simplest form.
Further Reading: Provides background information to help us understand the relevance, importance or history of the Argument. It also gives more nuance about the argument itself - its various forms, development over time, as well as more detailed evidence.
Proponents: Public individuals or institutions who support the Argument.
In the Wild: Descriptions of this argument elsewhere on the web.
References: Supporting material for the Argument. Sources should be from reputable publications, widely accessible to the public, or peer-reviewed academic sources. We prefer journalistic sources. References should also be after, rather than before, punctuation marks.
Tags: Tags are collections of keywords used to index and group arguments based on their topics.
Images: Uploaded images must be relevant and copyright-free - we recommend Unsplash.
Edit: Edit the content of a Question or Argument page.
Revision History: See the history of an Argument page, when and how it has been edited, and who by.
Discuss: Dispute something you see in an Argument? Create a request in the Discuss section to debate it with your fellow citizens of Parlia!
Further resources can be found here.



Questions

The wording of a question should be as concise as possible; ideally these should be ten words or under. Only the first word of a question (as well as all other titles) should be capitalised, aside from proper nouns.

Three distinct types of questions exist on Parlia, each with their own conventions and style of position.

Debates
These are questions that could theoretically be answered with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, taking forms like ‘Is X Y?’, ‘Does X Y?’ or ‘Should X be Y?’. For example:

Explainers
These are questions that seek to explain the landscape of opinion around a particular issue. Positions do not need to be opposing; they will serve to each fill in part of a landscape of thought. For example:

Perspectives
These are questions which map the opposing points of view on an issue. Positions are mutually exclusive. For example:

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Positions

Positions are the broad stances that can be taken in response to a Question. These should be phrased as a complete statement.
You can have up to eight Positions in response to a Question. We limit the number to ensure we can get a great high-level understanding of the issue at a glance.

If a question is a Debate question (a question that could broadly be answered with Yes/No), there are five possible responses: Affirmative, Negative, Indeterminate, Conditional and Irrelevant.

Let’s take “Does God Exist?” as an example.

  • Affirmative: Yes, God does exist.
  • Negative: No, God does not exist.
  • Indeterminate: We cannot know whether God exists.
  • Conditional: If we define God as a ‘higher power’ rather than as a man with a beard, then It exists.
  • Irrelevant: The Question is meaningless because we live in a Simulation.

For all Explainer or Perspective Questions, there is no hard and fast way to determine the Positions. Our key objective is to describe the opinion landscape on a particular issue in the most intuitive and useful way for our readers.
In order to come up with the best clusters of Positions in response to a Question, try:

  • Picking the positions with the largest number of arguments.
  • Picking the positions that have the most support.
  • Picking positions that cover wide domains (e.g. Economics, Sociology, History, rather than numerous positions covering elements of those).

Here are a few examples of Questions with Position structures that we like:

Explainer examples:

Perspective examples:

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Arguments

Arguments are sets of reasons supporting a Position. If the Position is the ‘what’, the Argument is the ‘why’. You should be able to say Position because Argument.
For example, Pelé is the greatest footballer of all time [Position] because Pelé won two World Cups and has not failed a score in the last two years [Argument].

When mapping out Arguments, there should be as broad and accurate an overview as possible. Don’t be afraid to write about Arguments that are outside the box - the weird, wonderful things that we may not automatically think of!

The title of your argument should be a complete statement explaining the Argument in as few words as possible. For instance, for the Position Prostitution should be decriminalised, an Argument could be Decriminalisation protects sex workers.

The body of an argument should aim for 3-4 paragraphs and be made up of simple language. It should seek to cover three key pieces of information.

  1. State the Argument itself as simply as possible: X because Y.
    Decriminalising prostitution (X) would protect sex workers (Y).
  2. Explain the argument’s assumptions: A believes B because C.
    This argument rests on the assumption that either sex work is not so wrong as to require total eradication, or that attempts to eradicate sex work are futile. Our best efforts are therefore focused on limiting its damage and regulating its practice.
  3. Justification for the Argument: What evidence informs the argument?
    • Sex workers suffer more violence than the rest of the population.
    • Sex workers themselves state that decriminalisation would offer them greater protection.
    • Various studies have shown criminalisation increases risk / decriminalisation decreases it.

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Counter Arguments

A Counter Argument attempts to cast doubt on the Argument. Counter Arguments should directly attack the Argument posed, rather than arguing for an alternative Position.

For instance, for the Argument ‘Pelé is the greatest ever footballer because he won three World Cups and has not failed a score in the last two years’, a Counter Argument could be ‘Pelé has not won three World Cups’. However, ‘Messi is the greatest because he has a magical left foot’ would not be a legitimate Counter Argument, as it does not relate directly to the Argument.

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Framing

Framing is getting to the very root of an argument. As opposed to Premises, which are the components of an Argument, Framing aims to get into the mind of someone who subscribes to a given argument.

These are the fundamental beliefs of someone who believes an argument, beliefs that could apply to many Arguments rather than just the one at hand. Someone cannot believe in the Argument without having this underlying belief.

For example, in the Argument Sex work is the choice of the sex worker, the Framing could be that Individuals have an inalienable right to choose what they do. This is a personal ethos, and one that could apply to other Arguments, such as that Abortion is an individual’s choice.

Framing will not be relevant for every question, as it is really only relevant to questions with ethical underpinnings.

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Premises and Counter Premises

Premises are the ideas on which the Argument rests. They are the main components of an Argument, presented in a logical order.

Premises should each be presented on individual lines, beginning with [P1] for the first premise, [P2] for the second, and so on. The reader should be able to understand both the main points and the thought process behind the Argument simply by reading the premises.

For instance, for the Argument that Pelé won two World Cups and has not failed a score in the last two years, the premises would be:
[P1] World Cup wins are the ultimate arbiter of footballing talent.
[P2] Pelé has won more World Cups than any other footballer.

Counter Premises cast doubt on the Premises. These should also be displayed on individual lines in the format [Rejecting P1], [Rejecting P2], etc. Not every Premise needs a Counter Premise. The Counter Premise needs only to demonstrate the point at which the Argument and Counter Argument diverge.

In the Pelé example, the Counter Premise would simply be:
[Rejecting P1] World Cup wins are not the ultimate arbiter of footballing talent.

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Further Reading

We want Arguments to be as concise as possible. With this in mind, the Further Reading section is where you can put more information on the Argument. You get to add your manifesto on the coding of James Bond as a radical feminist, but other visitors to the site can still get a quick, engaging overview of the argument in the Argument body.

The Further Reading section is also a perfect place to put book titles, journal titles, or websites that may not fit neatly into the Argument body. If you want to find out more on a subject, this is the place to find the must-reads to get to expert level.

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Proponents

Proponents are public individuals or institutions that support a particular Argument. They fall into these categories:

  • High-profile public individuals
  • Academics/individuals with relevant expertise
  • Politicians
  • Institutions or advocacy groups with relevant stances

Non-public individuals (for instance, your Uncle Ernie or a random Twitter user) should not be considered Proponents.

With the exception of important Op-Ed writers, most journalists would not count as Proponents. Their work should be included in the “In the Wild” section.

Aim for three proponents per argument.

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In The Wild

In the Wild is a link library of examples of the Argument in question being made elsewhere (web, radio, print, TV, etc). Unless your Uncle Ernie is the foremost expert on the subject, we’d expect to find mainstream, public sources linked here, rather than his blog.

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References

References should be used both to back up arguments and to provide an avenue for readers to source more information. Sources should be from reputable publications, widely accessible to the public, or peer-reviewed academic sources. They should be primary or reputable secondary sources. References should also be after, rather than before, punctuation marks.

In order to insert a reference into an argument, these steps need to be followed:

  1. Enter into the edit mode and click the pencil to edit the References section.

reference1

  1. Anywhere in the References section, insert the URL of your reference and a reference name (this can be anything but must be one word) in the format <ref name=REFERENCENAME>www.URLHERE.com</ref>.

reference2

  1. Save changes, and go to the section you want to add a reference to.
  2. At the point you want the reference footnote number to appear, insert <ref name=REFERENCENAME/>.

reference3

  1. After you click save changes, the footnote in the body and the URL of the reference in the References section should both appear.

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Tags

Individual Arguments are tagged based on their keywords. If you click on a tag, you will be taken to an index of all of the Argument across Parlia that the tags relate to. To browse tags, click here.

Offensive, misleading, or harmful Arguments will be tagged accordingly. A list of these tags and their explanations can be found here.

Please not that currently only administrators can add tags to Arguments.

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Discuss

If you have an issue with something on a question or argument page, you can use the Discuss section to submit a change request and talk over the issue with your fellow members of Parlia.

Once you select ‘Create a new change request’, you will be prompted to enter a title for your request and to outline the issue in further detail. Once the change request has been submitted, yourself and other users will be able to add supporting and opposing evidence to the request, as well as having space for discussion. Users can also ‘react’ to the change request.

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This page was last edited on Friday, 29 May 2020 at 14:37 UTC