Argumentative WritingMount St. Mary's College & Seminary

Argumentative Writing

R/COM 303

Fall 2003

MWF 2:00 – 2:50


Dr. Stay

Rhetoric and Communications Department

Office:  Bradley 321

Ext.  4174

Office hours: MWF  1-2; 3-4

                        Thursdays 1-4

            (other hours by appointment)




            This course teaches students to analyze and compose written and oral arguments.  It also teaches a few of the more useful theories and systems for constructing and analyzing arguments, including stasis theory and the theories of Aristotle, Stephen Toulmin, and Carl Rogers. The readings included in the text and from outside sources will help students learn how to think through difficult problems and analyze arguments critically.  Students will not only learn how to research and define issues, but also how to pitch their arguments to specific audiences for specific purposes.  Topics may come from any area, but students are encouraged to choose significant issues, either from the readings, from their major (or proposed field of graduate study), or through outside research.


            Although Argumentative Writing will not have a specified research component, students are encouraged to use the library frequently.  All outside sources need to be properly documented in the text.


            Course grades will be assigned largely on the basis of the four out of class papers, the debate, oral presentation, and the final.  Because the class relies so much on peer criticism and evaluation, however, both in-class participation and attendance will also be considered.  Here is a breakdown of the grading policy:


                                                First argument               15%

                                                Second argument          20%

                                                Evaluative argument      20%

                                                Proposal                       20%

                                                Debates                        10%

                                                Final Exam                   5%

                                                Participation                 10%


            Arguments will be evaluated on their degree of difficulty, clarity, and on the probable effect they will have on their intended audience.  Therefore, a clear sense of audience and purpose is integral to any argument.  Students should assume, for instance, a hostile rather than supportive audience (since arguments to a supportive audience don't usually need to be made).


            As in any other kind of writing, revision is crucial to argument.  The only way to be sure of audience reaction before a paper is handed in (or committed to print) is to allow others to read and criticize it.  Therefore, considerable class time will be spent in workshop sessions reading and evaluating each other's arguments.


Course content/requirements:


1.         All papers must be typed and double-spaced.


2.         No paper will be accepted unless a rough draft has been approved.  All late papers will receive late grades.


3.         Written work (in and out of class) must be the student’s own and any assistance should be noted in the acknowledgments.


4.         Students will be expected to attend class regularly.  More than three unexcused absences may result in a grade penalty.


5.         Students are encouraged to use the Writing Center for help in drafting essays.


Writing Center hours:


            Monday - Friday 8-5; library 6-9 Sunday - Thursday

            Call extension 5367 for an appointment.




The weeks of:


August 27         Introduction to course

                        What is an argument?

                        How are they won or lost?

                        Analyzing complex issues

                        EA, Chapter 1


August 29           Mass of Holy Spirit

                        Class held from 3:10 – 3:50


September 1     Getting ready to write arguments

                        Ethos and pathos:  Arguments and audiences

                        EA, Chapters 2 and 3


September 8     1st draft of 1st essay due

                        Organizing arguments

                        Writing claims

                        EA, Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7


September 15   1st argument due

                        Controlling tone

                        Understanding audience

                        Introduction to Rogers and Toulmin

                        EA, Chapter 8


September 22   1st draft of second argument due;  Using Definition

                        EA, Chapter 9


September 29    second argument due

                        Introduction to evaluative argument      

                        EA, Chapter 10


October 6         1st draft of evaluative argument due


October 11-19 Fall break


October 20       Evaluative argument due

                       Introduction to debate

                       EA, Chapter 11


October 24       Class held from 12:50 – 1:30


October 27       EA, Chapter 13


November 3     Debates           


November 10   Writing proposals

                       EA, Chapter 12


November 17


November 24    1st draft of proposal due


November 26-30         Thanksgiving Break


December 1      Proposals due

                       EA, Chapter 17

                       Oral presentations


December 8     Oral presentations

                       Last day of class (December 12)

                       EA, Chapter 10


Final exam:       Wednesday, December 17

                        2:30 - 4:30


Text:     Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz