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Presenting Evidence and Organizing Arguments/Counter-arguments

Unfortunately, this section is mighty slim, partly because teachers often base their discussions and exercises of these concepts on copyrighted material that we cannot put on the Internet without official permission. (For instance, Kate has a great article that gives advice on questioning statistics and other kinds of evidence.) If you need to see examples of professional materials that lend themselves to discussion of these concepts, please refer to the COCC300 paper manual. If you develop exercises or handouts on using evidence honorably and making it meaningful for the audience, please be sure to send a copy to Kate Kiefer for inclusion in these materials.

We include the pro/con activity because it gets students talking together so well and is especially effective in the computer classroom. Whether students work in small groups or as roving devil's advocates in the classroom, each writer can begin by generating as many pros and cons as he or she can think of, then moving to another person's paper or computer screen and adding to what they see there. Although we don't include an example, you might have a third column for rebuttals.

Be aware that, from our experience, COCC300 students do not seem to be terribly much more sophisticated than COCC150 students in discussing the problems of "hard facts." Examples of the abuse of statistics and of statistics used correctly but without relation to an author's claim help evaluate the evidence they see in others' arguments and select better evidence for their own arguments.

We include some pieces here on the effect of inductive or deductive logic on one's audience. Inductive reasoning is the process of reasoning from specific examples to a general conclusion, and an essay can be organized this way--usually by leaving the main claim to the end of the paper. Deductive reasoning is the process of reasoning from general statements to a specific conclusion. An essay that puts its main claim in the beginning may be deductively organized as a whole. However, most longer essays include both inductive and deductive reasoning on the part of the writer and sub-sections of the paper that are likewise organized from specific to general or general to specific. We have included a short explanation of inductive and deductive organization and one exercise from recent instructors.