Public Argument

Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing

It is finally time to engage in a debate: drawing on your research and the persuasive strategies you have studied throughout the semester, you will produce an argument advocating your own position within a controversy pertaining to some aspect of democracy.

By now you have very likely decided where you stand on the larger issues of your controversy, but you will still need to decide exactly what you want to accomplish in your argument. In the previous assignments, your purpose was mainly informative and evaluative (a combination of description, explanation, and analysis). For this assignment, your purpose is mainly persuasive. Before you begin, consider asking yourself some questions about your own motives for writing this argument: do you want your audiences to change their minds about something? Do you want them to open their minds to something? Do you want them to get out and do something? You’ll need to be very clear about what you hope to accomplish vis-à-vis your audience when you write this final paper, as an argument designed to get someone to go out and do something often looks very different than one designed to get someone to believe something (else).

You will also need to determine how you want to make your argument. To get a sense of how to make your argument, you will want to study the arguments offered by a handful of sources that advocate your selected position, as well as some key sources that call your position into question. Taken together, these sources will act as helpful guides for you, but you do not want simply to repeat and rebut the arguments other writers have already made; rather, you will want to come up with your own unique angle, example, or source that makes your argument different and interesting. You might offer, for instance, new information you gathered through an interview with someone connected to your controversy, compelling results of a survey or experiment that you have conducted, or a close analysis in which you expose the hidden weaknesses of a familiar argument.

The rhetorical strategies that you choose to utilize will depend on many factors, but in general, strong advocates will use a combination of persuasive appeals, credible sources, and rhetorical analysis in an effort to persuade their intended audiences. You will need to think carefully about the general makeup of your intended audience and write a tagline at the top of your essay describing who this audience is and where you intend to publish your argument. An argument addressed to people who already agree with your position will sound quite different from one crafted to persuade a skeptical audience to change their minds, so it is important to know who your primary audience is and to respect their initial positions. Generally, it is most productive to address people who have some knowledge of the issues involved but whose own positions on the subject have not yet been solidly determined. What strategies might persuade such people? And where will your argument need to appear to reach them?

Minimum Requirements:
6 pages (12 max)
12pt. font.
3 academic journal sources or book chapters (or some combination of both)
5 additional sources (these can also be academic)

© Andrew N. Rechnitz
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