English 53 (English 60 and English 50) Reading, Reasoning, and Writing

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Verbs in signal phrases

acknowledges endorses

adds grants

admits illustrates

agrees implies

argues insists

asserts notes

believes observes

claims points out

comments reasons

compares refutes

confirms rejects

contends reports

declares responds

denies suggests

disputes thinks

emphasizes writes
methods of development that can be used to advance a thesis in a persuasive essay

Use the method or combination of methods that best suits your purpose. In your in class and out-of-class essays, your purpose will mostly be to argue or convince.

Here is a brief description of each method; in class we will discuss how the assigned readings use and combine each technique as well as how you can do the same in your writing.

Narrative writing

Narratives are stories included in an  essay to support a thesis. You will read a few essays in which the story dominates the essay. But, more often you will encounter narratives that are used as short personal examples; these are called anecdotes.

In this class, you can use anecdotes sparingly. Short narratives can be used to establish credibility with the audience as well as in introductions to hook the reader. Sometimes the anecdote, began in the introduction, is finished in the conclusion. They can also be used as examples to explain a point.

  • Don't let the story take over the essay.  Anecdotes can be from one sentence to four sentences in length. Only choose those details that relate to your point.

  • Make sure a topic sentence is before the anecdote. Don't get so carried away with the story that you don't tell the reader why you are using the anecdote. It won't speak for itself.

Example writing

Example writing is the use of illustration to support a thesis. Examples that we read this semester can be extended, brief, personal, or evidence from sources.  An extended example is long and detailed. Several related, brief examples may be used together, or a brief example can be used with a fact. Examples can be personal stories or stories from someone you know. Evidence from a properly cited source can serve as an example.

In this class, you can use brief examples: personal and evidence. While personal examples add color and interest, they are stronger when used with some type of evidence (quote, facts, etc.). This shows that the example is representative. 

  • In academic writing, evidence as examples is most appropriate. We will discuss how to cite sources in class.

  • Your brief examples must be connected with a topic sentence, so it is clear why you are using the example.

Cause and effect writing

Cause and effect writing is used to show the reasons for or results of an action or situation. An essay may focus on one or combine the two. Effects could include possible effects, such as making a prediction.

In this class, you can use this type of writing in the context of wanting to prevent something from happening (such as drunk driving deaths) or trying to get something to happen again (an increase in the graduation rate). Thus, a cause or an effect could be part of a paragraph in your argumentative essay that suggests a particular solution.  A cause or effect could also be used as part of an analogy to argue that what happened somewhere else could happen here.  Or you could include an effect/ prediction in your conclusion.

  • Make sure you differentiate between what came before and what caused it. Also, what came after is not the same as effect.

  • Use the most important causes or effects. Avoid the minor ones.


Comparison contrast writing

Comparison and contrast is used to point out how things are alike or different to better understand ourselves and our world as well as to make informed decisions. Two methods of organization you may see are block (also called whole-to-whole) or point-by-point (also called alternating). In block, everything about subject A is covered then everything about subject B. Alternating goes back and forth between part of subject A then part of subject B. For example, if I was writing an essay on two of my cats, I could use block to cover everything about Jayme (looks, personality, health) , then everything about Jack (looks, personality, health). If I was using alternating, I'd write about looks (Jayme, then Jack), personality (Jayme, then Jack), and health (Jayme, then Jack). The method of organization I'd choose would depend on the subject as well as the thesis.

In this class, you may make comparisons to show how something seemingly unacceptable or illegal (such as drug use) is the same as something that is accepted or legal (alcohol use) to argue that both should be legal or illegal.  You may show how two things are so different (regular school vs. cyberschool) in order to argue how much better one is. You could also show a before and after.

  • Use transition words to make the relationship between the two ideas easier to follow. Some transition words are conversely, similarly, on the other hand, etc.

 Definition writing

Definition writing explains a term or concept by establishing a boundary. An essay could be an extended definition on a subject such as truth or beauty and show what it is and isn't. Or the definition could just be two sentences that explain a technical or unfamiliar term. A definition may be used in the introductory paragraph to clarify a word or phrase used throughout the essay.

In this class, you will use shorter definitions to explain a term.

Persuasive or argumentative writing

The goal of persuasive writing is to influence a reader's thoughts or actions. The writer may appeal to the reader's mind or emotions or both. A good argument always includes non-biased evidence, such as facts, examples, or expert opinion.

In this class, you will write persuasive essays that use various modes of development to advance your position. 
How to argue persuasively    

We are surrounded by arguments and persuasion every day. They can take the form of anything from television ads to family members. Often the purpose is to get the audience to change his/her thoughts or behaviors through persuasive appeals. During this semester, you will study argument from the standpoint of a reader and as a writer.  The better arguments use a variety of techniques to sway readers. This is a quick summary of ways to approach an argumentative essay; in class we will look at specific examples.

Use evidence.  The evidence must support the thesis. The strongest evidence is relevant, unbiased, accurate, and representative. It can be

  • examples

  • facts, statistics, study

  • expert authority

Use appeals

1. logic. (logos) Logical appeals support a point of view through reason and a presentation of factual evidence. Logic appeals to common sense. The evidence can include statistics, specific instances, documents, test results, expert testimony, fictional examples to illustrate ideas, eyewitness testimony, and surveys. Logic is used in academic, business, and government writing.  It should form the basis of your essays.

2.  ethics. (ethos)  Ethics reflect deeply held convictions, like patriotism, religion, and humanitarianism. Referencing any of those can show the reader that the writer is a well-informed person of good will who is to be believed. Arguers who demonstrate fair mindedness and good character are more convincing than individuals who lack these qualities. It establishes the credibility of the author and seeks to form common ground with the reader. The ethical appeal is the basis of many sermons, editorials, and political speeches that emphasize shared values and beliefs. This can be a powerful motivator, but only works on audiences with common moral philosophies. 

3. emotion. (pathos) Emotional appeals touch and arouse the feelings or emotions of the reader. Emotion also taps into his/her needs to be creative, independent, or popular. It uses images, sensations, or shock techniques to lead people to react. It can include emotional language, personal narratives, and vivid description of events. Emotional appeals are used in public relations, marketing, advertising, and political campaigns. For example, sex appeal is used to sell products from shampoo to cars. Images of starving children will provoke pity and empathy. Emotional appeals engage the reader and can be appropriate when the subject is emotional. These appeals can produce strong responses, but can be short lived and distract from the issue. Your argument should not rely solely on this appeal.

Anticipate objections. When you know your audience and their objections to your point of view, you can fairly stating their case and then refute their argument. This technique may help the writer win over a hostile audience. It shows that you are aware that others may disagree with you and that you have an understanding of and an answer to their concerns.

Arrange ideas. Build to your strongest point is usually the best way to organize your essay .  Also, your points should flow seamlessly from beginning to end.

Use humor. Humor can lighten the mood or cast a new light on the subject.

Don't insult your reader. It hurts an argument. No one wants to read, "if you cared about children, you'd agree with me."  Demeaning and negative language alienates the reader.

Argument from induction. Inductive arguments provide a number of examples and draw a conclusion (claim). The examples must be accurate and representative. The examples could be responses to a questionnaire, interviews, car sales, or blood test results, etc. The claim is a generalization made on the basis of the examples. Scientific conclusions are reached inductively. 

Argument from deduction. Deductive arguments start with a true statement (major premise), provide a specific example (minor premise), and draw a conclusion about the the example. The true statement could be a contrast, will, insurance policy. The minor premise is tested against the major premise. If both the major premise and minor premise are true, the conclusion should be also.

 Avoid fallacies. Fallacies are errors in reasoning that lead to wrong conclusions. These are the most common.

  • non sequitur (from the Latin "it does not follow"): stating a conclusion that doesn't follow from the premise. "He has a new computer, so he must be highly skilled in the use of computers."

  • oversimplification: supplying neat and easy explanations for large and complex issues.

  • hasty generalizations: leaping to a generalization from inadequate or faulty evidence. They can lead to stereotypes. "Women are too weak to fight in combat"

  • either/or reasoning: assuming that a reality can be divided into only two parts or extremes or two solutions to a situation. "This country can have a strong defense program or a strong social welfare program."

  • argument ad hominem (from the Latin "to the man"): attacking a person's views by attacking his character. "What does he know about marriage? He's been divorced twice.)

  • Begging the question: repeating that what you stated in your premises is true because it's true. The writer should prove that it's true not argue in a circle. "It's true because I know it's true."

  • post hoc, ergo propter hoc (from the Latin "After this, therefore because of this"): assuming that because B followed A that B was caused by A. (see modes of development, cause and effect writing). Sometimes no causal relationship exists. "People will be attractive and popular if they drink a certain soda."

  • bandwagon appeal: assuming that since everyone is doing it, that it is good.  Polls use this to promote a candidate or fashion trend. 

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