The course is divided into two main parts:
1. The first several weeks concentrate on critical reading of other writers' arguments. Most teachers work through two or more analytic approaches to help students with critical reading and thinking. The analytic approaches include close reading (with special emphasis on critical reading strategies), rhetorical analysis, structural analysis (often based on a Toulmin or modified-Toulmin model), or logical analysis (with emphasis on inductive and deductive models and other elements of informal logic).
Writing assignments in this first portion of the course typically include summaries, summary-response essays (with particular emphasis on analytic response), Toulmin analysis, or synthesis/exploratory essays (sometimes called inquiry essays following the terminology in Aims of Argument).
Depending on the number of assignments, the depth of the analysis, and the use of portfolios rather than individual assignments, this part of the course typically takes up 6-7 weeks of the term.
2. The second main chunk of the course focuses on having students write original arguments. Typically, teachers ask students to pick a single topic that can be shaped into multiple arguments for different target audiences. Teachers then look at the range of argumentative purposes - convincing, persuading, negotiating/mediating - and ask students to research their topic to write arguments for at least two distinctive rhetorical contexts.