Week 11: Monday, November 3rd - Friday, November 7th
Goals for this Week
the Context Comparison
students understand the basics of structuring an argument by assigning the
PHG reading on structuring
arguments on pages 484 - 488. You might consider creating an overhead
based on pages 486-487 and leading your students in a discussion of the
pros and cons of each organizational strategy. You can emphasize that
arguments take many shapes and that there is no single "correct"
way to structure an argument. A thesis or a "map" helps readers
see where an argument is heading. Acknowledging and responding to opposing
arguments shows that a writer is more credible and informed on their
issue. Using narration provides a context or background to illustrate what
the writer is responding to in society or culture. All of these elements
are important aspects of argumentation, but the writer must decide where
and when it is best to use them. You may also want to reinforce that a
writer needs both reasons and evidence (research) to support their claims.
Providing specific evidence accounts for much of the development of an
research strategies and organization. See Resources, below.
sample arguments about publicly debated issues. Here’s a good opportunity
for students to pull out those Editorial and Op-Ed pieces they’re
collecting. They should also look at different kinds of arguments as well,
however. During the review, ask students to identify the writer's overall
claim, to break the argument into parts and describe what the writer is
doing in each part of the argument, to identify and evaluate (in terms of
the writing situation model) the overall organization of the argument, and
to evaluate the writer’s use of evidence. In carrying out this review, you
might decide to use a “Backwards Outline,” a technique designed to help us
dissect arguments and examine their parts or structure. Many students
complain that this activity “hurts their brains,” but don’t forget they’re
paying us to make them think. (To learn more about backwards outlines, see
the use of graphics at the start of chapters in the PHG and share photos
and graphics collected from the NYT.
up for conferences
Connection to Course Goals
The objective this week is to help students think about
organizing and developing their arguments. By looking at sample arguments and
discussing such things as claims, reasons, evidence, narration, and opposing
arguments, students will begin to see that there are many approaches to writing
arguments. (Remember that you have a steady supply of arguments in the
Editorial/Op-Ed pages of the Times.) We want to show students that there
is no single correct way to organize or develop an argument. Rather, the
effectiveness of an argument depends on the choices a writer makes in response
to his/her audience and context. The integration of analysis of graphics from
the NYT also helps students to see that visual rhetoric is an important tool
for developing stories/arguments, although an overall message is not easily
Required Reading and
"Outlines for Arguments" and "Developing Arguments"
page 487- 488 in PHG.
an assignment where students read two or three arguments (from the PHG, from the Web, and/or from the
NYT). Use these samples in class to discuss how each writer makes
different choices about structure and development based on their purpose,
audience, and context. Most of this can be covered during class, but
assign two or three questions for students to think about or respond to
when reading each essay. This will encourage critical thinking and promote
more discussion. The questions on page 482 in the PHG can be adapted for just about any essay to meet the goals
of this activity. The arguments available in the PHG include: "The Internet: A Clear and Present
Danger?" by Cathleen A. Cleaver page 458; "The Damnation of A
Canyon" by Edward Abbey page 464; the capital punishment series: "Death
and Justice" by Edward Koch page 472; "Death Be Not Proud"
by Robert Badinter page 477; and "Death and Justice" by John
O'Sullivan page 479. If you are using two or more of the "Death
Penalty" essays, consider also assigning the introduction on page
471. Also, in the questions section following the readings, you can find
Internet addresses for other related arguments.
Review strategies for developing introductions,
conclusions, and “middles” of arguments: Prepare a lecture,
discussion or activity where you review the following strategies for developing
and organizing different parts of an argument. If you prepare a lecture, we
suggest that you ask students to take notes.
Review the types of strategies for creating introductions
(also, see page 314 - 316 in the PHG
for additional help with writing lead-ins and introductions):
State the Topic: Come right out and say
it. Tell your readers what your topic is, what the issue/conversation is you
are focusing on, and what your argument aims to do.
Define Your Argument: If your readers are
familiar with disagreements among authors contributing to your conversation,
you can get right to your main point—what you think should be done about the
issue or what you think they should know about it. In other words, you can
introduce your argument by leading with your thesis statement. By using your
thesis statement in your introduction, you can let your readers know, for
example, whether you are explaining something, making an argument to convince
them of your points, offering a solution to a problem, etc…
Define a Problem: Depending on how you
define a problem, you’ll call attention to different solutions. There’s a
tremendous difference, for instance, between saying, “We have a problem with
education: our teachers are not prepared to teach the skills needed in the 21st
century” and “We have a problem with education: our students can’t learn the
skills needed in the 21st century.”
a Question: Asking a question invites your readers to become participants
in the conversation you’ve joined by considering solutions to a problem or
rethinking approaches to an issue or problem.
Tell a Story: Everyone loves a story,
assuming it’s told well and has a relevant point. Featured writer Patrick
Crossland began his research project with a story about his brother Caleb, a
senior in high school and a star wrestler who was beginning the process of
applying to colleges and universities.
Provide a Historical Account: Historical
accounts can help your readers understand the origins of a particular
situation, how the situation has changed over time, and how it has affected
Lead with a Quotation: A quotation allows
your readers to hear about the issue under discussion from someone who knows it
well or has been affected by it. You can select a quotation that poses a
question, defines a problem, or tells a story. You can also use quotations to
provide a historical perspective.
Review the Situation: You can provide a
brief review of the situation, drawing on other sources or on your own
synthesis of information about the issue. A brief review can be combined with
other strategies, such as asking a question, defining a problem, or defining
Introduce strategies for concluding an essay:
Sum Up Your Argument: Offer a summary of
the argument you’ve made in your document.
Offer Additional Analysis: Extend your
analysis of the issue by offering additional insights.
Speculate about the Future: Reflect on
what might happen next.
with a Quotation: Select a quotation that does one of the following:
up the points you’ve made in your document
to the future of the issue
a solution to a problem
what you would like to see happen
· Close with a Story: Tell a story about the
issue you’ve discussed in your document. The story might suggest a potential
solution to the problem, offer hope about a desired outcome, or illustrate what
might happen if a desired outcome doesn’t come to pass.
Link to Your Introduction: This technique is sometimes called a
“bookends” approach, since it positions your introduction and conclusion as
related “ends” of your document. The basic idea is to turn you conclusion into
an extension of your introduction:
your introduction used a quotation, end with a related quotation or respond to
your introduction used a story, extend that story or retell it with a different
your introduction asked a question, answer the question, restate the question,
or ask a new question.
your introduction defined a problem, provide a solution to the problem, restate
the problem, or suggest that readers need to move on to a new problem.
Find a few examples (from the NYT, magazines or Web sites)
to illustrate how some writers use illustrations to support their arguments.
Pass these around in class:
(photos, drawings, animations, video, audio)
Ask students to bring in examples from the Times that
they’ve collected, plus other examples of graphics. Refer to the PHG
intro-to-chapter pages and discuss their possible meanings/interpretations. Ask
students to brainstorm options for incorporating visual elements into their
papers. They might think of something as complex as creating a table to display
data or something as simple as a bulleted list to simplify a complex set of
solutions, for instance, for a reader.
Consider where your argument fits into the larger, ongoing
discussion about your issue. Then, provide some setting to show readers what
you're responding to so that your essay isn't floating in space. The narration
can be personal (a story that you've experienced) cultural (recent trends in
society, or a speech or text that you're responding to) or political (recent
government-supported actions). By connecting your issue to a something
concrete, readers will realize its significance and see the reason for your
Label and group your notes and sources using one
or a combination of these methods:
multiple approaches or viewpoints
Brainstorm connections between your purpose,
your claim, your reasons and your evidence and group these ideas accordingly
Cluster or create a visual scheme where you
sketch out the relationships between your claim, your reason and your evidence.
Consider your audience. What reasons and
evidence should they hear first? What reasons and evidence should you save for
later? Will they be able to follow your organization given what they know about
your issue? How much narration or background will they need? What structure
lends itself to the greater focus and coherency?
Write out a very rough draft and then read
through it, drawing lines between related ideas. Use scissors to cut up your
draft and try rearranging paragraphs in various orders on the floor. Also, try
looking at the argument from the POV of your readers and ask, which order seems
most logical and fitting to their needs and interests?
Finding Substantial Evidence
You have already completed research to gain an understanding
of the ongoing "conversation" about your particular issue, and to
identify the range of positions on the issue. Now you'll need to do further
research to 1.) consider the range of opposing arguments for your own argument
and 2.) find substantial evidence to support your overall claim and sub claims.
Use the following strategies to locate further research.
Review the library handout (on your own time)
and continue to search online databases.
Find periodicals: Here are some of the magazines
(beyond more general-audience magazines such as Newsweek and U.S.
News and World Report) that may offer articles on important current issues:
Christian Science Monitor
this list is by no means comprehensive
Consult reference texts: Reference texts provide
statistics, facts, definitions, demographic, and other useful types of
information. You may find them useful especially early in the process of
researching your topic.
Use live sources. Talk with friends, family, and
teachers but also think of ways to use the web to find live sources (i.e.
discussion forums, chat-rooms, using schools’ web sites if the research
involves schools, etc.). Also, briefly consider how live sources might be
useful as evidence for the paper, given the target audience and context for
Using different Arguing Approaches (from PHG - more
traditional vs. Rogerian)
This discussion should give students more of a sense of the
different approaches or strategies available to them beyond traditional
argumentative methods. Emphasize to students that their argument doesn’t have
to be completely traditional or Rogerian. Instead, they might use Rogerian
techniques for the most sensitive points in an argument that is otherwise more
Engage Students in a Backwards Outline Analysis: This activity
can easily be applied to the newspapers they brought with them to class. On
a sheet of paper, (or on the board) write down the author’s main claim or the
controlling idea in the essay. Divide the rest of the paper (or board) into
three columns. Then complete the following tasks, one by one:
the left-hand column, write a brief summary of the content and purpose of
each paragraph (e.g. Suzy Q example to support argument about body image).
If there are two distinct ideas or purposes in the paragraph, write a
brief phrase for each.
the middle column, write a sentence that explains the connection between
what this paragraph says/does and the overall claim at the top. If you
don’t know or it isn’t clear, write a question mark.
the third column, write a sentence that explains the connection between
the paragraphs (i.e. paragraph one and paragraph two; paragraph two and
paragraph three, and so on). If there is no clear connection, put a
question mark in the third column.
*This backwards outline activity could easily be applied to
an editorial from the New York Times. Have students bring yesterday’s
(or today’s--if you’re not afraid to take on a “brand new” article) newspaper and
apply the concept. The advantage here is that everyone will have the document
and everyone will have more or less the same amount of time to prepare—which is
to say, not much time at all! This may be an excellent opportunity for students
to see that they can readily apply their new skills (at analyzing arguments) to