M/W/F, Oct. 20, Oct. 22, Oct. 24

Week 9
Day 24, 25, 26 (Monday, October 20 to Friday, October 24)

Lesson Objectives
Students will

Connection to Course Goals. Reflecting on inquiry and reporting on it builds understanding of critical reading, information literacy, writing processes, and rhetorical situation. Discussion of differences between explaining and arguing furthers students’ grasp of academic discourse while they begin laying the groundwork for the Academic Argument.

Suggested Activities

Assign a postscript and collect student work (8-10 minutes)

Prompt students to reflect on the Annotated Bibliography assignment by giving them postscript questions to answer. Collect the postscripts along with annotations, sources, and the Critical Introduction. Here are some sample questions:

Transition to argument (10-12 minutes)

Big Tip. Some instructors have chosen in the past to open this assignment up to any subject students are interested in, which usually goes badly. The danger of plagiarism increases dramatically when students can choose any topic and abandoning the climate change issue will negate much of the value of the research just completed, as well as derail the trajectory of focused inquiry that has been the work of the previous eight weeks. If students express exhaustion with the climate change issue, work with them to see it with new eyes. And remind them they can choose the question another group researched or pose a related question if they do not want to write an argument about the question their group researched.

Now that students have inquired, they are ready to write arguments.  Because of the research and questions generated by the inquiries, students have many options.  They can use any of their group members’ sources to write an argument about their inquiry subject, or they can use another group’s research to write an argument about another question, or they can draw from several inquiries to write an argument about an issue that is relevant to more than one inquiry.

It’s important that students understand that they will be working within a new writing situation, which means that their argument should “feel” different from their Critical Introduction (sometimes students say “it feels like I’m writing the same paper” when they write an argument about a topic they have just explained; it shouldn’t).

Show the differences in writing situations by prompting students to describe the writing situation for the Critical Introduction and then asking how it might be different in an argument.  You might end up with a 2-column list like this:

Critical Intro Argument
Writer: peer, familiar individual Writer: individual reader doesn't know
Purpose: explain issue Purpose: convince others to agree
Audience: this class Audience: wider academic community
Text: Forum post Text: MLA-style academic paper
Subject: group's inquiry question Subject: individual inquiry question

Distribute and discuss assignment sheet (10-12 minutes)

Before students choose a subject, they need to understand the assignment itself.  Distribute the assignment sheet and discuss it in the way your class has become accustomed to.  Be sure to allow time for students to ask questions.

Informal inquiry reports and choosing topics (15-20 minutes)

If students aren’t already sitting with their groups, ask them to shift so that they are.  Put instructions on the overhead that will prompt groups to prepare a short report about their inquiry.  For example:

Inquiry reports

Help your peers decide on a subject for their argument by telling the class about your inquiry.  Talk among your group to answer the following questions.  Choose someone from your group to report your group’s answers to the class.

Introduce argument structure (10-12 minutes)

Tip. Be sure that you are familiar with the components of argument. The PHG chapter is a great place to start. You can also find excellent resources on argument on Writing@CSU.

Tip. The claim --> reasons --> evidence structure is the foundation for most academic arguments.

Part of students’ homework will be to read each group's Critical Introductions and to decide on two potential topics for the argument.  They’ll also read about claims in the textbook so they can come to class on Thursday with some possible claims in mind.  So that students understand why they need to think about claims, take time at the end of today’s class to introduce argument structure.

Since the purpose of many arguments is to convince readers to agree, it’s important to have a central idea for readers to agree with.  An argument’s main idea is its central claim (think back to the summary assignments in which students looked for the claim/thesis in the short essays about climate change in the PHG).  Writers build arguments off of claims by providing reasons, statements that show why the writer believes the claim to be true.  Since reasons often are opinions, they need evidence to show that they can be considered valid. 

Show students an example like this one:

Claim: The U.S. government should subsidize solar power. . .

. . .because solar power is good for the environment (reason 1)
. . . because solar power is renewable (reason 2)
. . . because if solar power cost less, more people could afford it (reason 3)

Each reason needs to be supported with evidence (which can include firsthand observations, examples from personal experience, statistics, facts, quotations from your reading, results of surveys and interviews, etc.).  Remind students of the kinds of evidence they found convincing in articles throughout the semester and your discussions of how the authors’ choices of evidence reflect their purposes, audiences, and contexts.

At this point, students mainly need to be concerned with coming up with possible claims.

Organize Conferences (5-8 minutes)

Tip. Ask students to reserve slots during Tuesday’s class time for those who can’t meet any other time. Make alternate times for students who absolutely can’t meet during any of the slots you’ve set aside.

You will need to allow some time to prepare students for individual conferences.  You’ll need to explain and schedule conferences.  Also your students need to see an example of an Argument Proposal so they understand what they need to bring to their conference. 

Explain to students that they will not meet for class on the Tuesday of Week 10 (or other class you'll forgo for conference time) but instead they will meet you for a 10-15 minute conference at your office to discuss progress on the academic argument.  Show students an example of an Argument Proposal, and explain that the Proposal is a tool that will help them begin organizing their Argument and focusing their research. Send around a sign-up sheet that has at least a few more conference times than you have students.  When you create this sheet, remember to leave yourself a few breaks here and there.  Even though you will cancel Tuesday’s class in order to hold conferences, you can spread conferences out over Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 

Conduct a WTL about “The Argument Culture” (5-7 minutes)

Tip. Tannen’s idea that we need to look at “all sides” will help students write well-rounded arguments that consider multiple perspectives.

Ask students to write about their responses to “The Argument Culture" (assigned for homework due today).  Prompt students with questions on the overhead:


Ask students to share some of their WTL ideas and point out that while the academic argument’s purpose is to convince readers, students do not necessarily have to set out to “win” or bully their readers into agreeing. 

Establish criteria for choosing argument topic (12-15 minutes)

Tip. You can ask students to talk about what surprised them the most as they read the Introductions, which Intro(s) turned out to have the most exigence (urgency), etc. You can also ask students to talk about how the Intros helped them choose their top two topics.

Start by talking with your class about the Critical Introductions (posted by groups on Writing Studio) they read for homework.  This will reinforce the idea that the Critical Intros were written for a real audience. Ask if anyone is certain of the topic they want to pursue for the academic argument.  Ask, “why will this be a good topic for you?”  Hopefully, answers will be about occasion (“it really matters to me” or “I’m really interested in it”) and exigence (“it really matters to others” or “it really needs to be addressed”).  This will help you establish criteria for choosing topics:

With these criteria, students should be able to decide on a topic now, or soon.

Work through sample claims, reasons, and opposing arguments (12-15 minutes)

Tip. A well-conceived central claim can act as a blueprint for the entire argument, making organization and research easier.

Once students have settled on a topic, they need to decide on a debatable claim. The claim will become the focus of the argument, so it is worth taking time to develop one that will work. Claims for arguments need to be debatable and of an appropriate scope (neither too narrow nor too broad). To help students understand these concepts, present a few sample claims on the board:

Sample claim: Wind power is safer and less expensive than nuclear power.

What kind of claim is this? [claim of fact]

Is it debatable? [yes, people could argue against it.]

To determine if the claim is appropriate in scope, test out reasons and opposing arguments.  If the writer needs more than a few reasons to prove that the claim is valid, the claim might be too broad in scope.  If the writer can prove the claim with just one reason, the claim might be too narrow.  If nobody would disagree with the claim, it may be too narrow (or it may have no exigence).  If there are many legitimate opposing arguments, the claim might be too broad in scope.

What reasons could the writer give?

What opposing arguments would the writer need to refute?

If the writer can support the claim by proving a few reasons and by refuting a couple of opposing arguments, the claim is appropriate in scope. 

Show a few more examples on an overhead transparency (include at least one that won’t work—in these examples, the claim about value is somewhat moot while also being too broad in scope):

Claim about cause and effect: Cap-and-trade would reduce carbon emissions.
Possible reasons: It would make emitting carbon expensive.
It would encourage companies to autoregulate.

What other reasons could the writer use to support the claim?

What opposing arguments will an academic audience most likely bring up?

Claim about value: Fossil fuels are bad.
Possible reasons: They emit carbon into the atmosphere.
They’ll eventually run out.

What other reasons could the writer use to support the claim?

What opposing arguments will an academic audience most likely bring up?

Claim about policy or solution: The government should subsidize biofuels.
Possible reasons: It would expedite new technologies.
It would make biofuels less expensive.
It would help farmers.

What other reasons could the writer use to support the claim?

What opposing arguments will an academic audience most likely bring up?

Practice claims, reasons & opposing arguments (20-25 minutes)

Ask students to “test” one of the claims they've written by brainstorming reasons and opposing arguments for it.  Once the class has had time to work on their own for a bit, ask a few students to write a claim, reasons, and opposing arguments on the board.  Talk these through with the class just as you did with the examples.  Be sure to point out any problems you see if the class is being “too nice.”  Likewise, if the class is finding fault with everything, show them the ways in which the examples could work. 

This work could get students started their Argument Proposal. 


Read each of the Critical Introductions and decide on your top two topics for the academic argument.

Read about argument and claims on pages 509-516 of the PHG.  Write four different possible claims for your argument: a claim of fact or definition, a claim about cause and effect, a claim about value, and a claim about solutions or policies.  Bring these claims to class next time.  You won’t have to use any of these claims for your argument, so don’t worry if they’re not “perfect.”

Read “The Argument Culture” by Deborah Tannen on pages 474-480 of the PHG.  Be ready to talk about Tannen’s definition of “argument” and how it does or doesn’t coincide with your definition of “argument.

Bring your four claims and your PHG to class next time.

Write an Argument Proposal for your Academic Argument.

Bring your Proposal to your conference at the time you signed up for in class.