Lectures and Directions for Week Three

(January 15-19)

  • Think about a topic you would like to work on for your Term Paper.  The details are included in "Research paper Guidelines" in homepage as well as on NC # 5.  When you have decided on the topic, answer the questions on Term paper Proposal (NC # 5) to the best of your ability.

Reading for this week:

From Elements of Argument:

  • This week's lecture is on Chapter 9--"Writing an Argumentative Paper" (page 337)--which is given below.
  • Skim through Chapter 10--"Researching an Argumentative Paper" (page 358 onwards)--which teaches you how to write a research paper--how to quote, use in-text citations, arrange Works Cited reference list etc. in MLA (Modern Language Association) style.  It also tells you how to write an "Annotated Bibliography" (page 380) and how to cite your sources--"MLA System for Citing Publications" (page 381-390). 
  • You should pay special attention to the Sample Research Paper starting on page 391, which will be beneficial to you not only to write your seminar papers but also the final term paper.  It is annotated for you to understand the basic elements of a research paper.

From A Writer's Reference:

  • For additional help with the Citation format etc. look into A Writer's Reference or the NortonConnect Handbook information on Research Papers.

What’s due in Week 3:
(a) Term Paper Proposals and (b) Seminar 1 final draft, both due on Monday, Jan. 15 for grade



"Writing an Argumentative Paper"
Chapter 9 (page 337)
Elements of Argument

  • Before you read this chapter, you should have a clear understanding of what Argument means and how to read critically from Chapters 1 and 2.  Even though you have not read the chapters prior to this one, you should, by now, have a grasp of what a claim is, or how you need to support your claim etc. 

  • Now it is time to work through organizing your claim, your supporting evidences, writing your essay, and revising it effectively.  If you follow the guidelines carefully, you will be better prepared to Argue your point of view.

  • You HAVE to read the complete chapter for complete understanding of the process, but like before I am highlighting the important information from this chapter.

Finding and Appropriate Topic:

  • The first step is to choose your topic carefully. In most cases, the topic will be given to you.  you need to understand first why the topic is worth arguing about.  For example, in the first Seminar topic, you needed to clearly identify the reasons why we are discussing the point that grading is a matter of some though.  You, as student yourself, are often affected by the grading system sometimes.  it is not always fair, neither is it consistent from teacher to teacher.   Therefore,, your concern is whether we need to change the system or not.   After that, you need to look at what Paul Goodman is saying, whether his alternative suggestion is a viable option or not.

  • The assignments are given to you, and that limits your choice of a topic. However, normally your assignments are "open ended," meaning the subject is given to you, but you can choose your own point of view and think whether you agree or disagree with what the author is saying. 

  • Your subject should interest you.  Most of the issues that you will be asked to write your papers on, are of interest to all of us--as the twenty-first century citizens of the U.S.  Often, you may not have sufficient knowledge of the topic/subject.  This is when you need to do read the assigned selections (which you will do through the text book), do some research 9through the Internet or through other sources), and depend on what little you know from your personal knowledge, interests, and concerns.  You may think that you do not have enough knowledge of the subject, but believe me--YOU DO!  All you need to do is to think and focus your attention to the issue in question.  most of the topics will also deal with current concerns, situations we are all affected by.

Invention Strategies:

  • The word "Invention" comes from Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher and scholar.  In his definition of Rhetoric (the art of Communication and Argumentation), he says it is a process of "finding and discovering (and utilizing) in a given situation, the available means of persuasion" (emphasis mine).
  • When you argue your claim, it is your responsibility to find, or discover, or invent the "available means of persuasion," any information that will help rationalize and support your claim.
  • You may invent/discover your supporting evidences through (a) conversations (that is why the discussion board is important), (b) disputes with others on current issues, (c) the media (one of the best sources today, but of course you need to filter the information you receive through the media), (d) reading, and (e) research.
  • Fortunately for the student today, "nearly every human activity includes its share of disagreement" (338).

Evaluating Possible Topics:

  • Aristotle calls this process "Arrangement" or the process that helps in deciding how you will present your claim and ideas to your audience.   To be an effective communicator, you need identify clearly your Stance or role as a writer.  A writer's(your)  stance includes:
    • The Thesis/Claim
    • The Purpose of your argument (Not just to receive a good grade, but to show the significance of the concern/issue, analyze the various approaches to the issue by others, and perhaps suggest a more effective solution.  This is where you come in as a writer, when you add something new to the topic that has already been discussed by other writers.)
    • The Strategies--that will be most effective in presenting your opinion
      • Style (your attitude towards the issue--agree? disagree? like?   dislike? and the tone you take or the language you uses etc.)
      • Rhetorical Devices (Rhetorical devices are Cause/Effect, Illustration, Comparison/Contrast, and definitely Argumentation.  You may have learned these strategies of development in English 101.  If you need some review, A Writer's Reference will help you.)
    • The Audience (I could not stress enough the importance of knowing your audience when you are writing an argumentative paper.)
  • Guess your audience's needs: (By the way, I am not your audience; I am only your editor.  Your audience/reader is out there: your classmates, perhaps; or the community you live in; or someone who is also interested in the topic and wants to know what other people are thinking about on this particular issue)
    • Who is my audience?  I could be a real reader, or hypothetical)
    • Will my audience be interested in what I am saying?
    • Is my audience well-informed on this topic?  If he/she is well-informed,  then how much should I have to explain to clarify my position?  If he/she is not, then how much extra information should I use in my essay so everything is clear?*****
    • Your audience may be sympathetic or unsympathetic to your opinion.  If unsympathetic, then your responsibility is to convince the reader, or persuade him/her to see it your way 
    • You topic will normally be controversial, with two sides of the issue.  That means, the topic is debatable.  What you need to ask yourself: Which side do I belong in this issue?  "Can a case be made for the opposing view?" (339).  How extensive will my argument should be to be convincing enough?  (In this case, you do have a limit to the required length of the essay.) 
    • Your thesis cannot be too narrow or too general/broad.  (From your experience in writing essays for English 101,      I assume you know what I am talking about.)

*****(NOTE: Your audience may not be familiar with the essays/articles you are dealing with from your text.  Therefore, it is always a good idea to give a clear enough summary of the article from your text in your Introductory paragraph.  That would act as a good background information before you bring in your thesis statement/claim.)

  • To learn more about how to guess the audience's needs, review the questions given under the section "To This Point" (page 339-340)


Defining the Issues:

Preparing an Initial Outline:

This is an effective method of initially organizing your thought and putting down your ideas on paper in "an order of priority" (340).  Of course, as you work on your drafts, you will find yourself changing a lot of the information, reasoning, and evidences you may have thought about in your initial outline.  However, it is always a good idea to have some kind of outline in place. It helps with your focus.

NOTE: Your text has a great sample topic "Coed Bathrooms" (340) and how it can be shaped into a manageable thesis/claim by practicing the steps of Invention and Arrangement.  Please skim through the steps for clarification.


Organizing the Material:

This is one of the most important elements of your essay.  Your organization of an argumentative essay will be very similar to the essays you wrote in English 101.

An effective Introduction with:

  • Some background information or hook or attention-grabber.  The best possible technique is to provide the reader with the background/summary of the essay/article you are responding to; or a general overview of why the subject/topic/issue is important; what should the readers be concerned about; what some of the ramifications are; what some of the solutions are etc.
  • Your claim as the thesis statement

Three or four Body Paragraphs where;

  1. You will provide reasons for the claim you are making with adequate supporting details/evidences
  2. Each body paragraph will begin with a topic sentence (with smooth transition from the previous paragraph), supporting details which should be developed with specific examples, illustrations, quotations and expert opinions from research
  3. A clear concluding statement
  4. Your supporting details should be based on specific information, not generalized ideas or thoughts.  Specific details are taken from
  • Your own life experiences or knowledge of the topic at hand: Let us say that you are writing an essay on smoking, and you claim is that smoking is definitely hazardous to health.  You can use the evidences from your own life: your father may have smoked and later in his life he developed a smoke-related illness, or if something similar happened to your friends.  All these examples would help in showing the dangers related to smoking.  The examples will also act as specific details--real-life examples from your own experience/knowledge.  In such situations, using the first-person point of view I is perfectly acceptable in a seminar paper.   After all, you are expressing what you know and your personal attitude towards the issue/topic at hand. 
  • Supporting details could also be drawn from expert opinion based on research, so quoting--of course sparingly--from the works of authors in the text or from research on your own--is one of the best ways to develop your argument. 
  • Other ways you can use supporting details is to use information from your personal observation--TV programs, statistical information, movies, other courses you have taken or are taking now, and specifically conversations with your class mates or friends etc.
  • To do a good job in using information from other sources, you need to master the MLA (Modern Language Association) style of documentation.  You should review (a) the Punctuation chapter (pages 267-273) to learn about how to quote and (b) the MLA Documentation chapter (pages 324-360) to learn about how to incorporate in-text citations and works-cited formats in A Writer's Handbook.

A Conclusion that will:

  • End the essay, repeating and reinforcing some of the main points you made in your essay, only with different wording
  • Restate  your thesis in a different way
  • Leave the readers with some additional thought on the issue.  A conclusion brings a closure to your thought process

Defending the Main Idea:

  • You may agree with the author's point of view.  That is still an argument. 
  • If you agree, you need to specify why you agree; what new suggestions you can make or suggest besides the author's suggestions or reasons.

Refuting the Opposing View:

  • When you say "I disagree with the author," once again you need to give your own reasons for your disagreement, with supporting evidences--complete with examples and illustrations/examples to show why you disagree
  • You need to show that the other viewpoint is "less credible" (344)
  • You need to clearly understand the author's attitude.  Only then, your own point of view will be clear to you
  • When you decide to REFUTE an argument/claim, do the following
    • Read the argument in the text carefully, "noting all points with which you disagree" (344)
    • Summarize the author's points briefly to familiarize your readers with what the author is assuming or suggesting
    • Choose only the main points from the essay you are responding to and ignore the rest (you cannot argue for or against every point the author is making)
    • For more details, read through the detailed discussion on pages 344-345, under subheading "Refuting the Opposing View"

Finding the Middle Ground:

  • often you may both agree or disagree with an author.  in that case, early in your own essay
    • Explain the opposing points/position
    • Explain that the opposing points are not exclusive of each other
    • Explain why you are going both ways, that you are willing to come to a conclusion based on both sides of the issue.  In other words, you are "negotiating."
    • Point out that the opposing sides--even though controversial--still need to be acknowledged
    • Provide all necessary evidences that would support the idea that your readers should accept a middle ground for the best possible solution
    • Your solution should offer a "common ground" in reaching a "settlement" (346)

Presenting the Stock Issue:

  • You may also state the issue as a problem, analyze the problem, and suggest a solution
  • This method is especially effective when you are suggesting a policy change (like you may have done in Seminar 1--abolish the current grading system for the benefit of the student and for a better educational system that the current one)

Ordering materials for Emphasis:

  • Organizing your claim, evidences, and solution to reflect the issue and the need to make some changes or strengthen the current methods is very essential
  • Read through the rest of this section for a sample example

Considering Scope and Audience:

  • First, review the specifics of the writing assignment: the length of the essay, the prompt given etc
  • Scope--your thesis/claim should be manageable within the required length of the essay.   Do not promise too much or too little in your thesis statement/claim
  • Make your essay Persuasive enough for the audience you have chosen.  here, you need to guess how much the audience knows, how much more the audience needs to know; what age group the audience belongs to; the audience's breadth of knowledge, religious beliefs, cultural assumptions, and whether you want the audience to be convinced be persuaded (stronger than convincing)
  • Change your stance accordingly
  • Look through the questions on page 349 for additional help.



Beginning the Paper:

  • Think what position you are going to take.  Do not begin writing until you have some idea of the way your claim will be developed
  • Begin with a possible Introduction, by providing the reader with adequate background information (a summary of the essay/issue you are responding to), or by selecting an important passage or quotation by the author of the essay you are responding to, and by inviting the readers to your claim
  • now that you are in English 201, you should be more creative and bold with your thesis statement, and not apply the straight-forward assertion like "I agree" or "I disagree" with three points/subheadings for you three body paragraphs.
  • Never make an announcement like "In this essay, I am going to say why I agree (or disagree) with the author . . "  This is the most boring thesis statement you can write.  Be more creative and interesting
  • Remember that you first paragraph may make or break the essay.  You readers may or may not want to go on after reading your first paragraph

Guidelines for Good Writing:

  • Same rules apply for an argument as the ones you learned in Eng. 101. 
  • Your style should be simple, clear, and authentic.  You should express your opinion and support through your own voice.  Do not try to impress your readers by using stylized or sophisticated language.  Be yourself. 
  • On the other hand, you should avoid slang and colloquial usage.
  • Good/authentic style follow the same rules/guidelines:
    • Sentence structures should be a mixture of long and short clauses
    • Standard vocabulary should be used; special terms can be used only when necessary/appropriate
    • Do not repeat or PAD unnecessarily.  Often students who are at a loss with ideas repeat themselves or add unnecessary/irrelevant materials
    • Do not use false, illogical, exaggerations, or too much emotional appeal.   In each of these ways, you are trying to create a false impression or presenting fallacies, which are not appreciated by the readers
    • Your paragraphs should be adequately developed with enough development (specific examples, evidences, reasons, and solutions) as the length of the essay permits.   They should be balanced.  For example, do not write a long Introduction, and two very short Body paragraphs, and a long Conclusion, or any other variation of the pattern.
    • Using the first-person point of view ("I") is acceptable although it should be used "judiciously" (353).  On the other hand, DO NOT use the second-person point of view ("YOU") unless it is really necessary, for example in some kind of direct instruction.
    • Using the third-person point of view (anything else besides I or YOU) is always acceptable (examples like people, students, men, women, children, etc.)
    • When using an Indefinite pronoun like "each" or "everyone' or everybody" be careful to maintain proper subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement
    • Do not make "absolute generalizations," statements--"containing words such as all or every" (353) because not all situations are the same and not everyone will be affected by the situations under scrutiny.  using qualifiers like "most of the time" or "in general" or "often" or "occasionally," to name a few, is always preferred
    • Your argument/explanation/reasoning should be credible.  Do not try to win over your audience by presenting some bizarre reasons, too much emotional examples, or heavily religious explanations.  Readers often see such an attempt as vain and unconvincing
    • Your essay should be COHERENT, UNIFIED, FOCUSSED, and WELL-DEVELOPED.



  • The final step to writing an argument is to edit and revise carefully.  This is where the group discussions and editing online would help you.  In a normal class, we spend a lot of time and effort on this process.  Students help each other out.   Since you are not in such a classroom atmosphere, you should be extra careful to edit and revise your own essay or get editorial help through the discussion board.
  • To help you editing your own essay (or edit someone else's essay), the text provides you with some helpful questions on page 357--"Review Checklist".   Don't ignore these suggestions.


Preparing the Manuscript:

Review page 356 for necessary information about the layout of your essay and how to improve it.




Contents within this site are copyrighted by both the author of essays and/or Mita Sen
(email msen@scc.spokane.edu)
The contents within these pages are solely those of the author and S.C.C.
should not be held responsible.  2005 and 2006
Hit Counter