Public Audience Argument: Writing as an Engaged and Informed Citizen

Overview.  We began the semester reading about climate-related issues, including agricultural, ethical, sociologic, and commercial dimensions. There are many more dimensions we might have looked into, had we enough time to do so. Our fundamental question—“What, if anything, should we do about climate change?"—has generated many other questions. This is often the case with seemingly simple questions; they lead to other branches of learning and knowledge.

A university highlights the interconnectedness of these branches of learning and knowledge. More complex than any of us probably realize, our university is like an ecosystem in which individuals and communities interact and depend upon each other in the pursuit of learning, knowledge, research, socialization, creativity, and discovery. Therefore, in our final assignment we will investigate different aspects of this "ecosystem" in order to better understand how it functions and to make suggestions for change within it.

In our most recent project, you worked with peers to investigate an issue then wrote an argument to support your position on it. In this project, you will work on your own to investigate and explain a particular aspect of the CSU community. You'll choose a function of the University such as a course, a major, an association, a service, an aspect of campus culture or campus politics, an organization, a department, etc., and you’ll investigate what it is, how it works, and how it functions within its larger context (the campus and, perhaps, the surrounding community). To do this, you'll conduct field research comprised of such methods as observation, interviews, and surveys. Then you will write a report of your findings addressed to a particular sector of incoming first-year and/or transfer students.

This portion of the project will prepare you to compose an argument that evolves out of your investigation—you might raise awareness about a problem you uncovered, for instance, asking for a change to be made, or attracting your audience’s attention to the issue. There will be at least as many possibilities for this assignment as there are functions and concerns of the University; as you work on your investigation and report, keep an open mind and take notes on any ideas you have for possible arguments.

Finally, you will compile these two documents in a portfolio and compose an introduction to the portfolio.  The introduction will describe the rhetorical situation of each of the documents and explain how your understanding of the situation influenced the choices you made in composing the report and the argument.

Purpose.  Your goal for the investigation is to learn everything you can about your site. The goals of the report are to use your research to summarize the site you investigated—that is, report its who, what, where, when, why, and how to your audience—and to explain how it functions within its larger context(s).  Be sure to go beyond merely duplicating information already available.  Your goal is to synthesize several sources of information to represent the site.

You will determine for yourself what you want to accomplish with the argument. You may want your readers to agree with your ideas, you may want your readers to do or not do certain things, you may want to facilitate change, etc. It's up to you, and it depends on your opinions regarding your topic.  In the introduction, your goal is to show that you considered the rhetorical situation as you composed the report and argument and to explain how those considerations influenced the way you wrote the documents.

Audience.  The audience for your research is mainly yourself—you will be observing, interviewing, etc. to broaden your own understanding of your site. When you write the report, you should imagine incoming students as your audience. Ask yourself, “How might this aspect of CSU have interested me when I first arrived?” 

You will determine who needs to hear your argument. Your audience needs to be specific (not a "general audience" or "academic audience"). It may be a specific sector of the CSU community (student athletes, Music majors, women on campus, etc.). Whatever choices you make, your audience and your purpose should be clearly linked.

The audience for the introduction to the portfolio is your instructor and classmates. This community of writers will be interested in understanding how you made choices as a writer to achieve your purposes with your audiences.

Author.  Present yourself as part of the "ecosystem" you are investigating.  Show that you have, as objectively as possible, conducted an open-minded inquiry.  Convince your readers that you are an engaged citizen of the CSU community.


Say you chose this course, CO150, as the site of your investigation.  Your research question could be: Why is CO150 a required course? To research, you could:

Your report could then explain to incoming students why they have to take the course and how it develops needed academic competencies. It would extend information available on Writing@CSU about the course to include various perspectives and opinions about CO150, not "just the facts."

Your subsequent argument might then be a brochure to be distributed to incoming students and their parents at Preview, for example, arguing to convince them that CO150 is a useful course.


To choose a site, ask yourself:

As you compose your report, consider the following:

In writing your argument, be sure to


Portfolio contents: Please include your Introduction (750 words min), Report (750 words min), and Public Argument, as well as physical evidence of your sources.

Sources: You need to have at least four sources in the investigation part of your portfolio. You need to have at least two different genres of sources in your portfolio. We will discuss these possibilities in class.

Due: ___, December ___, at the beginning of class.

Worth: 25% of the semester grade or 250 points.

Local Inquiry and Public Argument Grading Rubric

Excellent (5)

Satisfactory (4)

Unsatisfactory (3)


Rhetorical Situation: You explain the effectiveness of specific compositional elements related to the rhetorical situation (RS) of the Report and the Argument, citing concrete evidence as support.

The description of the RS provides enough info to evaluate the documents, though more concrete evidence or explanation might be helpful. You could have made better choices for the RS.

The Introduction does not contain enough information about the RS to evaluate the documents.  The documents may not be targeted to a specific RS.


Development: The report contains enough accurate, interesting, and specific information so that readers can understand the site and how it offers them signficant educational, physical, social, and/or cultural opportunities.  All relevant who, what, when, where, why, and how questions are answered.

The report is rather general. Readers would benefit from more specific details and/or more thorough explanations because the report leaves some of their likely questions unanswered.

The report is too general or undeveloped to be of value to readers and/or it contains significant inaccuracies.


Organization: The report is organized logically and sequentially to meet readers’ needs.

Readers could benefit from more effective organization.  The order of information or connection among ideas should be revised.

Readers will be frustrated or confused because the report lacks effective organization.  Connections among ideas are unclear.


Claim: The argument maintains focus on an explicit debatable claim. The claim is specific and appropriately qualified for the rhetorical situation.

The claim is debatable but could benefit from greater specificity and/or qualification, OR the claim is effective but fails to focus the entire argument.

There is no clear and explicit claim to focus the argument,  OR while there is a debatable claim, the argument does not maintain focus on it.


Support & Appeals: The argument’s claim is supported by clear reasons and sufficient, relevant evidence. An effective combination of appeals to logos, ethos, and/or pathos moves intended audience toward accepting the claim.

The argument would be more effective if revised to provide stronger support and/or appeals.

The argument does not contain sufficient support for its claim.  Inappropriate and/or ineffective appeals may be used.


Genre/Visual Rhetoric: You have chosen the best genre for your argument to achieve your purpose with the intended audience, and the argument employs at least one visual element that makes a clear and effective appeal to the intended audience.

The genre you’ve chosen will work, but another genre might have been more effective in this RS, and/or the argument employs at least one visual element, but it could make a more effective appeal.

The genre you’ve chosen is not effective for achieving your purpose with your audience, and/or the argument does not contain an effective visual element.


Conventions & Style:  All documents are written clearly and edited carefully. Sources are appropriately cited. 

If the documents followed conventions more closely they would be more reader-friendly.

Because conventions are not followed, the documents will frustrate or confuse readers.


Total points = ________/250