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Monday, December 1

Page history last edited by Jane Asher 9 years, 6 months ago


Collect Essay III

Introduction to Argument: WOW Chapter 10

“You Have No Friends”: Evaluation and Argument

Thesis Statements/Parallelism


Read “Don’t Blame the Eater” (Handout)



WOW Chapter 10:


Arguing a Position


pg. 301


Position Paper/Argument



An argument is the art of persuading people how to think. 


With argument, we can change how people view things, even slightly, and so affect how they approach and process ideas.


"The American philosopher and rhetorician Kenneth Burke focused on argument as a way for people to understand each other better, which can lead to everything from happier relationships to world peace."


Arguments are all around us on a daily basis--in speeches, debates, and informal discussions. They come explicitly in protests, parades, sit-ins, labor strikes and elections. They also come in more subtle forms: people donate to charities (thereby expressing their favor of a particular cause); they patronize or boycott a particular store; they choose note to vote (thereby expressing their stance against the entire political process.


Artists make arguments in their paintings, photographs, and sculptures.

current examples?

Authors make arguments in their novels, columns, and memoirs.



Professionals make arguments in order to change policies and procedures in their companies.



WE make arguments on a daily basis!

examples--what do you argue about?



Ultimately, in any situation, those who can deliver the most sophisticated and engaging arguments tend to have the most influence.  Of course, sophisticated and engaging arguments involves a great deal of strategy.


Unlike the everyday verbal arguments that I'm sure we are all familiar with, the academic argument steers clear of blatant personal attacks, outright aggression, sugar-coated language, empty phrases ("don't question what's in my heart") and mean-spiritedness ("your ideas are simply idiotic"). 


In academic arguments, writers aren't out to squash an opponent, but they do more than simply present their opinions. In providing a new way of thinking about a particular topic, academic writers must also analyze other's ideas and explain how their own claims relate to those of others.



Pre-Argument Prep



The first step of creating a successful academic argument is to "understand thy purpose." 


Purpose (WOW page 320): 

to change people's minds

to get others to see the validity of your position


Exigence (WOW page 321) 

Secondly, it is important to realize that most of our arguments (even academic ones) tend to materialize from our personal convictions. Thus we must understand exigence. Your exigence is what pushes you to write about your position--what sparks your desire to persuade your readers.


How are arguments shaped by our personal convictions/values/morals?


The academic argument must move beyond personal convictions. Often when we have personal convictions (ideas about what is right or wrong), we believe that a particular way of thinking is the only sensible way to think.


An argument concerns an issue about which people, quite reasonably, hold different views. This suggests that other views are not necessarily wrong - just different. During the process of presenting your argument, therefore, it is reasonable that you should show that you recognize that opposing views exist, not only to hint at what a fair-minded person you are, but to give you the opportunity to counter these views tactfully in order to show why you feel that your own view is the more worthy one to hold.




Argumentative Strategies






You must be well-informed about the topic so that you can present information that supports your ideas.


Page 324: Read Section "Offering Objections and Rebuttals"


You have to understand multiple viewpoints on the issue in order to better make your argument (situate your views in the larger conversation/understand the counterarguments).




You must include relevant support/examples and demonstrate how these examples support your position.

Your claims must be logically sound.


You must avoid logical fallacies (pgs. 325-326) (Handbook pgs. 86-88)

  • Faulty Comparison
  • Slippery Slope
  • Either-Or Reasoning
  • False Causes
  • Straw Person
  • Ad hominem (latin: against the person)
  • Universal Generalization





You may include personal experience in order to support your argument. You must illustrate how these personal examples support your position.


Personal experience also plays a role in your appeal to ethos (demonstrates that you are credible because of firsthand experience), but it does not stand alone. Furthermore, an argument does not always need to incorporate personal experience.


Know thy audience (320)

What are their values? How do they generally feel about the topic?

What are they likely to agree with? What are they likely to disagree with?

What is the best way to persuade them?







Position Essay Example:

"You Have No Friends" by Farhad Manjoo



published in the online magazine Slate

pg. 309




Purpose: to address the concerns of Facebook skeptics


Understanding the Structure of an Argument


Paragraph 1/ Introduction

-rhetorical situation



How does Manjoo enter the conversation?


Paragraph 2

Who is Manjoo's audience?

How does he playfully identify his audience?


Paragraph 3: Getting the audience on board

How does Manjoo appeal to his audience here?


Paragraph 4: Argument/Thesis

-Clear position

Claim 1

Support for Claim 1 (example and comparison)


Paragraphs 5

Support through personal examples

Artistic appeal?


Paragraph 6

Support through personal example

How does this example appeal to pathos?

How does this example appeal to logos?

How does Manjoo appeal to ethos through audience awareness?

Introduction of counterargument--explaination of why individuals are skeptical of FB (Retelle-too much work and time)


Paragraph 7: Further development of counterargument (opportunity for awkwardness/headache/hassle of it)

Counterarguments: Facebook holdouts

Identifies the concerns of skeptics-Harris (What is the social utility of Facebook?)


Paragraph 8: Another Concern with Facebook

Issues with Privacy

Support: Koppelman


Paragraphs 9, 10, 11: Refuting the Counterarguments

addressing people's concerns


Paragraph 9: Privacy (from para. 8-Koppelman) Serves as transition between paragraphs 8 and 9


Paragraph 10: too much work/time (from para. 6-Retelle)


Paragraph 11: full circle...back to Harris: Social Utility (from para. 7)

moving beyond refutation



What do we want to keep in mind as we refute counterarguments?


Issues of formality and Respect


Paragraphs 12: Devloping support for the usefulness of Facebook

Social Ties


Paragraph 13:

another counterargument: anti-social behavior

refuting this position



Paragraph 14: Conclusion

Darcy Stockton example





Your secret to a strong position essay: a strong Thesis Statement


Handbook Chapter 3



Remember, a strong claim is direct, concise, clear, and provocative (though not intentionally outlandish or extreme).

You should stake a clear and specific position—the thesis is no place to be vague and indecisive!

An effective thesis strives to generate discussion about a certain aspect of your topic.


In other words, your claim should be contestable, open to reasoned argument and debate. Ideally, your thesis should focus on one main idea. If you have lots of good ideas on the subject but are writing a short paper, choose what you think is the strongest or most important argument and make it your thesis.



Evaluating your claim

As you draft your working claim, evaluate its efficacy. A strong claim (thesis) will be:


Contestable: Intentionally writing a claim that someone can disagree with may seem counterintuitive, but consider that if no one could possibly disagree with what you’re arguing, there’s little point in writing about it. Being able to acknowledge and refute counterarguments will strengthen your claim, not weaken it.




While you want your claim to be contestable, you also want it to be reasonable. A claim can be radical, in the context of current dialogue on your topic, and still be reasonable if you have sufficient evidence to support it. Readers will recognize the difference between thoughtful, critical interpretations of evidence and contortions that twist evidence around to support an unreasonable claim.



Broad claims are more difficult to support effectively than focused claims. Specific claims also tend to provide readers with more useful information than broad claims.




Consider the context of the course for which you are writing your paper. Is your claim adding anything meaningful to the current dialogue surrounding your topic? Note that as you become more familiar with the concerns of a given topic or discipline, you will be able to contribute more significantly to the discussion.



Does your claim offer an interpretation of evidence or does it simply describe a situation?


  • A good thesis outlines the rest of the essay
    • I'm a big fan of what I call the roadmap method of thesis statements. A good thesis not only states your position, but calls attention to the structure, or at least the big, structural ideas, you're going to use to support your thesis. These ideas should come, if not in the thesis statement (and let's face it, with compound and complex sentences at your disposal, there is little reason why they should not) then as physically near to it as you can make it. These ideas should also be in the order in which you plan to present them in the essay. Always check your thesis statement after completing an essay to make sure that your paragraph order matches your roadmap. Sometimes things change while your writing. Make sure your opening reflects those changes.


Carefully worded

Because it communicates your paper's main idea, your thesis statement should be clearly and accurately worded. It should be direct and straightforward. Avoid using vague, wordy phrases. Also, avoid using phrases like "I believe," "It seems," "personally."



A good thesis is elegant and maintains parallelism.




Parallelism in thesis statements:

pg. 187-189 in Handbook



    • Parallelism is the act of making sentence structures parallel, or grammatically even. It is when you give structures in sentences the same grammatic slope. Not every sentence need to maintain perfect parallelism, but your thesis statement should stive for as perfect a parallelism as you can muster. Remember: when in doubt, break your sentence into several sentences and look at the structures. 


Parallelism Practice

Not Parallel 

My English conversation class is made up of Chinese, Spaniards, and some are from Bosnia.


The students who do well attend class, they do their homework, and practice speaking in English.


The language skills of the students in the evening classes are the same as the day classes.




My English conversation class is made up of Chinese, Spaniards, and Bosnians.

(The items are all nouns.)

The students who do well attend class, do their homework, and practice speaking in English.

(The items are all verbs +complements.)

The teacher wanted to know which country we came from and what our future goals were.

(The items are both noun clauses.)


The language skills of the students in the evening classes are the same as the language skills of the students in the day classes.

(The items are both noun phrases.)



Page 190 in Handbook: Parallelism Practice


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