Argumentation in Finance
The course introduces to the argumentative dimension of financial communication and interactions. As a discourse aimed at justifying a claim on reasonable grounds, argumentation intervenes in finance to achieve two main interconnected goals, which are considered in this course:
(1) Support sound decision-making. Both corporate managers and investors make use of argumentation to improve the quality of their decisions by removing or at least reducing uncertainty, by assessing the credibility of a disclosed or signaled piece of information and the reliability of a prediction or forecast, by detecting possible biases or signs of hubris in corporate reporting, and more in general by connecting in a relevant way available information to evaluations and investment decisions.
(2) Persuade investors and other market actors. The legitimation, diffusion and success of financially-relevant corporate initiatives significantly depend on management’s ability to offer convincing reasons that persuade investors, regulators, analysts and media in relation to the firm’s valuation and to various issues emerging in corporate life.
Students will learn theory-informed methods for analyzing arguments and critically assessing their soundness practicing them on arguments produced by a variety of actors in the financial arena: entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, activist investors, shortsellers, securities analysts and journalists, examining recurrent forms of reasoning (argument schemes), recurrent strategies (argumentative patterns), fallacies and biases of reasoning.
Students will also practice argumentative writing as well as oral presentation on matters pertaining to financial communication.
Finally, students will reflect on sound argumentation in scientific writing, with particular reference to their master thesis.
1. Analysis and evaluation. We will familiarize with instruments that support the identification and analysis argumentation structures and strategies in the context of several market activities on the basis of different kinds of text and dialogue genres produced in the financial sector (e.g. letters to investors, earning releases, earnings conference calls, analyst reports, newspapers articles, blogs and social media posts). To map argumentative structures, an argument visualization software for collaborative analysis (OVA) will be demonstrated during the course. Based on this kind of analysis, it is possible develop an assessment of the quality of argumentation with a view of fostering the quality of financial decisions. Selected case studies will be examined to accomplish an argumentative evaluation at three levels: (1) dialectical, i.e. the contextual/dialogical conditions for sound argument exchange and decision-making; (2) inferential, i.e. the logical strength and relevance of the reasoning (argument scheme) underlying the argument); (3) rhetorical, i.e. the social acceptability and contextual appropriateness of the argumentative strategy. Particular attention will be devoted to the detection of fallacies and biases in reasoning.
2. The production of argumentation. Students will practice written and oral argumentative production through two exercises: (1) writing an equity recommendation, (2) making an elevator pitch for a start-up venture. In both exercises, students will have to defend their position in face of criticism and will practice devil’s advocacy in order to strengthen their case.
3. Scientific argumentation. This section of the course will introduce thesis writing as an argumentative enterprise. We will discuss argumentation in support of the relevance of the research question and of the definition of the knowledge gap, argumentation in the review of scientific literature, as well as argumentation in support of the results or findings of the research and in the discussion of their limitations.
The course is based on theoretical lectures, presentations of extended examples and case studies, group and individual activities focused on argumentative production, and an individual analysis of a case study involving argumentation analysis and evaluation.
Regular attendance is highly recommended as the course systematically builds on previously introduced concepts and employs a good deal of technical concepts and jargon.
- 25% of the grade will be based on in-course activities: writing of a short stock recommendation (individual, 15%), elevator pitch of a start-up venture (group, 10%).
- 75% of the grade will be based on a final oral exam consisting of two parts: oral presentation of a case study of argumentative analysis and evaluation (45%), questions on the concepts and cases discussed in the course (30%).
Scientific and press articles that are required reading will be indicated on the iCorsi platform for each topic.