An important distinction in moral reasoning is between normative (value laden) and descriptive claims (facts). There are different kinds of descriptive and normative claims. For example, Economics, Sociology, Management, and many other disciplines have normative and descriptive assertions, but your focus is on the normative and descriptive moral and ethical claims. Your discussion will contain both kinds, but they have very different characteristics when it comes to using them in arguments.

Descriptive Statements
Normative Statements
1. Factual 1. Ideal
2. Descritpive 2. Prescriptive
3. Verifiable 3. Justifiable
4. True or false 4. Better or worse
5. You look nice today 5. You ought to fix your hair

The first step is to get all of your facts straight and confirmed to be true (primarily through research). You are then, to some degree, done with them and can turn to the more challenging task of persuading your reader that certain normative claims are better than others -- in other works, by justifying your position through arguments using a normative ethical theory..

created by Professor Jennifer Greene, Spring 2004 and modified by Danney Ursery, Fall 2004