This study aims to identify the efficacy of social factors in the ways that first-year science students attempt to argue.
Argumentation is an essential tool used to produce scientific knowledge. As a linguistic phenomenon, argumentative
communication draws on institutional, disciplinary, and agential cultures. Proficiency in argumentation practices is a
prerequisite for learning advancement in universities. However, not all first-year university entrants are familiar with principles
that guide how senior scholars argue to generate and contest knowledge. In South Africa, a significant proportion of first-year
students emerge from social domains in which the structural, agential, and cultural features do not mirror those of universities,
which are elite centers of knowledge production. The results of this study indicate that while students from similar geographical
and class origins were enabled and constrained in drawing on similar structures, cultures and agency while arguing on
campus, all of them did so in distinct ways. The study concludes by highlighting the efficacy of social structures, culture, and
agency in how first-year students initially attempt to engage in written and verbal argumentation in the academic year. It also
recommends designing curricula that integrate professionals’ and students’ multiple Discourses to accommodate their varying
levels of preparedness for on-campus argumentation.