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Teaching Guide: COCC300

COCC300, Writing Arguments, focuses on having students critically read and write a variety of arguments, both for academic and nonacademic audiences. In the materials collected here, we lay out key features of the course that make it a part of the All-University Core Curriculum (AUCC). In addition, you will find a collection of various materials developed by teachers for their individual sections of COCC300. The course continues to evolve in response to students' needs, so these materials represent approaches taken over the last several years. If you need to see how a specific teacher pulls together all the pieces that appear in different parts of our resource list below, please contact that teacher for a recent syllabus. And please, contribute to this resource. We want it to reflect the full range of creative approaches possible when teaching critical thinking and argument.

Background on the Course

Like all our composition courses, COCC300 has evolved over many years in response to student needs and program goals. Moreover, as part of the All-University Core Curriculum, the course must meet certain goals set by the University Curriculum Committee. We present here some general information about the course to help teachers new to it understand how it fits into our sequence of courses and how we try to set students' expectations for the work of the course.

COCC300 as a University Core Course

When the University adopted its most recent core curriculum in the mid-1990s, COCC300 was approved as meeting two core categories: 2A - Advanced Communication and 2B - Logic/Critical Thinking. Students cannot use COCC300 to fulfill requirements in both categories, so about half of the students in the course now take the course to fulfill category 2B - Logic/Critical Thinking.

As a department, we have an obligation to be sure that each section of COCC300 conforms to the description approved by the University Curriculum Committee. Links below capture key elements of the University core description of and expectations for COCC300.

Short description of the course

This course builds on the writing principles and processes practiced in COCC150. COCC300 focuses on reading and writing a range of arguments appropriate for academic and general audiences. This course offers students multiple opportunities to both read and analyze varieties of argumentation and to research, write, and revise their own arguments on controversial issues. Students will complete a carefully sequenced series of assignments that will include summarizing, synthesizing, evaluating, and crafting arguments, many of which will be based on library and field research.

Course Objectives

The following specific learning objectives were also identified. Students in COCC300 should be given multiple opportunities to

General Overview

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.

Alternative Approaches and Assignments

Many teachers of the course feel strongly that students need a guided collaborative writing experience in this upper-division writing course. Variations have included some collaborative analytic work for the first chunk of the semester and full-scale collaborative projects on an original argument at the end of the semester. More details of these collaborative projects are collected under the "Writing Assignment Sheets" link.

Similarly, many teachers have added analysis of or original visual arguments into their syllabi. The jury is still out on whether the original visual arguments are well suited to our goals for this course. But analysis of visual arguments has been useful for extending students' critical thinking. Again, please find specific assignments under the "Writing Assignment Sheets" link.

(Possible) Differences Between COCC150 and COCC300

COCC300 appears to cover some of the same territory as COCC150, but keep in mind that at least half the students in COCC300 are transfer students who haven't taken our COCC150. We outline below some other key features of the kinds of students we typically have seen in COCC300 sections and of the relationship between the two courses.

What COCC300 Students Are Like

As a group COCC300 students surprisingly resemble COCC150 students. We need to emphasize at the outset and reiterate throughout the semester how much work this course is; the students don't expect to do so much work in a core course. We need to teach our students how to conduct effective workshops. A full, or nearly full, class period devoted to discussing, modeling, and practicing workshops is well worth the time it takes from other activities. Moreover, those of us who optimistically believed our students would see the value of coming to class and volunteer to be there have needed to return to strong attendance policies. And we have all found ourselves spending much more time than we had planned on building critical reading skills at the beginning of the course.

On the other hand, COCC300 students are typically further along in their majors than are COCC150 students. Most of your students will be juniors or seniors. Consequently, we have found that when we capitalize on our students' knowledge by constructing assignments that ask them to explore topics in their disciplines, (some of) the students demonstrate in their essays the level of thoughtful and complex analysis and/or synthesis we only hope for in COCC150.

After the freshman year, students also talk! Every class is, of course, different, but on the whole we think it safe to say that COCC300 discussions are easier to get going, more fruitful, and often a pleasure to participate in. Enjoy! But a word of warning: while our students have consistently impressed us with their verbal skills, their writing skills have very often lagged behind. Therefore, we heartily recommend collecting a piece of writing immediately and spending a significant amount of time with critical reading skills early in the semester.

In the end, it isn't really that that the individual COCC300 student is different in nature from the COCC150 student; you may well recognize his or her good and bad habits and be pleasantly surprised at students' willingness to interact with each other and you. Rather, the greatest distinction between teaching the two classes seems to be a very real difference in the students as groups of writers: COCC300 students bring with them an astounding diversity of writing abilities.

And You Thought Your COCC150 Students Represented a Broad Range of Skill Levels!

Two factors influence the variation in skill levels in COCC300. First, the course is both an elective and a requirement. Consequently, we sometimes have very strong writers, who want to hone their skills with a class in argumentation. On the other hand, we also have students who have barely passed COCC150 but who need this class to fulfill a core requirement. Second, we get lots of students with COCC150 transfer credit but without the experience in a CSU composition class. As a result, instructors can't assume that all (or even half) of the students will be familiar with terms like focus, development, and coherence, much less be able to apply the terms in their writing; yet at the same time, some of the students will come into the class writing extremely well and eager to be challenged further.

Your most challenging task, therefore, may well be to make the class flexible enough to meet the needs of all your students. Critically important is making sure unprepared students have a chance to learn key concepts. (See the discussion in "Classroom Materials" under "Critical Reading and Thinking" for suggestions.) At the same time, it is important that the well-prepared writers feel challenged. Fortunately, several elements in the current course description work toward flexibility: portfolio grading, the computer classroom, and the semester focus on argument that leaves lots of room to vary activities but gets students ready for more advanced writing.

Beginning with Critical Reading

The early emphasis in the sample syllabi on critical reading and thinking reflects the need to assess your students' analytical skills before they begin writing arguments. We suggest that significant amounts of time be devoted to finding and stating theses, to learning how to establish the rhetorical context of an argument, and to annotating texts. (Even well-prepared students are not necessarily active readers.) Please see "Classroom Materials" for further suggestions. As mentioned above, it also seems to be true that, while COCC300 students analyze and synthesize essays during discussions better than their counterparts in COCC150, they aren't necessarily prepared to write strong summaries, syntheses, or responses. Getting them to accurately represent and synthesize other people's arguments in writing is a necessary prerequisite for writing arguments effectively, so don't grudge the time spent here.

Opportunities for Innovation

Happily, COCC300 is meant to be innovative. In the first place, this means that the Comp Faculty counts on you to adapt your section of COCC300 to your particular students' needs. COCC300's focus is indeed on building the critical reading, writing, and thinking skills necessary to write arguments well, and we are indeed obliged to give our students a wide acquaintance with a variety of argumentative strategies so they can choose the most effective ones to use in given writing contexts. However, precisely what you choose to teach in your section, and the amount of time you spend on various critical reading, writing, and thinking skills, should depend on the particular needs of your students. You are not required to use any particular sequence of activities, nor are you required to teach a particular argumentative strategy.

In the second place, innovation means that COCC300 was sold to the university partly on its merit as a class that utilizes creative teaching strategies. Teaching in the computer classroom, mixing work at the computers with lots of small group activities, using portfolios to evaluate student progress are some of the innovations that make the class both challenging and a very fine experience for both student and instructor. While it is not mandatory that you do any of these things, they all come--of course--highly recommended.

Portfolio Grading

Arranging the course around portfolios can also help you meet your students' divergent needs. One of the greatest benefits of a portfolio system is that it allows a student to draft and revise a paper several times over a long period before submitting it for evaluation. In other words, a student can set aside a paper, get some distance from it, (we hope) learn some pertinent skills, and return to it a better or more knowing writer/critic. Additionally, students can afford to take some risks with their papers, risks that are too great when a paper must be written and submitted in a short time. Students are more likely, for example, to experiment with different audiences, voices, types of appeal, or organization because they know they can get feedback on a new approach and either revise until it works or omit the paper from the final portfolio. We would like to think, anyway, that portfolios encourage creativity among all levels of writers. They certainly allow ambitious writers to explore a topic to their heart's content. If a student chooses to emphasize a single paper for several weeks, he or she can really get to know the intricacies of the issue and develop a well-considered argument.

There are, however, drawbacks to portfolio grading. See the two pieces in "Classroom Materials" that discuss advantages and disadvantages. If you'd like still more discussion of the pros and cons of using portfolios, Kate has additional rationales and bibliographis in her office. See also Randy Fetzer's "Portfolio Assessment: Is It Right for CSU's Comp Program?" available in Steve Reid's office. Most importantly, be warned that portfolio grading can be treacherously time-consuming (it doesn't have to be, however!). Choose a grading method that will work for you.

If you do choose to use portfolios, be sure that you plan to return students' first portfolio before the final day on which they can drop and still get a 'W.'

While again not mandatory, portfolio evaluation has been a part of COCC300 from the beginning, and most instructors have so far organized their classes around portfolios, though their approaches vary significantly. Some instructors use portfolios throughout the term; some begin the term by evaluating individual papers, then move into a portfolio format; some begin by evaluating portfolios, then move into an individual essay format. Whether or not you choose to use portfolios, it will be helpful if all instructors continue to require between 20 and 25 pages of polished text from each student.

To give you some idea of how you might fashion a plan that suits your individual goals and tastes, we offer here an overview of several approaches. Please see sample policy statements, syllabi, and portfolio descriptions in "Classroom Materials" for more information.

Plan 1 (Gogela)

Plan 2 (Harper)

Plan 3 (Holtcamp)

Plan 4 (Thomas)

Plan 5 (Kiefer)

Teaching in the Computer Classroom

While not all sections of COCC300 are taught in the computer classroom, the integration of computers into the syllabus is a part of the innovative nature of the course and can be your greatest ally in creating a responsive classroom. If you are assigned to a computer classroom and haven't taught there before, see a Comp Faculty member and the Writing Center module, "Teaching in the Computer Classroom," for strategies to use the computers effectively.

What you might like to know at the outset is that the computers can do an enormous amount to facilitate communication between the students and instructor and among themselves. E-mail and bulletin boards give students the technology to talk back and forth about their topics, to send each other (or you) drafts of their essays or proposals, and to give workshop comments on-line. Such communication can get students much more involved with drafting and revising their papers during class (when other students and the instructor are available for comments or advice) than often is seen in the traditional classroom. Furthermore, when students are working on their drafts in class, you have the flexibility to respond to their individual questions and concerns as they crop up rather than trying to anticipate those concerns and plan group activities to build skills you hope they will transfer to their drafts when they go home (although we encourage these as well). All of these factors can help you respond to your students individually. Also, by encouraging your students to send you questions via e-mail about things that confused them during class and by noticing where the majority of students are in their writing process of a particular essay, you can keep a finger on the pulse of the class--and speed up or slow down the general pace as necessary.

Those of us in the computer classroom often find ourselves using parts of most class periods in mini-workshops with a single or small group of students, something that does allow us to stay in touch with the individual needs of our students and, we hope, meet those needs. During successful classes, we also find our own presence becoming more and more unnecessary as the term goes on. Students tend to spend much more time in the computer classroom working on their own writing and talking to each other about it as they sit at their terminals. We would like to think that this means computers can help students become a community of writers which privileges its own.


Just a few comments about why we have enjoyed teaching this class:

Perhaps foremost, COCC300 is rewarding because of its potential for connection with so many activities our students engage in. Spending so much time reading and writing arguments, our students truly have the opportunity to grow as critical readers, writers, and thinkers, growth which, obviously, will serve them as students in other courses, as citizens, as consumers, and as explorers of what it means to be human. Thus, the sheer "purposeful-ness" of the course material can make one feel he or she is involved in a very worthwhile project--and one that is often a great deal of fun!

Secondly, COCC300 is a place where writers can grow by leaps and bounds. For some, this might just mean learning to draft and revise on-line--and thereby break through a long-standing writer's block; for others, it might mean learning to sustain a complex argument in writing because the writer has the time to be truly dedicated to an essay. Consistently, however, our students have commented that they can see their own growth as writers, even if they do also comment on how much work growth takes! And last, the very stuff of COCC300 is fun to work with. Exploring issues in the aim of learning to read and write arguments well can result in illuminating juxtapositions of assigned reading, rewarding interactions with and among students, and crazy mini-activities which actually teach students to be more effective writers.

So we wish you lesson plans that work even better than you expected, inspiring discussions, dedicated students, and a bottomless pot of coffee to keep you going during stretches of grading.

Classroom Materials

We've organized sample materials into categories that sometimes overlap. Hence, you might see the same handout in more than one section, or you might want to check multiple sections for the handouts most helpful for you. Also, please note that wherever possible we've taken out extra spaces between prompts to save space on the screen. Download the files and adjust spacing (or edit in any other way you want to) to suit your students' needs.

Some of the materials have names to identify the authors. Unless otherwise noted, someone at CSU created all these materials, so give credit to the author if noted or the Writing Center website as your resource should you use the materials at another campus in the future.

Audience Awareness and Rhetorical Contexts

Defining a rhetorical context is crucial to students' ability to write effective arguments. Some teachers believe this skill is so important that they establish matching purpose with audience as the baseline criterion for essays in the second portfolio: they simply refuse to read a piece if the rhetorical strategy chosen by a writer does not match the target audience. The idea here is that regardless of a piece's stylistic verve, impressive focus, organization, or development, it is not going to persuade its chosen audience if the writer has selected a rhetorical strategy inappropriate for that audience. Therefore, students need lots of practice in two areas: learning to see how other writers have written within specific rhetorical contexts and learning to match a given audience to a specific argumentative strategy.

To encourage students to think about the importance of audience, many instructors begin by asking students to analyze magazine ads or articles for their intended audiences. Marisa Harper's activity in this section is one good example of such an exercise. Even if you do not do this kind of activity until your students write their first research-based essay, you can begin teaching the importance of rhetorical context during the critical reading unit. Some of us have asked our students to analyze each of the essays they will summarize for rhetorical context, thereby encouraging students to see discrete arguments as parts of a larger and dynamic context. Giving your students essays with editorial headnotes makes this easier. Included is a set of questions about rhetorical context from Aims as well as Kate's handout on realm, a rhetorical analysis based on Bitzer's work.

Most of us ask our students to really get into audience analysis when it comes time to write that first essay whose purpose is to convince a particular audience about something. As you'll see, though, the example activities span the semester.

Purpose and Audience in Publications (Harper)

For a portion of class today we will be discussing how to analyze the purpose and audience of a publication. Such an analysis can benefit you as a researcher and writer in numerous ways. Most obviously, this can help you choose whether or not to rely on a piece of information from a source as part of your argument by determining the credibility of the source. It is also important to consider how particular sources may be viewed by the audience of the argument(s) you are writing. Knowing whom a publication is written for and why can also help you understand why the writers in the publication have made the choices they have in their writing. Additionally, it is important that we are aware of the bias of a particular publication. Bias isn't all bad, but you should always consider it when reading critically. This is important for this class and writing your upcoming portfolio, but it is most important in the larger picture: your academic career (especially if you go on to grad school); discussions; forming intelligent decisions in your personal life (on political issues, health concerns, etc.); life! We are so inundated in our culture with media and the various slants that come with it, it becomes crucial to be able to critically sift through it for yourself and to be aware of the various devices used to present it to you.

Please answer the following questions about the publication you have chosen:

  1. What kind of publication is this? Is it a trade journal, a popular magazine, a scholarly journal, etc.?
  2. Who publishes this periodical? Is the publisher a commercial or non-profit venture?
  3. Who is the audience of this publication?
  4. How did you decide who the audience is?
  5. What is the purpose of this publication? How are readers expected to use it?
  6. What types of articles and regular features does this publication include?
  7. Does this publication seem to have a particular political orientation? Does it advance a particular cause? Explain

Doing a Rhetorical Analysis of a Text (Kiefer)

One useful way to look at written arguments is to consider the context in which the text was written. Among the rhetorical elements outlined by Lloyd Bitzer in "The Rhetorical Situation" (Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1968), five are most likely to give readers insight into an argument essay:

The motivation for the argument. Bitzer calls this the exigence or the real-life spark that caused the writer to begin writing. When we consider argument texts, the motivation for writing is often a particular confrontation with someone who holds an opposing position or an insight into a problem that could be solved. Sometimes a writer's motivation is based on his or her values: the writer sees an event and feels strongly that such occurrences should not happen or should not work out the way this particular event did. Such a spark or motivation spurs the writer to begin thinking and eventually writing out the logic that supports a position in a controversy.

The reader. Whom is the writer writing to? Given the motivation for the argument, the writer might directly target someone with the power to change a policy or enact a law. Or the writer might decide that mobilizing public sentiment can help change a circumstance the writer views as unfair or wrong-headed. The most effective arguments are tailored specifically to their readers, so this element is a key part of "The Rhetorical Situation" or a rhetorical analysis.

The author. The writer is the next element to look at in a rhetorical analysis. A writer can adopt a particular mask to present to readers, emphasizing their common humanity or specialized education. In many rhetorical situations, the author will try to highlight the traits she shares with her readers. In other instances, the author may write as an outsider who has a better perspective on a problem or situation. Just how the author presents her character and knowledge, as well as how the author connects with the audience, are key elements in understanding the overall effectiveness of many arguments.

The limitations. Because writers must accommodate readers' background knowledge and their attitudes toward the focus of the argument, that set of limitations is most obvious as a component of rhetorical analysis. But writers are also limited by their own knowledge, by their perspectives on a topic, by their values, by their emotional connection to a topic. These, too, are key limitations. Finally, because this type of rhetorical analysis focuses on the motivation for an argument, the historical, political, economic, and social contexts for the motivating event also pose some limitations on what a writer can and cannot argue for. These limitations, or constraints as Bitzer labels them, are important to recognize as shaping forces of an overall argument.

The essay. The text itself is perhaps the most obvious piece of the rhetorical context to look closely at. Each argument has its own shape based on the specific claim, organization, argument strategies, types of evidence, and style. Each of these sub-points can repay careful analysis to see how they contribute to the effectiveness of an overall argument.

The easiest way to remember these five major components of rhetorical analysis is with the acronym realm:






You will almost certainly take up the elements in a different order (just as they were explained above in a different order), but the acronym will help you remember the five key perspectives to look at when dissecting an argument.

You can also use this set of questions to help you begin your rhetorical analysis. As you answer these questions and re-read arguments carefully, other questions will certainly occur to you. Be sure to follow those leads as well to complete a thorough rhetorical analysis.

R - Can you define the probable readers in terms of age, gender, occupation, education, position of power? What values do target readers share with the writer? What range of positions might target readers hold before reading?

E - What features of the text seem most crucial to understand--the claim, the arrangement of arguments, the supporting evidence, the appeals, the style? What features of the essay make it a more convincing or persuasive argument? What parts of the text are most difficult to read? Why? What parts are most appealing? Why?

A - What do you know about this author? What specific qualifications does the author present to build credibility with the target audience? What appeals to the author's character do you see in the essay? In what ways does the author identify with the readers? Does this level of audience connection help the essay? How?

L - Given what you can discern about target readers, what limitations does that audience impose on the writer? How do the author's background knowledge and experience limit the argument? How do the author's character or values limit the argument? How does the larger context (its history or its social, political, and economic context) of the argument constrain the writer?

M - What seems to have prompted the writer to present this argument? What, if any, is the writer's history of work on this topic? What event might have prompted the writer? What value(s) might have sparked this essay?

Audience Analysis for Portfolio 3 (Kiefer)

As part of a thorough analysis of an argument, you can examine closely whom the writer targets for an argument. Sometimes an argument fails or is ineffective simply because the writer chooses the wrong reasons and evidence for the target audience. Answer the following questions based on the audience you think the writer is primarily writing to, even if you might not be a part of that target audience.

In what ways is the target audience limited by any of the following broad categories:
Moral or political stance
Urban or rural home
Background knowledge on this topic
Interest in this topic

From your reading of the argument, what does the writer assume about how the target audience might be uninformed or misinformed about the issue or the specific focus of the writer's argument? What are the writer's assumptions about the target audience's typical attitudes or stances toward the topic? What does the writer assume about how the target audience would like to see the problem, question, or issue resolved, answered, or handled? Why? That is, what personal stake does the writer assume readers have in the topic? In what larger framework--religious, ethical, political, economic--does the target audience seem to place the topic? That is, what general beliefs and values are involved, according to the writer's approach? After reading the argument, what opinions might readers have about the topic and the writer's position? How are target readers' reactions likely to differ from your reaction to the argument? Will this be a fruitful area for you to pursue in your analysis paper for portfolio 3?

Critical Thinking and Reading

Something to keep in mind while planning critical reading/thinking activities is that while we do need to talk about informal logic as it applies to critical reading and writing, this isn't a course in formal logic. Therefore, most of the work we do on fallacies emerges through the discussion of readings, and the handouts included here are meant to be supplementary to the students' investigations into the essays they read. Also, refer students to the Writing Center unit on Toulmin analysis; it's thorough, clear, and helpful.

Taken together, critical thinking, reading, and writing are the tripartite soul of COCC300. The materials in this section include

General Strategies for Critical Reading

In one of our PIE meetings, we generated a list of strategies that teachers were finding useful as they helped students become active readers. Here's that starting list; perhaps we'll have time soon to add to it.

  1. Start by looking at the ideas in the article. Be sure students understand the basic premise. Then they can generate an outline or a short summary. At the very least, they should mark the thesis and chunk the text into blocks of prose dealing with related sub-points. In other words, help them see the big picture first.
  2. After establishing the thesis, have students consider what the author hopes to accomplish. By noting the purpose as specifically as possible, students can often see clues to the argumentative structure.
  3. Flesh out some details on the target audience.
  4. Depending on the article, you may want to head students in any of these directions next:
    Where are any stipulative definitions?
    Do you have questions on specific chunks of text?
    Can you note any hidden assumptions?
    What are the key examples or images?
    How might you synthesize the author's philosophy?
  5. Look at strategies for developing the argument. In particular, have students note definitions, problem-solution statements, causal analysis, process analysis, statement or refutation of the opposition, and specific elements of voice (whining, self-aggrandizement, etc.).
As teaching options, these have worked well for C0CC300 teachers:

Take-Home Toulmin Worksheet


Reasons--Why is the writer advancing this claim?
List reasons--
Examine--Are they good/effective reasons? Explain.
Are they relevant to the thesis? Explain.

Evidence: List what kinds of evidence (data, personal experience, case studies, citations from an expert, etc.) are offered as support for each reason.
Examine--Is the evidence convincing?
Is it relevant to the reason it supports?

Refutations: What refutations from the opposition does the writer offer?
How does the writer respond to each objection?

Summarize your results: Give an overall evaluation of the argument.

Dialogue With a Text

Using the essay you chose and your summary of it, begin conversing with the text. Begin by asking the author what her thesis is.

Q: What is your main claim in this article?
Q: What do you mean by (insert words that you don't understand)?
Q: I didn't really understand (insert confusing part here).
Q: What did you mean by saying this?

Now pick one point the essay that you felt strongly about. Paraphrase it till you know you understand it well. Clarify any confusing parts.

Q: What values underlie your perspective on this one point? Why do you think the way you do?
(Can you press that question further? What implications might follow from what the author is proposing? How would the author respond?)

"Try to remember that your point is not to attack or defend, but to probe--to uncover the uncomfortable spots that make both questioner and answerer think harder." --Aims

Definitions and Purposes for Critical Thinking (Harper)

Critical Thinking
"Thinking critically is the ability to understand a concept fully, taking in different sides of an issue or idea while not being swayed by the propaganda or other fraudulent methods used to promote it." --Denise Selleck

"A definition of critical thinking is the disposition to think clearly and accurately in order to be fair." --Richard Paul

Critical thinkers question their own beliefs as well as those of others, formulate well-reasoned arguments to support their beliefs, recognize the possibility of change in their beliefs, and express their beliefs in clear, coherent language.

Logic is the branch of philosophy that studies the consistency of arguments.

Audience and Purpose
A major distinction between writing outside the classroom and writing for a class lies in the audience to whom we write, what novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf refers to as "the face beneath the page."

Job-related writing tasks include a designated audience and a real purpose, but in a class, students are asked to write papers for the teacher to critique and grade, usually with no specified purpose beyond successfully completing an assignment. (In this class, you will create your own purposes/audiences for your essays).

Contrary to the advice of many writing texts, essays in real life (and most college-level academic settings) are not limited to prescribed numbers of paragraphs or a required sequence of parts (nor to the rule "never use I"). Essays, whether explanatory or persuasive, should be designed to communicate a writer's ideas in such a way that the writer's purpose is clear and logical and satisfies the needs of a particular audience.

"Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers." --Isaac Asimov

(Excerpts from Ergo, Cooper & Patten, 2-11)

Subjective and Objective Reasoning (Costello)

This exercise gets students thinking about the biases inherent in decision-making processes. In small groups, students are asked to assume the role of a hospital boards of directors who must choose three people (from a list of fifteen or so) to receive a kidney dialysis. Here's the procedure:

I. Ask students to get into small groups and give each group a copy of Handout #1:

The Situation

You are on the board of directors at PVH. In addition to approving budgets and formulating policies, the board must also decide which patients receive kidney dialyses, as the demand exceeds the hospital's resources. You have been given a "finalists" list--a list of those patients who have been judged to respond equally well to the treatment. The list names ten people. Only three spaces are available.


  1. Independently, choose your three winners. Write a short explanation about how and why you chose as you did.
  2. Meet with your board.
  3. Come to a decision. Ask one person to record the process by which you reached this decision and be prepared to explain it to the class.
II. Field questions about the task; then give each group handout #2:

The Patients

Alexander Whitfield: male, 72 yrs; doctor on the verge of discovering cure for cancer
Juan Rodriquez: male; 28 yrs; policeman; loving husband and father of five children
Mary Ellen Smythye: female; 24 yrs; schoolteacher; single; lives in Chicago
Nick Roshnikov: male; 55 yrs; physicist, expert in atomic power
Evelyn Jones: female; 12 yrs; 8th grader; inner-city resident and gang member
Christie Brown: female; 20 yrs; college student; IQ 165; double major in engineering and law
Kim Hogland: female; 43 yrs; social worker; active in church; state senator
Huey Schickel: male; 9 yrs; farm boy; IQ 170; very musically inclined
Sabrina Murphy: female; 16 yrs; high school student; low grades; cheerleader; has a "reputation" among the guys
Chris Haller: male; 45 yrs; distinguished college professor; well-liked by his students

III. Ask the students to discuss the process they went through in selecting their patients. What criteria did they establish for selection? Did they establish these criteria beforehand? What biases did they uncover as they tried to determine which patients should live and die? Connect their discussion to subjective and objective forms of reasoning and ask them what the most objective form of reasoning would be in this case. (Molly says that sometimes her students do come up with a lottery system, but not often.)

IV. Ask students to reconvene in their groups, and give each a copy of handout #3. Ask the students to reevaluate their patient selection in light of the new information.

Further Information on the Patients

Whitfield has been receiving chemotherapy treatments for lymphatic cancer for the last 14 months. Prognosis is poor.
Rodriquez killed one mafia man and wounded another while trying to save his children--the courts won't let him testify for his own safety.
Smythye is pregnant and has spent the last six weeks in a drug rehab program.
Roshnikov is a Russian spy.
Jones has an IQ of 145--very high for her age.
Brown is lesbian.
Hogland saved a little boy's life ten years ago by donating one of her kidneys for transplant.
Schickel is an adopted child whose parents were murdered.
Murphy is emotionally upset about her parents' recent divorce. She has spent the last two months in counseling at a mental health center.
Haller is an alcoholic and accused child molester.

V. Discuss with students how they reacted to handout #3. Did the new information change their choices of patients? Reconnect to subjective and objective forms of reasoning.

Fallacies in Logic

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning. The use of them, whether deliberate or not, can cause a reader to reject your point of view. They are often the result of a lack of evidence or careful thought on a subject. You should check your rough drafts carefully to avoid them. Here are the most common types:

  1. Hasty generalization--the writer bases the argument on insufficient or unrepresentative evidence. (For example, say you wanted to find out how men feel about the new car ads directed toward women, and you interviewed only members of the men's movement. To say that men feel those ads are sexist based only on that evidence would be a hasty generalization.)
  2. Non Sequitur ("it doesn't follow")--the writer's conclusion is not necessarily a logical result of the facts. (Conclude that because Jane Smith is a brilliant historian, she will therefore be a brilliant history teacher is a non sequitur.)
  3. Begging the question--the writer presents as truth what is supposed to be proven by the argument. (For example, if you say that "dangerous pornography should be banned," you are begging the reader to get something for nothing. That is, you are giving no evidence for what must first be argued, not merely asserted, that pornography is dangerous.)
  4. Red herring--the writer introduces an irrelevant point to divert the readers' attention from the main issue. (You are yelling at your roommate because s/he never does the dishes when it's his/her turn. S/he turns around and says to you "yeah, well, what about that $20 you owe me?")
  5. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this)--the writer mistakes a temporal connection for a causal connection. (An hour before the rape, the man had bought a Playboy; therefore, because he read the magazine, he raped the woman.)
  6. Argument ad hominem ("to the man")--the writer attacks the opponent's character rather than the opponent's argument. ("Dr. Bloom can't be a competent marriage counselor because she's been divorced twice.")
  7. Faulty authority--the writer uses ordinary people, or lay people, as evidence for a specialized area of knowledge. (You interview your roommate, an average college student with no special knowledge or skills, about what he thinks about gays in the military and use that as evidence that they shouldn't be there.)

Identifying Logical Fallacies (Becker)

Determine the potential persuasiveness of each argument. If the arguments are not persuasive because of one or more logical fallacies, identify the fallacies and explain how they render the argument nonpersuasive.

  1. All wars are not wrong. The people who say so are cowards.
  2. Either we legalize marijuana or we watch a steady increase in the number of our citizens who break the law.
  3. Abortion is murder because it is the intentional taking of a human life.
  4. We don't dare send weapons to guerrillas in Central America. If we do so, we will next send in military advisers, then a special forces battalion, and then a large number of trOops. Finally, we will be in all-out war.
  5. All those tornadoes started happening right after they tested the A-bombs. The A-bomb testing has changed our weather.
  6. Politicians can't be trusted because they lack integrity.
  7. Closing the gay baths to prevent the spread of AIDS is like closing bars to prevent the spread of alcoholism.
  8. Arnold Palmer says Gooey Oil keeps his old tractor running sharp; therefore, Gooey oil is good oil.
  9. NASA's safety program is obviously unsatisfactory. The explosion of the Challenger space shuttle makes this clear.
  10. I wouldn't consider reading William Safire's weekly, language columns. How can you possibly respect him when you know that he wrote speeches for Nixon?
  11. How could Thomas Jefferson have written that "all men are created equal"? People are obviously born with differing abilities and differing needs. It would clearly be wrong to treat everyone the same.
(Examples from Rottenberg, Cooper and Patton, Bean and Ramage.)

Focusing and Narrowing Topics

All experienced teachers of COCC150 know that focusing and narrowing topics is typically the most difficult task for college writers. COCC300 students aren't an exception. Especially because students will choose to argue about general issues unless we direct them otherwise, be prepared to work closely with students to narrow the scope of their arguments.

The first handout details the process of focusing for students. The other handouts are exercises to help students focus topics for papers.

Focusing Your Topic (Gogela)

Having practiced the various stages of the writing process, we now return to an early phase: narrowing and refining the focus of our topic. Most of us have been part of heated political discussions between friends and family members. Grandfather states that the taxes are too high under the new administration. Cousin Susan points out that corporations do not pay their fair share, and Dad shouts that the government funds too many social programs and allows too many foreigners to immigrate to this country. These discussions are often discursive and unsatisfying because they are not focused on one clear and precise question at issue. For an argument to be successful, one person does not necessarily have to defeat another; one point of view does not have to be proven superior to another. An argument can also be considered successful if it opens a line of communication between people and allows them to consider--with respect--points of view other than their own. But if an argument is to establish such a worthwhile exchange, it must focus first on a single topic and then on a particular question at issue.

An issue is any topic of concern and controversy. Not all topics are issues since many topics are not controversial. Pet care, for instance, is a topic, but not an issue; laboratory testing of animals, on the other hand, is an issue. In the hypothetical family discussion above four issues are raised--taxes, the new administration, immigration, and government-funded social programs. No wonder such a discussion is fragmented and deteriorates into people shouting unsupported claims at one another.

Whether we choose our own issue or are assigned one, the next step is to choose one question at issue--a particular aspect under consideration. Abortion, for instance, has many questions at issue: Should abortion remain legal? Should the government fund abortions for poor women? Should a man have the right to prevent a woman from aborting her/their fetus? Should minors be required to obtain parental permission to have an abortion? When does life begin? A writer who does not focus on one and only one question at issue risks producing a disorganized essay, one that will be difficult to follow because the readers will not be sure they understand the point the writer is arguing.

The final step in establishing the focus of an essay is determining the thesis. While the issue and question at issue state, respectively, the subject and focus of the paper, they are neutral statements; they do not reveal the writer's opinion nor should they. To encourage objective analysis, the question at issue should be expressed in neutral rather than biased or emotionally charged language. The thesis, however, states the writer's position, her response to the question at issue.

Narrowing from Topic to Thesis

Before you begin drafting an argument paper, you need to do two things: pick an audience that might listen to you or should listen to you and decide what you will be arguing. The following prompts should help you focus your argument from a broad topic to a position on a narrow aspect of that topic.

What is your topic? (for example, single sex education)
What are three controversies associated with this topic? (for example, the constitutionality of single sex public schooling; the purpose of single sex schooling; the educational and experiential benefits of single sex schooling)
What are three questions people might ask about these controversies? (e.g., Is it constitutional for the public school system to fund a single sex institution? Can boys and girls receive a better education if they are schooled separated? Can sexism within education be alleviated through single sex schooling?) Which question are you most interested in exploring?
Now list several ways people might respond if you asked them your question. (e.g., Can boys and girls receive a better education if schooled separately? No, and besides it is legalized segregation. No, it does not prepare them to live together in the real world. Yes, studies have demonstrated the benefits of single sex schooling.)
Now decide where you stand in this range of responses. Think of a thesis that expresses your view. Write out your thesis and revise it until it is specific, has a stance, and makes one clear point. (e.g., Contrary to popular opinion and even well-meaning opposition, single sex schooling eliminates the devastating effects of sexism within the classroom and thus provides lasting benefits to young students.)

Developing a Tentative Thesis

The thesis statement of an essay is to your argument paper what the topic sentence is to the paragraph: a guide, a control--a single promise. It indicates the subject, the approach, and the limitations of your topic. It also suggests your position, your attitude, and a commitment to the subject. It conveys the sense that your subject matters, that you have a stake in it. Rather than say, "Advertisers often use sexist ads," tell us something we don't know. Perhaps you could shed new light on an old subject: "Although long criticized for their sexist portrayal of women in TV commercials, the auto industry is just as often guilty of stereotyping men as brainless idiots unable to make a decision." The first statement stimulates "Ho hum," the other "Oh, yeah? I'd like to know more about that."

The thesis statement is your promise to the reader and to yourself.

For today's assignment, please focus a tentative thesis by first deciding on a specific audience and a specific purpose.

Your specific audience:
Your specific purpose:
Your tentative thesis:

Collecting Ideas for the Convincing Essay Draft (Kiefer)

Use these questions to help you organize your thinking and collect your ideas for your convincing essay draft.

What is the main point or position you want to take?
Can you see any way to focus this claim?
What reasons do you now have for taking this position?
What evidence do you have to support each of your reasons? Go back in the file and fill in as much details as you can remember to support each reason.

If you find your reasons have little to do with each other, go back to your claim and re-focus. Then eliminate unrelated reasons/evidence, and list new, relevant reasons and evidence.

Narrowing your Pro/Con Topic to a Thesis (McMahon)

Answering the following questions will help you discover ideas about your topic. The questions are arranged within four general categories:
Definition (How is your topic defined?)
Comparison (What is it similar to or different from?)
Relationship (What causes your topic to occur?)
Circumstances (What circumstances make your topic possible?)

Begin by writing out your topic (X) and then answer as many of the following questions as possible.

How does the dictionary define X?
Did X mean something in the past that it does not mean now? If so, what?
What does this former meaning tell us about how the idea has changed?
What do I mean by X?
What other words mean approximately the same as X?
What are some concrete examples of X?
When is the meaning of X misunderstood?
Do I know any statistics about X? If so, what?
Have I talked with anyone about X?
Are there any laws concerning X?

What is X similar to? In what ways?
What is X different from? In what ways?
X is superior to what? In what ways?
X is inferior to what? In what ways?
X is most unlike what? (What is its opposite?)
X is most like what? In what ways?

What causes X?
What is the purpose of X?
Why does X happen?
What is the consequence of X?
What comes before X?
What comes after X?

Is X possible or impossible?
What qualities, conditions, or circumstances make X possible or impossible?
Supposing X is possible, is it also desirable? Why?
When did X happen previously?
Who has done or experienced X?
Who can do X?
If X starts, what makes it end?
What would it take for X to happen now?
What would prevent X from happening?

Mid-Course, Group, and Supplemental Evaluations

We have found that "mid-course corrections" are helpful for comp courses, so we recommend a short evaluation be given about the middle of the semester (shortly after the first portfolio is collected). These can help you adjust to your students' needs while there is still a significant amount of time left to implement new strategies, if necessary. The sample includes prompts teachers have found useful.

Having students complete group and self assessments after a collaborative project builds in accountability. We'd be happy to include additional prompts you've found useful.

Finally, although you'll give the composition final evaluation form, supplemental questions can also give you more specific feedback about COCC300.

Mid-Course Evaluation

  1. What is the most useful critical thinking, reading, or writing tool you have learned about so far this term? What is the least useful? Why?
  2. What reading(s) have been most interesting? Least interesting? Why?
  3. What concept or idea that we have talked about in class has seemed most confusing or difficult to understand?
  4. What might make the peer-review workshops more helpful for you?
  5. How have you taken advantage of your teacher's comments on work-in-progress drafts? What might make these comments more helpful for you?
  6. Where do you feel you need to spend more time in the second half of the term--critical reading, writing, or thinking? What kinds of activities will help you feel more confident in this area?

COCC300 Collaborative Group Assessment

Please be candid and thorough as you evaluate your group. These evaluations will remain confidential, but I need each student's cooperation so that I can judge the effectiveness of the group activity.

Group topic:
Other group members:
Please describe the contributions of each member of your group:
Knowing what you know now and if given a choice of group members for a subsequent project, which members of your group would you choose to work with again?
What was the most valuable aspect of completing this group work?
How did input from group members help you prepare a stronger final paper?
Sometimes a group will not function smoothly simply because members have agendas that cannot be blended or for reasons of group dynamics that have nothing to do with the willingness of members to work hard on a project. Please describe any difficulties of this sort that you encountered.
If you were to grade each of your group members on their contributions, what would you give them? (Include yourself here.)
What else would you like me to know about your group?

COCC300 Collaborative Writing Self Assessment

Group topic:

  1. As I look back at our group paper, I learned . . .
  2. My greatest strength as a collaborative group member is that . . .
  3. The weakness I'll work on the next time I'm in a collaborative group is . . .

Supplemental Evaluation for COCC300 - 1

  1. Please give us candid feedback about the effectiveness of specific strategies we used during the term. In other words, what worked for you and why or why not?
    --DAILY writing
    --peer-review workshops
    --collaborative writing project
    --portfolio grading
  2. What suggestions do you have to make the computer classroom more effective for you? For other students you've talked to?
  3. The one thing I wish I had known before I took this section of COCC300 is . . . Any additional comments?
At the beginning of my next COCC300 class, I will hand out a list of your comments and suggestions. What are the most important pieces of advice you would like to share with my next class as they begin the semester?

Supplemental Evaluation for COCC300 - 2

  1. What did you like best about the class? What were its strengths?
  2. Is there anything you found extraordinarily difficult or troublesome about the class? Explain.
  3. Describe the most important and/or valuable thing that you learned from the class (about writing; arguments; mass media; gender; yourself; life; whatever).
  4. Was I a helpful facilitator in your learning process? Why or why not?
  5. Did you have any fun? (I hope so. You've been a fantastic class, and you certainly have made this semester fun and exciting for me. Have a great summer break.)

More Detailed Explanation of Rogerian Argument and Toulmin Analysis

If you want to assign these kinds of writing tasks, you might consider handing out these explanations or ones that you create. Most of the material in the "notes on Toulmin" have been incorporated into the Writing Center module on Toulmin analysis.

What is Rogerian Argument? (Kiefer)

Typically, we think of winners and losers of arguments. Our tradition of argument goes back to classical Greece when speakers tried to sway fellow voters in the early democratic debates over policy. Building on this tradition of pro and con, our judicial system goes even further to emphasize the adversarial nature of many arguments. But arguments don't always have to assume that readers make a yes/no, innocent/guilty, on/off decision. Many arguments build toward consensus. In our textbook, Aims of Argument, the authors devote a chapter to mediating/negotiating arguments that aim to reach consensus. Another approach our authors don't describe is called Rogerian argument.

Based on Carl Rogers' work in psychology, Rogerian argument begins by assuming that a willing writer can find middle or common ground with a willing reader. Instead of promoting the adversarial relationship that traditional or classical argument typically sets up between reader and writer, Rogerian argument assumes that if reader and writer can both find common ground about a problem, they are more likely to find a solution to that problem. Based on these assumptions, Rogerian argument develops along quite different lines than a traditional argument often does.

In the introduction to a Rogerian argument, the writer presents the problem, typically pointing out how both writer and reader are affected by the problem. Rather than presenting an issue that divides reader and writer, or a thesis that demands agreement (and in effect can be seen as an attack on a reader who holds an opposing view), the Rogerian argument does not begin with the writer's position at all.

Next, the writer describes as fairly as possible--typically in language as neutral as possible--the reader's perceived point of view on the problem. Only if the writer can represent the reader's perspective accurately will the reader begin to move toward compromise, and so this section of the argument is crucial to the writer's credibility. (Even though writers might be tempted to use this section of the Rogerian argument to manipulate readers, that strategy usually backfires when readers perceive the writer's insincerity. Good will is crucial to the success of a Rogerian argument.) Moreover, as part of the writer's commitment to expressing the reader's perspective on the problem, the writer acknowledges the circumstances and contexts in which the reader's position or perspective is valid.

In the next main chunk of the Rogerian argument, the writer then presents fairly and accurately his or her own perspective or position on the problem. This segment depends, again, on neutral but clear language so that the reader perceives the fair-mindedness of the writer's description. The segment is, however, a major factor in whether or not the writer is ultimately convincing, and so key evidence supports and develops this section of the argument. Like the description of the reader's perspective, this part of the argument also includes a description of the contexts or circumstances in which the writer's position is valid.

The Rogerian essay closes not by asking readers to give up their own positions on the problem but by showing how the reader would benefit from moving toward the writer's position. In other words, the final section of the Rogerian argument lays out possible ways to compromise or alternative solutions to the problem that would benefit both reader and writer under more circumstances than either perspective alone accounts for.

Rogerian approaches are particularly useful for emotionally charged, highly divisive issues. The Rogerian approach typically downplays the emotional in favor of the rational so that people of good will can find solutions to common problems. But no argument, Rogerian or otherwise, will succeed unless the writer understands the reader. Rogerian argument is especially dependent on audience analysis because the writer must present the reader's perspective clearly, accurately, and fairly.

If you want to read more about Rogerian argument, Kate Kiefer has additional explanations and sample texts available in 338 Eddy.

Toulmin Analysis

Here are a few reminders that might make the Toulmin analysis a little clearer for you:

Purposes of Toulmin Analysis

Sometimes it's easiest for us to see if an argument is effective if we take it apart and examine its parts. Sometimes we can even tell where an argument is ineffective after we take it apart. When we examine other people's arguments using Toulmin, we use the "taking apart" to help us understand the argument more fully or to summarize it more accurately. But we can also use T.A. to help us revise our own arguments, and you'll use T.A. on your arguments as you prepare portfolio 2.


Think of the claim in an argument as the most general statement in the argument. It may not be a particularly general statement all by itself, and some claims for arguments are very narrow indeed. But the claim in an argument is like the umbrella statement that all other parts of an argument have to fall under. If a reason (or evidence) doesn't fall under the umbrella of the claim, then it's all wet (i.e., irrelevant).


We make lots of statements every day that we don't necessarily mean to apply to every human being everywhere. But in the language of logicians like Stephen Toulmin, all unqualified statements could have inserted in them the words all, every, never, none, always, and so on, without changing the statement. For example, I might say,

Books by Anthony Trollope are fun to read.

Stephen Toulmin would rewrite that sentence as

All books by Anthony Trollope are always fun for everyone to read.

I would consider defending some version of my statement, but I would never try to defend Toulmin's version of my statement. Most folks stating claims for arguments try not to get themselves into the position of defending a statement that always applies to everyone everywhere, so most claims will include qualifiers. These are often little words like some, most, many, in general, usually, typically, and so on. They may be little words, but their value to an argument is immeasurable.


When a writer specifically excludes certain cases or situations from the argument, those are the exceptions.


Why does a writer believe the claim she makes? The reasons a writer gives are the first line of development of any argument. To use our umbrella image again, reasons are like the spokes that hold the umbrella open. If reasons are strong enough, the claim holds off the rain. If reasons aren't strong enough, the umbrella collapses.

How can we tell if reasons are strong? According to Toulmin, we use two main questions: is the reason relevant? is the reason good?

If a reason is relevant, it stays within the confines of the umbrella; if a reason isn't relevant, it pokes out beyond the edge of the umbrella or doesn't even fall under the cover of the umbrella.

If a reason is good, it invokes a value we can believe in or agree with. Value judgments are often the most difficult to make in arguments, so be sure to restate the value as clearly as possible in your own terms. Then you'll be able to evaluate whether or not the value is good in itself or worth pursuing.


We'd all probably like to believe that the people we argue with will accept our claims and reasons as perfect and complete by themselves, but most readers just won't do that. They want evidence of some sort--facts, examples, statistics, expert testimony, among others--to back up our reasons. Take one more look at the umbrella. An argument without evidence is like an umbrella without a handle. It will keep the rain off your head but it sure is awkward to hold onto.

To be believable and convincing, evidence should satisfy three conditions:

Sufficient: Is there enough evidence to convince a reasonable reader of the reason and the claim?

Credible: Does the evidence match with the readers' experience of the world? If not, does the evidence come from a source that readers would accept as more knowledgeable than they are? Evidence needs to avoid obvious bias.

Accurate: Does the evidence "tell the truth"? Are statistics gathered in verifiable ways from good sources? Are the quotations complete and fair (not out of context)? Are the facts verifiable from other sources?


These are not your objections to an argument you read. Toulmin analysis doesn't call for you to get involved in the argument, just analyze it. Rather, these are objections that the writer feels opponents on the other side of the argument might make. Usually, these are included in arguments so that writers can get to rebuttal or refutation. (Gentle reminder: writers don't help their overall credibility by misstating their opponents' objections or ignoring major objections in favor of minor objections that are easier to rebut.)


Once a writer identifies counter-arguments opponents might make, it would be silly to announce those counter-arguments and not argue against them. So after stating the objections of opponents, most writers will refute or rebut the objections. It's possible to construct an entire argument out of objections and rebuttal. Good rebuttal usually requires evidence, so don't forget to look for support for the rebuttal position in that part of an argument. Like all evidence, rebuttal evidence should be sufficient, accurate, and credible.

Miscellaneous Points

  1. There will be a range of responses on a Toulmin analysis because readers construct their own meanings as they read texts. When in doubt, always go back to the text. Also, don't assume that your first draft of a claim or reasons will be the best representation of the text's meaning. You will almost certainly see ways to capture the text's meaning more effectively (clearly, accurately) in a second or third draft of the claim, etc.
  2. Different texts encourage more or less interpretation. At one end of a spectrum, we have highly metaphorical texts, like much poetry, that demand personal interpretation. At the other end, we have informative texts that direct you, for instance, to put together a bicycle. These should be so explicit that there's little variation in how readers read and respond to them. But there's lots of room in the middle for a wide variety of texts, especially arguments. Don't be surprised when another reader doesn't construct exactly the same meaning you have after reading an argument.
So how can your teacher "grade" your Toulmin analysis? Your statement of the claim should cover all the reasons you state. Your explanation of the reasons should show how they support the claim. Your analysis of the evidence should show how sufficient, credible and accurate the evidence is for you. Teachers comment on the effectiveness of a Toulmin analysis, not on whether it's right or wrong.

Policy Statements and Syllabi

Portfolio Explanations, Checklists, and Postscripts

Instructors use portfolios very differently. This section includes rationales and notes for using portfolio grading from Anne Gogela, Marisa Harper, Christina Holtcamp, and Kate Kiefer. You might also see Randy Fetzer's discussion (in Steve Reid's office) of Laura Thomas' portfolio system as it was used in COCC300 during the Spring, 1995 term. Kate also has an article on using portfolios to enhance revision as well as a variety of bibliographies on portfolio evaluation.

Also included are sample explanation sheets instructors give to their students. It is important to explain your portfolio system clearly and give your students something tangible to refer to. Most instructors put a brief description of the submission requirements in their policy statements. Nevertheless, come submission time, you will probably be barraged with questions about what the portfolio should include. Some instructors reduce the questioning by providing students with checklists that let them know exactly what the portfolio should contain and ask the students to submit the checklist (checked off) with their portfolio.

Postscripts can be especially fruitful when using portfolios. Students have usually had a large amount of time to draft, workshop, and revise each piece they submit and usually have a pretty good idea of what the pieces do well and what they still need. Consequently, you can ask your students to consider their writing process in some depth and can ask them to direct your reading and commenting toward specific strengths and weaknesses in the portfolio as a whole.

Traditional And/Or Portfolio Grading? (Gogela)

Come to think of it, I really don't like grading--at all, under any circumstances, ever. However, since Steve insists on this necessary evil, here are some of my thoughts on the issue.

While I've never tried portfolio grading in C0150, it has worked well for me in C0250 and C0301. Over the years, I've experimented with various assignments that culminated in a number of portfolios over the course of a semester. Currently, I'm using a system that combines traditional and portfolio grading to accommodate not only some of my students' needs but my own as well.

Obviously, there are disadvantages to traditional grading: a) Students are tempted to write for a grade. Once they have that grade, they're stuck--for better or worse. A student who receives an 'A' may rest on his or her laurels for the rest of the semester and not grow much as a writer. Worse yet, a student who fails the first assignments will be discouraged for the rest of the semester, hate writing. . . and my guts. What's a good teacher to do? b) Traditional grading can also lead to choppy assignments. I like to work with sequences that culminate in a major project, so it's difficult to smack a "grade" on bits and pieces of the process.

Alas, portfolio grading does not solve all problems, either. a)No matter how well I explain the concept (in writing and rhetoric), some students don't understand that this is a GIFT. Every time I collect intervention drafts, for instance, a couple of dodos will say, "I didn't put much work into this because you're not grading it anyway." Grrrr! Most of the time, this is more of a self-discipline/time-management problem on the part of the student rather than a problem with the system. b) Of course, instructors are not immune to time-management problems, either. Depending on the required content of a portfolio, how many classes/preps I happen to have that semester, and what else is going on in my life, I may have to do some serious juggling of priorities (--builds character).

Since both traditional and portfolio grading have advantages and disadvantages, I use a combination that's comfortable and manageable for me. In C0250 (Writing Arguments), for example, I assign traditional grades for about a third of the semester--with option to rewrite for students who struggle (but I don't advertise this in advance). By the time we start portfolios, we have established a learning routine and students are pretty clear on my expectations and standards. Now they can concentrate on writing without worrying about grades for every little chunk of work they do. In addition, students have more control over what gets done and when--as long as it does get done. At the beginning of a given unit, I distribute a check-sheet for work due at the end of the unit, so there's no ambiguity. The content of a portfolio is determined by the instructor. (Do you prefer several smaller portfolios--or a couple of more extensive ones?)

Portfolios: Promises, Problems, Practices (Kiefer)

Definition--Students collect of their best writing once, twice, or three times during a term. Some teachers set limits on the kinds of papers; some require certain number of pages.

Promises (Rationale)

As a teacher of comp, I struggled with ways to make practices match my preaching--I encouraged revision in writing process, but grading practices seemed to cut off revision prematurely. Then I discovered portfolios. They
--encourage revision through the entire time allotted to the portfolio or even through the entire semester,
-- promote multiple readings of work-in-progress to shape writing effectively for audience and purpose,
--encourage effective peer review (peers might see the same paper several times),
--encourage students to ask for teacher intervention more frequently in process,
--encourage self evaluation (students must choose their best pieces),
--offer safe opportunities to experiment, and
--give students time and space to develop ideas.


  1. Students wait until the last minute to begin writing. Solution: Assign regular "due" dates or regularly scheduled workshops at which drafts are required and checked.
  2. Takes too much time.
    No Solution! When the final portfolios come in, it's like taking two or three sets of papers home at once. So portfolios definitely will not save time. But I spend much less time on intervention drafts than I used to on final papers, and if I've seen most of the final portfolio pieces in draft, I don't have to spend as much time on them as I would on a brand new piece.
  3. If students don't take the initiative to ask for intervention, some students can go for a long time without feedback. Solution: Regular workshops will give all students frequent opportunities for peer review. Another Solution: occasionally, I require an intervention draft from everyone.
  4. I spend so much time on intervention drafts that I have doubled my total grading time. Solution: Comment on only the most significant feature of a draft (the element that will result in the most significant revisions).
  5. Students do only superficial revisions.
    Solution: Suggest students do as much writing as possible on a computer so that revisions don't require a lot of re-typing. Since I've switched to a computer classroom, I haven't had this problem. You could also require revisions of genre, audience, purpose, etc., to encourage students to make global revisions.

Portfolio Explanation (Harper)

As you know, for the rest of the semester you will be compiling a second portfolio of your work. As we compile the portfolio, you will be learning about specific strategies for argumentation. While we will read, discuss, and write about some common topics, you will decide which media and "American" culture topic or topics to write your arguments about. You should, at this point, already be well on your way to writing on a particular topic or topics. You will have several opportunities for feedback from a number of sources: workshops, conferences, intervention drafts, etc. You will also have plenty of time for research and revisions, providing you keep up with deadlines.

On April 27, you will turn in all the work you have done (research, collecting, notes, homework, drafts, etc.), along with the final draft(s) of the paper(s) you have selected as your best work.

Research, but mainly experience, has shown me that writers learn and perform best when they have multiple opportunities to try, fail, learn, think, get feedback, and revise. I would also argue that the only way to learn to write is by doing so. Compiling a portfolio gives you such opportunities. You will have several weeks to write arguments as you learn more about argument. Then you will choose your best work, revise and polish it, and receive grades for both the work you do (process) and the quality of your best work (final papers).

What will be in the portfolio?
Everything you write between now and April 27. Your goal is to show the step-by-step process you took in learning and writing as you compiled the portfolio. All homework, freewriting, research materials, notes, drafts, and workshop materials get turned in. As always, you will identify your final draft(s) of your best work and include them as well.

How will the portfolio be graded?
You grade will have two parts. Part one is process, and that includes showing all the work you have done. There will be certain minimum requirements that will be discussed later. Some people will do more than the minimum. If you meet the minimum requirements, you get an 'A' on process. If things are missing or deadlines haven't been met, your grade will be reduced accordingly. Part one accounts for 20% of your portfolio grade. Part two is the final papers. These are worth the other 80% of your portfolio grade. The minimum requirement is 12 pages, as I have informed you. (You may exceed the minimum if you discuss your plans with me in advance.) You may meet the minimum requirement for final papers in the following ways:
One twelve-page paper
Two six-page papers
One four-page and one eight-page paper
Three three-to-five page papers

These papers will be graded on criteria for effective argumentation and academic writing in general. We will learn about and develop these criteria as we go.

What kind of feedback will we get?
You will continue to work together informally and in planned workshops in class. You may also choose to work with classmates or others outside of class. These "others" may include Writing Center consultants. In addition, I will comment on intervention drafts. These are drafts you may submit to me for quick-turnaround, focused comments. You may submit intervention drafts to me on the dates specified. I will read these drafts quickly and make note of the one or two most important areas I feel you need to address first in revision. Consider my comments but one source among many, and please do not expect me to point out everything you might need to revise. The sheer volume of drafts to read precludes my spending more than 10-15 min. on any draft. And regardless of what feedback you get or from whom, remember that it's your paper and the decisions for its execution must necessarily rest with you.

Some important general requirements:
-Everyone will be required to attend all workshops with at least one rough draft.
-The last day to submit intervention drafts is April 20.
-Photocopies of all written sources used must be submitted in the final portfolio.
-All intervention and workshop drafts must be typed.

When do we begin?
You already have begun! Continue thinking about issues, problems, and controversies related to media and "American" culture. Reflect on what you have read and written so far this semester, and on future discussions, readings, observations and research.

Start keeping a record or log of assignments as they are assigned. This will help those of you who have a hard time staying organized and remembering "exactly what needs to be included."

When you have questions, write them down and ask me about them in person, in class, over the phone, by e-mail ... etc.

Portfolio Grading (Holtcamp)

I have become an advocate of portfolio grading for several reasons:
--I believe that portfolio grading helps students practice and understand their writing processes.
--It seems to reinforce the notion of revision even if some students don't revise as globally as they might.
--Students seem to do more analysis of their own writing, in terms of effectiveness because they are able to compare pieces as they prepare their portfolio and write their extensive postscripts. (These postscripts prompt them to review their writing processes over the long term as they prepare a portfolio of their writing.)
--I also believe that having students submit portfolios requires students to take responsibility for their education. They must make more choices concerning whether or not their writing is effective and prepared for their audience and readers. They must stay organized. Students must stay on top of things because there are more due dates to be aware of for drafts and sections of the portfolio.
--Portfolios tend to give students a sense of accomplishment.

The following is how I present portfolio evaluation in the policy and procedure sheet:

2. Portfolio Grading - The first eight weeks of the semester you will be working on a portfolio. You must prepare one portfolio of your best work. The portfolio must include at least 12 pages and must include at least 2 pieces but no more than three pieces. Drafts must be submitted in each portfolio. As an instructor, I want to be able to verify that each student's writing is improving and that students are working to hone their writing skills and abilities. No credit will be given to portfolios that do not have drafts included and do not show that the writer has been revising the pieces throughout the course of the eight weeks. Each piece included in the portfolio must have been workshopped in class, and the workshop sheet must be submitted with the piece in the portfolio.

3. Drafts-in-progress - From time to time I will ask that you submit a draft-in-progress for me to comment on. When I read these drafts, I will suggest possible revisions for the most striking feature; I do not comment on every possible problem in the paper. Please remember that my comments are suggestions and not prescriptions. Note also, that you must revise for other problems or weaknesses that I may not have commented on. Even though I will comment on drafts and as a class we will have regular in-class workshops during which your classmates will also comment on your papers, remember that you are in control of your writing. You should consider the comments of your readers, but don't expect them to do all your rewriting for you. Failure to turn in drafts-in-progress when collected will result in the lowering of the portfolio grade. Please note that you may also submit intervention drafts anytime. I will arrange to turn them back to you the next class period or soon thereafter.

Some Helpful Hints for Drafting Portfolio 2 (Kiefer)

As you've noticed, the work for portfolio 2 gets underway very quickly. Here are some ideas that you should keep in mind as you work on the portfolio:

Purpose - You must take a position and defend or support it in each essay in portfolio 2. This portfolio calls for convincing and persuading essays, not simply explanations of the possible positions within a controversy. Moreover, the two essays need to be distinctive. Convincing will focus on getting your audience to agree with your point of view; persuading will concentrate on arguing for a particular solution or otherwise getting readers to act upon your argument.

Audience - Clearly defining your audience is a key to a successful portfolio.

It's easiest to convince an audience slightly antagonistic to your view or neutral on the topic. It's harder to convince readers who adamantly oppose your position, but you're welcome to take on that challenge. "Preaching to the choir" or writing to convince readers who already agree with you often seems pointless to writers, and these audiences don't tend to inspire particularly effective papers.

It's easiest to persuade readers who already mostly agree with you but who aren't yet committed to action or to readers who are neutral or uninformed about the importance of taking action. It's almost impossible to persuade readers who disagree violently with your position because first you have to convince those readers to agree with you and then persuade them to act with you.

So you'll need to define different audiences for the two papers in this portfolio. Here's an example. The city of Fort Collins recently extended free Transfort rides to CSU faculty in an effort to reduce air pollution from car traffic in town. Students have ridden for free for a long time because part of their student fees go to support Transfort. Some students now feel that their student fees are subsidizing free faculty rides on Transfort. You could write a convincing paper to these students to get them to agree that faculty rides on Transfort provide a partial solution to bad air days in the Fort. You could write a persuading paper to faculty to get them to take advantage of the Transfort rides.

Focus - A narrowly focused, clearly stated claim is both easier for readers to grasp and easier for you to defend or support. Be sure, too, that it isn't offensive as it states your position. You gain no advantage by offending your readers at the beginning of your argument.

Development - Details stick in readers' mind and convince/persuade more effectively than do general statements. Check each reason in your argument and make sure you back it up with adequate support. It's a good idea to do a Toulmin analysis of your own essay to check that each reason is clearly stated and fully supported with convincing/persuasive evidence.

Sources - Don't ignore experts at CSU or contacts through the CSU/county extension service. City officials might also be helpful in providing information about planning and zoning; streets, parks, and other budgets; City Council initiatives for the environment; and so on.

If you are working on topics related to forestry, fish and wildlife services, or state/national park management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has a library you can use at their office on Prospect. We also have a U.S. Division of Wildlife here in town, as well as the local management office for the Roosevelt National Forest. Don't hesitate to do personal or telephone interviews if you need experts you can find around town.

Portfolio Check-sheet (Gogela)

Please submit your required work for this unit in a two-pocket folder. Staple this check-sheet to the final draft of the essay you would like me to grade and place it in the right pocket of your folder for easy identification; everything else goes left.

Check off the following items to be included in your portfolio:
--Final draft of argument essay to be graded (10 points)
--Rough drafts and workshop sheets for same essay (2 points)
--Xerox copies of 4-6 varied and substantial sources (This may include a documented interview or a survey.) (4 points)
--Both intervention drafts (Remember if your convincing or your persuading draft received an 'R,' both drafts have to be passing for credit.) (4 points)

Grading Criteria for Argument Essay (Strong/OK/Weak)
--Appeal to specific audience
--Sense of purpose (convincing or persuading)
--Content, insights, thinking, grappling with topic
--Genuine revision, substantive changes
--Organization, structure, guiding the reader
--Language: Syntax, sentences, wording, voice
--Mechanics: Spelling, grammar, punctuation
--Documentation (in-text and Works Cited)

End Comments:

Sample Postscript Prompts - 1

Postscript questions about portfolio 1. Reflect back on your writing and learning as you worked on portfolio 1.

  1. What was the hardest part of preparing this portfolio?
  2. What was the most rewarding part of preparing this portfolio?
  3. If we had more time before completing this portfolio, what would you have wanted more class time to do?
  4. What would you have wanted to do less of before turning in this portfolio?
  5. What are the strengths of your portfolio?
  6. What did you learn by doing portfolio 1 that you will carry into your work on portfolio 2?

Sample Postscript Prompts - 3

After you complete the rest of your portfolio, please answer the following questions as specifically and completely as you can.

  1. For each final paper, define your audience and purpose.
  2. For each final paper, describe what you believe is the strongest point of the paper.
  3. What was most difficult for you in preparing your portfolio? How did you solve this problem? (Or does the problem remained unsolved?)
  4. What types of comments are you most interested in receiving on your final paper(s)? I will complete a checklist of the strong, adequate, and weak points of each paper, but I would like to know what specific areas you would like feedback on. Some options include the following:
    reader response--I assume the role of a member of your audience and respond as s/he might
    evaluative--one final comment on the strongest and weakest points of the paper
    descriptive--I outline the parts of your paper
    global response--one focused comment on how persuasive I found the paper and why
    focused--I attend to a specific aspect of the paper; for example, the logic of a particular argument or the use of appeals to emotion

Sample Postscript Prompts - 4

  1. Please consider your writing process during this portfolio. What was the easiest element in crafting this portfolio? Consider such things as coming up with the topic, researching your problems and solutions, shaping the essays, drafting the essays, revising, refocusing, etc. What was the hardest part?

  2. For each of the essays you submit, consider your focus, development, coherence, voice, your use of rhetorical appeals, your use of a particular strategy, and the relationship you built between your purpose and your audiences. What are the two (or three) strongest aspects of each essay? Why? (Please be explicit.)
    What is the weakest aspect of each essay? Why? What would you do to revise this weakness, given another week?

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.

Pro/Con Exercise

This exercise helps writers examine two sides of an issue. Begin by writing down the controversy you want to explore. Next, write down your position in the controversy. Now, on the left side of the column list the arguments in support of your position. Be as specific as possible in listing these pro arguments. Next, list the arguments opposed to each of your points in the "Con" column on the right. Again, be as specific as possible in listing these con arguments.

What is the controversy you want to explore?

What is your position in the controversy?
















Distinguishing Fact, Opinion, Belief, and Prejudice

When forming personal convictions, we often interpret factual evidence through the filter of our values, feelings, tastes, and past experiences. Hence, most statements we make in speaking and writing are assertions of fact, opinion, belief, or prejudice. The usefulness and acceptability of an assertion can be improved or diminished by the nature of the assertion, depending on which of the following categories it falls into:

A fact is verifiable. We can determine whether it is true by researching the evidence. This may involve numbers, dates, testimony, etc. (Ex.: "World War II ended in 1945.") The truth of the fact is beyond argument if one can assume that measuring devices or records or memories are correct. Facts provide crucial support for the assertion of an argument. However, facts by themselves are worthless unless we put them in context, draw conclusions, and, thus, give them meaning.

An opinion is a judgment based on facts, an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence. (For example, we know that millions of people go without proper medical care, and so you form the opinion that the country should institute national health insurance even though it would cost billions of dollars.) An opinion is potentially changeable--depending on how the evidence is interpreted. By themselves, opinions have little power to convince. You must always let your reader know what your evidence is and how it led you to arrive at your opinion.

Unlike an opinion, a belief is a conviction based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values. Statements such as "Capital punishment is legalized murder" are often called "opinions" because they express viewpoints, but they are not based on facts or other evidence. They cannot be disproved or even contested in a rational or logical manner. Since beliefs are inarguable, they cannot serve as the thesis of a formal argument. (Emotional appeals can, of course, be useful if you happen to know that your audience shares those beliefs.)

Another kind of assertion that has no place in serious argumentation is prejudice, a half-baked opinion based on insufficient or unexamined evidence. (Ex.: "Women are bad drivers.") Unlike a belief, a prejudice is testable: it can be contested and disproved on the basis of facts. We often form prejudices or accept them from others--family, friends, the media, etc.--without questioning their meaning or testing their truth. At best, prejudices are careless oversimplifications. At worst, they reflect a narrow-minded view of the world. Most of all, they are not likely to win the confidence or agreement of your readers.

(Adapted from: Fowler, H. Ramsey. The Little, Brown Handbook. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.)

Exercise on Appeals

The Situation: I have decided to add an autobiography assignment to the workload in this class. This autobiography needs to be at least ten pages in length, and it will be worth 50% of your grade. Oh, and it's due at the end of this week. Okay?

Your Mission: talk me out of it. You have been placed in groups by number. If you are in group 1, you must appeal to reason in your argument. Group 2 must use an appeal to emotion, Group 3 an appeal to character, and Group 4 an appeal to style. Individually, look over the relevant section in Aims and plan your strategy.

Get into your group and design your argument based on your type of appeal. As always, pick a recorder and a reporter, and be ready to make your appeal in front of the class when I ask you to.

Research and Documentation

Library research is a large component of COCC300, and we encourage you to set up an appointment with Liaison Librarian, who will reserve the EIL (the electronic information lab in the north corner of the basement of Morgan) for you for one or more hours. Reserve your room early--by the time the semester begins, we have had difficulty getting the room when it would best fit our syllabus.

The folks who have had the most successful trips to the library required students to complete the CARL tutorial before visiting the EIL. The instructors then gave a specific list of questions (generated by students) to the library staff, and the session in the EIL focused on answering those questions. You will need to work closely with your students to be sure you are sending a good list of questions to Evelyn Haynes. If you don't give her specific questions in advance, you may get the generic library lecture, which has not gone over very well with our students. At this point, you can--I think--request that the first part of the hour be a general introduction or question session and the second be a chance for students to surf the net with experts around to put them back on board when they crash.

To get students thinking hard about the sources they discover, most instructors assign an annotated bibliography for at least one of the essays the students write. Sample assignment sheets are included in the Writing Assignments sub-section.

The Library (McMahon)

Learning to use the library competently and efficiently will bring greater peace and calm to the process of research you will be going through for your argument essays. Exploring the library at this point in the semester gives you the opportunity to acquire research skills without the immediate pressure of finding sources for a current essay assignment. However, because simply staring at the MLA CD-ROM or the Government Documents section of the library will hardly give you concrete experience, I would like you to come to Friday's class meeting in the EIL with some kind of topic in mind. This topic can come from our class discussions, our readings, the "Thoughts of the Day," or your own area of interest. Please note: Your topic should be concerned, in some way, with our shared general topic of education. The topic you use to explore the various aspects of the library does not have to be a topic you later choose for an essay. But if you have already had thoughts about a specific controversial topic within the field of education that you might want to explore, this would be an excellent opportunity to get a head start on your research.

On Friday we will meet in the EIL (Electronic Information Lab), room 10, lower level, Morgan Library. I will ask all of you to do the CARL Tutorial and the "Walk-About Library Tour." You may then use the rest of the class period to begin the Library Assignment. This assignment is due Monday, 9/19.

Assignment #6: The Library
Search the following resources and sections of the library for information on your topic.
-CARL (search CSU and one other library)
-UnCover (this is another database on the CARL system)
-The Reader's Guide to Periodic Literature
-Government Documents
-One CD-ROM database (MLA is a good bet)

For each of these library resources, I would like you to answer the following questions:

  1. Name at least one source you found searching this resource.
  2. How helpful did you find this resource? Was it easy to use? How many sources did you find using it?
  3. What, if anything, did you find out about your topic by using this resource?

Learning the Library through the EIL (Gogela)

As your syllabus indicates, we will NOT meet in our regular classroom this Wednesday, 2-22. Instead, please go to the EIL (Electronic Information Lab) in the basement of the library during our regular class time.

The room has been reserved exclusively for you with the intent to help you navigate the information super-highway without feeling like potential roadkill. Dr. Evelyn Haynes will give you a brief introduction, followed by an answer session to your specific questions about the library in general and computer databases specifically. Then, you will have time and opportunity to get hands-on experience researching your own topics. Remember: if you have not narrowly defined your question at issue, computers refuse to cooperate. (And you thought I was bad!) Monitors will stand by to help you get started, so don't hesitate to raise your hand at any time and ask questions.

Your time at the EIL may not be sufficient to collect all of your sources for Friday, but this should give you a good start.

Due on Friday:
--Review pp. 590-601, 612 in Aims.
--Bring 8-10 focused, academic sources for your topic (xerox copies, thoroughly annotated source summary sheets, or a mixture of both at this point). I will check source materials at the beginning of Friday's class. Since we will begin compiling your annotated bibliography in class, your sources are crucial.

Please take a few minutes and carefully answer the following questions:

  1. By now, you have familiarized yourself with some aspects of our library. What, specifically, confused you--if anything?
  2. Whether you're an "old surfer" on the computer information network or are terrified of "drowning" in the system, what specific questions do you have about the EIL?

About Plagiarism: What it is, What the Penalties are, and How to Avoid it

What is research?

Research is an active process of learning from others. As we research, we read, borrow, and synthesize ideas and facts from others. As researchers, however, we must credit these sources of ideas, facts, and specific language for two important reasons: First, we acknowledge the people from whom we learned, and second, we create a record of sources so that researchers who follow us can build on our work.

What is plagiarism?

Simply stated, plagiarism is the dishonest use of someone else's thoughts or words. It's cheating. Plagiarism can vary from submitting someone else's paper as your own, to "borrowing" a nice sounding phrase, to using a source without citing it correctly, to "padding" a bibliography by making up sources or including sources you didn't use in your research. Whenever you use a general concept or idea, quotation, statistic, fact, illustration, or phrase that is not your own without giving proper credit to the author, you are guilty of plagiarism.

Is collaborating with someone else on my paper plagiarism?

C0CC300 is a workshop course. You can expect that your writing will be read and commented upon by your peers. Your instructor plans for and expects such collaboration in the classroom. If you are receiving help outside of class from a tutor or a friend, discuss your situation with me to avoid any misunderstandings and to set some guidelines. Generally speaking, as long as you continue to do your own writing, getting advice or comments from other sources does not constitute plagiarism.

What are the penalties for plagiarism?

Plagiarism constitutes academic dishonesty and will be punished as such. If you fail to do your own work in C0CC300, you have failed to meet the requirements of the course. Depending on the degree of plagiarism, the penalties may include failure of the individual paper, failure of the course, or expulsion from the university.

How do I avoid being suspected of plagiarism?

First, do your own work. Keep up in class and do the drafts and the library research on time so a deadline won't pressure you into plagiarizing. Second, keep copies of all your drafts, sources, prewriting, and workshops as evidence that you have been doing your own work in case there is suspicion of plagiarism. If you work on computer, print hard copies periodically so your instructor can see the work in progress. Third, make sure that you correctly cite all your sources. Remember that if the general concept or idea, quotation, statistic, fact, illustration, or phrase is not common knowledge in the field, you must cite a source for it.

What will happen if I am accused of plagiarism?

If you are suspected of plagiarism, it's important for you to know that you have the right to fair and impartial treatment and that you are guaranteed due process. You will be notified in writing of any suspected plagiarism. You may dispute that charge by meeting with the Director of Composition. If the matter is not resolved, your case will be handled according to the guidelines set forth in the General Catalogue and the University handout on "Student Rights and Responsibilities." Your case will be kept confidential in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

How do I use sources correctly?

Often people don't know they are plagiarizing when they cite sources incorrectly. One easy guideline for using sources is the "documentation frame," which shows how source material should be included in your paper.

Introductory tag quotation (citation)

Keeping Track of Sources

  1. Write your preliminary outline below:
  2. List your primary source(s):
  3. List at least three of your secondary sources (if you have none, explain why):
  4. By counting quickly through your note cards, determine the number of notes of these types:
    personal notes
    summary notes
    précis notes
    quotation notes
  5. Without consulting the textbook, write below your definition of plagiarism:

Internet Research - Nuts and Bolts

Using the Internet for initial searching is good both for finding topics--because you can sample materials on many different subjects and topics quickly--and for locating specific sources--through searches based on your focused topic. Here are some quick guidelines to help you get started.

I. For the best results when you search:

Remember that each search engine--Alta Vista, Open Text, Yahoo, WebCrawler--searches different databases and handles searches uniquely.

Two of the best search engines:

--Alta Vista:

--Open Text:

These search engines typically produce more sources and more academic sources than popular sites like Yahoo and WebCrawler that depend on subscribers to provide information about materials and websites.

If you haven't used a search engine before, start with Alta Vista. It has a reasonably good help system with clear examples that will help you narrow your search. Use both the "refine search" and "advanced search" techniques to find more of the sites that apply to your focused topic.

II. For reliable sites on the Internet:

Don't turn off your critical thinking skills when you start searching the Internet. The Web is not value neutral. If you assume that all the information is correct and unbiased, you can have disastrous results, no matter how thorough your search is. Always evaluate the sites you access and judge the bias of each source before you decide to quote it or use it to help you find additional sites. For instance, websites constructed by groups with political agendas will include information slanted to support that agenda. Look for identifiers that you can use to evaluate the sponsor of a website and its agenda.

Knowing URL endings will help you evaluate sources:

.com commercial site

.edu educational institution

.org non-profit organization

.gov government site

.mil military

.net network

These endings can give you clues to who is sponsoring the site. I don't suggest limiting yourself to only .edu and .gov sites, but carefully evaluate every site.

III. For appropriate sites on the Internet:

Do your best to determine the intended audience of a website. Some sites are constructed with a general audience in mind, others for a highly technical audience. Some websites are written by or for children. Don't settle for the first site you stumble on as the perfect source for your paper. Make sure the information is thorough and appropriate for the audience you intend to write to. Always check multiple sources to confirm as many facts and statistics as you can. And compensate for bias in websites by reading material presented on a variety of sites.

IV. To avoid retracing your steps:

If you're searching in 227, don't use bookmarks when you locate good sites. These computers accumulate so many bookmarks that we have to delete them frequently. Instead, jot down useful locations on a sheet of paper. Be sure to note the complete URL or WWW address, including all the funny characters like underbars (_) and tildes (~). Slashes and capital letters are significant too, so take care to get the address right.

Be absolutely sure to get the URL for any site from which you download or print (not in 227) information. You can't cite the source in your paper unless you have the URL.

V. To cite your sites:

Look at these websites for information about and examples of citing Internet sources:



Typically, recent (1995-on) citation guides in print include info on how to cite Internet sources.

VI. Final reminder

Internet searching is not a substitute for library searching. You can get lots of useful information from Internet sites, but you need to supplement that information with published material you can find through library databases. (We'll go over how to find that information in our virtual tour of Morgan on October 1.) You will almost certainly need to track down print resources, so leave yourself plenty of time to get materials through Interlibrary Loan or by traveling for a day on the library shuttle bus. Staff at the public library downtown are also willing to help with searching and material gathering. The Colorado Division of Wildlife on Prospect has its own library you can use. And finally, don't forget that we have experts on campus and in town who can serve as good resources--for interviews and probably for some published material.

The Works Cited List (MLA Style)

The parenthetical documentation in your text refers your reader to your "Works Cited" page. Here, your reader will find the complete bibliographic information of all the sources you cite in your paper. Works cited lists appear at the end of a scholarly work but are begun on a new page. (Page numbers continue from the text.) The title, "Works Cited," is centered and placed one inch from the top of the page. Citations begin at the left margin; if a citation is more than one line long, its succeeding lines are indented five spaces. The entire list is double-spaced, both within and between citations. In general, works cited lists are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name. If the author is unknown, entries are alphabetized by the first word in their titles (note, however, to drop A, An, or The). Titles of books, periodicals, newspapers, and films are italicized. Titles of articles that appear in newspapers or periodicals are placed in quotation marks. Normally, each entry has three main divisions: author's name (reversed for alphabetizing), title, and publication information. Follow each division with a period and two spaces.

Below are examples of the most common types of entries you will be compiling. If you need to document a type of source not in this list, please refer to The MLA Style Manual (1988).

Books When citing books, arrange the information as follows:

Author's last name, first name. "Title of Article or Part of Book." Title of Book. Ed. or Trans. Name of editor or translator. Edition. Number of Volumes. Place of Publication: Name of Publisher, Date of Publication.

Single author Reid, Stephen. The Prentice-Hall Guide for College Writers. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1992.

Two or three authors Cooper, Sheila, and Rosemary Patton. Ergo: Thinking Critically and Writing Logically. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

More than three authors Donald, Robert B., et al. Models for Clear Writing. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1984.

An anthology Columbo, Gary, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle, eds. Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford, 1992.

Mazur, Laurie Ann, ed. Beyond the Numbers: Population, Consumption, and the Environment. Washington: Island Press, 1994.

A book by a corporate author American Council on Education. Annual Report, 1970. Washington: Amer. Council on Educ., 1971.

Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education. Giving Youth a Better Chance: Options for Education, Work, and Service. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1980.

An anonymous book (Alphabetize your entry, using the first word of the title other than an indefinite or definite article. A Handbook of Korea, for example, is alphabetized under "H.")

Dictionary of Ancient Greek Civilizations. London: Methuen, 1966.

A Handbook of Korea. 4th ed. Seoul: Korean Overseas Information Service, Ministry of Culture and Information, 1982.

The Times Atlas of the World. 5th ed. New York: New York Times, 1975.

A work in an anthology (Cite the pages on which the piece appears after the year of publication, a period, and two spaces.)

Oates, Joyce Carol. "Against Nature." The Contemporary Essay. Ed. Donald Hall. 2nd ed. New York: Bedford, 1989. 358-65.

Quammen, David. "Dirty Word, Clean Place." Being in the World: An Environmental Reader for Writers. Ed. Scott E. Slovic and Terrel F. Dixon. New York: Macmillan, 1993. 646-60.

An article in a reference book (If the article is signed, cite the author first. If it is unsigned, cite the title first. If the encyclopedia or dictionary alphabetizes its entries, you do not need to cite volume or page numbers. If the reference book is very common, you need cite only the edition--if given--and the year of publication.)

"Graham, Martha." Who's Who of American Women. 13th ed. 1983-4.

"Mandarin." Encyclopedia Americana. 1980 ed.

Trainen, Isaac N., et al. "Religious Directives in Medical Ethics." Encyclopedia of Bioethics. Ed. Warren T. Reich. 4 vols. New York: Free, 1978.

Articles in Periodicals The usual order of information follows: Author's last name, first name. "Title of Article." Title of Periodical volume number (date of publication): inclusive page numbers.

Article in a weekly or biweekly periodical Gorman, Christine. "Why It's So Hard to Quit Smoking." TIME 30 May (1988): 56.

Article in a monthly or bimonthly Hanococks, David. "Animals from All Over Down Under." Animal Kingdom Nov.-Dec. (1986): 50-61.

Unsigned article in a magazine "Catching a Cold: It's Up in the Air." Science86 July-Aug. (1986): 8.

Article in a newspaper Lewandowski, J. "Wilderness: Wonderful or Wasted?" Fort Collins Coloradoan 28 Aug. 1994: Al.

Schreiner, Tim. "Future Is A) Dim or B) Bright (Pick One)." USA Today 2 June 1989: 3A.

Anonymous article in a newspaper "President's News Conference on Foreign and Domestic Issues." New York Times 20 Nov. 1986: A12-13.

Editorial Haavind, Robert. "Artificial Intelligence Has a Bad Name." Editorial. High Technology Dec. 1986: 4.

Anonymous editorial "Details, Accountability Key to Winning Mill Hike." Editorial. Fort Collins Coloradoan 29 Aug. 1994: E2.

Letter to the editor Schroeder, Rick. "Save Some of the Best Areas." Letter. Fort Collins Coloradoan 28 Aug. 1994: E3.

An introduction, preface, foreword, or afterword Acthert, Walter S. and Joseph Gibaldi. Preface. The Style Manual New York: MLA, 1968.

Rees, Judith. Introduction. Natural Resources: Allocation, Economics and Policy. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 1985.

Government Publications If the author of the publication is unknown, order your bibliographic information as follows, omitting what does not apply:

Name of government. Government agency (abbreviate when possible). Title of the publication. Number and session of Congress. House or Senate. Number of the publication. Publication place: Publisher, publication date.

New York State. Committee on State Prisons. Investigation of the New York State Prisons. 1883. New York: Arno, 1974.

United Nations. Centre for National Resources. State Petroleum Enterprises in Developing Countries. Elmsford: Pergamon, 1980.

Economic Commission for Africa. Industrial Growth in Africa. New York: United Nations, 1963.

United States. Senate. Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments of the Committee on the Judiciary. Hearing on the "Equal Rights" Amendment. 91st Cong., 2nd sess. S. Res. 61. Washington: GPO, 1970.

(If the author of a government publication is known, you have two options. Cite the author first, followed by the title of the document, or cite the government agency first, followed by the title, followed by "By" the author.)

Washburne, E. B. Memphis Riots and Massacres. U. S. 39th Cong., 2nd sess. H. Rept. 101. 1866. New York: Arno, 1969. or

United States. Cong. House. Memphis Riots and Massacres. By E. B. Washburne. 39th Cong., 2nd sess. H. Rept. 101. 1866. New York: Arno, 1969.

Unpublished Sources

Film Star Trek XV: The Voyage Home. Dir. Leonard Nimoy. With William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Paramount, 1986.

Television or radio program 60 Minutes. CBS. KMGH, Denver. 30 Nov. 1986.

Lectures, speeches, and addresses (If no title is given, use an appropriate description--Lecture, Address, etc.)

Ciardi, John. Address. Opening General Sess. NCTE Convention. Washington, Nov. 1982.

Ridley, Florence. "Forget the Past, Reject the Future: Chaos Is Come Again." Div. on Teaching of Literature, MLA Convention. Los Angeles, 28 Dec. 1982.

Unpublished dissertation or thesis Burnhan, William A. "Peregrine Falcon Egg Variation, Incubation, and Population Recovery Strategy." Diss. Colorado State U, 1984.

Interviews (Begin your citation with the name of the interviewee. If the interview was published or recorded, give the bibliographic information for its source. If you conducted the interview, give the kind of interview and the date.)

Gordon, Suzanne. Interview. All Things Considered. Natl. Public Radio. WNYC, New York. 1 June 1983.

Pei. I. M. Personal interview. 27 July 1983.

Pussaint, Alvin F. Telephone interview. 10 Dec. 1980.

Pamphlet (Treat a pamphlet as you would a book.)

Guide to Raptors. Denver: Center for Raptor Research, 1990.

Kilgus, Robert. Color Scrpsit Program Manual. Fort Worth: Tandy, 1981.

MLA check-sheet/mini-quiz (Gogela)

Please circle the correct answer for each of the following questions:

  1. The works cited page of your essay should have the heading

    a) Bibliography.
    b) "Bibliography".
    c) "Works Cited"
    d) List of Works Cited
    e) Works Cited

  2. Entries on your works cited page should be

    a) single-spaced for each entry and double-spaced between individual entries
    b) double-spaced throughout
    c) triple-spaced throughout
    d) numbered
    e) have to be in alphabetical order no matter what

    Determine whether the following are true or false:

  3. Every source you used or consulted should be included in your Works Cited. T/F
  4. Nonwritten sources such as interviews or lectures may be omitted from your Works Cited list. T/F
  5. Cited journals require a volume number if they have continuous pagination. T/F
  6. For an encyclopedia, date of the edition is sufficient publication information for this type of source material. T/F
  7. For a newspaper entry you have to provide author's name and title but not the page or section of the column. T/F
  8. Government documents specify the branch of government as well as the subsidiary body. T/F

    Please document the following sources:

  9. Works Cited Form: Part of a Book
    Try your hand below at correctly listing the following: Harold Child's essay, "Jane Austen," printed in The Cambridge History of English Literature edited by A. W. Ward and A. R. Waller. For Cambridge University Press of London, 1927, Volume 12, pages 23l to 244.

  10. Works Cited Form: Unpublished Source
    Try your hand at listing the following: Lecture by John Turner entitled "Contemporary Mythology" on October 22, 1983 at University of Georgia, Athens.


Don't forget the revision checklists in Aims. We include here only more general prompts for revising. Other revision activities are included in the Workshop Sheets sub-section.

Questions to Ask Yourself as you Revise Your Essay

If you answer no to any of the questions above, revise.

If you have several areas that need revision, which is the first thing you intend to revise? Why? Take five minutes to plan a revision strategy right here:

Revising the Title, Lead-In, and Thesis (Gogela)

  1. Donald Murray recommends that in order to find a good title, we have to write a lot of bad ones. Hence, jot down ten potential titles in the space provided below. Remember the title reveals your essay's focus, tone, direction, and limits.

  2. Much like the title, an effective lead-in has to capture and hold the reader's attention by providing information that is pertinent as well as interesting. In no more than five or six sentences, write two completely different leads with a new direction and different tone. (Do not yet state your thesis here.)



  3. Now state your tentative working thesis and essay map. Does it suffer from the infamous "so-what?" syndrome? How can you avoid this?

Considering Introductions (Becker)

Read the following introduction:

"From the earliest memory up to the present age, humans have always struggled to find a way to live in harmony with nature. First we lived in fear of nature, using fire to fend off the dark. Then for a long time we lived in a kind of balance with nature, not taking much from it, but fulfilling our needs. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, we learned to bend nature to our will. Now, we control nature so much that we threaten to make our world completely man-made. So we have to ask ourselves, do other animals have as much right to live on this earth as we do?"

Does this sound familiar? We call it the "from the dawn of time to the present" introduction, and it crops up regularly in student essays. Sometimes a sweeping historical introduction to one's topic works to really get the reader's attention; often it puts the reader to sleep. There are lots of other options. So, today, read the following introductions, then turn off your computer screen (this is called writing blind), and draft at least three alternative introductions to either your mediation or your persuasive essay.

"The nights at Shey are rigid, under rigid stars; the fall of a wolf pad on the frozen path might be heard up and down the canyon. But a hard wind comes before the dawn to rattle the tent canvas, and this morning it is clear again, and colder. At daybreak, the White River, just below, is sheathed in ice, with scarcely a murmur from the stream beneath."
--Peter Matthiessen, "November 6"

"When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged all on one rope a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence.
This hanging involved no question of propriety. The girls were property. The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong."
--Aldo Leopold, "The Land Ethic"

"What is consciousness? Webster's Dictionary defines it as the state of awareness of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, and surroundings. To be conscious is to have the essence of soul and spirit; it is a defining characteristic of human nature."
--Benjamin Jun, "Consciousness"

"Do non-human animals have rights? Should we humans feel morally bound to exercise consideration for the lives and well-being of individual members of other animal species? If so, how much consideration, and by what logic? Is it permissible to torture and kill? Is it permissible to kill cleanly, without prolonged pain? To abuse or exploit without killing? For a moment, don't think about whales or wolves or the California condor; don't think about the cat or the golden retriever with whom you share your house. Think about rats and then also think about lab frogs. Think about scallops. Think about mosquitoes."
--David Quammen, "Animal Rights and Beyond"

"Quick! Name America's largest landowner. No, not the King Ranch. No, not the Bank of America. No, Exxon isn't even in the running. The answer is the federal government. Of America's 2,271 million acres, 720 million belong to Uncle Sam. Add another 966 million underwater acres of the country's continental shelf, and you've got an impressive bit of real estate there."
--Cynthia Riggs, "Access to Public Lands: A National Necessity"

"When I first came West in 1948, a student at the University of New Mexico, I was only twenty years old and just out of the Army. I thought, like most simple-minded Easterners, that a cowboy was a kind of mythic hero. I idolized those scrawny little red-nosed hired hands in their tight jeans, funny boots, and comical hats."
--Edward Abbey, "Even the Bad Guys Wear White Hats"

"We soon get through with Nature. She excites an expectation which she cannot satisfy."
--Thoreau, Journal, 1854

The writer's resistance to Nature:
It has no sense of humor: in its beauty, as in its ugliness, or its neutrality, there is no laughter.
It lacks a moral purpose.
It lacks a satiric dimension, registers no irony.
Its pleasure lack resonance, being accidental; . . .
--Joyce Carol Oates, "Against Nature"

Writing Assignment Sheets

Included here are the assignment sheets for most of the major writing tasks assigned by instructors in recent semesters. We include multiple samples for each essay so you can choose from a variety of prompts.

Several instructors did not assign specific essays during the second half of the term. Rather, they introduced general rhetorical strategies in a series of short activities and then had their students define their own assignments by identifying the rhetorical context within which they wished to write and choosing the most appropriate argumentative strategy for that context.

Just a note of comfort: having taught synthesis/response and the problem-solving essay before, you are already well acquainted with the problems most of your students will face in the COCC300 essays. On the other hand, we would like to push the students beyond 100-level writing. In the exploratory essay (the COCC300 version of synthesis/response) this might mean, as Laura Thomas put it, "getting students to make the individual texts to disappear." That is, rather than asking students to represent discrete arguments in oppositional relation to each other, instead asking students to represent the complexity of the relations among different perspectives. One possible means of achieving this complexity is to ask students to consider the rhetorical context of the essays they are synthesizing and to explain how the apparent differences in perspectives might be related to the different purposes and audiences each author had in mind.

And a self-indulgent note about the persuasive essay, should you choose to assign it. As Aims defines this essay, students are asked to appeal not only to reason (a typical expectation in the academic community) but also to character, style, and emotion (rather atypical in our world). Because all appeals can be so effective in motivating people to action--toward both worthy and unworthy ends--I suggest that the weeks leading up to the persuasion essay offer a likely spot in the syllabus to talk about the ethics of argumentation, should this topic interest you. During the spring 1995 term, for example, I spent one well-received class period on the ethical nature of persuasion. Having read about audience appeals in Aims, the students and I watched a series of video clips from Branagh's Henry V, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Eleanor Roosevelt's appeal to the United Nations, and one of Hitler's many vacuous presentations. After each clip, the students considered the appeals the speaker used, why those appeals were effective for his or her audience, and what end the speaker wished to achieve through his or her persuasion. Thus, without positioning myself as a morality cop, the students started thinking about how their own essays fit into larger ethical systems.

Assignments for Portfolio 1

The Summary (Becker)

The summary is an extreme condensation of an original work. It includes the author's name, the full title of the piece, the main claim (or thesis), and the reasons (or main supporting points) the author uses to support the claim. It may relate one or two pieces of evidence the author uses to back up a reason, but only if they are needed to make the claim believable. In general, a summary will usually not cite the author's examples or supporting details unless they are absolutely necessary for understanding a main point. A summary may use one or two concise direct quotations from the text, but only if these are striking and bring the piece alive.

Making notes for a summary

  1. What is the main point of each paragraph?
  2. Circle the three or four key words in each paragraph.
  3. Do several paragraphs deal with nearly the same point? Can they thus be condensed into one main point or reason that the author is making his or her claim?
  4. Underline any key quotations you might want to use.
  5. State the author's main claim in your own words. (Sometimes it helps to close the book to do this rather than trying to glean it out of the text.)

Putting a summary together

  1. State the author's name and title in the opening sentence or very shortly thereafter.
  2. Present the main points, usually in the order in which the author presented them.
  3. Each point in the summary should have the same proportional treatment it was given in the original. Emphasize what the writer thought most important and give lesser time to his or her minor points.
  4. Be as objective as possible. You will have time to evaluate what you are reading later; your task in the summary is to accurately and concisely represent the argument of the writer. Author "tags" help identify the thoughts of the original author.
  5. Use your own words, even in stating the thesis. Any material taken verbatim should be quoted properly, or you will have plagiarized, knowingly or not. If you are unsure how to quote within the text, refer to an English handbook or see me.

Criteria for Summaries for Portfolio 1 (Kiefer)

Purpose - The reading we do for Portfolio 1 will contribute to the arguments you write in Portfolio 2. Although you are unlikely to include detailed summaries of the articles you read in the final drafts of papers in Portfolio 2, detailed summaries help you analyze the arguments and organize details to support your own points. These summaries, then, will help you find a topic and organize arguments for Portfolio 2.

Audience - Please assume that you are writing detailed summaries for readers not familiar with the original essay because your audiences for the essays in Portfolio 2 will not be limited to this class.

Focus - Your summary cannot include all the details of the original essay, but you should include a statement of the original thesis or claim, the main supporting points, and enough detail to make clear why the original authors held the views they did. (Typically, summaries are no longer than 30% of the original essay's length.) Using your own words rather than quoting extensively is more effective when summarizing; when you quote words, phrases, or sentences, be sure to use quotation marks. If the essay you're summarizing is not an argument, make clear what the original author's purpose was. You should also note the original audience for the essay if you can determine that.

Organization - Summaries sometimes follow the same organization and order as the original essay; sometimes summaries rearrange the original points. Make your organization helpful for your readers--so that they understand the main points of the original essays.

Development - Two main points are critical here:

  1. Include the original thesis and main points, but also consider whether you need to explain those main points for clarity for your readers. You may also want to cite particularly compelling examples or details.
  2. Be objective as you summarize and synthesize. Represent the author fairly as you select examples and details and as you recast the main points of the piece.

Coherence - Your summary should clearly be a summary. Clear transitions and author tags will help remind your reader that you are summarizing. Include the author(s) and title of the piece you are summarizing near the beginning of your summary. Refer to the authors by name as often as necessary to remind your readers that you are summarizing others' work. Use active verbs, such as "argues," "claims," "asserts," "explains," with your author tags to help your summary flow smoothly. Don't hesitate to synthesize points when that strategy will help the coherence of your summary.

Style - Whenever possible, capture the flavor or style or "feeling" of the original so that your reader knows how typical readers might have reacted emotionally to the original. Choose clear, precise words to avoid inserting your bias into your summary.

Criteria for Toulmin Analysis for Portfolio 1 (Kiefer)

Purpose - A Toulmin analysis is a systematic dissection of an argument to lay out the claim, supporting reasons, and evidence clearly.

Audience - Yourself, but remember that clarity is essential to an effective Toulmin analysis.

Organization - Your analysis will follow the pattern laid out in Aims as captured in the file toulmin.txt. (You must type the one you turn in with Portfolio 1.)

Development - Include enough detail so that you can remember the argument fully.

Coherence - Make sure the connections between the claim and reasons, between reasons and analysis of reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between objections and rebuttal are clear.

Style - You are the primary audience, but I'll be reading these also, so please conform to the conventions of Edited American English (i.e., spelling counts!).

Response (Harper)

For the response section of the summary/response essay assignment, please choose one of the following tactics to help your reader understand your view on the matters in the article you've chosen:

  1. Analyzing the effectiveness of the text - In this case, the response analyzes the key features such as the clarity of the main idea, the organization of the argument, the quality of the supporting evidence, and/or the effectiveness of the author's style, tone, and voice.
  2. Agreeing and/or disagreeing with the ideas in the text - Often, responders react to the ideas or the argument of the essay. In this case, the responders show why they agree and/or disagree with what the author/text says.
  3. Interpreting and reflecting on the text - The responder explains key passages or examines the underlying assumptions or the implications of the ideas. Often the responder reflects on how his or her own experiences, attitudes, and observations relate to the text. Remember, development for your response can come from personal experience, evidence from the text, and evidence from other sources.

Criteria for Summary/Response Essay for Portfolio 1 (Kiefer)

Purpose - Unlike the summaries that focus solely on representing other writers' arguments, the summary/response paper allows you to build on a summary with a response to it. The response might analyze the logic of the original essay, or it might argue for or against the position of the original essay. Even if you choose to analyze the logic of the original essay in your response, realize that you must make a case for your analysis, in effect arguing that your analysis is a good one. The purpose of this essay, then, is to build on a summary with an argument of your own.

Audience - Please assume that you are writing for readers not familiar with the original essay you summarize and respond to because your audiences for the essays in Portfolio 2 will not be limited to this class. If possible, please specify a target audience for your s/r essay. (Note the audience in pencil at the top of the first page of the final draft.)

Focus - The most effective s/r essays, like all effective arguing essays, narrow the focus to a manageable size. Even if the essay you are responding to cuts a wide swath through environmentalism, your essay will be more effective if you focus on one or two key points in the original essay. Be sure to select key points from the original essay rather than minor points. In other words, your focus is limited by the focus of the original essay.

Organization - Typically, these essays follow one of two patterns: block or point-by-point. The block pattern has a block of summary, your thesis or claim as a bridge, and then a block of response. Within the response, be sure the arrangement of your points is clear and easy to follow. The point-by-point pattern has a general introduction, a point of summary followed by your response on that point, the next point of summary followed by your response on that point, and so on.

Development - Each of your points must be developed with examples, details, facts, statistics, quotations, etc. You need evidence! Or you might analyze the original argument through a careful chain of reasoning. Please remember, though, that general statements are usually unconvincing; readers expect specific support.

Coherence - Use appropriate author tags and transitions to mark the summary as a summary, and continue to use clear transitions throughout your response so that your argument flows smoothly for readers.

Synthesis/Response Essay (Harper)

Part one:

For this essay you will be collecting sources on a media topic of your choice, analyzing and evaluating these references for topics/issues/themes they have in common, and writing an essay on how each one of the authors of the sources you have chosen approaches this common topic. This is what is meant by "synthesizing." Sound simple? It is! Synthesis, like summary, is primarily objective--no opinion. You are reflecting, as accurately as you can, how each author approaches the common topic you've chosen to focus on. Here's an example:

Let's say you've chosen three articles: one by Rush Limbaugh, the second by Gloria Steinem, and the third Katie Roiphe. The common point you've decided you want to focus on is feminism. All three of these authors come from a completely different angle on feminism and have their own opinions about what this multifaceted term means today. You would want to introduce the topic you'll be addressing and explain that you'll be looking at how three authors view this topic. Obviously, you would go on to do this, and at the end of your synthesis, you would respond--hence, Part Two of the essay.

Part two:

Now you get to respond to the information (ideas, topic, authors, etc.) that you have synthesized. Once again, you can take many approaches in the response portion of this essay. Most important, you are taking a position in relation to the sources you have collected. You may respond to one author's argument or all of them; you may respond to the topic in general, using personal experience and/or outside sources which present yet another argument; you may agree/disagree with the logic and premises one or more of the authors used in defending their conclusions...the list goes on. The important thing to remember is that your response must be reasoned, developed (backed-up), logical, coherent, clear in terms of what it is exactly that you're responding to, and focused (no rambling, padding, beating around the bush, touching on an idea but not developing it, trying to cover everything in a short space, etc.).



To synthesize the claims of 3-5 authors/articles based on a common topic, showing how each of the authors relate to the common topic as well as to each other's argument or viewpoint. You will also be responding, using any one of the approaches we have discussed in class.


Your choice. The audience you choose will impact, primarily, only your response because the synthesis portion of the essay is largely objective.


You will research and locate five articles or book chapters on a "Media and 'American' Culture" topic of your choice. At least three of these texts must be arguments, and these three arguments will be the articles you will synthesize and respond to. (You may collect five arguments and use all of them in your paper, but be careful: synthesizing this many articles can get complicated). You should consult at least three different indexes or databases in your search for sources. Make sure to photocopy all your sources!

Key Features:

See handout titled, "Key Features/Grading Guide for Synthesis and Response."



Around 4-6 pages, but this is not set in stone.

Final Draft Format:



--proper MLA documentation (we will discuss this in class)

--name in one of the upper corners of first page

Important Dates:

--Electronic Information Lab Orientation: To be announced

--Sources collected by Thurs., 2-16

--Rough Draft and Workshop on Thurs., 2-23

(Annotated bibliography of your five sources also due on this date).

--Synthesis/Response (or Explanatory) Essay due: Tues., 2-28. You may turn in an Intervention Draft on this date, although it is not mandatory.

--In class writing/debate assignments to be handed in w/ Portfolio: Thurs., 3-2

--Portfolio #1 due: Tues., 3-7

--All summaries should be typed and "cleaned up" for submission.

--Revised summary/response essay

--Revised synthesis/response (or explanatory) essay

--All rough drafts, workshop sheets, homework assignments, freewriting, pre-reading log assignments, annotated articles, postscripts, copies of sources, etc.

The Inquiry Essay

The inquiry essay starts--but only starts--with the idea of a summary/response. It goes beyond a simple summary/response, though, by asking you to analyze the article as well as simply summarize and respond, basing your response on your analysis. Here are some of the main purposes for doing such an essay:

--To practice techniques that will allow you to analyze any written argument more deeply than you have before.

--To learn to listen to and understand individual arguments--not only in terms of what the argument basically says (that CO150 material), but also in terms of exactly how the argument is made and how that construction helps or hinders the argument's purpose.

--To respond to an argument based on more than just your basic agreement or disagreement with the point. This time, you'll learn to respond based on the logic, structure, and use of appeals in an argument.

We'll work through the essay step-by-step, starting with analysis and moving to summary and then analytical inquiry. When we get to the Inquiry chapter in Aims, we'll use the information in that chapter to generate the requirements and criteria for the essay as a class.

Here are the important dates for the whole first portfolio:

--Workshop One (analysis part of inquiry): Mon, Feb. 5

--Workshop Two (response part of inquiry): Friday, Feb. 9

--Inquiry Intervention Draft Due: Mon, Feb. 12

--Exploratory Workshop One: Mon, Feb 19

--Exploratory Workshop Two: Wed, Feb. 21

--Exploratory Intervention Due: Friday, Feb. 23

--We'll spend the week of Feb. 26 moving on to the preliminaries for the second portfolio while you revise both essays behind-the-scenes, conferencing with me as necessary. The homework load during this week will be fairly light.

--Portfolio One Due: Monday, March 4

Assignment Specifics for the Inquiry Essay

Here are the guidelines we discussed in class last time:


The ultimate purpose of this essay, we decided, is to try to determine as best we can the truth of a particular essay (in this case, the Postrel argument). In other words, the purpose is to determine the value of Postrel's argument--where does it hold up, where does it break down, and how?


The audience, we said, is a group of people who are looking for the same thing--in this case, other members of the class. We touched on several assumptions you can make about this audience:

--They've been working with and understand the same subject matter as you.

--They've read the Postrel article.

--They'll understand the basic concepts and terminology (from Toulmin analysis, for example) that we've discussed in class.


We determined that the focus of the essay should be your ultimate evaluation of the value of the argument, i.e. "Postrel's argument does raise some issues well, but her logic breaks down in several areas." Having made such a statement of your focus, your job for the essay will be to substantiate that statement. What issues does Postrel raise well and how and why do they hold up? Exactly where does the argument break down and how does that happen?


We talked about development in two ways: structure and supporting evidence. For support, we discussed several types of evidence that would be valid (though there are probably more that will work, too--so don't limit yourself to this list):

--Evidence from the text itself (i.e., analyzing a passage to show us where the logic holds up or breaks down)

--other outside cases

--personal experience

--analysis of the author's analogies/comparisons

--analysis of the author's answers to potential refutations

--information about the author or the rhetorical context of the article

--other print sources

For structure, we suggested an outline that looks like this (though, again, there may be other valid options here):

--Start with an overall statement of your purpose for the essay.

--Your objective summary/analysis of the article

--A restatement of your claim (about the value of the article), followed by each of your main supporting reasons for that statement (with sufficient explanation of how each reason supports your main claim)

--Following each reason, your evidence to support that reason--with sufficient explanation so the reader can see exactly how that evidence supports your reasons

--A conclusion which brings it all together

Remember: If you're feeling frustrated or confused, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with that (if you weren't feeling at least a little stretched, you wouldn't be learning anything which, since you're paying over $900 for this class, would be something of a rip-off). However, don't let yourself stay frustrated--come talk to me during office hours, visit the Writing Center, show your draft to a trusted friend, or whatever.

Intervention Draft due Monday, Feb. 5!

Exploratory Paper Assignment

One of the important goals of inquiry is to understand the range of positions on a particular issue. A helpful metaphor for the ongoing expression of positions on an issue is that of a conversation. We could say that making an argument of your own is adding your voice to the conversation and that you need to know what is being said by others before you can join in. Investigating and preparing to join the conversation on an issue are the goals of the Exploratory Paper.

Topic: Multiculturalism in Higher Education as discussed in "The Visigoths in Tweed" by Dinesh D'Souza, "What Campus Radicals?" by Rosa Ehrenreich, and "Pluribus and Unum: The Quest for Community amid Diversity" by Carlos E. Cortés.

Purpose: To understand various positions on an issue and explore your own position on that issue (stopping short of actually making your own argument on the issue) The paper will synthesize the viewpoints on a particular issue from the three articles with your own. For a discussion of an exploratory paper and examples, see Aims, pp. 59-71.

Audience: Yourself and the members of the class

Process strategies: Read and annotate the articles, perform any written analysis on the articles you feel is necessary to fully understand them, summarize all three articles, do a four-column log on the articles and your position, bring a draft to peer-review workshop. You many also want to consult these articles in Aims: "Political Correctness: The Insult and the Injury" by John E. Van De Wetering (p.536) and "The Recoloring of Campus Life" by Shelby Steele (p. 471).

Length: 4-5 pages (this is a guideline not a mandate)

Format: Workshop and final drafts will be word processed and printed on a laser or inkjet printer using a readable font (please, no script or italics) in 10 or 12 point type. Double-space the paper and use margins of one inch all around. (This is particularly important so there will be room for comments.) Put a heading in the upper left-hand corner with your name, the date, and the type of paper it is. (Make sure that you date all drafts so that it will be clear what order drafts were written.) Turn in your paper in a pocket folder with all drafts, notes, analyses, summaries, four-column log, and workshop comments.

Feel free to send me a draft of your paper by e-mail. (We'll be learning how to do that.) If you do so, include 1-2 focused questions you would like me to address regarding your paper. Please allow for at least 48 hours turnaround time. While I will make every effort to respond to your paper within two days of receiving it, my ability to do so is contingent upon the demands being made on my time.

Due dates: Workshop, Thurs., 2/15; Final due, Tues., 2/20

Grading Criteria for the Exploratory Paper

An 'A' paper will focus on a key issue in the conversation on the role of multiculturalism on college campuses, reporting the positions of D'Souza, Ehrenreich, and Cortés and positioning the writer in this conversation. The paper will explain what position the writer holds on the issue and how his/her position compares and contrasts with those of the authors of the essays as well as how the authors' positions compare and contrast with each other. The paper will be developed with examples from the essays, using quotes, paraphrasing, and summarizing as appropriate. Examples and evidence from outside the essays may be used as well (other readings, personal experience, etc.). The paper will be organized for clarity and readability and written in a civil tone. There will be few if any noticeable mechanical and/or grammatical errors.

A 'B' paper will have the qualities of the 'A' paper but may have slightly weaker support, some uneven coherence (awkward paraphrasing, unclear references, rough transitions), or some repeated, minor problems with grammar and/or mechanics.

A 'C' paper will generally meet the basic requirements of the assignment but will be deficient in one of the following: accuracy of reporting the essays, development/support, organization/coherence, or style.

An 'R' paper will not sufficiently meet the requirements of the assignment, so the writer will have the opportunity to revise it. The highest grade an 'R' can receive is a 'C.' If the paper is not revised and resubmitted within one week of its return, the 'R' grade becomes an 'F.' It is strongly recommended that any writer receiving an 'R' schedule a conference with me for help in revising and/or that s/he visit the Writing Center for additional feedback.

Exploratory Essay

Purpose: The exploratory essay builds on the inquiry essay by having you look at and contribute to a range of arguments rather than just one at a time. Whereas the inquiry essay introduced you to a debate by looking at one argument a time, the exploratory essay asks you to widen your vision to the whole conversation. Here are some of the goals of the assignment:

--To continue learning to analyze arguments, but this time on a macro rather than micro level.

--To learn how to discover common points and similarities and differences among a range of arguments on a particular issue.

--To discover your position on that issue in relation to the other arguments.

Audience: Consider this audience to be the same as the one you wrote for in the inquiry essay.

Organization: See pp. 60-61 in Aims for shaping/organizational strategies. Otherwise, as long as the elements of the essay are all present and your organization is clear and easy to follow, the guidelines are open.

Requirements: Read in Aims, pp. 59-73; also read, annotate, and analyze (recall Toulmin) the selected essays from Part Two.

--Select three of those essays for this assignment.

--3-5 double-spaced computer processed/typed pages

--Again, I will ask for all rough drafts and workshop sheets when I collect the intervention draft.


--Thursday, February 8: In-class role play based on the arguments in the selected chapter determining common themes

--Tuesday, February 13: Continue working with common issues, developing and discussing your own position.

--Thursday, February 15: Bring complete typed draft for workshop.

--Tuesday, February 20: Intervention draft due

Grading criteria: Consider the following questions when drafting this essay. These are some of the issues I will consider for evaluation.

1. Focus: Does the essay focus on specific common issues between the essays? Does the essay follow these themes or does it drift into larger or indirectly related issues?

2. Organization: Is the progression of this essay user friendly? That is, is it logically organized and easy to follow?

3. Coherence: Does the essay flow smoothly, with clear, connecting transitions, or are there abrupt, unpredictable jumps from one point to the next?

4. Development: Is there enough information provided to give the audience a clear, thorough sense of the issues, agreements, and disagreements at hand? Is your own position developed and supported with specific examples?

The Exploratory Essay (Becker)

The exploratory essay is an inquiry into a range of positions on a central issue, an inquiry whose ultimate goal is to establish your own position on this issue in relation to three other positions. You are not trying to persuade your audience that one position is better than another, but you are trying to represent each (including your own) position as accurately and effectively as you can. In order to save ourselves the time and effort needed to fill in readers, we chose for our audience other members of the class. When determining the focus of the essay, we acknowledged that the writer must identify one clear issue or "conversation" about which all four voices in the essay debate, but we allowed two emphases: as a writer you may privilege your own opinion above that of the other writers or you may treat all voices equally, in which case your organizational strategy might differ. In your postscript, you must inform your readers which emphasis you have chosen. The development of this essay includes using textual evidence when explaining the position of other authors and providing personal experience or thorough explanations when explaining your own position. When talking about coherence, we determined that, because there are so many voices talking in this essay, it is crucial that you clearly identify which author belongs to which opinion and that you keep these relationships straight for the reader. The temptation is also great to stray from your topic of conversation--be sure that all the voices are responding to that initial question you asked. Your voice, of course, relates back to the emphasis in your focus. Remember that even if you choose to treat all voices equally, you must respond with your opinion on the topic and back that opinion up with personal experience or other methods of making your opinion valid for your audience.

Assignments for Portfolio 2

Preparing an Annotated Bibliography

One way to evaluate your sources is to write an annotated bibliography as shown below. An annotation is a short explanatory note about the contents of a source, also called a précis.

A précis differs from a summary by its brevity and polished style. It requires you to capture in just a few words the ideas of an entire article, chapter, or a book. Use it when you are concerned with facts, the what of the matter. You serve as the bridge between another author and your reader, so you must condense fairly and without bias. Usually, information condensed into a précis has more value than a summary, so it deserves a polished style for transfer later to the first draft.

Success with each annotation for your bibliography or précis requires the following:

  1. Condense the original with precision and directness. Reduce several paragraphs into a sentence, tighten an article into a brief paragraph, and summarize a book into a page.
  2. Preserve the tone of the original. If the original is serious, suggest that tone in the précis. In the same way, retain moods of doubt, skepticism, optimism, and so forth.
  3. Limit your quotation of the original by writing the précis in your own language. However, retain exceptional phrases from the original, enclosing them in quotation marks.
  4. Provide documentation locating the source of your material.

Sample annotation from source summary sheet:

"In a section called "Apathy Toward Communication Skills," Powell states that television tends to speak in choppy, simplistic, and superficial language in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. He fears that children will lose the ability to express verbally deep thoughts or feelings."

In only a few words, the writer has abridged the essential elements of a long section of a chapter. Since an annotation clarifies the nature of a work, it seldom extends beyond one paragraph. Note below how the writer used the précis for his bibliography:

"Television can invigorate the vocabulary of children, although some critics argue otherwise. Jon Powell, for example, states that television tends to speak in choppy, simplistic, and superficial language in order to appeal to the widest possible audience (41-47), and he cites numerous examples. In general, he fears that children will lose the ability to expess verbally deep thoughts or feelings."

(Generally, a précis will not include page numbers. However, if you focus on a specific section in a major work, it may be helpful to indicate the page.)

Introducing ..... Convincing!

For the next portfolio, we'll be working on a totally different kind of essay, one that builds on but goes way beyond the strategies of reading, inquiring and exploring we've practiced so far. The main difference between the essays we've done so far and the first essay in the next portfolio (the convincing essay), is that the essays you've done were geared toward you. They helped you focus on an issue and understand individual arguments and conversations within that issue. The next essay asks you to start with that foundation, but the audience changes. Instead of targeting yourself as the main audience, this time you'll target an outside audience, possibly a hostile one, that you need to convince of your point of view on an issue. To get started thinking about the process of convincing, take the first half of the class to completely answer the following questions. We'll talk about them when we come together later. Don't hesitate to flag me down if you have questions!

  1. First, think about something in your life (a car, a bike, a dog, whatever) that you absolutely love or hate. Write out your idea in terms of the following sentence: "My X is the best/worst X in the world."
  2. Decide on a person or group to whom you'd like to make an argument based on the position you wrote for the last question and answer the following questions: Who is the audience you're targeting? Will they be friendly or hostile toward your position? What, generally, are they like and what do they care about the most? What sorts of things generally make them angry or turn them off?
  3. Once you're done determining your audience, write out another version of your position. This time, though, make it more specific. Try to include a general idea why your X is the best or worst in the world, and also try to word it so it appeals to the audience you have in mind.
  4. Now, start thinking about your reasons for believing the thesis you wrote above. Below, brainstorm a list of them. Don't stop until you've got at least 6-10 reasons. At this point, don't worry about how good they are--just spit out as many possibilities as you can.
  5. Look back at your reasons and think about your audience. Eliminate any reasons that you think they'd reject or be offended by. Then take the remaining list and think about the best order for them. Are there any that your audience would accept first? Are there any reasons that need to come before or after others? What's the best order for them that would lead your audience along logically? Write down your remaining reasons in that order here.
  6. Next, think about evidence. What kind and how much evidence would your audience need to buy each of your reasons? (Remember--the more hostile the audience the more evidence they'll need.) Once you've answered that question, write down some examples of the evidence you might use to support each of your reasons.
  7. Last but not least, write out a short brief of what, based on your above answers, an essay on this position might look like. Don't worry about writing the whole thing--just put it all in sentences in the order you think would work best.

The Convincing Essay (Becker)

Audience is a crucial consideration in the convincing essay. If the purpose of this rhetorical strategy is to "make a case that readers can believe in" (Crusius 74), then you are under obligation to determine and overcome the objections your chosen audience will have about your claim. Be sure you are neither trying to accomplish the impossible (trying to convince a hostile audience of too much) nor preaching to the converted. Focus in the convincing essay is probably a matter of narrowness: are you trying to convince your reader that the population problem is the result of illiteracy? That is a huge claim to make and would require immense amounts of data to substantiate. If the writer narrows the claim to something like illiteracy in Kenya (where population growth is running about 4%) is a major contributor to the population problem there, has the writer made a more reasonable and focused claim? Make sure you have focused on an issue that is somehow related to human relationships with the environment. Development in the convincing essay might begin with defining the issue clearly enough that reader understands what the problem is. As we are relying solely on rational appeals ("hard" evidence and logic), development certainly has to do with providing evidence to support your claims and making sure that this evidence is valid. Beware of logical fallacies, the misuse of "facts," and those fuzzy areas among opinion, belief, and prejudice. Finally, a thoroughly developed piece will raise the counter-arguments of the intended audience and effectively refute those. Coherence in the essay is strong organization: among other things, transitions should be smooth; all the points should relate to the thesis; and readers should be able to see when the writer is presenting a counter-argument and when he or she is refuting it. Don't underestimate the potential for a using a strong voice in the convincing essay: by letting the audience know why you are personally concerned with the issue, you can increase your credibility as a writer and allow the reader to see why the issue might be an important one to consider.

Convincing Essay Assignment

Here's the consensus we came to the other day on the basics for the convincing essay. As we discussed, these are only guidelines. Remember that most of what you do will be determined by your audience.


We determined that the purpose of this essay is to convince your audience to agree with your point of view on an issue. We also discussed the difference between this and the persuading essay. We basically determined that the purpose of this essay is to primarily contact the minds of your audience, to get them to agree with you on an intellectual level. There's quite a gap between intellectual agreement and truly moving people to act, which will be the purpose of the persuading essay. So, this essay will consist mostly of what appeals to the mind--logic and researched evidence.


As we discussed, your audience is your choice--but it must be an audience that does need to be convinced of whatever stand you take. If they all already agree with you, there's not much point in making an argument in the first place. We discussed several things that you may need to know about your audience:


We said that the focus of the essay should be your stand and why it's the right one. The essay should be focused on a clear thesis, several clear reasons, and evidence for each reason--all determined by the needs of your audience. All of this, too, we said, should be clearly set up within the first few paragraphs of your essay, and the connections continually explained throughout so your reader knows how everything fits together.


We spent a lot of time on this one and basically determined that the more hostile your audience, the more development (at least in terms of evidence) you'll need. Sources you use should be specific and relevant and ones that your audience would find credible. As a general guideline, think about six outside sources as a minimum number for this essay (assuming an essay with three major reasons, it'd need at least two outside sources for each). The main guideline was that the essay be adequately developed--which could mean more or less than six sources depending on your audience. We also discussed several potential sources for information:


We talked about several guidelines here. Based on what we said should be avoided, the essay needs a very clear logical progression between reasons with no serious gaps. The essay should flow smoothly as it moves from your basic statement of point-of-view to your audience. We also determined that doing this will mean that you need an excellent understanding of your own point of view. We discussed avoiding things like confusing structure, tangents, abstract evidence, logical errors, lack of evidence to demonstrate your points, writing over (or under) the heads of your audience in terms of vocabulary, and stylistic or editing errors.

Persuading Essay

Purpose: As with the convincing essay, the persuading essay begins with refining a well-researched position into a focused, audience-minded thesis. The thesis is backed by carefully chosen and arranged reasons, which are themselves supported by appropriate evidence. Thus, critical-reading inquiry and a synthesis of a range of positions is again crucial to this assignment. However, the purpose of this essay is to build upon what was accomplished in the previous essay; your aim has changed from simply seeking assent to inspiring action.

Everything that went into the convincing essay belongs in the persuading essay. Add to that the use of appeals to character, emotion, and style, as well as a call to action. Thus, the persuading essay requires much more than an extra paragraph. An effective appeal through style will essentially require a rewrite. Emotion and character should be intertwined throughout the essay. Of course, in determining how best to apply these appeals you must carefully consider what will and will not work with your invoked audience.

Audience: As with the convincing essay, the most significant consideration of this essay is the role of audience and rhetorical context. The identity of your audience is largely decided by determining why you are writing the argument and with what aim. For whom is your topic relevant? Considering how best to meet their expectations and predicting their reactions will affect the reasons, organization, evidence, and appeals you select.

Organization: I leave this to your discretion. Consider the strengths of your reasons as well as the needs and expectations of your audience (me included) when shaping this essay.

Requirements: Read Chapter Seven in Aims.


Grading criteria:

All considerations of purpose, focus, organization, coherence, development, and audience apply to this essay. Add to that an emphasis on appeals. Remember that this essay is worth 85% of your Unit 2 grade.

The Persuading Essay (Gogela)

Persuading means moving others to action through rational, emotional, personal, and stylistic appeals. As your text explains, it is convincing plus, i.e., building on an argument based on reason and logic by integrating it with other forms of appeal. The aim of your last essay was to convince your audience of the validity of your argument; your primary concern was to present a clear and focused thesis, valid reasons, and supportive evidence. For this assignment, you need to go beyond convincing and to motivate/urge your audience to do something about the issue in focus--and, exactly, what to do about it. Hence, persuasion closes the gap between assent and action.

Criteria for the Persuading Essay:

Assignments for portfolio 3

Negotiating/Mediating Collaborative Project

For our final assignment, you will be working in a group of three or four. Each group will engage in a process of negotiating a compromise solution to a problem related to diversity at CSU. You will work together to understand the positions on the issue, identify key differences among opposing viewpoints, define the problem in terms of real interests, brainstorm solutions to the conflict, and propose a feasible solution. This work will culminate in each group writing a memo to the campus committee charged with reviewing the diversity plan. During the final exam period, we will discuss the various proposals made by each group. Finally, each person will write a postscript that will evaluate individual and group performance as well as the various proposals.


Each group will submit a group portfolio which contains the following:


4/23: Brief intro to project; complete questionnaires for group assignments

4/25: Receive group assignments and copy of diversity goals summary; groups meet and plan; turn in draft of work plan.

4/30: Groups work in class.

5/2: Groups work in class.

5/9: Final period: 7-9 a.m. Portfolio due. Discuss proposals. Complete postscript.


Each group will receive one grade. I reserve the right to give individual grades different from the group grade if circumstances warrant it. The memo itself counts for 70 % of the project grade. The process (everything else) counts for 30%. The grade on this project counts as 15% of the semester grade.


--Be sure to read Chapter 8 in Aims, "Negotiation and Mediation: Resolving Conflict" thoroughly. As always, the chapter has step-by-step analyses of sample essays and of the process as a whole.

--There is a copy of the entire diversity document in the library.

--Each group may schedule one meeting with me outside of class. All group members will need to be present at any such meeting. Meetings may be scheduled by e-mail memo only.

--The most effective and efficient method of communication for this project between us will be e-mail. Feel free, however, to talk to me in class, in my office, or on the phone for individual problems and questions. However, e-mail will allow me to send responses to the whole group at once, so I would prefer that all group business be handled that way.

Mediating Conflict (Becker)

The goal of the mediating essay is negotiation. The task of negotiation is to resolve conflict to the mutual satisfaction of all parties involved in a dispute. In order to achieve mutual satisfaction, you will need to go beyond asking both or many sides in a dispute to "give a little." Theoretically, negotiation builds upon the shared values and interests of the disputing parties; therefore, will need to go beyond simply representing the perspectives of both (or many) sides in a dispute and reveal those underlying values and interests of the opposed parties in order to build consensus. If you, as mediator, can demonstrate to both (or many) sides what these parties have in common, if you can help the disputing parties understand each other, you will be better able to offer them a solution which is based on agreed-upon principles.

The mediating essay, therefore, should deal with a controversial issue that is causing a demonstrable problem. It should present the disputing parties in terms of their underlying interests and values, as well as clearly explaining the perspectives each party holds on the issue at hand. That is, as mediator, you should be able to explain not only what each party believes, but also why it holds that belief. In order to avoid gross generalizations about any party's perspective, the parties should be represented by real people's words--that is, each side should have, if possible (and it is not always possible), a real representative rather than just being called "the opposition." Finally, the compromise position should clearly satisfy at least some of the underlying interests of all parties. As mediator, you may find it necessary to explain why the compromise cannot satisfy all interests and persuade the audience that as many as possible are being considered. Knowing your audiences well will serve you here to know how best to appeal to them persuasively. Please observe the suggestions about persuasive appeals in the persuasive essay assignment sheet.

Focus and coherence, as always, are necessary in the mediating essay, though we have discussed the options for delaying your thesis (your compromise position) until the end of the essay. Whether you shape the essay deductively or inductively, the reader should be able to follow the essay easily and walk away from it clearly knowing its purpose and main idea. Development in the mediating essay probably concerns problem definition, explanations of disputing parties' positions and underlying interests, and a clear discussion of how the compromise position satisfies the needs of all parties. Voice is crucial. The mediator must maintain a fair and, as far as possible, impartial tone, although it may be to your benefit to acknowledge your biases up front in order to be honest with your audience.

Good luck.

Negotiating (Bruce)

The aim of the negotiating project is to mediate between several differing positions on an arguable issue. For this project, you'll work in a collaborative group to plan the essay, collect research, organize your thoughts, and revise a negotiating essay. Along with the essay, you'll give a short group presentation to the class during our final exam period.

The Sequence:

First, you must select a topic that offers opportunities for negotiation, mediation and/or compromise. You can do this one of two ways:

As a group, you'll need to define the major issues and points of view involved in the debate (inquiry and exploration), determine the key goals of each point of view, and come up with a plan that attempts to solve or lessen the problem while meeting at least some of the major goals of each differing point of view. You must become familiar enough with the various positions that you won't, as a group, overlook obvious opposition points that some people might have to your plan. Then, you'll devise a written argument that uses convincing and persuading techniques to bring both sides into what you have created as a mutually comprehensible and acceptable solution.


For your research, start with the articles in Aims on the issue or your own essays--those should give you the basics of the points of view involved. You may well need to go beyond this in order to support your reasoning for your own solution, though. As with the convincing and persuading essays, there's no set guideline other than the one set by the real world of negotiating: whatever support you use must motivate your multiple audiences to come together. If you can do this without outside research, more power to ya. If not, use however much you need to develop your argument and make it convincing to your audience. For most real-world topics, you'll need to do at least some outside research, but it won't need to be as intense as the research for your last two essays. Remember, too, that you'll be able to divide the tasks between several people.

The Essay:

You should organize the essay to meet the demands of the rhetorical situation (consider the audience and the situation as it exists currently). In this essay, unlike other essays, you may find yourselves having to predict the reactions of people with quite different viewpoints all on one piece of writing. Diplomacy and a variety of types of claims will probably be necessary. Throughout the essay, you must avoid alienating any members of your audience so that all members will be ready to accept your compromise. In other words, it won't work to switch from one audience to the next, taking sides and speaking to only one group while ignoring the others. Imagine your essay and presentation as one which you make to a room full of representatives of all the differing positions--they can all hear everything you say, and you can't afford to let any of them storm out of the room.

Division of Labor:

The tasks of writing the essay should be broken down with two goals in mind: to equally distribute the workload and to fully exploit the strengths of each of the group members. One possible method might be to list all the tasks the group will need to accomplish and then divide them. Then, have each member of the group draft an outline of the essay, combine the best elements of the outlines, and then assign part of the outline to each group member. Finally, you'll come together, cut-and-paste the sections, and edit the whole shebang as a group. Another method might be to assign textual research, field research, and an outline to different group members. Then, assign individual members to represent each side of the argument and other members to introduction and conclusion. Finally, each member would independently revise the essay, and then the group as a whole would hammer out the rough spots in the final revision. Keep in mind that each group member should contribute research, writing, revision and presentation--though a different group member might take the lead in each of these areas.

Please fill out the "Work Log Planner" before you begin writing, during your project, and add the final touches after the project is done. You'll be evaluating your own contribution, the contribution of other group members, and the other groups' presentations.

The Class Presentation:

For the class presentation, I'd like you to plan a brief talk that explains the issue and defends the solution or compromise you've chosen to suggest. One approach might be to evaluate solutions and show why the one you chose is best. Another might be to analyze the arguments of each side (Toulmin-style) and defend the strongest argument. Another might be to have members of the group role-play the different sides, and then show us how you'd mediate between the positions to defend your solution. These are by no means the only choices. One of your tasks as a group should be to determine the approach that best meets the needs of your audience. All group members should contribute to the group presentation, and you should have some type of visual aid prepared (overhead, chart, etc.) to visually reinforce some aspect of the presentation. Don't just read your project aloud to the class. Your audience won't be easy to persuade if they're asleep and drooling. At the same time, remember that your main goal is to convey the substance of your ideas--the visual and entertaining aspects of your presentation are the sugar that makes the medicine go down. Don't give us too much sugar and too little medicine.


This'll be my ultimate responsibility, but I'll seek input from the class in two ways. First, I'll ask you to evaluate the contributions of each member of your group. The final project will be worth 70% of each person's grade, but 30% of the grade will be based on individual work (research, writing, revision and presentation). Second, I'll ask each group to rank all the groups based on the strength of the final presentations.

The Schedule:

Here's the basic sequence of events, subject to change as we determine our own needs:

Monday, April 15: Intro to negotiating; form the groups, exchange vital info.

Homework: Read sample essays and annotate--prepare to discuss on Wed.

Wednesday, April 17: Discuss sample essays; groups should be working on knowing the issues and dividing the labor.

Homework: individual assignments to be announced. Group work Log Planners will be due Monday.

Friday, April 19: In-class negotiating practice. We'll let this run into Monday if necessary.

Homework: Work Log Planners due Monday. Groups should schedule extra meeting times if necessary to finish these.

Monday, April 22: Portfolio II due; Design negotiating assignment, set agenda to cover any remaining concerns for Wednesday's class.

Homework: Whatever the class determines based on the assignment design discussion.

Wed, April 24, Friday, April 26, and Monday, April 29: In-class group work and conference days.

Wed., May 1: Written product workshop day: drafts due. (Mayday! Mayday!)

Friday, May 3: Workday for group presentations.

Presentations and portfolios due at final exam.

Assignment for the Mediating/Negotiating Essay (Gogela)

For our last portfolio assignment, you may continue to write on a topic you researched earlier or explore a new one. You may approach this essay in one of two ways:

  1. Mediate the positions of two groups (specific audiences) holding opposing viewpoints on a focused issue. Your role will be that of a third person, a fairly neutral observer who will make a sincere effort not only to examine both sides of the issue (research) but also to demonstrate genuine understanding for the views of both sides (empathy). Write an essay in which you argue for a compromise position, arriving at a mutually agreeable solution.
  2. Write a negotiating essay in which you argue your position on a focused issue to a specific audience who holds an opposing viewpoint. Your task will be to convince the opposition of the validity of your position, to demonstrate your full understanding of their position (via research and empathy), and to persuade them to agree to a compromise, a mutually agreeable solution.

For either option, keep in mind the purpose of mediating/negotiating: to find some common ground, open the lines of communication, and make progress toward a solution. Hence,

As you begin drafting your essay, you may want to refresh your memory on the basics of mediating/negotiating on pp. 154-56 and 192-94 in our text. Now that you have your letter to the editor in front of you (and some basic feedback from your peers), consider the following questions: Have you ...

  1. fully researched the opposition's point of view and analyzed their case?
  2. fully developed your own case (research and analysis)?
  3. located and examined specific areas of agreement and/or disagreement (synthesis)?
  4. defined both positions in terms of real interests?
  5. determined/invented options or solutions?
  6. reached one resolution based on agreed upon principles?

The Mediating/Negotiating Essay for Portfolio 3 (Kiefer)

For this portfolio, each group will produce one final paper on an approved topic. Groups must decide whether to write a negotiating or a mediating essay:

Clearly, your first group negotiation will involve deciding between these two options because the work you do to complete the essay will follow different tracks for the different essays. Both essays, however, will involve some additional library research to find sources to substantiate facts and possible solutions. Both types of essay also call for clear explanation of the various points of view and analysis of the differences underlying positions, as well as appeals to character and emotion.

Unless you specify otherwise, the audience for this essay will be our CO250 class. Do not assume that students in other groups will have read the essays in Aims that you are working with, nor that they have carefully thought through their positions on the topic you address in your paper. You may assume that students in the class represent a wide range of positions on the topic you address.

Please use in-text citation to cite sources, and construct a clear Works Cited page with complete bibliographic references. Please also submit a photocopy of all materials cited in the essay.

Please include all group members' names on the final, double-spaced, typed copy of the essay. I will prepare copies of my end comments for each group member, but you'll have to circulate the final draft to see my handwritten marginal comments.

Please don't forget to keep careful records of your all your work--individual and collaborative--on this portfolio. I will also collect work logs on May 8.

Analysis Essay for Portfolio 3 (Kiefer)

Task definition

40% of this portfolio grade will be based on group work to prepare for an individual paper analyzing one of the arguments the group works on. Once you join a group of 3-5 students working on a topic, you commit to that topic, so skim all the essays and read carefully the ones for the group you think you'll choose before you commit.

  1. Each group member will draft a summary or Toulmin analysis of each essay assigned to your group. You can use different strategies for each essay, but make sure your group agrees on the strategy for each essay so that you all do the same thing.
  2. Group members will exchange drafts and discuss differences. Do the drafts suggest points of analysis you missed? Are the points the drafts agree on the most important ones to take up in your final individual analysis?
  3. Consider revising the summary or Toulmin analysis if such revisions will help you prepare for the final paper.
  4. Post the best draft of each essay analysis on the web forum and generate discussion questions based on your group discussions of these drafts. (I have two sections of 250 this term, so more than one group will work on each topic. You should definitely take advantage of the insights generated by other groups.)
  5. You will also generate group responses to two sets of guided analysis questions about the essays students in your group have decided to write about. One set of guided analysis questions is on audience analysis and one is on organization/development/style. Post these responses on the web forum.
  6. In addition to items posted or submitted from your group work, please keep a detailed log of group activities and how much time you spend on them. Include the following kinds of information: date, length of time on task, type of task, type of "meeting"--face-to-face, e-mail, telephone.

60% of this portfolio grade will be based on a final paper. Each student will write an individual analysis of one essay assigned to your group. Group members will be involved in peer review of these drafts. Unless you arrange another alternative with me, CO250 students constitute the audience for this paper.

Analyze one of the essays. Two options:

  1. Select elements from the following list to analyze: the essay's overall organization, quality of evidence, attention to audience, balance of various appeals, focus of thesis, development of supporting arguments, quality of logical appeals, style. Use the analysis to argue against the author's thesis.
  2. Select elements from the following list to analyze: the essay's overall organization, quality of evidence, attention to audience, balance of various appeals, focus of thesis, development of supporting arguments, quality of logical appeals, style. Use the analysis to argue for specific ways to improve the essay. (In other words, you accept the thesis but use your analysis to argue for better ways to support and develop that claim.)

If, as you work on your analysis, you see a third option, outline what you'd like to do in your essay. (For instance, you might want to try using your analysis to persuade other CO250 students to use or not use a specific arguing strategy.) You must have my prior approval to use a third option for the individual essay in portfolio 3.

NB: The selected readings, though clustered in groups, do not argue for the same focal issues within the large topic. One other point your analysis may want to take up is whether or not the specific focus of a given essay is an important enough chunk of the large subject to spend time and energy on.

As part of your preparation for the group work and the final paper, remember to read the headnotes of the three chapters in Aims.

Poverty and Welfare - Marin, Lovern, Kallick, Murray

Immigration - Brimelow, Chavez, Mills, Silko

Political Correctness and Multiculturalism - Gates, Kagan, D'Souza, Ehrenreich

Workshopping and Workshop Sheets

The materials under Workshopping Generally help students see why they need to take peer-review sessions seriously. McMahon's handout also notes some points of etiquette for peer review. We also include multiple workshop sheet samples for each essay we typically assign so you can choose from a variety of revision prompts. Under portfolio 1, you'll find samples for Toulmin analysis, summary, summary/response, synthesis/response, and the exploratory essay. Under portfolio 2, you'll find annotated bibliography, convincing, persuading, and pro/con assignments. Under portfolio 3, you'll find mediating/ negotiating and analysis assignments. The general sheets can be adapted for various assignments at different points in the term. As always, tailor your workshop sheets to emphasize the criteria you've presented as most important for the papers you assign. Be aware that some of the workshop sheets are designed for early drafts and some are for final drafts.

On Workshopping Generally

General Criteria for Workshop and Evaluation (Becker)

We will use two sets of criteria to workshop and evaluate each of the essays you write for this class. The set of definitive criteria will be unique to each essay, setting the guidelines for such things as page length, line space, purpose, audience, number and type of sources you will use, and the degree of objectivity or subjectivity desired. Thus, for the Synthesis, you will word-process a two- to four-page paper, double-spaced, synthesizing the viewpoints of three authors on two main ideas, etc. The definitive criteria will change for each essay we write.

Throughout the rest of the term, however, you will also apply a set of global criteria to each essay you write. This set of criteria remains the same, setting guidelines for all the writing you do, regardless of a piece's specific requirements. For the most part, these criteria have to do with the organization of the essay. What follows is a general description of each of the general criteria terms we will be using in workshop and a couple of sample workshop questions related to each.

Purpose and Audience

Your purpose is the specific reason or goal you have for writing. Your audience is the person or people who will read your writing. These two elements must work closely together if they are to help shape the rest of your essay. For example, you may find as you write that your intended audience is not interested in your purpose (you might have this problem if you tried to inform toddlers about stereotypes of senior citizens in action movies), in which case you would modify either purpose or audience until they fit.

By the time the reader has finished your essay, can he or she clearly state your purpose?

Is you purpose appropriate for your intended audience?


Your focus is your concentration upon a specific subject. When you snap a picture, the camera defines the boundaries of your subject. Similarly, when you write, you must decide the boundaries of your essay by choosing what to include and what to leave out. The topic you choose, therefore, should be narrow enough that you can clearly present it to your audience within the given length of your essay. Clear thesis statements tell your readers what your focus is and prepare them for the development of your topic.

Is your focus clear to the reader?

Is your topic sufficiently narrow that you can do it justice in your essay?


The way you do your topic justice is by supporting your thesis with specific detail and examples. Your thesis ought to be supported by relevant main ideas; each main idea you explore ought to be supported by relevant examples or evidence.

If your purpose is description, do your details give your reader a clear picture of what you are describing?

Do your examples support your point, or are they somehow unrelated?


Coherence has two parts. It is the logical progression of your ideas, so your reader can easily follow you from point to point. It is also the unity of your paper, the degree to which all your points and examples "stick together" to create a paper with clear focus and development. Transition words and referent words (we'll talk more about these in a bit) help give your paper coherence.

Can your reader easily understand how you get from point A to point B?

Do all the points relate to your topic? Do all your examples relate to your main points?


Your voice is the sense of you as a writer in your paper. Your increase your voice by using "I" and by offering personal observations or examples.

Does the "I" in the paper intrigue the reader?

Does the reader come away from the paper with a sense of who you are as a writer?

Adapted from Writers INC: A Guide to Writing, Thinking, and Learning by Patrick Sebranek, Verne Meyer, and Dave Kemper.

Some Words on Workshopping (McMahon)

**Approach every workshop as if you were a reader encountering the work for the first time. If you become confused as a reader, you need to tell the writer about it. When the reader does not understand, the writer has not done his/her job.

**When you workshop a partner's essay, do not just mark what is wrong; focus on how to help the writer solve the problem. If something looks or sounds wrong and you really do not understand what the problem is, seek a second opinion. Ask me for help. Between us, we should come up with some helpful advice. If I'm not immediately available, write in the margin, "I think you should see Ms. McMahon about this." Otherwise, give specific advice on how the writer can improve the section of writing.

**The "I don't want to hurt the writer's feelings" syndrome: Remember, if you say it's good when it isn't, you will hurt this writer's feelings even more when he/she is surprised by a low grade on the essay. He/she will remember that you were not honest or competent enough as a reader to help him/her revise the draft adequately. But be honest, not cruel.

**How can I critique without being cruel: First, explain how you understood the passage and compare that with the writer's explanation. Next, ask questions: "I'm not sure if you mean X or Y at this point. Could you clarify this for me?" "You seem to be saying X here. How does this fit in with your main idea or purpose? Perhaps you could make the connection clearer." Finally, give specific advice about the problems: "Look again in the text at page 148" or "Why not try this approach for a lead-in?"

**What if I think the essay is great? No essay is perfect; ask any professional writer! You should always be able to offer some advice to strengthen the piece. Where the essay is strong, be sure to point that out: writers learn by recognizing their strengths. But be sure to finish your worksheet by explaining carefully how and why certain parts are strong and how and where they could be even stronger.

DAILY Prompt to Set Up Peer-Review Workshops

A peer-review workshop involves exchanging drafts with classmates and commenting on how the drafts could be improved. Have you ever participated in a peer-review workshop before? If so, in what setting? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of peer review?

If you have not participated in peer review before, what questions and/or concerns do you have about it?

Workshop Sheets for Portfolio 1

Workshop Sheet for Toulmin Analysis for Portfolio 1

Writer's Name

Editor's Name and Phone #

Read through the paper completely before answering any of the following questions.

  1. Evaluate the claim. Does it accurately represent the main point of the article?
  2. Suggest revisions to the claim to reduce bias created by word choices.
  3. What revisions should the writer make to the qualifier and exceptions for completeness and clarity?
  4. Has the writer identified the main reasons cited in the essay? How would you improve the clarity of the reasons?
  5. How could the writer improve the analysis of reasons? relevant and good (remember--sufficient, accurate, credible)?
  6. What key evidence did the writer include? What key evidence did the writer omit?
  7. Has the writer correctly identified objections the author notes as well as the author's rebuttal? How might the writer improve this section of the analysis?
  8. What concerns does the writer still have about revising this analysis? What can you suggest to help the writer?
  9. What's the most effective part of this analysis?

Summary - Short Workshop

This workshop sheet is really just a reminder for you. You already know the parts of a summary and what you are looking for, so please feel free to comment on things you notice but which are not asked for on the sheet. To begin, please ask the writer to list his or her main concerns.

Writer's questions:

Reader's responses:


  1. Look for author and title. What suggestions do you have?
  2. Is thesis clearly and accurately stated? How could it be improved?


  1. What main points has the writer left out?
  2. Where do you see too much detail?
  3. Look at the quotes. Are they pertinent? Are they believably accurate?


  1. How could the writer make the summary flow better? Is it wordy? Too sparse?


  1. Look at the writer's objectivity. Are the author tags clearly placed? Does the writer's subjectivity creep in even though there are author tags?

Workshop Sheet: Summary (McMahon)

As you workshop your partner's paper, answer the following questions as specifically as possible. Where they are needed, give at least one suggestion for improvement. These questions represent the criteria for an effective summary and will help you determine if the paper has met the requirements of the assignment. I will be asking the same kinds of questions when I read the summaries.

  1. Where does the summary state the full name of the author and the full title? Is this an effective place for both?
  2. Where is the thesis of the article clearly, concisely, and accurately stated? Is it effective here? Could the writer improve his/her statement of the author's thesis? If yes, how?
  3. Where is the author's purpose clearly, concisely, and accurately stated? Is it effective here? Could the writer improve his/her statement of the author's purpose? If yes, how?
  4. List below the author's main supporting points included in this summary.
  5. What should the writer change in regard to the presentation of the main supporting points? Has, for example, the writer omitted a main supporting point or included some points that seem to you to be less important?
  6. Does the writer go into too much detail? Are too many specific details and examples from the essay included? If so, suggest ways the writer can present main supporting ideas without reiterating the author's specific details and examples.
  7. Are quotations (if any) striking and relevant? If there are no direct quotations, make one suggestion of where the writer might include a pertinent quote.
  8. Is the summary objective? Where does the writer of the summary allow her/his opinion to show?
  9. Circle the author tags--references to the author as the originator of the ideas. If there are no author tags, point out where they could be used.
  10. Does the summary contain a concluding sentence that signals it is ending so the reader is not left hanging? Do you have any suggestions on how to make the conclusion more effective?

Workshop Sheet for Summary for Portfolio 1

Writer's Name

Editor's Name and Phone #

Read through the paper completely before answering any of the following questions.

  1. Has the writer noted the author and title of the essay being summarized? Yes/No
  2. Has the writer included a clear restatement of the author's main point? Yes/No
  3. What other points that you don't see here should the writer include for a thorough summary of the article?
  4. What, if any, key examples or details should the writer add to the summary?
  5. Does the summary follow the organization of the original essay? Would a different arrangement be easier for a reader to understand? Suggest revisions.
  6. Has the writer maintained objectivity throughout the summary? If you see places where the writer's opinions or reactions are creeping in, please bracket those for the writer to attend to.
  7. Suggest revisions to reduce bias created by word choices.
  8. Where might the writer use additional author tags to help the reader?
  9. Mark any places in the draft where you have trouble reading and note whether a transition, clearer wording, or additional detail would help most.
  10. Where can you suggest other specific improvements in the summary? (Please refer to the criteria on the earlier handout for other possible points to revise.)
  11. What concerns does the writer still have about revising this summary? What can you suggest to help the writer?
  12. What's the most effective part of this summary?

Workshop Sheet for Summary/Response Essay for Portfolio 1

Writer's Name

Editor's Name and Phone #

Read through the paper completely before answering any of the following questions.

  1. Identify the writer's main point. How might the writer narrow the focus to improve the essay?
  2. Does the writer's thesis give the reader any indication of the points to be covered in the response? Would the essay be improved if it did? Suggest a revision.
  3. Which organizational pattern does this essay follow? Would a different arrangement be easier for a reader to understand? Suggest revisions.
  4. What kinds of evidence does the writer include to support the arguments in the response? What additional evidence can you suggest? Which part of the essay should the writer first consider when revising the development of the response?
  5. Mark any places in the draft where you have trouble reading and note whether a transition, clearer wording, or additional detail would help most.
  6. Suggest revisions to reduce bias created by word choices.
  7. Where can you suggest specific improvements in the summary?
  8. What concerns does the writer still have about revising this essay? What can you suggest to help the writer?
  9. What's the most effective part of this essay?

Workshop Sheet: Synthesis/Response (McMahon)

As you workshop your partner's paper, answer the following questions as specifically as possible. Where they are needed, give at least one suggestion for improvement. These questions represent the criteria for an effective Synthesis/Response and will help you determine if the paper has met the requirements of the assignment. I will be asking the same kinds of questions when I read the Synthesis/Response essays.


  1. Does the introduction clearly present the main synthesis point that will be the focus of the essay? Do you as a reader have questions about the exact nature of the synthesis point? If so, note your confusion for the writer and suggest ways the synthesis point could be more clearly presented for the reader.
  2. Does the introduction clearly present the three authors whose perspectives will be developed within the synthesis? Does the introduction prepare the reader for these authors' perspectives toward the synthesis point? If not, suggest ways the writer can effectively and concisely introduce each author and each author's perspective toward the synthesis point.
  3. In the body of the synthesis, how explicitly and accurately are the authors' perspectives presented? If needed, suggest ways to improve the presentation of these perspectives.
  4. How clearly are the connections made among the authors' perspectives? Does the writer make use of "transition" words or phrases that allow the reader to see these connections clearly? If the connections among the authors' perspectives are unclear, make a note of this to the writer. Suggests ways the writer could make the connections among the authors' perspectives clearer.
  5. List below the similarities and/or differences among the authors' perspectives as found in the synthesis.
  6. Response

  7. Is there a clear transition from the synthesis to the response so it is obvious that the writer is now sharing his/her own ideas? What needs to be done to make this clearer?
  8. What is the writer's stance toward each of the author's perspectives? Is it easy to identify the writer's stance of agreement/disagreement or judgment of strong/weak in regard to each author's perspective? If not, suggest ways the writer can make his/her position clearer.
  9. How well does the writer develop his/her response? For each judgment of strong/weak is there a stance of agree/disagree or ample support? What kinds of support or evidence does the writer use to develop his/her response (personal experience, logical analysis, outside texts, etc.)? Write down the places where the response needs to be more fully developed.

C0CC300 Synthesis/Response Workshop

Name of writer

Name of first reader

The purpose of today's workshop is to assess focus and development of the synthesis/ response. Your first task is to read the essay all the way through without marking it or filling out this sheet. After you finish reading, answer the following questions regarding the essay.


  1. What is the common theme that this essay addresses?
  2. Does the synthesis address the common theme? Make marginal comments to show where the synthesis gets away from the common theme or where examples from the authors do not seem related to the theme.
  3. What is the writer's position on the common theme? State it in your own words here and underline the thesis of the response on the draft.
  4. Is the response tightly focused? Is the focus maintained? Note on the draft any problems and offer revision suggestions here.


  1. Does the introduction capture your interest as a reader and provide a focus on the common theme? Explain why it is effective or ineffective.
  2. Are relevant examples given from each author to demonstrate how each author addresses the common theme? Point out any examples that are unclear, that need fuller development, or that seem unrelated to the common theme.
  3. Does the writer discuss similarities and differences, including subtle differences, among the writers? Point out where this is done effectively.
  4. Does the writer provide support for the response beyond what the three authors give? List the types of evidence used here.
  5. Do you find the writer's support in the response convincing? Why or why not?

Name of writer

Name of second reader

The purpose of today's workshop is to assess focus and development of the synthesis/ response. Your first task is to read the essay all the way through without marking it or filling out this sheet. After you finish reading, answer the following questions regarding the essay.


  1. What is the common theme that this essay addresses?
  2. Does the synthesis address the common theme? Make marginal comments to show where the synthesis gets away from the common theme or where examples from the authors do not seem related to the theme.
  3. What is the writer's position on the common theme? State it in your own words here and underline the thesis of the response on the draft.
  4. Is the response tightly focused? Is the focus maintained? Note on the draft any problems and offer revision suggestions here.


  1. Does the introduction capture your interest as a reader and provide a focus on the common theme? Explain why it is effective or ineffective.
  2. Are relevant examples given from each author to demonstrate how each author addresses the common theme? Point out any examples that are unclear, that need fuller development, or that seem unrelated to the common theme.
  3. Does the writer discuss similarities and differences, including subtle differences, among the writers? Point out where this is done effectively.
  4. Does the writer provide support for the response beyond what the three authors give? List the types of evidence used here.
  5. Do you find the writer's support in the response convincing? Why or why not?

Exploratory Paper Workshop (Thomas)

The goal of this workshop is to give the writer feedback that will help him/her see his/her paper through the eyes of readers. Your careful reading and responding are appreciated!


To the writer--List specific questions or concerns you have about this paper here:

First Reader

To the first reader: Your job is to label various aspects of the paper so that the writer can see how the paper is put together through your eyes. Please mark and annotate in the margins of the paper for the following:

Read the writer's questions/concerns above. Write your answers/suggestions on the back of the draft and sign your name to your comments. When you finish, pass this sheet and the draft to the next reader. Thank you.

Second Reader

To the second reader: Read the writer's statement above, and then read through the draft once. Notice the annotations the first reader made. Now respond to the following.

  1. Are any of the key elements of the paper missing? If so, tell the writer here which ones.
  2. Do you think the writer has accurately represented the positions of the authors? If not, explain any discrepancies you see here and/or in the margins.
  3. Is the writer's position on the issue clear? Is it explained adequately enough for you to understand why s/he holds that position? Is there any way the writer could improve his/her statement of his/her position?
  4. Now respond to the writer's concerns/questions listed above and offer any suggestions for revision you have. (Remember to stick to larger issues rather than grammar and mechanics.)

To the writer: Read over all the comments you have received from the two readers. Then discuss those comments with your readers. Make sure you clarify all suggestions or criticisms. Take notes in the space below.

After you finish your discussion, write your revision plan below.

Workshop Sheets for Portfolio 2

Points to Consider when Commenting on Annotated Bibliography Drafts

  1. Do you see any problems with the MLA style? Are there format points that you believe need to be looked up?
  2. Are the annotations concise and to the point? Are there sentences that could be combined to make the annotations more concise? Are there sentences that just seem to repeat information already given? Are there sentences that don't really say anything at all?
  3. Can you clearly pick out the main point of each article that has been annotated?
  4. Is the stance of each article clear?
  5. Has the writer put any of the articles in conversation with one another? Which articles appear to you to be ones that could be linked? Are there any links between articles that seem artificial?
  6. Are the articles organized in a logical manner (i.e., alphabetically, categorically, chronologically)? What suggestions can you make about changes in the presentation of the annotations?
  7. Does the author make any personal judgments about the articles? Is it clear what information is the author's and what information is the writer's? Is the writer's opinion appropriately included?
  8. Does the annotation give you a clear sense of what the article is about and perhaps how it might be helpful to you as a reader of this annotated bibliography? Does the bibliography achieve its purpose?

Workshop for the Annotated Bibliography - 1

Carefully read one annotation at a time, focusing on the following criteria for each entry. Jot down specific comments in the margins of your workshop partner's annotation.

  1. Is the bibliographic information documented according to MLA? (See handout--or me--when in doubt.)
  2. Are major points of the article/monograph clearly discernible? If you have questions about the reviewed work, note this in the margin.
  3. Does the writer provide a fairly clear evaluation of whether or not this source is useful?
  4. Does the prose of the annotation flow smoothly? It should be as concise as possible but not choppy.
  5. Indicate where revisions or rephrasing may be necessary (deadwood constructions, etc.).
  6. What works particularly well in each annotation? What doesn't work so well?
  7. Mechanics: can you find distracting grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors? Please circle and indicate the nature of the problem.
  8. Are the left margins indented according to MLA format? (Remember following the first line of each annotation, you indent subsequent lines, beginning to print in the 6th space.)
  9. Are all entries double-spaced? (No need to triple-space between separate annotations.)

Workshop on Annotated Bibliography - 2

Your annotated bibliography may be organized chronologically, by publication date, or alphabetically. Whichever arrangement you choose, use it consistently.

The purpose of this workshop is to spot errors or rough spots before they come to my attention. Please take a close look at the following:

  1. Are the works documented properly? Get out your cheat-sheet and double-check when in doubt. Keep in mind that your workshop partner would like you to work on his or her bibliography as hard as you want him or her to work on yours.
  2. Carefully read the annotation. Does it make sense? Does it include pertinent information that seems valuable even to an outside reader? Next, take a close look at the source; read a little and get a feel for what kind of information you can glean. Is there anything that should be included in the annotation?
  3. Last but not least: mechanics. Please point out grammatical or spelling errors to your workshop partner because they will distract us--and diminish the value of the annotated bibliography.

Be sure to put your name in the upper right-hand corner of your workshop partner's bibliography so I can determine your efforts as a serious editor.

Convincing Essay Worksheet

Writer's name

Editor's name and phone number

The primary purpose of this worksheet is to insure that the writer has developed a convincing argument. Imagine, then, that you are the writer's opponent (and so be sure to identify the target audience). Try your best to spot the weaknesses in the essay you are reading. In effect, you will be helping the writer to make sure that s/he has a convincing argument before it is submitted in the portfolio.

  1. Read the essay once and record your first impressions:
  2. If there is a thesis or claim, what is it?
  3. Any suggestions for improving the thesis or claim?
  4. What are the writer's main supporting arguments?
  5. a.




  6. What counter-arguments does the writer refute?
  7. a.



  8. What counter-arguments can you think of in addition to those above?
  1. (Remember you are the writer's opponent.)




  1. What can you suggest about reordering or beefing up arguments? Would a Rogerian approach be more successful for the target audience?
  2. Any last advice before the writer goes on to the next draft?

Convincing Workshop II



To the writer: Briefly describe the audience for this paper. (Be sure to include your audience's position on the issue you're writing about.)

To the reader: Read the draft through once without marking it. Then re-read it, and answer the following questions as thoroughly and specifically as you can.

  1. Underline the claim/thesis. Is it clear? (Do you understand it fully?) Make suggestions for improving the claim/thesis.
  2. Is the claim adequately focused--narrow within manageable/defensible limits? Why or why not? Explain.
  3. Do you feel the writer needs to add any qualifiers or exceptions in order to avoid over-generalizing, which would render the claim less defensible? If yes, explain.
  4. Number the reasons, Rl, R2, etc. Are the reasons sound in logic, i.e., do they avoid logical fallacies, and do they follow logically from the claim? Why or why not?
  5. Does the paper deal with opposing arguments? How successful do you feel the paper is in conceding and/or refuting opposing arguments?
  6. Does the evidence support the reasons? Where is more evidence needed? What kind of evidence is needed?
  7. Does the argument rely on logical and character appeals? Note any place the writer is using (inappropriate) emotional appeals.
  8. Check the writer's use of MLA in-text documentation and works cited and note any possible errors. Also check to make sure all quotes are introduced. Make a note here to let the writer know if you marked any documentation errors.
  9. What are the one or two areas that you feel the writer should address first in revising this paper? What suggestions can you make for conducting those revisions?

Return the paper to the writer and discuss your comments. Either you or the writer should make notes on this sheet or the draft to record your discussion. As soon after the workshop as possible, the writer needs to make a brief revision plan. This worksheet and the revision plan need to be stapled to the workshop draft and included in the folder with the final paper!

Argument Workshop 1 (Harper)

  1. Is the writer's position clear? (Do you understand it fully?) If not, make suggestions.
  2. Is the claim adequately focused and narrow within manageable/defensible limits? Why or why not? Explain.
  3. Do you feel the writer needs to add any qualifiers or exceptions in order to avoid over-generalizing which would render the claim less defensible? If yes, explain.
  4. Are the writer's reasons sound in logic, and do they follow logically from the claim? Why or why not?
  5. Can you think of any additional refutations the writer could add which they might have overlooked/not considered? List them.
  6. Without looking at the writer's ideas, what strategy do you think could be used for this particular argument? Why would it lend itself well to this issue?
  7. Now look at the writer's ideas. Are they the same as what you suggested above? What suggestions could you make? (Combine strategies; one strategy better than another and why...etc.).
  8. What additional evidence could the writer use? (Be as specific as possible: particular mags or journals; people to interview; videos; personal exp., etc.). Any "leads" or insights you have will be appreciated by your partner.
  9. Make 2-3 suggestions of how your partner could transform this topic into another argument. (What other perspective could they write from? What's another question at issue within this topic? What's another related topic? etc.).

Peer-Review Checklist for Draft of Argument Essay

Read the essay through, quickly. Then read it again, with the following questions in mind. Please write extensive comments either on your workshop partner's draft where applicable or on this handout. If you need more room, continue writing on the back of this page.

  1. Does this draft respond to the assignment? (Argument of a debatable issue with Rogerian slant?)
  2. Looking at the essay as whole, what thesis (main point including writer's opinion) is advanced? Please underline the thesis on your workshop partner's draft. If it is implied only, jot down what you perceive to be the thesis here.
  3. Are the needs of the audience kept in mind? For instance, do some concepts or words need to be defined? Is the evidence (examples, testimony of authorities, personal observations) clear and effective? Get into the margins of the draft and comment.
  4. Is any obvious evidence (or counter-evidence) overlooked?
  5. Can you accept the writer's assumptions? If not, why not? Please be honest and specific.
  6. Looking at each paragraph separately:
  1. What is the basic point?
  2. How does each paragraph relate to the essay's main idea or the previous paragraph?
  3. Should some paragraphs be deleted? Be divided into two or more paragraphs? Be combined? Be put elsewhere? (If you outline the essay by jolting down the gist of each paragraph, you will get help in answering these questions.)
  4. Is each sentence clearly related to the sentence that precedes it and to the sentence that follows?
  5. Is each paragraph adequately developed? Are there sufficient details, perhaps brief quotations or paraphrases from credible sources?
  1. Are the introductory and concluding paragraphs effective?
  2. What are the paper's main strengths?
  3. Make at least one specific suggestion that you think will assist the author to improve the paper.
  4. Last but not least--mechanics. If time permits, point out errors in spelling or grammar that distract from the argument of this draft.

Worksheet for Portfolio 2

Writer's name

Reader's name and telephone number

Ask the writer what questions or concerns he or she has about the paper. Read the paper carefully and respond to those points before you complete the rest of this worksheet.

  1. Note here the audience for the paper you're reviewing. Be as specific as possible. If the writer has not targeted a specific audience, brainstorm together for ways to specify the audience.
  2. What is the focus of this paper and why is that focus appropriate for the target audience? Look both at focus and purpose as you consider ways to improve the match between writer, reader, and argument.
  3. Is the claim adequately focused--narrow within manageable/defensible limits? Why or why not?
  4. Do you feel the writer needs to add any qualifiers or exceptions to avoid over-generalizing the claim? If yes, explain.
  5. Are the writer's reasons sound in logic, and do they follow logically from the claim? Why or why not?
  6. Can you think of any additional refutations the writer could add?
  7. Where has the writer used effective evidence or detail? Where might the writer include more evidence? (If you see gaps in the information provided, be sure to point out those gaps to the writer. Also, take a moment to jot questions on the paper that would help the writer see where and what detail to add.)
  8. Is the paper interesting to read? Why?
  9. Has the writer cited appropriate and unbiased sources of information? Are quotations integrated into the text? Are the citations clear? Do you see any places where the writer needs to cite a source but now doesn't? Point those out to the writer.

Persuading Essay Worksheet

Writer's name

Editor's name and phone number

The primary purpose of this worksheet is to insure that the writer has developed a persuasive argument. Imagine, then, that you are in the writer's target audience. Try your best to spot the weaknesses in the essay you are reading. In effect, you will be helping the writer to make sure that s/he has a persuasive argument BEFORE it is submitted in the portfolio.

  1. Read the essay once and record your first impressions:
  2. If there is a thesis or claim, what is it?
  3. Any suggestions for improving the thesis or claim?
  4. What are the writer's main supporting arguments?
  5. a.




  6. What counter-arguments does the writer refute?
  7. a.



  8. What counter-arguments can you think of in addition to those above?
  9. a.



  10. What appeals does the writer use? Which ones are most effective? Which are least effective?
  11. What can you suggest about reordering or beefing up arguments?
  12. Any last advice before the writer goes on to the next draft?

Peer Review I for the Persuasive Essay

Writer's name:

Workshop partner:

Dear workshop partner:

Carefully read my audience profile before reading my essay--a couple of times if necessary. Then, answer the following questions as thoroughly as you would like me to respond to your draft. Please be specific and concrete as often as you can; rather than tell me to do something, please show me how and where to do so whenever possible. Thanks for your help.

  1. Having read both my audience analysis and my essay, were you able to project yourself into the role of the target audience? Indicate (in the margins of my essay) passages with a strong sense of audience awareness and where/how I might need to do more of the same.
  2. Persuasive arguments must be based on careful inquiry and strategic case-making. Inspect my case first: begin by underlining my thesis (claim) and then marking my reasons/solutions in support of my thesis (Reason 1, Reason 2, etc.) in the margins. Circle any words that seem vague or need further definition.
  3. Evaluate my overall plan of organization. Are my arguments presented in a compelling and logical order? Does my argument build to a strong conclusion? Can you envision an alternative arrangement? Make suggestions for improvement in the space provided below, referring to paragraphs by number.
  4. Persuasion demands that the writer make an effort to present himself or herself as worthy of the reader's trust and respect. Do I strike you as someone sufficiently informed and genuinely concerned with the issue? Do you think I need to do more "homework?" Also, reread my draft with an eye for specific places where I make an effort to find common ground with my target audience. Please explain in detail (in the margins or at the end of my essay) where/why my efforts have succeeded--or not.
  5. Persuasion further requires that the writer make a conscious effort to gain emotional support through concrete examples and imagery, analogies and metaphors, first-person reporting, quotations, and so on. How many places can you find where a conscious emotional appeal is made? Should I do more of this--or have I gone too far? Please explain in the margins of my essay.
  6. Describe in the space provided below the general tone of my essay. Does it change from section to section? How appropriate and effective is the tone in general--and in specific sections?
  7. I will add conscious stylistic appeal later, in the editing stage, because style also involves refinements in word choice and sentence patterns. However, look now to see if my draft exhibits an appropriate style for the target audience. Mark any instances of the following in the margins of my essay:
  8. --poor transitions between sentences or paragraphs.

    --wordy passages, especially those containing passive voice and over-use of the verb "to be."

    --punctuation or spelling errors.


  9. After studying my argument, are you sure what I want or expect from my audience? Have I succeeded in persuading my audience? Why or why not? Please give me some specific ideas on how to fix this on the back page of my paper.
  10. What do you consider my essay's major strength so far?
  11. What do you suggest should be the first thing I work on for revision?

Peer Review II for the Persuasive Essay

Read the essay through, quickly. Then reread it with the following questions in mind. Please write extensive comments either on your peer's draft where applicable or on this handout.

If you need more room, write on the back of pages of the essay.

  1. Does this draft respond to the assignment (i.e., persuasion of a specific audience w/ appeals to reason, character, emotion, and style where appropriate)? Explain.
  2. Are the needs of the audience kept in mind? For instance, do some concepts or words need to be defined? Is the evidence (examples, testimony of authorities, personal observations, etc.) clear and effective? Get into the margins of the draft and comment.
  3. Has any obvious evidence/counter-evidence been overlooked?
  4. Can you accept the writer's assumptions? Why or why not? Be specific.
  5. Scrutinize each paragraph separately:
    1. What is the basic point?
    2. How does each paragraph relate to the essay's thesis?
    3. Should some paragraphs be further developed, condensed, combined, rearranged, or deleted? (If you "outline" each paragraph by briefly stating the main topic in the margins, that will help you answer these questions more effectively.)
    4. Is each sentence clearly related to the one preceding it--and the one that follows?
  6. Are the introductory and concluding paragraphs effective? What works so far--and what might need revision? Please be specific in your advice.
  7. What are this paper's major strengths?
  8. What major revision do you think the writer of this persuasive essay should consider first?
  9. Last but not least: mechanics. If time permits, points out errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Circle them for the writer, but let the writer figure out what to do about it.

Style Review of Drafts for Portfolio 2

This workshop sheet will help you attend to stylistic matters as you polish close-to-final drafts. If the writer needs to make major changes in content or organization, do not use this sheet. If you notice stylistic matters that this sheet does not address but that the writer should work on, be sure to discuss those with the writer.

Writer's name

Reader's name and telephone number

  1. Note here the audience for the paper you're reviewing.
  2. Now read the paper completely before you answer the remaining questions.
  3. What suggestions can you make for a stronger opening for the paper? Be sure to discuss a range of possibilities for the target audience or publication.
  4. Does the conclusion of the paper provide closure for the reader? Are you left dangling? Or are you offended by reading a summary of a short paper that you can clearly remember? Suggest improvements.
  5. Has the writer used headings to indicate major chunks of the paper? Would headings improve the reader's ease in following the logic or flow of the paper? Suggest specific changes.
  6. Does the writer use adequate transitions between and within paragraphs? If not, suggest specific revisions.
  7. Has the writer integrated appropriate visuals? If not, suggest places where the text would be supplemented or complemented by a graphic.
  8. Has the writer relied too often on short or simple sentences? Do you, as a reader, perceive adequate sentence variety? If not, choose a paragraph that seems particularly repetitive and work on sentence combining for greater variety in sentence length and structure.
  9. As you read through the paper, did any words, phrases, or sentences "sound" funny to you? We often "hear" mistakes that we cannot necessarily label. Circle any words that don't sound right. If you cannot suggest a way to fix the problem, be sure to ask me.
  10. Has the writer used precise language throughout the paper? In other words, has the writer chosen exactly the right word to convey his or her meaning? Choose any one paragraph and work on substituting more precise language appropriate for the audience.
  11. Has the writer used more words to convey an idea than he or she needs to? Pick out any paragraph and work with the writer to remove deadwood. Then be sure to point out where else the writer might prune the text.

Pro/Con Workshop Sheet



  1. Discuss the effectiveness of the writer's introduction to the essay. Is the purpose clear? Is the writer's stance clear? Will a reader be able to recognize without too much difficulty that this paper will explore the pros and cons of this issue?
  2. Discuss the focus of this essay. Is it too broad? Is it too narrow?
  3. Note any information that veers away from the indicated scope of the essay. Please circle these sections on the draft also.
  4. Comment on whether or not the writer has shown that his/her stance is the best stance, out-shining the stance of the opposition. Put an * at the side of any chunk that will leave doubt in the mind of the reader.
  5. On the back, write a pro/con chart reflecting the structure and content of the paper you are workshopping.

Workshop sheet: Pro/Con Essay (McMahon)

Please begin by reading through this workshop sheet. Then, read through your partner's entire essay once. Finally, answer the following questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible, making suggestions for improvement wherever necessary.

  1. Re-read the introduction. How clearly is the controversial topic introduced? How clearly does the writer present his/her own position toward this controversial topic? Does the writer need to define terms and concepts? How could the writer improve the introduction in terms of clarity and interest?
  2. What counter-arguments does the writer present to his/her own position? How clearly and accurately are these counter-arguments presented? As a reader, do you suspect the writer has inaccurately presented these counter-arguments? How could the writer improve the presentation of the counter-arguments?
  3. How does the writer refute each counter-argument? Does he/she support the refutations by noting hidden assumptions, illogical reasoning, appeals to values not commonly held? If the writer uses personal experience to refute the counter-arguments, how well does this personal experience work as refutation? How could the writer improve the support provided for his/her refutations?
  4. In addition to refuting counter-arguments, what other support and evidence does the writer provide for his/her position? How could the writer improve the development of this support and evidence?
  5. Examine the overall organization of the essay. How could the writer improve the organization?
  6. Who is the intended audience for this essay? How successful has the writer been in persuading this audience of his/her position? How could the writer more effectively persuade this audience?

Workshop Sheets for Portfolio 3

Workshop I for Mediating/Negotiating Essay

"A problem well put is half solved." --John Dewey

Writing to solve problems, like writing to explore, is a way of thinking on paper (or on the computer screen)--a way to find out what you already know, to organize your thoughts, to visualize your problem, and to make connections between what you know and what you need to know or do. The greater the problem, the greater the need to write and explore different perspectives to ultimately help you discover solutions.

Carefully read your workshop partner's rough draft and consider the following:

  1. First of all, has the writer focused on an issue that is timely and relevant? In your own words (on the back of this page) summarize your workshop partner's take on
    1. What is the problem?
    2. Why does the problem exist?
    3. What are its consequences?
    4. Who will be affected?
  2. Who, specifically, are the groups holding opposing viewpoints on this issue?
  3. Next, take a close look at your workshop partner's proposed solution. While this is a rough draft and most likely does not yet defend the solution, does it strike you as a reasonable proposal so far? Below, share your honest response with your partner to help him or her anticipate possible reactions to such a solution.
  4. Having looked at the proposed solution, is it a true compromise? What common ground has the writer been able to establish? (If it hasn't yet been established, what advice could you give the writer at this point?)
  5. Now examine the argument developed by your workshop partner in defense of his or her proposal thus far (yes, it will be rough). Does it make a clear claim and outline some convincing reasons for you to go along with that? What works so far? What doesn't work yet? What would you suggest the writer do next in terms of revision? (Look at the big picture first: focus and development, i.e., researched examples and discussion. Next, examine organization and coherence. Finally, determine whether the argument betrays the writer's biases in any way.) Be specific and concrete in your advice.

Final Workshop for the Mediating/Negotiating Essay

For this assignment, the writer has assumed the role of mediator or negotiator to propose a solution acceptable to specific groups with opposing viewpoints on a focused issue. Hence, the essay should move beyond the stated positions and the facts of the dispute to expose the underlying interests, values, and beliefs of those in opposition. Keep in mind that some writers will thoroughly define the problem before proposing a solution while others may present a concise outline of the problem and then spend the bulk of their discussion on the solution.

  1. What are the stated positions and facts of the dispute?
  2. What underlying interests, values, and beliefs of the opposition does the writer treat?
  3. What solution does the writer propose?
  4. Which of these areas need more work for the paper to be effective?

Mediating/Negotiating Essay Checklist

Mediating Essay Checklist

Negotiating Essay Checklist

Analysis Essay Worksheet

Writer's name

Editor's name

The primary purpose of this worksheet is to insure that the writer has developed an effective analysis paper. Try your best to spot weaknesses in the essay you are reading. In effect, you will be helping the writer to make sure that s/he has a convincing argument BEFORE it is submitted in the portfolio.

  1. Read the essay once and record your first impressions:
  2. What is the writer's thesis or claim?
  3. Do you have any suggestions for improving the claim, particularly in terms of focusing?
  4. What features of the selection from Aims does the writer concentrate the analysis on?
  5. What textual evidence does the writer use? Where could the writer use more? (Make specific suggestions.)
  6. What analytic evidence does the writer use? Where could the writer use more? (Make specific suggestions.)
  7. Any other advice before the writer goes on to the next draft?

Workshop Sheets for General Purposes

Argument Drafting 1 (Harper)

(to be completed by the writer)


Question at Issue:

State Your Claim/Position:

  1. Are there any qualifiers you need to use (or exceptions) to improve the defensibility of your claim/position? If so, explain.
  2. Describe at least 3 reasons you could use to support your claim.
  3. Write out 4-5 refutations (or opposing viewpoints) to your argument you think you will consider in your essay(s).
  4. What strategy are you considering using for your essay--pro/con, classical, Rogerian, deductive, or a combination? That is, how do you plan on using the opposing viewpoints in your essay? As concessions? To present counter-arguments in a Rogerian style (beginning w/ these so a "wall of defense" is not created in your audience, and to show empathy for the opposition as a means of resolution and positing your own position/solution)? As a means of setting up an aggressive rebuttal? Explain in as much detail as possible.
  5. What evidence do you plan on using to support your position? What evidence in support of your reasons? In support of your rebuttals? Why did you choose this evidence? Where do you plan to obtain more evidence? Please answer each question as fully as you can.
  6. If you are writing more than one argument, what are your plans for the others? Will you change perspectives? Strategies? Questions at issue? Topics altogether? Explain.

Intervention Draft Workshop (Harper)

  1. Is the writer's position/claim clear early on? Do you understand what he/she is arguing for? If not, make suggestions.
  1. (You don't have to point to a particular sentence as the claim, but you should know exactly what the writer's position is regardless.)
  2. Is the focus of the argument as a whole clear and narrow enough to reasonably cover? Why or why not? How could the writer narrow the argument in order to make it more defensible?
  3. What strategy is the writer employing? If Rogerian, does the writer need to make his/her own position clearer?
  4. Are the writer's reasons sound in logic and backed-up by numerous, specific examples?
  5. Mark as many places as you can in your partner's argument where evidence is needed or would be appreciated and helpful to you as a reader (specific examples to illustrate certain points, lend credibility, personal experience, statistics, facts, quotes, etc.). Write out additional overall suggestions in the following space.
  6. List any counter-arguments or refutations that might make the argument more solid which the writer may not have considered.
  7. Where in the argument did you become confused? Ask the writer to clarify, and make suggestions as to how they can help to clarify the confusion in their essay.
  8. Overall, was the argument
  9. clear--




    (Beside each term, write why or why not, and make suggestions, even if you comment something like, "The argument is persuasive because . . . but this would make it even more persuasive.")

  10. Ultimately, in your opinion, is the writer trying to (Circle one)
    1. convince the audience of a truth?
    2. persuade the audience to take another look at the issue?
    3. mediate a conflict and possibly propose a solution/resolution?

Final Workshop for Portfolio 2

  1. What is the purpose of the paper?
  2. Who is the designated audience for the paper?
  3. How has the writer presented appropriate background information or accounted for bias on the part of the reader?
  4. What more could the writer do to get and keep the reader interested in the paper?
  5. Where might the writer add detail or flesh out an argument? Suggest specific additions that would help the writer meet the goal of the paper.
  6. Take any one paragraph and revise it for clarity and conciseness. Suggest other paragraphs that could benefit from the same revisions.
  7. The strongest part of this paper now is
  8. The part of the paper that still needs work is
  9. If you have time, note significant proofreading problems on the draft.

Portfolio 2 -- Final Workshop (Harper)

  1. How is the author's lead-in? Does it draw you in? Is it interesting? Why or why not?
  2. Coherence
  3. Global:

    1. Does the essay, as a whole, flow and make sense on the first reading? If not, at what point in the essay did you become confused and why? Make suggestions.
    2. Are transitions between blocks of ideas and paragraphs clear? If not, point these out.
    3. Local:

    4. How is the author's sentence structure? Mark any awkward, run-on, choppy, or fragmented sentences.
    5. Also, suggest better word choices, if necessary.

    6. Edit for mechanics (smaller grammatical problems): commas, periods, capitals, paragraph breaks, spelling, MLA documentation, etc.).
  4. Evidence
    1. Where in the essay would the author benefit by a "showing" example of what he/she is "telling" about?
    2. Evaluate the quality of your partner's evidence. Mark any confusing evidence or any that is not explained. (The author must be clear/explain why he/she has chosen this evidence... for what purpose?)
    3. Mark any weak evidence. (Evidence that doesn't back-up/illustrate point; unaccounted for statistics; fallacies; weak sources.)

Final revision workshop


Briefly state your audience and purpose in the space provided here. Have your extended audience analysis available for your workshop partners.

First reader

Assume the role of the devil's advocate, i.e., imagine that you are a somewhat hostile opponent of the writer who seeks to argue against his/her claims. Read the draft with pen in hand and note your objections and counter-arguments in the margin as you read.

Second reader

Read the statement of purpose and audience above, and then read through the draft once. Next, answer the following questions about the paper. Use a different color pen from the first reader so the writer will be able to distinguish your comments from his/hers.

  1. If you can find an explicit statement of the overall claim (thesis) of this paper, underline it. If not, do you think it is necessary that the claim be stated explicitly, or would any reader be able to infer it easily? If the claim is easily inferred, write it in your own words here.
  2. How could the claim be improved? Is it offensive, vague, or too general? Does it have a single focus? Is it clearly stated? Suggest more concrete phrasing, if possible.
  3. Circle the key terms of the claim, i.e., the words most central to the point. Could there be disagreement about the meaning of any of these terms? If so, has the author at some point in the essay offered clarification of what he or she means by these terms?
  4. Look for the structure and strategy of the argument. Underline the sentences that most clearly present the reasons, and write Reason 1, Reason 2, etc. in the margin. If doing so is not easy, indicate this problem to the writer. Do the reasons not stand out as reasons? Do you think the writer has arranged the reasons in the best order? What is the best reason given? Has the writer placed it where it will have the most impact? Make suggestions for improvement.
  5. Look for any weaknesses in evidence. What reasons need more or better support? Next to any weakly supported reasons, write questions to let the writer know what factual information seems lacking, what sources don't seem solid or credible, what statements sound too general, what reasoning seems shaky (or fallacious).
  6. What kinds of appeals does the writer make? Label where the argument appeals to emotion, logic, or credibility (of the writer or of his/her sources). Do you find these appeals appropriate to the purpose and audience? Why or why not?
  7. Does the argument adequately address opposing arguments? Suggest where and how the writer might improve this.
  8. Evaluate the introduction and conclusion. Does the introduction draw the reader into the argument and focus on its key issues? Does the conclusion reinforce the purpose of the argument? How could the introduction and conclusion be improved?
  9. Does the writer document sources correctly and effectively? Where is improvement needed?

Revision Workshop (Gogela)

The primary purpose of this workshop is to ensure that the writer has developed a clear and convincing thesis/argument/proposal. Put your pencil down and your hands behind your back; now, read the essay in its entirety before answering any of the following questions. Take your time reading.

  1. Turn the essay face down after having read it. Now pick up your pencil. Without looking back at the essay, what did you consider its thesis statement? Jot down your version of the thesis statement below.
  2. Look at the original thesis statement now. How does it compare to your version? Are both statements fairly close and accurate in extracting the essence of what the writer is trying to say?
  3. Has the writer narrowed in on a specific proposal in a specific controversy--or is the topic still too broad and general? What do you suggest?
  4. Take a close look at the lead-in. Is it interesting and catchy? Explain in detail why--or why not.
  5. List the points of support the writer uses to argue his or her main point.





Obviously, the writer may have more--or fewer--argument in favor of his or her proposal.

  1. Are the arguments presented clearly the ones most likely to convince the audience? Are the arguments themselves convincing? What other points can you think of that may help the essay become even more convincing? (Use back of this page.)
  2. Are all assertions supported properly? Are there any facts or opinions given that are not directly supported either with data or logical reasoning (analysis)? Suggest, specifically, where additional support--or an explanation--may be needed.
  3. *If applicable: Some of you will have counter-argumentation which, of course, needs to be supported as well to avoid one-sided propaganda. If this writer's paper is a pro/con essay, please evaluate his or her counter-arguments, their support, and their validity (to the best of your knowledge or reasoning skills). Use the same strategy as suggested by questions #5, 6, and 7, and answer them on the back of this page. Otherwise, go right to the next set of instructions below.
  4. Comment on the essay's organization. Is the most effective arrangement of ideas/paragraphs used? Please make specific suggestions that could make this essay even more organized, i.e., coherent and easier to follow and understand.
  5. Mark places where quotations or references are awkwardly or incorrectly used (on the writer's draft).
  6. All in all, has the writer convinced you of his or her position? Why or why not? Be specific.
  7. Evaluate the conclusion of the essay. Does everything come together for you? Does the writer merely repeat what has already been brought to our attention? Make specific suggestions to help the writer create a smooth and satisfying conclusion.

If you have time, please check for mechanical errors that may be distracting.