Wikibooks Topics For Persuasive Essays

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The Authors and Editors of this Wiki Book

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Barrett, John. Professor of English at Richland College in Dallas, Texas.

Barton, Matthew D. An assistant professor of English at Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Cadle, Lanette An assistant professor of English at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.

Christenson, Jeremy W. Junior Undergraduate student at Saint Cloud State University.

Denman, Traci. Junior Undergraduate student at Saint Cloud State University. Double majoring in Rhetorical and Applied Writing and Psychology, doubling minoring in English and Intercultural Communications.

Doberstein, Ben. Graduate Student at St. Cloud State University studying Modernist American Literature.

Grayson, Martin The University of Sheffield, (retired).

Groth, Kelly M., Junior. Undergraduate student at Saint Cloud State University. Majoring in Information Media.

Heimermann, Mark. Graduate student at St. Cloud State University.

Hennes, Jack Graduate student at Michigan State University, M.A. Rhetoric & Writing, St. Cloud State University.

Kath, Sarah. Graduate student at St. Cloud State University studying English and Philosophy.

Kaye, Deborah. Instructor of English, Director of Professional Development, Los Angeles Valley College.

Kirchoff, Jeffrey. Graduate student studying English and researching Graphic Novels at St. Cloud State University.

Klint, Karl Russell. Graduate Student at St. Cloud State University in the English Rhet/Comp program. Focus towards hyper-text writing and the effect on rhetorical theory. BFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Bemidji State University (MN).

Koval, Jamie M. Senior at St. Cloud State University majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Rhetorical and Applied Writing.

Murphy, Emily E. BFA, Printmaking, Minor English, St. Cloud State University, 1998. Currently pursuing a BA in English, Applied and Rhetorical Writing Emphasis, and a BFA in Graphic Design at St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN.

Nicholson, Adam McHenry M.A. English, University of Illinois at Springfield. Adjunct instructor, English and Capital Scholars Honors Program, University of Illinois Springfield. Adjunct instructor of English, Lincoln Land Community College.

Pickens, Alex - PhD student studying Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University.

Rasmussen, Stacy. Graduate Student at St. Cloud State University studying to gain a M.A. in English with an emphasis in College Teaching.

Reimer, Cody J.. Graduate Student at St. Cloud State University

Rosalez, Mary. Graduate student at Michigan State University, East Lansing MI, studying Digital Rhetorics.

Schaaf, Luke. Graduate Student at St. Cloud State University.

Schauble, Bruce. English Department Chair at Punahou School, Honolulu, HI

Speich, Brittany Junior at Saint Cloud State University, Double Majoring in Mass Communications and Political Science, Double Minoring in Rhetorical and Applied Writing, and Public Administration

Springer, Jodi. Fifth year student at St. Cloud State University double majoring in Rhetorical and Applied Writing and Theatre with a minor in Music.

Tham, Jason. Graduate student at St. Cloud State University studying MA Rhetoric & Composition, and MS Mass Communication.

Timp-Pilon, Michele L. - Graduate student studying Rhetoric and Composition at Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Wolf, Stephanie M. Senior Undergraduate at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Rhetorical and Applied Writing

Worth, Benjamin. Professor, English, Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Assistant Dean, Distance Learning.

The Stages of the Writing Process

Overview: The Writing Process

Overview

The writing process is complicated, and often seems loosely defined. According to Webster’s, writing is “ the way you use written words to express your ideas or opinions." Although we may think of it as little more than arranging letters and words on a page, a few moments' reflection reveals that it is much more than that. On the one hand, writing is an art--we don't say Shakespeare's language is "correct" but rather that it is beautiful. On the other hand, writing is a science--we want the instructions that came with our Blu-Ray player to be accurate, precise, and easy to understand.

Then there is the matter of what makes writing "good writing." Although we might say that both an instruction manual and a play are "well written," we appreciate them for different reasons. A play written in the clear, unambiguous language of an instruction manual would not be a hit on Broadway. In other words, writing must be judged according to its context--what is its purpose and audience? Finally, even readers with a great deal in common may not agree about the quality of any particular text, just as people's opinions differ about which bands are really great. We really don't know why people have such preferences and can't make accurate predictions about what they will like or dislike. Simply put, writing isn't simple.

If writing is so complicated and mysterious, can it be taught? Since Aristotle, great teachers have taught complex processes to their students by breaking them into smaller, more understandable processes. Aristotle thought that effective communication skills, like good math skills, can be learned and taught. Math teachers don't teach trigonometry to their elementary students; instead, they begin with addition and subtraction. Everything else builds on those simple processes. No one is born a mathematician. Similarly, while luck certainly plays a role in any successful writer's career, successful writers (or speakers) are not just born into the role--and everyone else is not just fated to flunk English. You can learn to write with substance and style. It takes work, but it is within your power. You have already taken the first step.

Most of what we know about writing is also true of speaking. Aristotle wrote a famous treatise on the subject of effective communication called "The Rhetoric." This book is meant for speakers; however, teachers and students also have long used it to polish their writing. "The Rhetoric" is still widely read and applied today by people desiring to learn how to speak and write more convincingly to an audience. Your first-year composition course may even have the word "rhetoric" or "rhetorical" as part of its title. Aristotle taught us that rhetoric isn't just about winning arguments. Instead, rhetoric is the ability to determine all the available means of persuasion at our disposal. Ultimately, it's up to you to guess the best course of action, but rhetoric helps you make this a more educated guess.

Compared to speaking, writing is a much more recent phenomenon, and for many centuries it was assumed that the best way to learn to write well was either to pray, entreat the muses, or carefully imitate writings that were already considered great. Eventually, as more people wanted to write, teachers created rules to help them write "correctly." Unfortunately, this heavy emphasis on correctness and writing with a narrow set of rules did little to improve student writing. Simply knowing how to write grammatically correct prose is important, but it is not enough, by itself, to make writing effective or persuasive. Indeed, too much attention to correctness can result in unintentionally rigid or even comical writing. Legend has it that Winston Churchill grew so irritated at pedants telling him not to end his sentences with prepositions that he said to one of them, "Madame, that is a rule up with which I shall not put."

Since the 1970s, writing instructors have been teaching writing not as the following of fixed rules but rather as a dynamic process: a series of steps that writers follow to produce texts. At first in the '70s, these steps were taught as a somewhat rigid sequence. Now, however, writing teachers emphasize "recursivity"--moving forward through some steps and then circling back to redo previous steps--as the more natural way that many successful writers work. In other words, while we still think of writing as a process taking place in a series of steps, we now understand that good writers tend to switch frequently among the different steps as they work. An insight gained while editing one chapter might convince the writer that an additional chapter is needed; as a result, she might start another drafting phase--or even decide to divide one chapter into two or three, and begin reorganizing and developing new drafts. Likewise, failure to satisfy a publisher--whether it is your boss looking at a pamphlet you've written or a book publisher deciding whether to print and sell your book--might lead the author all the way back to the idea-development or organizing stages. In short, while it is very useful to think of writing as a process, the process is not a clear, always-the-same series of steps. Instead, it is a sometimes messy, forward-and-backward process in which you strive for simplicity but try to appeal to your audience, create but also organize, enjoy yourself if possible but also follow some rules, and eventually create a product that works.

If this sounds difficult, it's not--at least, not if you learn a few lessons this book can teach you--and you practice, practice, practice. The more real writing you do, the more of a real writer you will become. If you are reading this book, then your first goal likely is to do well in a college (or upper-level high school) "composition" or "rhetoric" class. In short, you want to learn how to write a good academic paper. There are a large number of tips and methods this book can show you. They will work best if, like the writing process itself, you go back and forth between reading this book and doing some actual writing: try some of these lessons out by writing; then return to new lessons or review some of the lessons you've already read to discover what you next can do with what you've written--or with a new writing. Your next goal after learning to write a good general academic paper (or several types, perhaps--some of the most common being a summary, an analysis, an argument or "thesis," an evaluation, and a research paper) is to write in your specific discipline or major. Each discipline or major has its own writing style, organizational method, and purpose or goal. Your major or discipline teachers can help you quite a bit as you learn to apply your academic writing skills to their discipline. And eventually, your goal is to write for your work--for your future profession.

With each of these types of writing--general academic, specific discipline/major, and future profession--you'll eventually become increasingly successful. As you learn the types better, you will find--like the experienced journalist on a quick deadline for a story--that often your writing will come more quickly and easily. However, whenever you have a major challenge in your future as a writer, you will know how to return to the circular or "recursive" steps of the process to develop difficult ideas, explain difficult concepts to your audience, and create pleasure and knowledge in both yourself and your audience because of your writing skills.

Five Evaluation Criteria

There are five criteria we can use to evaluate any piece of writing. These criteria are Focus, Development, Organization, Style, and Conventions.

Focus. What are you writing about? What claim or thesis are you defending? This criterion is the broadest, concerned with the context, purpose, and coherence of a piece of writing. Is your topic appropriate for an assignment? Do you stay on that topic or drift off on unhelpful tangents? Have you focused too minutely or too widely? For instance, an essay about the American Civil War in general is probably too broad for most college essays. You might be better off writing about a particular battle, general, or incident.

Development. Development is concerned with details and evidence. Do you provide enough supporting material to satisfy the expectations of your readers? A proper research paper, for instance, usually includes many references and quotations to many other relevant works of scholarship. A description of a painting would probably include details about its appearance, composition, and maybe even biographical information about the artist who painted it. Deciding what details to include depends on the intended audience of a piece. An article about cancer intended for young children would look quite different than one written for senior citizens.

Organization. Organization, often called "arrangement," concerns the order and layout of a paper. Traditionally, a paper is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion. Paragraphs are focused on a single main idea or topic (unity), and transitions between sentences and paragraphs are smooth and logical. A poorly organized paper rambles, drifting among unrelated topics in a haphazard and confusing fashion.

Style. Style is traditionally concerned with clarity, elegance, and precision. An effective stylist is not only able to write clearly for an audience, but can also please them with evocative language, metaphors, rhythm, or figures of speech. Effective stylists take pains not just to make a point, but to make it well.

Conventions. This criterion covers grammar, mechanics, punctuation, formatting, and other issues that are dictated by convention or rules. Although many students struggle with conventions, the knowledge of where to place a comma in a sentence is usually not as important as whether that sentence was worth writing in the first place. Nevertheless, excessive errors can make even a brilliant writer seem careless or ignorant, qualities that will seldom impress one's readers.

Stages of the Writing Process

Although we've mentioned that writers often work recursively--that is, frequently switching between drafting, editing, proofreading, and so on--it is useful to break the writing process into different functions or activities. To that end, we have divided it into eight smaller processes: Planning and Prewriting, Collaborating, Researching, Drafting, Editing, Reviewing, Revising, and Publishing.

Planning and Prewriting (brainstorming) Writers generally plan their documents in advance. This stage, often called "prewriting," includes everything from making a tentative outline, brainstorming, or chatting with friends or colleagues about the topic. For some writers, the prewriting stage is mostly mental--they think about their projects, but do not write until they are ready to start the actual document. Others plan extensively and map out exactly how they want their document to look when it's finished.

This chapter describes common planning and prewriting strategies and should help you "hit the ground running" when starting out your writing projects.

Collaborating

While there is a long history of thinking of writing as a wholly individual act, most workplace compositions (and composing in many disciplines) involve collaboration. If you're working on a collaborative text, this chapter will help you develop a collaboration plan, establish strengths and weaknesses in the group, assign roles, and do what ever else will help in producing a co-authored text.

This chapter offers some helpful tips and strategies for collaborating on documents. Collaboration is essential to the writing process. It is vital for students to have their work read by others. In writing, the more the better. We profit from the views and suggestions of our readers.

Researching

Writers frequently require reliable information to support their documents. A writer's personal opinions and experience are sufficient evidence for many types of documents, but audiences will often demand more. Seeking out the information required to support your writing is called "research," and it comes in many forms.

One form of research is the interview, in which you call up or meet with someone who has information on the topic you are pursuing. Another type, "field research," involves travel to places where the topic can be studied first-hand. You might also circulate a survey. These three examples are all part of what is called "primary research" -- research you conduct yourself.

While many writing teachers assign primary research to their students in the process of writing a "research paper," much of the research that writing at the college level asks you to do is "secondary research" -- exploring other people's writing in the form of books, scholarly journals, newspapers, magazines, websites, and government documents.

This chapter describes different research strategies and provides you with the tools you'll need to properly back up the claims you make in your writing.

Drafting

Drafting means writing or adding to a piece of writing--composing it. It may seem like a straightforward process, but can often be made difficult by writer's block or other anxieties.

This chapter describes drafting strategies and how to avoid common pitfalls like perfectionism and writer's block.

Editing

You can't edit what hasn't been written. That's why editing comes after drafting. For our purposes, it's important to distinguish between deciding what needs to be improved and actually making the changes. We'll call the decision-making process "editing" and making the changes the "revising" process.

Unlike publishers, who hire professional editors to work with their writers, student writers do most of their own editing, with occasional help from peer reviewers.

This chapter describes macro editing (editing at the level of content and arrangement) and micro editing (editing at the sentence level), and provides strategies for improving your text.

Reviewing

Having other people review your writing is essential to producing the best piece you possibly can. We often don't make the best readers of our own work because we are so close to it. Reviewers, on the other hand, bring valuable perspective we can't get any other way. A reviewer is anyone who is willing to look at your work and provide feedback. You're a reviewer, too -- for others' texts.

This chapter explains how to successfully review a document as well as how to make the most of the feedback you receive from other reviewers.

Revising

Revising is making the changes you or your editors determined were necessary during the editing process. Revising is hard work, but it's probably some of the most valuable work you can do to become a better writer. Dive into the task with the willingness to wrestle with your writing and bring out the best in it, and you will learn why revising is often considered the "meat" of the writing process.

This chapter examines the revision process and identifies some strategies that will help you improve your documents and reduce the likelihood of creating even bigger problems. This chapter will also cover proofreading, or carefully scanning a document for typos and other simple errors.

Publishing

What's the point of writing if no one will ever read it? Though some of us are content to write diaries or notes to ourselves, most writers desire for others to read and hopefully enjoy or benefit from their documents. This is where publishers come in: They help connect writers to readers. The Internet has introduced countless new ways for writers to publish their own documents electronically, but print publishing is still the preferred avenue for most professional writers. Of course, getting your documents accepted for publication can be a long and frustrating ordeal. We've all heard the stories of now-famous novelists who were rejected time and time again by unimaginative or overly-cautious publishers.

This chapter describes the print and electronic publishing industry, then identifies strategies that will help you distribute your documents to their intended audience. We will also discuss why so many authors fail to ever secure a publisher for their work.

What is Rhetoric →

Rhetoric and Composition · What is Rhetoric →

Planning and Prewriting

Overview

This chapter begins with some prewriting strategies to help you generate ideas and pick a topic. In addition to learning ways to overcome writing anxiety (writers' block), you will also learn how to craft an outline to keep your ideas on course, organize your draft, and tailor it to your audience.

Before you actually begin writing, ask yourself the following questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Which?

For instance, you might ask yourself:

  1. Why am I writing?
  2. What is my subject?
  3. Which subject has the most potential to attract readers?
  4. Who is my audience?
  5. Where does my background information come from?
  6. How can I persuade my readers?

Keeping these questions in mind before, and during, the writing process will help you identify and develop ideas. If you experience difficulties, seek your instructor's advice to steer you back on course.

How do I pick a topic?

Have you ever been stressed out because you can't think of a good topic for an important writing assignment? You're not alone. As a student, you'd probably prefer it if professors would just assign topics rather than leave you to find one on your own. However, professors aren't vague because they want to punish you; they usually just don't want to constrain your creativity or discourage you from writing about topics that truly interest you. Professors also want to be surprised by their students' ingenuity, and very few teachers want to read a big stack of essays all on the same stale topic. Unfortunately, just being told to "be creative" is unlikely to calm you down when you've got a major paper due next week and still haven't found a topic to write about!

Imagine that you are in an introductory literature course. The professor has assigned a 3-5 page essay on a Shakespearean play that requires multiple sources. You try asking the professor to be more specific, or offer some suggestions. The professor responds, "No, it's up to you. Surprise me." What do you do?

One smart option is to go to the library and look for scholarly journals that cover Shakespearean studies. You might also try scholarly books about Shakespeare and his plays. Browsing these sources should give you some ideas about the aspects of Shakespeare and his plays, that scholars have found worth writing about. You might find that an idea that you thought was "totally original" has already been done. However, you shouldn't let this worry you. If every essay or book had to be 100% original, we'd have precious few to read!

If you keep reading and skimming articles and books, you will find many different discussions and possibilities for writing topics. One way to do this is to write a list of binaries, a list of opposing ideas that may represent larger discussions about the topic at hand. Choosing from these opposing ideas in the text will lead you to ideas for a more specific argument. Scholars frequently engage in complex and long-lasting arguments that span across different journal articles and books. Professor X's article on climate change will be mentioned, discussed, or challenged by Professor Y in a book and Professor Z in another article. None of them are worried about saying things that have never been said before; the key is just to say them differently and perhaps better.

You will always have one advantage over any other scholar you read--their articles and books cannot take advantage of all the relevant scholarship that appeared after their publication date. Don't be afraid to freshen up an old article with new supporting evidence--or challenge one whose conclusions are called into question by subsequent research.

You should also look for an issue that you can reasonably cover given the time and space (page count) you have available. After that it's a simple matter of supporting your argument by bringing in relevant quotations from those who agree with you. You should also identify the counter-arguments and provide pertinent background information.

This technique also works well for writing theses and dissertations. Instead of writing about "things never written about before," try to make a new contribution to one of the many ongoing conversations in the field. This approach is especially handy if you hope to publish your work, since some publishers tend to favor works that fit with their existing line of publications. Readers also expect you to be familiar with, and probably refer to, works of other scholars who have written on your topic. Think of your work as either extending existing work or taking it in a new direction.

If you intend to publish fiction, it's a good idea to first familiarize yourself with the work of successful fiction writers and consider what it is about their work that appeals to publishers. There is no shame in following the same roads that led to their success. This isn't the same as "copying" or "ripping off" an author; there is a difference between duplicating techniques and duplicating content.

In essence, the easiest way to find a topic to write about is to see what other writers are writing about and join their "conversation." The conversation metaphor is a very useful way to understand what scholarship is all about. Rather than thinking of essays or books as isolated units of scholarship, try envisioning them as the fruits of a massive network of scholars who converse with each other via scholarly documents, conference presentations, e-mail, phone calls, and other forms of communication. Research what is available and where you can make the most valuable contribution.

What are Some Other Ways to Get Ideas?

Still stuck even after pouring over all those books and journals? Don't worry. There are plenty of other ways to stimulate your brain.

In general, though, remember that good ideas may arise anytime and anywhere. You might be struck by a brilliant insight as you're running on the treadmill or even while dreaming. Always be prepared to record new ideas. Carry a small notepad with you or use your mobile phone to record a voice memo. You might even try writing the idea on a napkin and taking a picture of it. The important thing is to get it down quickly, because you're all too likely to forget all about it by the time you're ready to write.

Another good way to generate ideas is to read and listen actively. Your texts and professors will discuss relevant issues in the field, and they might make comparisons to related ideas and other thinkers. A professor might say, "There is still work to be done in this area," or "there is great controversy over this issue." Be alert to these sources for good ideas. The biggest mistake a novice writer can make is to rely solely on "inspiration." As a scholar, you are never alone--don't be afraid to listen and respond to the work of others instead of always trying to be original or profound.

Even chatting with your classmates might help you think of a good topic. You can also check with your college or university's writing center. Many of them have tutors who can help you find and hone a great topic for your paper.

Let's look now at three other techniques for getting those brain juices flowing: brainstorming, clustering, and freewriting.

What is a Brainstorm?

Brainstorming allows you to quickly generate a large number of ideas. You can brainstorm with others or you can brainstorm by yourself, which sometimes turns into freewriting. To effectively brainstorm, write down whatever ideas come to mind. Sometimes it works better to write down each idea on a separate piece of paper. It also helps to ask yourself some questions:

  1. What do I care about or what am I interested in?
  2. What do I know that I could teach others?
  3. What irritates me?

In order to capture more of your thoughts, you may want to brainstorm a few times until you have enough ideas to start writing.

Examples

Imagine you are in a class. Your instructor says you will have to write a paper on your favorite free-time activity, and that you must also persuade your reader to try it.

First ask yourself, What do I care about? or What am I interested in?

It is easiest to write about a topic that you are interested in. This could be anything from gardening to ice skating, or from writing poetry to playing the piano. Your list, in this example, would then read:

  1. gardening
  2. ice skating
  3. writing poetry
  4. playing the piano

At this stage, every idea is good since you are trying to come up with as many ideas as possible.

Second, ask yourself, What do I know that I could teach others?

You may be able to teach someone else something that you really enjoy. Good for you! If you cannot, don't worry; you are still just brainstorming. Perhaps you teach swimming lessons or t-ball, or maybe you bake really well and are able to offer some of your insights. Your list, in this example, would then read:

  1. swimming lessons
  2. t-ball
  3. baking

Anything is fine. You are still brainstorming.

Let's think of another example. How about the common situation in which the instructor wants you to write about "something you care about" or an "issue you have"?

Again start by asking yourself a question. Ask yourself, What irritates me?

Everyone has things that irritate them, some small and others larger. An example of something small that's irritating could be people in your dorm who leave trails of toothpaste by the sink and never clean up after themselves. A personal example can be useful as a bridge to a larger issue that will be your topic -- in this case it could be community living and personal responsibility.

In academic writing with a less personal slant, the source of irritation is often another writer/theorist with whom you disagree. Your "irritation" then would lead to an effective piece about why you have a better conception of what's really going on. A less direct version of this would be a writer/theorist who makes some good points but lacks something in his/her argument that you can add to the "conversation."

A majority of academic writing begins with brainstorming. Go ahead! Try one or many of the ideas for brainstorming either by yourself or in a group. Working together to come up with ideas means that there are more ideas coming from many different minds.

What is Clustering?

Clustering is a process in which you take your main subject idea and draw a circle around it. You then draw lines out from the circle that connect topics that relate to the main subject in the circle. Clustering helps ensure that all aspects of the main topic are covered.

Example

After using the brainstorm example, let's say you decided on gardening as your topic. Your main idea of gardening would be in the center of your page circled. Anything else that you want to say about gardening you would connect to the circle with lines. You can also add more lines to extend the ideas that relate to thoughts around the circle. When finished, your clustering might look like the following:

What is Freewriting?

Freewriting helps generate ideas and set them in motion. To begin, start writing without worrying about spelling or grammatical errors. You should write your ideas naturally and spontaneously so that you can record many ideas quickly. Do not look back at what you wrote until you are satisfied that you have written enough. An easy way to freewrite is to set a time limit and then begin writing. You can write anything at all, and in the end, you will often find some quality ideas scattered throughout your writing.

Example

  1. I set my kitchen timer for a specific amount of time. Let's say 5 minutes.
  2. I just begin writing without worrying about what I am putting onto the page.

3. The timer went off, so I stop writing.
4. At this point, I review what I have written and decide which point(s)
to elaborate on.

With these simple writing tips, you should be able to find a topic and begin the process of writing the assigned paper. Established authors use brainstorming, clustering, and freewriting, so you're in good company when you use these techniques to help you overcome writer's block or writing anxiety. After all, your indecision is only a question, and to quote the popular college text Writing Analytically "learning to write is largely a matter of learning how to frame questions." If none of these work for you, try to come up with your own strategy. What works for someone else may not work for you. After all, these prewriting strategies are just ways to put your ideas on the paper so you can develop them at a later time. Try to enjoy the process of writing instead of seeing writing only as the chore of finishing an assignment your instructor has given you. Done this way, writing might become a pleasure that can also improve your critical thinking ability.

Starting with a Thesis Statement

How Do I make an Outline?

Developing an outline, such as the examples below, can be helpful because you can keep an overview of what you want to say, check whether you have covered everything, and find what is out of scope and should be excluded. The outline can grow during the writing process as new points come to mind.

Outline example I

Outline example II

External Links

← What is Rhetoric · Collaborating →

← What is Rhetoric · Rhetoric and Composition · Collaborating →

Collaborating

What is Collaboration?

During your educational career, and later in your professional career, you will sometimes have to write with other people. Unfortunately, few students learn how to collaborate effectively since most school writing assignments are not collaborative. Outside the classroom, however, people often compose documents collaboratively (even though only a single author may receive credit for the piece). Newspaper reporters, novelists, and magazine writers collaborate extensively with their editors. Scholars collaborate with other scholars to review and add insight to each other's work. Business writers work closely with colleagues, administrators, and consultants to ensure that their work meets the relevant standards. Even poets meet to discuss their ideas and techniques. In short, all kinds of writers collaborate.

This chapter offers some strategies for successful collaboration. It also discusses some of the common pitfalls that can wreck an otherwise promising collaborative opportunity.

Advantages to Collaboration

Collaboration creates a thinking environment that produces thoroughly developed theses by opening discussion to include an awareness of opposing views and an access to diverse perspectives. No two people have the exact same backgrounds, skills, knowledge bases, or thought processes. When collaborating with your team members, you can compare notes, ask each other questions, and discover how each member can best contribute. For example, perhaps one of your team members has extensive computer skills, while another is especially artistic. While these skills might seem to have little in common, they may actually end up complementing each other, which should allow your team to create a better project than any one person could do alone.

Disadvantages to Collaboration

Not everyone loves the idea of group work. Collaboration can take more time than individual writing, since the team will often need to meet to discuss changes or additions. Sometimes the document can become disjointed, especially if the authors have not tried to match their style and tone. Team members can also get pigeonholed into certain roles when they could be helpful in multiple parts of the project. A more common problem is that some team members do more work than others; you may end up picking up the slack for less responsible classmates or colleagues. More than one collaboration has ended with one or more team members quitting in disgust.

Overcoming these Disadvantages

  • Meet early on in your project to decide its direction.
  • Devise a way to evenly split up the work between members.
  • Create a time line for when the various sections are due.
  • Set up meetings where members can gather and share progress or obstacles.
  • Meet near the end of the project to make revisions.

Conducting Meetings

In order to have a successful meeting

  • Be sure to plan meetings as early as possible for scheduling purposes.
  • Create an outline for the meeting.
  • Review the outline with members before the actual meeting begins.
  • When critiquing a team member's work be diplomatic.
  • Smaller meetings with partial attendance can work well when warranted.

Setting an Agenda

One group member is usually responsible for organizing the agenda. It is important to note that the agenda describes the purpose of the meeting. Without it, members may become frustrated or question why they are at the meeting in the first place. The agenda organizer should give all members a copy of the agenda well before the actual meeting takes place. He or she may need to communicate with the other members to gather ideas for the agenda, which can be done via email before the meeting. Each group member might want to look over the assignment sheet and discuss possible items to add to the agenda. They will want to consider all the stages that need to be accomplished in order to complete the assignment. The person organizing the agenda will record the suggestions and create an agenda (or outline) which can be distributed to the members and used to guide the subsequent meetings. Including a time line can also help keep the group on task.

Posting the agenda Your group will need to know what is on the agenda before the meeting. This should be updated at the end of the last meeting, and could be posted in a Google doc with the meeting minutes. To-do lists give each member something concrete to do, and creating relationships within those tasks based on your project gives your group a creative advantage.

Sample Agenda

Taking Minutes

It is important to keep a brief and accurate record of group meetings, with information such as:

  • Dates
  • Attendees
  • Discussion Points

At each group meeting, elect one member to record the discussion, or take the meeting minutes. The minutes should be a brief summary of the main points discussed, and will roughly follow the agenda format. A copy of the minutes should be distributed to each member within a day of the meeting. A record of decisions made and tasks assigned can prevent conflicts by keeping team members from playing "the blame game."

Recursive Minutes with Google Docs

For longer projects with continuous minutes to be tracked, project members can create a Google Doc that tracks what was discussed at meetings and the steps going forward. Setting up a document is easy--just start a document and include the information most pertinent to your project. The benefits of tracking minutes using Google Docs include:

  • Live meeting updates for members who are unable to attend.
  • Synchronous/asynchronous editing, comments, and suggestions for collaborative contribution.
  • Include to-do lists and keep members accountable for each other

Communicating Away from Meetings

As is often the case when working with multiple people, you may find it difficult to coordinate group meetings that fit well into every group member’s schedule. It is in times such as these when outside communication becomes crucial to whether a group succeeds or fails. When face-to-face meetings become impossible, you might find that there are other ways to communicate with your team members. E-mail allows you to quickly deliver the same message to multiple people, and the recipients can respond at their convenience. Communication via telephone may also work, but only if you have to call a small number of people or deliver a short message. Memos are quite similar to e-mail, but will require a greater effort on your part to send. A fax will also work to communicate information to other group members, assuming that they have a machine capable of receiving such messages. If needed, internet social media accounts may also be used in order to contact your group members that have prominent online presences. The final choice is ultimately up to you in deciding which form of communication will work best for the message you intend to send.

Using technology to communicate away from meetings

Using Google technologies allows groups a familiar and cohesive collaborative platform. Here are a few ways to use Google software in your collaborative project.

Google Drive

Using a cloud-based file storage system allows for groups to access and store files that are important to the project.

Google Circle

Creating a Google Circle creates a group message where users are updated when new messages are posted.

Strategies for Effective Collaboration

The two most important aspects of effective collaboration are discussion and planning.

If group members participate in active, open discussion, the group will be more likely to share a clear understanding of the assignment. The assignment may be divided up among the group members or all aspects of the assignment may be worked on collaboratively. Open discussion can also help an individual overcome obstacles. For many students, it is easier to tackle obstacles as a team than it is to do so alone.

It is very important to schedule group meetings when all members are able to attend. Committing to these scheduled times will help the group meet the required deadline in a timely manner. Although it is most useful to meet with the group in person, group meetings can also take place online when meeting in person is impossible.

  • Be honest about your abilities. If you know you aren't good at something specific, let your group members know. They'll respect you for your honesty.
  • Determine organizational roles: e.g coordinating meeting times and location, file distribution and organization, outside expenses. Ask for help if you are unsure of your role and how to do it well.
  • If you're unhappy with the way a project is going, say so. This is your grade and you have a right to let your instructor know when things aren't going the way you think they should.
  • When communicating in meetings, strive for solutions rather than highlighting the issues.
  • Respect your group members. Everyone has something unique to contribute to the project. Use others to help them with their duties in the project.
  • Have fun. Although it's homework, this is an opportunity to get to know new people.

An Example of Collaborative Work/Group Conferencing

Students are unsure of how to effectively edit each other’s work, and can easily become distracted. They need to carefully review their peers’ work in order to provide constructive criticism. Little productive work comes from group meetings. Many have created worksheets for students to follow, but these worksheets often invite brief and unhelpful comments. Students, however, can be taught how to do this well by having "group conferences."

The key to this is that the instructor or tutor has not read the papers. Because they don't know what the papers are about, how they are organized, how they support their arguments, or even what the purpose of the paper is, they can ask all kinds of probing questions that help the students to not only think critically about the papers they are working on, but also learn what kinds of questions make peer review effective.

If students go through this process with some guidance a couple times, their self-directed peer sessions should be more productive afterward. Students will learn to think critically about the writing of others as well as their own. Additionally, it is more productive and interesting for students because, unlike a regular one-on-one conference with an instructor, they get the input of multiple readers in an engaging and diverse learning opportunity.

← Planning and Prewriting · Researching →

← Planning and Prewriting · Rhetoric and Composition · Researching →

Researching

Introduction to Research

Research can be an intimidating but rewarding process. It allows you to gain additional knowledge on a topic, assemble outside support, and provide credibility for your assertions.

Creating a research paper can be divided into three main steps: finding sources, evaluating sources, and integrating sources. This section will provide instruction on each of these steps, along with additional links and information to guide you through the research process.

Determine the Role of Research in Your Writing

Depending upon the purpose of the assignment, research can be used to accomplish many things.

Whether you are writing to inform, persuade, or critique, research should be used in conjunction with your own ideas to support your thesis and your purpose. Do not let the research speak for itself. You, the writer of the document, are the most important voice. You are using outside sources to support your thesis. Therefore, let your comments, connections, objections, etc. play the strongest role in your paper. When you quote or paraphrase an outside source, always bring the paper back to your thoughts.

It is essential to use outside sources that are going to back up your argument. In many cases, researching will reveal evidence that might relate to the topic but does not support your side of the argument. Many assignments will ask you to acknowledge the other side of the argument, so be sure to research your topic thoroughly and from many angles.

For some assignments, outside research may not be necessary. Thus, in determining the necessary amount of research needed, first evaluate the topic of the assignment. For example, a paper that is based solely on one’s opinion will likely require much less research than one that covers a highly scientific subject. To be sure, always ask your instructor for specific instructions.

Shout out to Quest U!!! YAY RHETORIC!!!

Finding Scholarly Sources

Before you begin your search, it is important to know that sources are divided into two categories: primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include original documents created by an author or group of authors such as historical documents, literary works, or lab reports. They also include any field research you conduct on your own such as interviews, experiments, or surveys. Secondary sources are sources written about primary sources and include scholarly books and articles, reviews, biographies, and textbooks.

Most often in academic writing, you will want to consult scholarly secondary sources along with any primary sources available. A scholarly source would be one that has been written by a professional in the field; the person may hold a doctoral degree or have a great amount of expertise in the field you are studying. Oftentimes, an author's credentials will be listed as a footnote within the source, but if not, an Internet search may reveal whether the writer can be determined to be a scholarly author or one that has done a vast amount of research on the topic. The author of the source will always be an important consideration, as your view of the quality of the article may change depending upon the author's credibility. In addition, you must ask yourself whether your source is scholarly.

In many fields, there will be a number of academic journals or publications that deal with publishing scholarly articles related to the subject. By discovering and accessing these journals, you can be sure that the piece from which you are quoting is a scholarly source. Many universities pay fees in order to provide their students with access to these journals in their electronic form, and an even greater number of university libraries will shelve current and back issues of these journals.

Furthermore, conducting an Internet search of these journals and articles may prove fruitful. Search engines such as Google offer the option of searching "Google Scholar" in order to access only these scholarly articles. Finding these sources online, depending on the journal and the site, may require that you pay a fee to view the article. This is where university libraries come in handy, as they offer free access to the same materials. If you cannot access a university library, some clever hunting of the Internet may still yield what you are looking for at no cost.

Popular scholarly databases include:

...and a large number of other options depending on your field of study.

Evaluating Scholarly Sources

Now that you have found your sources, you must evaluate them. Evaluating sources becomes a major component of researching because the materials chosen will reflect upon your reputation. Aside from being able to find informative sources, a good researcher is also able to quickly assess the credibility of information. Through practice, this skill will come.

When setting out to write a research paper, there is a vast pool of information available, including books, newspapers, periodicals, reference works, and government documents. Included in this can be your own empirical data, obtained in interviews and surveys, but you will probably not need to use it all. As important as it is to be able to find sources specific to your topic, it is equally vital to be able to correctly assess each source's credibility -- that is, how trustworthy, accurate, and verifiable the sources are. Due to the vast amount of information available on the Internet, it presents an especially interesting challenge in determining the credibility of sources. However, even when evaluating print sources, the same criticism should be maintained.

You must also be aware of the author's possible bias. Even the most credible sources may exhibit forms of bias, as most authors' past experiences will come into play. Bias is most likely to occur in controversial topics such as politics or religion, but is still likely to be present whenever an opinion is voiced. The author's beliefs and experiences can thus affect the objectivity of the text. Another case may be when the author or publisher has ties to a special interest group that may allow him or her to see only one side of the issue. Lastly, make sure to evaluate how fairly the author treats the opposing viewpoints. Complete objectivity is very difficult to attain in writing, but try to find sources that are not incredibly subjective. Nonetheless, the most important thing is simply to be aware of possible biases so that you are not misled.

Here are four approaches to assessing the credibility of the sources you find.

Evaluating Print Sources

The fact that it's in print doesn't automatically make it a reliable source. When evaluating print sources ask yourself these questions:

Book

  • How old is it? Research projects will have different requirements as to how old your sources can be. For example, when dealing with contemporary issues or a current controversy, using outdated sources will likely provide inaccurate information. For example, a book on euthanasia published in 1978 probably isn't the best choice. While the book may contain useful information for other projects, it does not make sense to use it when there are more current materials available.
  • Who is the publisher? Books published by a university press undergo significant editing and review to increase their validity and accuracy. When assessing a book published by a commercial publisher, be aware of vanity presses (companies that authors pay to publish their works, rather than vice versa). Also be cautious about using books labeled as "self-published" or books that are published by specific organizations (such as a corporation or a nonprofit group).
  • Is the author objective? Check biographical information included in the book, as well as other sources, to gather information about the author's background as a way of determining his or her stance on a particular issue. In addition, find out about his or her previous works, past professional experience, affiliations with groups or movements, current employment, and degrees or other credentials.

Periodical

  • Is it a scholarly journal or a magazine? Scholarly journals are almost always characterized by no advertisements, longer articles, and the requirement that authors cite the sources they use in writing their articles. Articles submitted to scholarly journals undergo substantial scrutiny by other professionals as a way to increase the clarity and accuracy of the information contained in them. Most scholarly journals are not sold on news-stands, but rather are circulated primarily among the academic community. In contrast, magazines are available for purchase; they tend to contain shorter articles, generally don't require writers to cite their sources, and contain advertising. Therefore, while magazines may contain relevant information, the content may not always be entirely accurate.
  • How old is it? As noted above, dated material can sometimes be inaccurate. Always ask your instructor if you're uncertain about how old is too old.
  • Newspaper article: What do you know about the paper that publishes it? Some newspapers have a discernible political slant, which can often be found by skimming through the headlines or by seeing how others regard the newspaper. For example, The Los Angeles Times is considered a more progressive news source, while its neighbor The Orange County Register is considered to have a libertarian slant.

Evaluating Web Sources

For most academic research, teachers will require that students use scholarly sources. For this there are a number of “academic databases” that will always provide credible sources. These sites generally require some form of a subscription in order to access them; however, many colleges provide complimentary access to students. Once logged into the site, users are able to search and sort the articles by criterion such as date, subject, author, and more importantly, whether or not they have been peer reviewed and are scholarly. Examples of these sites include, but are not limited to: EBSCO, JSTOR, and Proquest. Links to these “gated websites” can generally be found on your school’s web page. Nevertheless, always ask what databases are available to you as a student.

While the rest of the Internet has a wide range of easily accessible and useful information, discretion must be maintained. Because anyone can put information on the Internet, make it your first priority to know who is behind the sites you find. Individuals? Nonprofit groups? Corporations? Academics? Advocacy groups? Federal, state, or local government? Small businesses or single vendors? Depending on your topic, you may want to avoid dot-com web sites; for many, their primary purpose is commerce, and that can significantly affect what they publish. Of course, other websites can also have agendas. This can lead to false or misleading information. Therefore, it is best to consult a number of sources so that those with agendas will stand out.

Ask yourself:

  • By whom was the website created? Be cautious if there is no author. Try looking for "about this site" or check the homepage. Does the website discuss the qualifications of the author(s)? Does it give contact information such as an email address or telephone number?
  • By whom is the website sponsored? Determine whether the website is sponsored by a special interest group. By learning about the affiliated groups, much can be ascertained about the credibility of the author and web site. Also look at the domain name. This will tell you by whom the site is sponsored. For example: educational (.edu), commercial (.com), nonprofit (.org), military (.mil), or network (.net).
  • Is the website relevant? Decide whether the information is something that can actually be used in the paper or, at the very least, gives a helpful background. If what is found cannot be used, move on to something else.
  • Does the website contain any errors? Can the definitions, figures, dates, and other facts presented on the website be verified in other sources? Look for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and content errors. If there appears to be more than one or two content errors, move on.
  • Is the website relatively unbiased? As it is noted above, carefully examining the source behind the website can lead to clues as to what kind of bias and agenda the site may contain. Once the source has been deemed valid, continue to remain alert, especially if the topic is controversial. Look for websites that discuss multiple points of view. Take note of the language used, and avoid sites that seem to exhibit characteristics of bias and/or inaccurate information.
  • Are there advertisements on the Web page? Do these particular advertisements reflect a possible bias toward the subject matter?
  • What appears to be the website's purpose? Think about why the site was created. Is its purpose to inform, persuade, or sell a product to the reader? For whom was the site created? Who is the intended audience? If you are not included in the intended audience, carefully consider whether or not the information is relevant to your research.
  • Is the website comprehensive. A valuable website will cover a topic in-depth and lead to additional sources.
  • Does the website provide references? Determine whether the references themselves are authoritative.
  • How old is the website? A website that has remained on the Internet a long time may be better trusted than one that was added a month ago. Make sure that the information is not outdated. When was the site last updated? Credible websites will garner ongoing attention by their creators to make sure that the content is as up-to-date as possible.
  • Has the website received any awards? Websites that have received awards may have better reputations.
  • Is the website user-friendly? Does the website download quickly? Can you read all the text? Does any text appear too small, in strange characters, or in a font that is illegible? How easy is it to navigate through the website? Is the content accessible? The information presented should be clear, precise, and easy to understand. Avoid using sites that make use of overly scientific and/or technological terms that are difficult to understand. If it cannot be clearly understood, it may lead to misinterpretation and thus incorrect information in your work.

How you evaluate a source will differ depending on the project you're working on. When determining whether a source is credible, biased, or relevant, it is equally important to consider how the source will be used.

For example, Phillip Morris has a web site that touts the company's programs to curb smoking among young people. Obviously, information from a tobacco company and cigarette marketing giant can be considered biased. You must ask yourself whether their program is effective and whether the content of the site can be trusted and in what context.

Should you never use that source? You might want to if you were writing a paper that examined the smoking rates of 10 - 13 year olds. What role might the Phillip Morris site play in your paper? Does the site display information that contradicts the company's advertising campaigns? Would the campaign website be effective in your argument? It all depends on what side of the argument is going to be supported in your research project.

Audience. Purpose. Argument. These intents should be considered since they affect how sources should be evaluated.

Consult ADAM

When faced with assessing a large number of sources in a short period of time, the quickest way to cover the essential points is to remember this acronym:

  • Age. How old is this source? For almost every topic, search for the most current sources that can be found.
  • Depth. Does the source go in-depth, or does it just skim over the surface? Does it feature the many details and long discussions that are expected from academic sources, or does it just seem to cover the main ideas? Always use substantive sources.
  • Author. Who is the author? What is known about his/her qualifications? Is he/she really an expert? Can any bias be seen? What is his/her purpose?
  • Money. Follow the money. Is the source coming from a place that's trying to “sell” something? Is there advertising where this source appears that might affect what will be printed?

Integrating Scholarly Sources

To better understand the process of researching, it should be recognized that there are sources of information all around us. We commonly use them in situations ranging from a conversation with a friend to an online discussion. The difference in academic research is that this “casual conversation” turns into a discussion with the readers of your paper. Therefore, it may help to think of doing research and using sources of information as just another way to enhance your conversation with the audience.

Sources Are Other Voices

Even before you learn the rules of citation, recognize that you already know quite a bit about how to work with sources. It can be helpful here to think of sources as "other voices." Sources are used when you reference an idea that was heard in a conversation. They are used when considering what to buy -- whether the source is an advertisement, a slogan you can't get out of your head, the fact that a friend recommended a product, or that you've looked up price quotes and shopped around. You become knowledgeable about making decisions by piecing together the information from many sources. Sources are part of our lives; they are all around us and are a part of how we breathe life into the words that express what we think.

In research writing, it is similar in the sense that the same act of interacting with other voices is present, and only another layer is added. Because writing is being done, you're also presenting the sources in an organized way, so that your sources are used in a way that supports your point of view. This means that any and all sources that remotely relate to the topic can't be thrown in; instead, pick and choose the best sources for your purposes, and use them strategically for effect.

Purposes of Sources

Sources are capable of playing a variety of roles in your writing. Sometimes sources are used as examples; sometimes they present evidence. Sources can also be used to present a counter-argument. Other times, they are used only to be built upon and refined. Nevertheless, it should be realized that sources can serve multiple purposes in a paper.

This is nothing new. To relate this to an everyday situation, try this: Spend a week paying attention to the conversations and discussions you have. Listen for sources used and try to discern for what reasons they were used. You'll often hear people cite the news or refer to a game when talking about sports. You'll hear friends quote conversations they've had with other friends. You will hear people discussing important issues with the participants in that discussion providing reasons (evidence) -- facts and opinions, but often a mix of the two -- for why they feel the way they do.

In writing, the natural act of conversing with and referring to others is taken one step further. Knowing in advance that you'll be writing for an audience, sources (other voices) will be looked at while exploring an idea and planning how to appeal to those readers, using terms and conventions that they will recognize. However, do not let this part of the research process get in the way of doing what comes naturally. Research is about curiosity and interest. It is about having something to say and finding the evidence to support it. That is the basis of research and working with sources. Thus, the technicalities and rules of research, while important, should not discourage you from doing research and effectively using sources.

Cite Sources to Avoid Plagiarism

After using other sources to gain information for a report or paper, you might decide to use that information in your paper. If the ideas expressed in your paper are not your original thoughts, you must cite where you obtained that information. If you do not cite where you obtained your information, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarizing is an extreme offense. If you are caught plagiarizing in school you usually will receive a failing grade on the assignment, if not in the entire course. You could also risk being expelled from school. If you are caught plagiarizing in the workplace, it could likely end up costing you your job. If you are a researcher and plagiarize in a scientific paper, your university may lose funding. To avoid the risk of plagiarism, make sure that you cite copied information! The most common forms of citation are direct quotations and summarizing or paraphrasing. After a direct quote or at the end of a summarized or paraphrased thought, you should cite the author and page number of your source. Information on how to cite sources can be found in The Writer's Handbook: Citations. If you are using other sources in your report and are unsure whether or not you need to use citations, it is better to be safe than sorry, so cite the information.

The two most common standards for citing are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). Each is specific to the field in which the research is done. For example, if you are researching for a psychology class, it is most likely going to be cited in APA format. On the other hand, MLA is used in the liberal arts and humanities fields. Nonetheless, check with the teacher, group, or organization for which the research is being done to find out which method you are expected to use.

Using and correctly citing outside sources is hugely important to the ethical portrayal of you as a writer. It shows that you have done your homework, literally. It also shows that you are a thoughtful writer who takes this work or subject seriously, who respects the hard work of others, and who truly contemplates the intricacies of research and discovering truth in writing.

External Links

← Collaborating · Drafting →

← Collaborating · Rhetoric and Composition · Drafting →

Drafting

Overview of Drafting

Drafting is essential to the organization and flow of your paper. Drafting includes prewriting, editing, and reviewing. Once your general ideas are down on paper, writing out specific ideas and quotations can make the final writing process much easier. Each step of drafting brings the process a little closer to the final product. Always write down any ideas you have in the drafting process. It is much easier to cut content from your paper than it is to work on adding content. If you collect all your resources, quotations, facts, ideas, and come up with a thesis during the drafting process, your paper will show it. The idea is to provide yourself with as much information as possible in order to create a solid and well thought-out piece. Do less worrying and more writing.

Drafting: The Process

The thesis: [1] It is not advisable to begin drafting without a thesis. The thesis statement is a roadmap for your essay and at the drafting phase it will help keep you on track. Make sure that you begin with a statement (not a question) that articulates (a) your topic, (b) what you plan to say about that topic, and that at least implies (b) why what you plan to say is significant enough to be worth writing about. What causes students the most trouble is (b) what you plan to say about the topic. What you plan to say must be debatable. You should not plan to say something people already know or can easily find somewhere else. What you plan to say about your topic must be something that a reader could question, but might not after reading the essay that will follow.

The first draft: Prewriting will help you with drafting. Additionally, try writing in full sentences, try to find the best possible quotations, try mindmapping, or try writing out all of the data you have gathered. Weave these things together, and you may end up with a nice framework for your paper. Don’t worry about being complete in your drafting. Disorganization and choppiness are fine here; you can smooth that out in later drafts. Drafts are not perfect. Drafts may contain grammatical and spelling errors and may lack detail. Rephrasing and expanding ideas may be a part of later drafts.

The second draft: The second draft is about organizing your information logically and effectively. If you created a thorough first draft, this should be easy. Organize the main points that you plan to make, find supporting evidence for each point, and spend a few sentences explaining what conclusions you are able to draw from the information. Don’t be afraid to show off. Professors like it when students are able to draw conclusions on their own. Sometimes it weakens your argument to use softeners like “might” “I think” and “maybe,” so keep an eye out for these.

You will want to come up with an overall organizational strategy and stick to it. Parallelism is very attractive in a paper. However, there is also no quick and easy format that works for every topic. You may want to organize things chronologically, with fact and then opinion, or by order of importance.

The third draft and more: The third and any subsequent drafts are really about finesse. These are the drafts that will hook your reader and earn you an “A.” Try to write an attention-grabbing introduction, as well as a conclusion that leaves the reader thinking about your paper. If you are still struggling with the overall flow of your paper, go back to you first draft and start rewriting. Often your main point will change by the time you get to this draft, and that is fine. However, you may need to go back to your first draft when this happens.

The elusive “show, don’t tell” line comes into play in this draft. Professors want to be entertained, and they want more than just facts. You need to show the professor that you can think for yourself, that you know what you're talking about, and that you can write in an engaging style. If you are bored reading the paper, chances are your professor will be, too. Add action verbs, remove passive ones, and use examples. Pretty soon you’ll be ready for a final draft.

Be sure to follow a timeline. Make sure that you start early to have enough time to go through many drafts. If you wait until the day before, you will have time for only one draft!

During the Drafting Process

Many writers often narrow -- or expand -- the topic as they write. Overly broad topics can be difficult to manage and can lead to summarization rather than descriptive explanation. Narrowing your topic will provide you with a more workable idea to focus on. Asking questions about what you want to know regarding your topic and what you want your readers to know will help focus your writing. If you choose to narrow your topic, first try to picture a larger context into which your thesis fits. Make a claim which forecasts the main point(s) of your thesis, then deliver the source which supports the argument. During this stage, scan for grammatically weak areas and unsupported claims. You may always add background information, term definitions, literature review, reasons for your assumptions, and counter-arguments to strengthen your own argument.

Acrobats at Cirque du Soleils Nouvelle Experience Finale 1994.

To do:
I'd like to see more generalizing/overview like approaches to this page; the huge lists are intimidating and probably not ultimately useful for getting a broader understanding of the topics. Try to structure the page so that the information is better integrated and consolidated. --Mattbarton.exe (talk) 20:10, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Overview of Rhetorical Analysis[edit]

A RHETORICAL ANALYSIS REFERS TO THE PROCESS OF ANALYZING A TEXT, GIVEN SOURCE OR ARTIFACT. The text, source, or artifact may be in written form or in some different sort of communication. The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to take into consideration the purpose, audience, genre, stance, and media/design of the given rhetorical situation. In other words, the analysis explores not only what everything means in the given source (content), but also why the author wrote about it (the purpose), who the author is (background), how the piece was organized (structure), where and/or when it was published (forum), and the intended message conveyed to the audience (topic).

A rhetorical analysis is one of the more challenging assignments in any writing class. Students often confuse a rhetorical analysis with a review because both assignments work to analyze a text. However, a rhetorical analysis reserves judgment on whether they agree/disagree with the topic presented. A review, of course, invites the reviewer to critique how "good" or "bad" the content of the text is. The PROCESS of completing a rhetorical analysis requires the use of different rhetorical strategies. These strategies are: critical reading, strategies for effective communication, persuasive appeals, argumentation, and avoidance of logical fallacies. These specific strategies are discussed in depth throughout the remainder of this page.

The PURPOSE of a rhetorical analysis is to engage in critical thinking with the intention of effectively communicating an intended message to a predetermined audience. In order to successfully determine the intended message of a particular text a good question to guide your analysis is: how did the author craft his/her argument?

Rhetoric is a term that is widely used in many forms, and by itself can mean a great many things. Some use the term in association with political rhetoric, to name the voice and stance, as well as the language that becomes the nature of politics. Rhetoric can be thought of as the way in which you phrase what you are saying, and the forces that impact what you are saying. At its very core RHETORIC IS THE ABILITY TO EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE AN INTENDED MESSAGE, whether it is via argumentation, persuasion, or another form of communication.

Critical Reading[edit]

Critical reading is the first step in a rhetorical analysis. In order to make a reasonable and logical analysis, you need to apply critical reading skills to a text, given source, or artifact that you intend on analyzing. For example, when reading, you can break the whole text down into several parts. Then, try to determine what the writer is attempting to achieve with the message they are conveying to a predetermined audience; then work to identify the writing strategies s/he is using. Once the text, artifact or given source has been thoroughly analyzed you can determine whether the intended message was effectively communicated.

Reading critically does not simply mean being moved, affected, informed, influenced, and persuaded by a piece of writing; it is much more than that. It refers to analyzing and understanding of how the writing has achieved its effect on the audience. Some specific questions can guide you in your critical reading process. You can use them in reading the text, and if asked to, you can use them in writing a formal analysis. In terms of engaging in critical reading, it is important to begin with broad questions and then work towards asking more specific questions, but in the end the purpose of engaging in critical reading is so that as an analyzer you are asking questions that work to develop the purpose of the artifact, text, or given source you are choosing to analyze.

The following is a list of suggested questions that you may find useful for when you engage in critical reading. However, you do not need to apply all of these questions to every text, artifact, or given source. Rather, you may use them selectively according to the specific reading at hand. The main questions listed below are considered to be broad in nature; with the questions listed via bullet points underneath the broad questions are meant to get at more the specific details of the intended message. Please remember that this is simply one method for getting you started on reading (and then writing) more critically.

POTENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN ENGAGING IN CRITICAL READING:

What is the subject?

  • Does the subject bring up any personal associations? Is it a controversial one?


What is the thesis (the overall main point)?

  • How does the thesis interpret the subject? If asked, could you summarize the main idea?


Who is the intended audience?

  • What values and/or beliefs do they hold that the writer could appeal to?


What is the tone of the text?

  • What is your reaction to the text, emotional or rational (think of pathos)? Does this reaction change at all throughout the text?


What is the writer's purpose?

  • To explain? Inform? Anger? Persuade? Amuse? Motivate? Sadden? Ridicule? Attack? Defend?
  • Is there more than one purpose? Does the purpose shift at all throughout the text?


What methods does the writer use to develop his/her ideas?

  • Narration? Description? Definition? Comparison? Analogy? Cause and Effect? Example?
  • Why does the writer use these methods? Do these methods help in his/her development of ideas?


What pattern does the author use for the arrangement of ideas?

  • Particular to general, broad to specific, spatial, chronological, alternating, or block?
  • Does the format enhance or detract from the content? Does it help the piece along or distract from it?


Does the writer use adequate transitions to make the text unified and coherent?

  • Do you think the transitions work well? In what ways do they work well?


Are there any patterns in the sentence structure that make the writer's purpose clear to you?

  • What are these patterns like if there are some? Does the writer use any fragments or run-on sentences?


Is there any dialog and/or quotations used in the text?

  • To what effect? For what purpose is this dialog or quotations used?


In what way does the writer use diction?

  • Is the language emotionally evocative? Does the language change throughout the piece? How does the language contribute to the writer's aim?


Is there anything unusual in the writer's use of punctuation?

  • What punctuation or other techniques of emphasis (italics, capitals, underlining, ellipses, parentheses) does the writer use?
  • Is punctuation over- or under-used? Which marks does the writer use where, and to what effect?


Are there any repetitions of important terms throughout the text?

  • Are these repetitions effective, or do they detract from the text?


Does the writer present any particularly vivid images that stand out?

  • What is the effect of these images on the writer's purpose?


Are there any tropes--similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, comparisons, contrasts, etc. that are employed by the writer?

  • When does he/she use them? For what reason(s)? Are those devices used to convey or enhance meaning?


Are there any other devices such as humor, wordplay, irony, sarcasm, understatement, or parody that are used in the text?

  • Is the effect comic relief? Pleasure? Hysteria? Ridicule?


Is there any information about the background of the writer?

  • Is the writer an acceptable authority on the subject? How do you know?

Basic Rhetorical Strategies for Effective Communication[edit]

After engaging in a critical analysis or reading of your intended artifact, text, or given source, the next step in the process of completing an effective rhetorical analysis is to discuss your discoveries. For the purposes of writing, when we refer to rhetoric, we often talk about it as the art of persuasion or the ability to communicate effectively. There are many different strategies a communicator may employ to effectively communicate his/her message to his/her intended audience. While the rhetorical strategies for effective communication are discussed in terms of writing about your findings, pertaining to your rhetorical analysis, it should be noted that these rhetorical strategies can be employed during the critical analysis or reading portion of your rhetorical analysis project.

Below is a table that breaks down some rhetorical strategies, what they mean, and how to analyze them critically. This table can be used when rhetorically analyzing a text or artifact or when you begin the process of writing about your findings. The purpose of this table is to provide a breakdown of rhetorical strategies and how one can identify them in a message.

STRATEGYDEFINITIONQUESTIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING
EXEMPLIFICATIONProvide examples or cases in pointAre there examples -- facts, statistics, cases in point, personal experiences, interview quotations -- added to the essay?
DESCRIPTIONDetail sensory perceptions of a person, place, or thingDoes a person, place, or object play a prominent role in the essay?
NARRATIONRecount an eventAre there any anecdotes, experiences, or stories in the essay? Process analysis: Explain how to do something or how something happens. Does any portion of the essay include concrete directions about a certain process?
COMPARISON AND CONTRASTDiscuss similarities and differencesDoes the essay contain two or more related subjects? Does it evaluate or analyze two or more people, places, processes, events, or things? Are there any similarities and/or differences between two or more elements?
DIVISION AND CLASSIFICATIONDivide a whole into parts or sort related items into categoriesDoes the essay reduce the subject to more manageable parts or group parts?
DEFINITIONProvide the meaning of terms you useIs there any important word in the essay with many meanings and is defined or clarified?
CAUSE AND EFFECT ANALYSISAnalyze why something happens and describe the consequences of a string of eventsDoes the essay examine past events or their outcome? Does it explain why something happened?
REPETITIONThe constant use of certain wordsWhy, with all words at her disposal, does the writer choose to repeat particular words?
COUNTERPOINTSContrasting ideas such as black/white, darkness/light, good/badDoes the writer acknowledge and respond to counterpoints to her position?
IMAGERYLanguage that evokes one or all of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smellDoes the essay use any provocative language that calls upon readers’ senses?
METAPHOR AND SIMILEA figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by “like” or “as”Does the essay make connections between things to make a point or elicit an idea?
STYLE, TONE, AND VOICEThe attitude a writer takes towards a subject or character: serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objectiveWhat tone does the essay have? How does the writer portray herself? What choices does she make that influence her position?
ANALOGYThe comparison of two pairs that have the same relationshipAre there any comparisons made by the writer to strengthen her message?
FLASHBACKA memory of an event in the past
HYPERBOLEExaggeration or overstatementDoes the writer make any claims that seem extreme?
PERSONIFICATIONGiving human qualities to animals or objectsIs something without conscience thinking or talking?
IRONYAn expression or utterance marked by deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning, often humorousDoes the writer really support her own assertions? Does she seem to be claiming the opposite you expect her to claim?
OXYMORONA contradiction in terms such as “faithless devotion,” “searing cold,” “deafening silence,” “virtual reality,” “act naturally,” “peacekeeper missile,” or “larger half”Do any of the writer’s terms seem to obviously clash?
PARADOXReveals a kind of truth which at first seems contradictory; Red wine is both good and bad for usDo any contradictions used in the essay contain some grain of truth?
SYMBOLISMUsing an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning; A skull and crossbones symbolize death.Does the writer seem to assert that a thing has meaning outside of the obvious?
PARODYAn exaggerated imitation of a style, person, or genre for humorous effect.Do any contradictions used in the essay contain some grain of truth?
SARCASMUsing an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning; A skull and crossbones symbolize deathDoes the writer seem to assert that a thing has meaning outside of the obvious?
SATIRELiterary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attackDoes the writer’s humor aim to fix its target?
DICTIONAn author's choice of wordsWhy, with all words at her disposal, does the writer choose to use those particular words?
PARALLELISMThe use of identical or equivalent constructions in corresponding clausesAre there any syntactic similarities between two parts of a sentence?

Persuasive Appeals[edit]

The persuasive appeals, or what could also be known as the rhetorical triangle, were developed by Aristotle to ensure effective communication, and are a cornerstone within the field of Rhetoric and Writing. It is common to see the three persuasive appeals depicted as the points of a triangle because like the points of triangle they each play a role in the ability to hold the message together. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher that believed all three of these rhetorical appeals were needed to effectively communicate an intended message to a pre-determined audience. Aristotle's three rhetorical appeals are: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos; they are discussed in detail throughout the remainder of this section.

LOGOS

Logos is most easily defined as the logical appeal of an argument. It relies on logic or reason and depends on deductive and/or inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning begins with a generalization and then applies it to a specific case. The generalization you start with must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. Inductive reasoning takes a specific representative case, or facts, and then draws generalizations or conclusions from them. Inductive reasoning must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. In other words, the facts you draw on must fairly represent the larger situation or population. Both deductive and inductive reasoning are discussed more in depth further down on this page.

Example of Logos: Say that you are writing a paper on immigration and you say "55,000 illegal immigrants entered this country last year, of those, only 23,000 did it legally." There is obviously something wrong here. Although saying 55,000 immigrants were "illegal" makes for an impressive statistic, it is apparently not correct if you admit that 23,000 of these people immigrated legally. The actual number of illegal immigrants would then be only 32,000, a significantly lower number. The purpose of this example is to demonstrate how having logical progression to an argument is essential in effectively communicating your intended message.

ETHOS

Ethos is the appeal to ethics, the use of authority to persuade an audience to believe in their character. And while ethos is called an ethical appeal, be careful not to confuse it solely with ethics; it encompasses a large number of different things which can include what a person wears, says, the words they use, their tone, their credentials, their experience, their charge over the audience, verbal and nonverbal behavior, criminal records, etc. Ethos gives the author credibility. It is important to build credibility with your audience because without it, readers are less inclined to trust you or accept the argument presented to them. Using credible sources is one method of building credibility. A certain amount of ethos may be implied solely from the author's reputation, but a writer should not rely only on reputation to prop up his/her work. A sure way to damage your ethos is by attacking or insulting an opponent or opposing viewpoint. The most effective ethos should develop from what is said, whether it is in spoken or written form. The most persuasive rhetoricians are the ones that understand this concept.

Example of Ethos: To elaborate, the construction of authority is reflected in how the rhetorician presents herself, what diction she uses, how she phrases her ideas, what other authorities she refers to, how she composes herself under stress, her experience within the context of her message, her personal or academic background, and more. In academia, ethos can be constructed not only by diction, tone, phrasing, and the like, but by what the rhetorician knows. A works cited page reflects this. It says: this author has read these sources, and knows their contents. And if those sources are relevant, reputable, and well regarded, the author has just benefited from that association. At the same time, authors want to make sure they properly introduce their sources within their writing to establish the authority they are drawing from.

PATHOS

Pathos is the appeal to passion, the use of emotion to persuade readers’ or listeners’ opinions in a rhetorical argument. Pathetic appeals (the use of pathos) are characterized by evocative imagery, description, visuals, and the like to create within the reader or listener a sense of emotion: outrage, sorrow, excitement, etc. Pathos is often easily recognizable because audiences tend to know when what they hear or read swells emotion within their hearts and minds. Be careful to distinguish between pathos as a rhetorical vehicle to persuade using emotion and the logical fallacy “appeal to pity” (discussed more in depth further down the page). Both use emotion to make their point, but the fallacy diverts the audience from the issue to the self while the appeal emphasizes the impact of the issue.

Although argument emphasizes reason, there is usually a place for emotion as well. Emotional appeals can use sources such as interviews and individual stories to paint a moving picture of reality, or to illuminate the truth. For example, telling the story of a specific child who has been abused may make for a more persuasive argument than simply stating the number of children abused each year. The story provides the numbers with a human face. However, a writer must be careful not to employ emotional appeals which distract from the crux of the debate, argument, or point trying to be made.

Example of Pathos: A good example of pathos is in public services announcements. Some of the most popular include drug warnings: A woman is at the stove in the kitchen with a skillet. She holds up an egg and says, “This is your brain.” She cracks the egg into the skillet where it immediately begins to cook. “This is your brain on drugs.” Or the more recent billboards cautioning against (meth)amphetamines which show an attractive young person juxtaposed against a mug-shot of the same person at a later date but with pustules, open sores, missing teeth, unkempt hair, acne, running makeup, and any other assortment of detrimental and hideous signs of the drug’s ruinous capabilities. Audiences are not meant to pity these individuals; rather, the audience is meant to reel in horror at the destruction meth can cause to a person in a short amount of time. In this case, horror or shock is the emotional tool rhetoric wields to persuade. It should be noted that people with acne, unkempt hair, or other traits listed are not necessarily uncommon—in fact, these traits can be found in vast numbers of high school students; the traits are merely shown in conjunction with the normative “before” picture to elicit the desired emotion. Either of the pictures alone would not be rhetorically effective, it is only by placing them together that the audience is passionately moved.

Argumentation[edit]

DEDUCTIVE LOGICAL ARGUMENT

A deductive logical argument is one that works from the top to the bottom. It begins with what is known as a "major premise," adds a "minor premise," and attempts to reach a conclusion. A major premise is a statement that names something about a large group, a minor premise takes a single member, and the conclusion attempts to prove that because this single member is a part of the larger group, they must also have the trait named in the original statement. For example:

MEN ARE TALL - a major premise as it works with a large group of people
BOB IS A MAN - a minor premise as we hear about only one individual of that group
BOB IS TALL - we attempt to make a conclusion based upon what we have already been told

Now, if it is true that men are tall, and that Bob is a man, then we can safely infer that Bob must be tall. However, beware the logical fallacy. Though it may be true that in certain cultures men are, on average, taller than women, certainly this is not always the case. Being that our major premise is not altogether true, we can now say that this argument is flawed. Furthermore, we might ask what our definition of "tall" is. Tall is different if we are talking about the average population, or basketball players. Also, what is a man? Do transgendered individuals count? We see that the problem becomes far more complex the more we look into it.

INDUCTIVE LOGICAL ARGUMENT

As some would argue that a deductive argument works from the top down, toward a conclusion, some comment that an inductive argument works from the bottom up. This is mildly misleading. What is meant by this is that an inductive logical argument begins with a firm affirmation of truth, a conclusive statement. By getting the audience to agree with this statement, the argument moves to the next "logical" step. It proceeds in this manner until the argument has led you from one seemingly reasonable conclusion to another that you may not have originally agreed with. Take the following as an example. Move through the argument slowly, making sure you understand and agree with each step in the process (and please forgive the religious content, you'll come to see it is irrelevant anyway).

The human soul is inherently free. This is its very nature. We are confined to our mortal, earthly bodies, but our souls must be kept free, or the nature of the soul is entirely negated. If one chooses to believe in a soul, they can only believe that it embraces this (vague idea of ) freedom.

At conception, a child is given a soul. Some may argue that it is not until birth, but if those very same persons are pro-life, they confuse their arguments. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, they must believe in the freedom of that soul, and also accept that the soul is granted upon conception.

A soul cannot die. By the same means by which it is free over the body, a soul claims immortality while the body decomposes and is ruined. To deny that a soul is immortal is again to deny the very essence of a soul. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, they must believe in the freedom of that soul, the immortality of the soul, and also accept that the soul is granted upon conception.

A soul cannot be born. It is immortal and cannot die, it is not earthly, it forever exists, and cannot be born. There are tales in Greek mythology of Athena’s birth, yet she bounds from her father’s head a fully decorated woman. She was not born. She existed previously, as Milton writes the Son in Paradise Lost. If one accepts the Bible’s teachings, there can be no reincarnation, another form of birth, a rebirth. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, and does not accept reincarnation, they must believe in the freedom of that soul, the immortality of the soul that is always and forever (which cannot be born and cannot die), and also accept that the soul is granted upon conception.

A soul being always an essence, and not being able to be reincarnated, can only exist outside of the body, somewhere, until the act of conception occurs. That soul must then be placed in the body that was forever intended to receive it, as it belongs nowhere else. The soul is fated to that one body. Thus, if someone is pro-life, and believes in a soul, and does not accept reincarnation, namely a practicing Catholic, they must also believe in the freedom of the soul, and in the concept of fate. Fate, however, completely opposes the idea of freedom. One cannot then believe in a soul, for it immediately enforces a belief if fate which directly negates the belief in the soul. If our actions are written in a Divine plan, we are not free to make our own choices. Every action has been scripted.

Do not worry, it must be that you were meant to read this.


A sample inductive argument by Ben Doberstein.

Having seen this, some might say that the argument defeats Catholicism from an atheist standpoint. Others might find that it argues for the secularization of religion. Still, there are ways in which it supports Catholicism at the same time. Though the argument might seem as if it is disagreeing with the Catholic religion, and some would agree that it is, we must always be looking for the logical fallacy. Upon closer inspection, you may notice that all this argument truly does, in one reading of the text, is to explain the complexity of God through the mind of a human. Catholicism has argued since the beginning that God is impossible to fully explain using the conceptions of man. In that way, this argument only supports that conclusion. Be aware that there will be logic fallacies hidden in almost every argument. If there is more than one side to an argument, such as in religious or political debates, it is most likely because the argument is impossible to prove. Hence, there will be a logical fallacy present.

Logical Fallacies[edit]

Logical fallacies, often referred to by their Latin name “non sequitur” (which translates to “it does not follow”), are powerful tools in logic and rhetoric. When an arguer is able to identify her opponent’s fallacious positions, she can point them out and expose a weakness. She undermines her opponent’s position. Arguers comfortable with fallacies have an easier time avoiding them, thus making their positions more tenable. Missteps in logic can be confusing for students: sometimes a fallacy will be called by its Latin name, other times they will be referred to by a synonym; some are clumped together, and others are overly specific. For example: “Argument against the person” is often called an “Ad hominem” argument; a “Complex question” can be referred to as a “Loaded question”; “Appeal to the people” occasionally loses its distinction between direct and indirect (referred to only as “Bandwagon fallacy”); and “Begging the question” many times implies only its aspect of circular reasoning and not the other aspects. However, more important than agreeing on a name is the recognition of these non sequiturs. While a logician might dedicate her life to this topic, as a student you are expected only to avoid fallacies in your own writing and identify them in others’.

The following is a fairly comprehensive table of fallacies, and its purpose if for you to use a reference to ensure that you do not create a logical fallacy as your are writing about your discoveries throughout your rhetorical analysis. Having said that, this table can be used for more than just the completion of a rhetorical analysis; rather this table could be used as a reference for any argument or persuasion you are attempting to effectively communicate to an intended audience.

FALLACYDEFINITIONEXAMPLE
APPEAL TO FORCEArguer threatens reader/listenerIf you don't agree with me, I will beat you up.
APPEAL TO PITYArguer elicits pity from reader/listenerIf you don't pass me in this course, I will get kicked out of school and have to flip burgers the rest of my life.
DIRECT APPEAL TO THE PEOPLEArguer arouses mob mentalityThe terrorists came from the middle east. Our only course of action is to turn it into a parking lot.
INDIRECT APPEAL TO THE PEOPLEArguer appeals to the reader/listener's desire for security, love, respect, etc.Of course you want to read my book, it's what all the intellectuals read.
ABUSIVE ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (AD HOMINEM)Arguer verbally abuses the other arguerYou're a moron; therefore your point is invalid.
CIRCUMSTANTIAL ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (AD HOMINEM)Arguer presents the other arguer as predisposed to argue in this wayOf course you'd say I need braces; you're a dentist. (Anyone may be able to note I need braces.)
CONSISTENCY ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (TU QUOQUE)Arguer presents other arguer as a hypocriteHow can you tell me not to drink and drive when you did it last weekend? (Note: don't drink and drive.)
ACCIDENTGeneral rule is applied to a specific case it was not intended to coverAmericans are entitled to freedom of speech, so you cannot arrest him for yelling "fire" in the theater. (Note: don't yell "fire" in the theater.)
STRAW MANArguer distorts opponent's argument and then attacks the distorted argumentOur campus is "dry" and doesn't allow alcohol. Obviously the administration is composed of a bunch of puritans who don't speak for the majority and can be ignored.
MISSING THE POINTArguer draws conclusion different from that supported by the premisesCollege education costs are rising exponentially; therefore we should reduce the number of years needed to obtain a degree.
RED HERRINGArguer leads reader/listener off trackPeople continually talk about the negative effects of tobacco, but did you know that the Native Americans used to smoke tobacco? Many Native American folk remedies are still used today in holistic medicine.
APPEAL TO UNQUALIFIED AUTHORITYArguer cites untrustworthy authorityMy sixteen year old cousin Billy said that there was no moon landing, and he wants to be an astronaut, so it must be true.
APPEAL TO IGNORANCEPremises report that nothing is known or proved, and then a conclusion is drawnThere is no way of disproving the existence of God, therefore he exists. Or, conversely: There is no way of proving the existence of God, therefore he doesn't exist.
HASTY GENERALIZATIONConclusion is drawn from atypical sampleMrs. Dobson's Rottweiler bit a neighbor boy; therefore all Rottweilers are violent dogs.
FALSE CAUSEConclusion depends on nonexistent or minor causal connectionEvery time I change the channel, my sports team scores. Therefore, any time I want my team to score, I need only change the channel
SLIPPERY SLOPEConclusion depends on unlikely chain reactionIf Americans' rights to bear arms is taken away, foreigners will view the country as weak and disarmed and attack, easily crushing our crippled defenses and enslaving our nation to submit to their will and whim.
WEAK ANALOGYConclusion depends on defective analogyMy cousin Billy is just like Yao Ming, he is tall and loves basketball; therefore he will be a pro ball player just like Yao Ming.
BEGGING THE QUESTIONArguer creates the illusion that inadequate premises are adequate by leaving out key premises, by restating the conclusion as a premise, or by reasoning in a circleOf course animals have rights, just look at how they're being treated.
COMPLEX QUESTIONMultiple questions are concealed in a single questionHave you stopped sleeping with your secretary?
FALSE DICHOTOMY"Either/or" statement that hides additional alternativesEither you buy Axe body spray or you risk not attracting the ladies. Obviously you want to attract the ladies, so you will buy Axe body spray.
SUPPRESSED EVIDENCEArguer ignores important evidence that requires a different conclusionOf course that child can't practice medicine, he is only a boy. (If said child is Doogie Howser.)
EQUIVOCATIONConclusion depends on a shift in meaning of a word of phraseA squirrel is a mammal; therefore a large squirrel is a large mammal.
AMPHIBOLYConclusion depends on the wrong interpretation of a syntactically ambiguous statementJohn rode his bike past the tree with a helmet. (The tree has a helmet?)
COMPOSITIONAttribute is wrongly transferred from parts to wholeBleach and ammonia individually are strong chemical cleaners; therefore if I mix them I will have a stronger chemical cleaner. (This produces various lethal gases, which would be foolish to do)
DIVISIONAttribute is wrongly transferred from whole to partsOur campus is over one hundred years old; therefore every building on campus is over one hundred years old.

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