Composition 2: Argument in Action

OVERVIEW

ENC 1102 introduces students to rhetorical conventions and provides them with an opportunity to analyze, research, and compose arguments. ENC 1102 is designed to improve students' academic writing, research, information literacy, and critical thinking abilities by focusing on the ways writers participate in discourses and agency via argument, negotiation, and reasoning.
To help students gain access to these discourses as academic authors, the major projects in 1102 asks students to analyze arguments in advertisements (Project 1), develop arguments that negotiate differences (Project 2), and use writing to effect change (Project 3).

REQUIRED TEXTS

  • Lester Faigley and Jack Selzer's Good Reasons: Researching and Writing Effective Arguments (ISBN: 0205012647)
  • June Casagrande's It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences (ISBN: 158008740X)

MAJOR ASSIGNMENTS

Project 1: Ad Analysis

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop an analysis that discusses the following: the role of audience in the design of an advertisement; the language, strategies, and rhetorical devices used by the advertiser; and the cultural assumptions embedded in the advertisement,
  • Identify and discuss the argument of the ad based on the way the appeals/fallacies are being used to further this argument (thesis),
  • Write for an appropriate audience,
  • Apply MLA academic conventions, and
  • Revise texts in response to peer and instructor feedback.

Genre Conventions

  • Audience: instructor and peers
  • Purpose: analyze an advertisement with reference to rhetorical appeals and logical fallacies
  • Format: MLA

Thesis or Focus
What is the argument of the ad based on the ways the appeals/fallacies are being used to further this
argument? Include the argument and a statement that addresses the ways in which the appeals/fallacies are being used to advance the advertisement’s argument.

Assignment
Students will write an 800-1,000 word essay that analyzes an advertisement. This analysis will discuss
the ad’s message (argument), audience, purpose (goals), and the rhetorical appeals that attempt to
persuade a particular audience. In addition, students will consider what cultural assumptions the
advertiser seems to make about this audience.

Role of Research
Students will use the chosen advertisement and the textbook as their primary sources. Instructors
may assign supplemental readings and require students to cite these as well. Instructors may also
require students to do additional research.

Early Draft
The Early Draft should be an outline or other organizing draft that includes a working thesis and a
brief explanation of major points. This draft should clearly demonstrate that the student has
analyzed the advertisement’s use of rhetorical appeals and logical fallacies.

Intermediate Draft
The Intermediate Draft should be a working draft that addresses the ad’s argument and discusses the
rhetorical appeals and logical fallacies that advance the ad’s argument. This draft should include a
thesis, all major points, evidence to support these points (including in-text citations from
appropriate sources), and a Works Cited page.

Final Draft
The final draft will be an 800-1,000 word essay that analyzes an advertisement. This analysis should
discuss the ad’s message (argument), audience, purpose (goals), and the rhetorical appeals that
attempt to persuade a particular audience. In addition, students will consider what cultural
assumptions the advertiser seems to make about this audience.

Project 2: Rogerian Argument

Learning Outcomes

  • Accurately reconstructs opposing arguments on an issue,
  • Employs appropriate tone and diction as to not alienate the reader,
  • Successfully researches and integrates sources from multiple perspectives on an issue,
  • Employs the Rogerian style of argument,
  • Use academic conventions such as MLA, and
  • Use the writing process, including invention, drafting, revising, peer review, and editing strategies.

Genre Conventions

  • Audience: primary: opponent; secondary: instructor and peers
  • Purpose: present a Rogerian argument on a divisive social issue
  • Format: MLA

Thesis or Focus
What are the two sides of the contentious issue? How can you move both sides closer by using
understanding, compromise, and critical thinking? The genre of this project is an analytical essay that
prepares for social action by identifying the strategies used by those with differing points-of-view.

Background
In the first project of Composition 2 you learned about the rhetorical strategies of argumentation, such
as ethos, pathos, and logos. In Project 2, you will make your own argument following a particular
style called Rogerian argumentation, named after psychologist Carl Rogers. Your Rogerian argument
will convince someone who disagrees with you about a contentious social issue to see your side of
the debate.

This project challenges students to explore, analyze, and engage arguments based on Rogerian
argumentation. Students enhance their knowledge of the conventions of academic discourse by
developing an annotated bibliography and integrating research into their argument. Additionally,
students enhance their writing abilities by receiving feedback from their instructor on three different
drafts of this assignment as well as feedback from their peers.

Rogerian arguments emphasize compromise, mutual respect, and empathy. A Rogerian argument
persuades by showing readers how their own points of view are compatible with the writer's
perspective. In other words, Rogerian arguments are more like negotiations than arguments, as the
writer needs to go to special lengths to demonstrate a full understanding of the opposing point of
view.

In this case, you will apply this technique in the context of a social problem in which you are
interested. You'll identify a social problem (perhaps through a method approved by your instructor) 
that has created controversy of some kind. You’ll then try to convince an audience that disagrees
with you to consider your side. You’ll use Rogerian argumentation in your organization and in your
content, by demonstrating that you are well versed with the logic of the opposing side.

Assignment
Write a 1,200 – 1,500-word Rogerian argument about a social problem about which reasonable
people disagree. You will argue for your own perspective on how to resolve this problem.
Organize your essay following the standard Rogerian argument organization, which follows a
particular and non-classical paper order. For instance, your thesis almost always comes at the end of
a Rogerian argument. Follow this order as you write your paper by heeding the advice of this
handout* and by following the advice from your textbook.

You must use and document at least four outside sources in your essay. These might be informative
sources that describe the details of your chosen issue, or they might be opinionated sources from
both sides. (After all, to show your audience that you understand opposing viewpoints, it makes a lot
of sense to show that you've read and understood writers who disagree with you!)

Role of Research
Students will research the best arguments for both sides of whichever topic they choose in order to
compare and contrast the major, reliable claims of either side in the most responsible way possible.

Project Tips
The key to Rogerian argumentation—and to this assignment—is strategic empathy. First, this means
that you need to be fair to those with other points-of-view by explaining their claims, priorities, and
values and then recognizing their importance. Second, you should persuade your readers that their
priorities and values can be reconciled with your own argument about the social issue, even if they
seem too different.

For instance, if your topic was the possibility of a carbon tax to counteract global warming and you
were arguing in favor of such a tax, you would need to recognize the legitimate objections others
might have to your plan. For instance, such a tax would do little good if not applied in other
countries; it would punish small businesses too much, and it would not motivate people to change
their consumption habits. After recognizing these objections, you might show how they can be met
by your proposal for a carbon tax: a carbon tax will eventually bring down energy prices and thus
offset any burden to small businesses; and by America taking the lead, other countries will be
encouraged to initiate a carbon tax as well. Ultimately you’re still arguing for your own point-ofview,
but rather than persuading others to change their minds you are focusing on compromise and
connecting arguments together. Similarly if your topic was on the legal drinking age, and you were
arguing in favor of lowering it, then you might concede that alcohol is a very powerful drug that
should not be used irresponsibly.

You might also find yourself with these issues:

  1. “I feel uncomfortable making someone else’s argument.” Part of the challenge of this paper is exploring different points-of-view, even if you find them objectionable. Effective writers try to work past what psychologists and sociologists call “confirmation bias,” a tendency to only interact with people and ideas that confirm our already-held beliefs. By demonstrating an attempt at compromise,your readers will be encouraged to reach past their biases and consider your position as well.Remember that you are persuading your readers of your own point-of-view by showing how it is—at least in some ways—compatible with their own viewpoints.
  2. “Why bother researching another person’s point-of-view?” The goal of this assignment is not to change your own opinions but rather to help you make the strongest argument possible about your position on a selected social issue. Oddly enough, by recognizing the validity of opposing claims,you can help to make your own argument stronger. This can happen for several different reasons: First, in order to understand an issue, a writer must understand how that issue impacts all interested parties, and that means looking at things from their points-of-view. Understanding a different perspective might not change your own opinion, but it can help to complicate it in a constructive way.

Early Draft
The Early Draft should be an outline or other organizing draft that includes a working thesis and a
brief explanation of major points. This draft should clearly demonstrate that the student has thought
critically about the major claims of both sides of the debate.

Intermediate Draft
The Intermediate Draft should be a working draft that addresses the core assumptions and points of
conflict that characterize the debate on both sides. This draft should include a thesis, all major
points, evidence to support these points (including in-text citations from appropriate sources), and a
Works Cited page.

Final Draft
The final draft will be an 1,200-1,500 word essay that presents a Rogerian argument about a
contentious, divisive social issue.

Project 3: Rhetoric in Action

Learning Outcomes

  • Successfully integrates personal narrative of social action experience
  • Successfully constructs an argument that works as a tool for change
  • Successfully integrates sources that support or illuminate the focus of the essay
  • Anticipates possible objections and addresses them
  • Suggests applicable courses of action
  • Successfully employs first person in relaying personal experience
  • Use the writing process, including invention, drafting, revising, peer review, and editing strategies
  • Use academic conventions such as MLA
  • Use multiple genres to present arguments (e.g, letter, website, video, artwork, flyer, pamphlet, panel, demonstration)

Genre Conventions

  • Audience: primary: opponent; secondary: instructor and peers
  • Purpose: connect rhetorical theory and appeals to actual social practice
  • Format: MLA

Thesis or Focus
How can your ideas and passion about an issue translate into a tangible act? The focus of this
project is a persuasive essay that promotes social action and a dynamic presentation that informs and
persuades. These genres take things beyond simple informational discussions by offering sound
ways that the issue can be solved. Your audience, therefore, is any group of people that is
predisposed to disagree with your argument, or any group of people who have not previously acted
on this issue in effective ways. When writing to this kind of skeptical audience, it is important to use
a tone that will make that audience want to agree with you: calm but firm and considerate of other
points of view, and extremely knowledgeable.

Background
Project Three challenges students to take a stand on a public issue and to use language to facilitate
positive social action. Students apply rhetorical principles such as ethos, pathos, and logos as they
write for a real audience of their choice (for example, creating a website or sending a cover letter and
persuasive report to a state senator). In the first two ENC1102 projects, you learned about rhetorical
strategies of argumentation (Project One) and how to consider various differing views on a
particular controversial topic (Project Two). In Project Three, you will lean on this knowledge to
help you research a topic of personal and social significance and then argue for change. There are a
wide variety of topics that you could write about (see below for examples); ask yourself what in the
world needs changing, perhaps on a local, global, political, or social level. Your job is to convince
your readers of the importance of your chosen topic and motivate them to enact change by offering
a well-researched and persuasive argument. It’s not enough, however, to argue for a change; this
project will also ask you to participate in enacting some sort of change.

Assignment
There are two parts to this project: the essay and the action/presentation. Please note that your
instructor will apply different weights to each portion of this assignment.

Essay: Write a persuasive, 1000-word essay that a) educates your audience about an issue that needs
changing, b) invites them to your point of view, c) acknowledges and refutes opposing arguments,
and d) motivates readers to act in specific ways. Your essay should work directly to effect change on
the given issue. You must include specific actions that your audience members may consider to
correct this problem. Use at least four sources to develop your argument including one that
appropriately represents an opposing view.

Action: In addition to your persuasive essay, you must perform one of the actions you recommend in
your essay (with instructor approval). This action might be a letter to a government representative, a
persuasive online video, a podcast, or work of art. Additionally, you might create fliers or
pamphlets, organize a panel discussion or debate on campus, participate in a demonstration, create a
social networking Web page, organize a public event, create a discussion board, or find other ways
to draw attention to your chosen topic.

At your instructor’s discretion, this portion of the project may be completed by individuals or
groups. For group projects, it is recommended that the group coordinate a series of actions/events
that exhibit the group members’ individual talents.

After completing your action, many instructors (at their discretion) will ask you to make a 10 minute
presentation to the class that summarizes your findings about your chosen social injustice, gives an
overview of the social action you performed in order to promote social change, and briefly reflects
on how you feel this project stimulated your growth as a writer.

Early Draft
The Early Draft should be an outline or other organizing draft that includes a working thesis and a
brief explanation of major points. This draft should clearly demonstrate that the student has thought
about their resistant audience and what action will correspond to their ideas.

Intermediate Draft
The Intermediate Draft should be a working draft that addresses how to educate and persuade an
audience into action. This draft should include a thesis, all major points, evidence to support these
points (including in-text citations from appropriate sources), and a Works Cited page.

Final Draft
The final draft will be an 1,000 word essay that utilizes the rhetorical techniques learnt up until this
point and that provides a clear path for practice.

 

Image of "We the People" commissioned by The Amplifier Foundation.