Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sample Questions for Persuasion/CMJR 350

Sample Questions

1. In Woodward and Denton’s chapter on the “The Advocate in an Open Society” they discuss the importance of public opinion.

Many Sophists believed that some questions of public dispute were not solvable by application of rigorous reasoning; they were better determined by appeals to public opinion. For instance, the question of who would be most qualified to lead a government could not be settled by reference to one single standard. There is a range of acceptable options based on the specific interests and priorities of different people. One leader may be better for one group but not another. On policy issues, “good” solutions may change as public attitudes change. (31)

Think about the above quote in light of the recent town hall meetings held on health care reform. Most meetings have been peaceful, but many have not. Take a look at the following article regarding New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone: What do you think about the health care reform debate? Should there be room for public opinion on this debate or should policy decisions be left to our political leaders?

2. In chapter one of the course text Woodward and Denton note characteristics of the persuasive process (pp. 14-18). Woodward and Denton suggest that “Persuasion is Difficult,” “Persuasion Outcomes are not very Predictable,” and “Even Minimal Effects Can be Important.” In light of the recent world track championships where Caster Semenya, a South African female runner, was subjected to “gender” testing after winning the gold in the 800 meters, what is important about gender distinctions in sports competition? Take a look at the following article on Semenya and comment on her performance of femininity:,187999. What are the minimal effects of her appearance on the cover of You magazine? How might some resist Semenya’s gender performance?

3. Over the last few years there has been a steady increase of interest in food: cooking shows, food magazines, food blogs, recipe books, and food movies (e.g., Julie & Julia; noting Julia Child’s influence). If we are to consider Barthes claim that the rhetoric of the image is a “re-presentation, which is to say ultimately resurrection” (33) of meaning related to lived experience, then what is it that fascination with food imagery “re-presents” and “resurrects” in our lives? Think about this question in light of your own individual response to food imagery as well as what food might illuminate about communal and national identity. Here is the website to food network to give you an idea of the imagery:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sample Questions for Communication Rights and Law

1. Alexander Meiklejohn argues that political speech is what maintains an open and free society, but we as a “people” must be determined to preserve not only the right to speak, but also actively engage in all that the “speaking” forum demands. In Meiklejohn’s words:

But a more important point—which we Americans do not so readily recognize—is that of the intellectual difficulties which are inherent in the making and administering of this political program of ours. We do not see how baffling, even to the point of desperation, is the task of using our minds, to which we are summoned by our plan of government. That plan is not intellectually simple. Its victories are chiefly won, not by the carnage of battle, but by sweat and agony of the mind” (10).

If there is general agreement that people pursue pleasure instead of political debate (and the two may not be separate spheres, such as with The Daily Show), where do we find the “agony of the mind” in our society today?

2.Martin Redish argues that freedom of speech has both an intrinsic value: helping individuals engage the process of self-actualization, and an instrumental value: freedom of speech produces marketplaces for ideas, political dialogue, and human creation and innovation. Ultimately, under Redish’s theory any form of pornographic or violent speech must be afforded First Amendment protection because this speech may help an individual in the process of “self-actualization.” Do you agree with what seems like an absolutist individualistic stance?

3. In chapter three of our text there are two landmark court decisions establishing precedence around “danger” in relation to political speech: Schenck v. U.S. and Brandenburg v. Ohio. The Schenck case establishes the “clear-and-present danger” test, which requires that one “must wait until a real danger can be identified” (Tedford and Herbeck 50) before punishing speech. Brandenburg v. Ohio requires that speech actually incite “illegal conduct which is both imminent and likely to occur” (50). In other words there must be direct links between the words spoken and the “harm” produced. What do we do with speech that is not directly linked to action, but creates an environment that perhaps promotes harm? We can take for example the many horror films proliferating in our theaters glorifying violence. For example, the recent film The Last House on the Left, displays an egregious amount of violence, specifically against young women. Whether or not people like or even see this movie is not the point, it is the fact that this kind of movie is produced and expected to make money that speaks more broadly about “harm” in today’s society. What is your take?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peer Review Questions for MPP

1. The first section is face-to-face interaction: take the cover letter bullet points as a way to talk through what you want to accomplish in this project; what are your goals and how well do you think you accomplish these goals through your writing?

2. The second section is written analysis of audience, genre, and publication.

a. Audience: (1) Who are potential audiences for this issue (consider the types on page 296); (2) Has my peer effectively addressed audience interests, needs, and understanding? (3) Who do you think would find these discussions most salient?

b. Genre and Publication: (1) Describe how you think the genre (e.g., brochure, speech, magazine article, grant proposal) and publication venue (e.g., Seattle Times, Ms. Magazine, New Yorker) chosen for the message will work or not work for the intended audience.

3.The third section works with the structure of your argument and use of appeals.

a.Definition of issue: Has my peer effectively defined and framed the issue? (2) Is the summary adequate to understand the issue, leading to your persuasive intent? Is the summary balanced in relation to the stated thesis—objectives for the paper?

b. Line of Reasoning and use of appeals: Has my peer effectively described and analyzed(1) his/her line of reasoning on the problem, (2) his/her line of reasoning on the solution, (3) his/her use of concessions and rebuttals (what arguments are anticipated), and (4) his/her appeals to certain values and emotions? (5) How does my peer establish credibility—situated and invented credibility--using “voice” through first, second, or third person narrative?

4. Section four: aesthetic impact and ethics

a. How is language used to provide vivid detail for an issue, form common ground with the audience, and guide understanding?
b. How are visual (and/or auditory) imagery used to evoke tone, set a mood, and create lived connections with issue? Is there balance between verbal and visual in overall message?

c. General - Analysis
Has my peer offered sufficient analysis throughout her/his essay? Are there places where my peer offers way too much summary or way too little analysis?

d. General - Clarity
Has my peer described the original argument effectively enough so that readers unfamiliar with the argument can understand it? If not, what seems missing or unclear?

e. General - Structure
Is my peer’s essay well structured? If not, how might it more clearly and logically be organized?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Major Persuasive Project

Major Persuasive Project: (30 points: 25 points persuasive document; 5 points Cover Letter)

Rough Draft Due: March 10, 2009
Final Draft Due: March 19, 2009 by 4:30 pm in my box or 6 pm via email

Unlike your Major Analysis Project, your Major Persuasive Project represents an "application" of the rhetorical appeals you've studied this quarter. Using the same issue you've dealt with all quarter, you should now construct a piece of writing with a persuasive intent.

Effective projects will be clear about the following: they will have a specific audience; they will ethically and responsibly use rhetorical appeals (i.e., they will not attempt to manipulate the audience by excessive emotional engagement or make up credentials to increase their "authority" on the subject); and they will work in a genre that will best meet that audience (audio, visual, PowerPoint, brochure, speech, etc.).

The MPP will also be accompanied by a Writer's Cover Letter in which the author of the project discusses the appeals used and explain how/why they were chosen.
Cover Letter for MPP (1-2 pages)

In order for me to best read/understand your persuasive project, I need a context in which to read it. To give me that context, please create a Cover Letter to me that includes the following information:

Title of Project

Genre (PowerPoint, brochure, speech, lecture, essay, article, editorial, etc.)

Publication Venue (brochure for . . .? speech at . . .? etc.)

Audience: What audience do you expect to encounter at the above venue? What do you know about them (their needs, concerns, interests)?

Brief Analysis: Explain in rhetorical/persuasive terms how your project addresses this audience and what strategies/appeals you use for this audience to persuade them/it to consider your idea.

Works Consulted/Cited: List the sources consulted or cited in your presentation.

These letters should be typed, single-spaced, and attached by staple or paper clip to your project. If you're turning in a PowerPoint or other electronic piece, you can send your documents to me via email.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Minor Persuasive Paper #1

First Minor Persuasive Paper (10 points; 2-3 pages):
Due: 2-26-09
Part I:

Using the issue you've chosen for your Major Analysis Project (or a new issue, if you choose), map out the ways in which you think YOU would be most credible or authoritative on the issue. For this project, start by listing how YOU might demonstrate Good Sense, Good Character, and Good Will, based on the ways these concepts are defined in the ARCS textbook.

Part II:
Write a review of an online community forum such as a discussion group or interactive blog related to your MAP issue (or another issue, if you choose). (It need not be political; a music or fashion discussion group, for example, would be fine.) You may also compare two different blogs in this review. Identify a rhetor or a series of posts that forum members find persuasive. What rhetorical features do these posts share? What makes them effective for this audience? What specifically does the rhetor do to engage the readers' or viewers' emotions?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sample thesis statements

You can make an argument, and thus your thesis would be your Main Claim:

1. The issue of low income housing in Seattle takes shape through different definitions of community.

2. We can understand arguments surrounding Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan in the way different appeals are designed for different audiences.

3. The logic of persuasion used by sports pundits shapes how an audience experiences the Super Bowl.

You can also state your thesis/main claim as a question:

1. How do advocates for less expensive college textbooks make their case?

2. How do advocate’s solutions to end sex trafficking shape how people understand the problem of sex trafficking?

3. How does the logic of persuasion shape free speech debates surrounding groups like Westboro Baptist Church?

*Your paper is then an answer to the above questions, or in the first set of examples, your paper is support for your Main Claim.

Evaluation questions

Questions to consider as you read your peer's paper:

1. Section 1 - Intro:
Has my peer (1) effectively introduced the issue/topic, (2) concisely summarized key author's basic arguments, and (3) included a clear thesis (a claim concerning the original argument's overall effectiveness with supporting reasons)? (4) another way to think of a thesis is through a research question: what are you attempting to discover through your analysis? For example: “How do authors view the “think before you speak campaign?” Your thesis might also be a response to this question: “Advocates for GLBTQ rights view the “think before you speak” campaign in different ways.

2. Section 2 - Audience:
(1) Who are potential audiences for this issue (consider the kinds on page 296); (2) Has my peer effectively described an intended audience, providing various kinds of evidence (from the texts and the publications) to support his/her description? (3) Justification for discussion: why is there a need to discuss this issue; in other words, for whom are these discussions salient?

3. Section 3 – History and Context:
Has my peer effectively described and analyzed (1) the ethos of authors—competence to be speaking on an issue, ideological biases, concern for others regarding outcome of issue, (2) summarized progression of issue over time, and key arguments in current discussions, (3) think about templates for “they say,” starting with what others are saying and “putting yourself in their shoes,” the art of summarizing and writing as a “believer” (Graff and Birkenstein, chapters 1 and 2), (4) Is the summary adequate to understand the issue? Is the summary balanced in relation to the stated thesis—objectives for the paper?

4. Section 4 - Line of Reasoning:
Has my peer effectively described and analyzed(1) his/her line of reasoning on the problem, (2) his/her line of reasoning on the solution, (3) his/her use of concessions and rebuttals (what arguments are anticipated, and (4) his appeals to certain values and emotions?

5. Section 5 - Conclusion:
Has my peer offered a detailed final evaluation of author's arguments, weighing strengths against weaknesses (while focusing still on the intended audience)? (2) What topics of peroration (summary, emotional appeals, and enhancing ethos) are used and are they effective (see page 314)?

6. General - Analysis:
Has my peer offered sufficient analysis throughout her/his essay? Are there places where my peer offers way too much summary or way too little analysis?

7. General - Clarity:
Has my peer described the original argument effectively enough so that readers unfamiliar with the argument can understand it? If not, what seems missing or unclear?

8. General - Structure:
Is my peer’s essay well structured? If not, how might it more clearly and logically be organized?

9. General - Objectivity:
Does my peer’s analysis of the argument remain mostly objective -- that is, focused on explaining (1) the author's rhetorical choices and (2) his/her audience's possible responses to them? If my peer starts offering too much of his or her personal opinion, can I pinpoint where and how?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Minor Analysis Paper #2

Minor Analysis Paper #2 (2-3 pages, 5 points)
Due: January 29

Part I: Argument/Counter-Argument

Analyze two competing arguments (two different positions/articles) surrounding your issue, briefly answering each question. Part I: Toulmin. What is/are his/her 1) claims? His/Her 2) support? and His/Her 3) warrants (think about proofs, here, ethos, logos, and pathos)? Be sure to provide examples from the text to support your claims. I’m particularly interested in your analysis of his/her warrants, the assumptions that underlie his/her argument(s).

Part II: Value Hierarchies
Apply Perelman’s model to the same competing arguments. Think in terms of the author’s imagined audience, the people he/she is trying to persuade. (You may or may not consider yourself part of that audience.) What does he/she present as 1) facts or truths that his/her argument rests on? 2) What audience assumptions does he/she rely on? 3) What values does he/she, uh, value? 4) How would he/she arrange his/her hierarchy of values? 5) What loci (or locus) does he/she employ? Do your best, here, as you work with these different concepts. The point of this essay is to try and get at the key components of each argument so you know how to enter the conversation.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Seattle PI Post

Post for Seattle PI:
Two words that summarize what Barack Obama’s inauguration means to me are: inclusion and tolerance. Over the past few years it has been increasingly difficult to have conversations about important social and political issues with family members and friends. I stayed away from discussions that I knew would make people angry, discussions that might result in conflicted relationships. However, I longed for opportunities to dialogue about a range of ideas and it seemed that I only found conference with those holding similar political orientations.

So the coming inauguration gestures toward willingness to reengage risky conversations. In fact, I recently talked with a family member about Obama’s presidency, and he commented that “we will have to see what happens”. I agree, and I am glad at least for this measure of openness.


Hollihan, Thomas A. and Kevin T. Baaske. Arguments and Arguing: The Products and Process of Human Decision Making. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2004, 2008.

Foss, Sonja K. "Equal Rights Amendment Controversy: Two Worlds in Conflict." The Quarterly Journal of Speech 65 (1979): 275-88.

Major Analysis Paper

Major Analysis Project: 25 points
CMJR 320/Persuasive Writing
Rough Draft Due: February 3
Final Draft Due: February 12

Your Major Analysis Project should demonstrate your meta-knowledge of the course content. We focused so far this quarter on the various methods that writers/speakers can use in order to "persuade" their audiences to act, think, believe, and feel in particular ways.

For this project, you are conducting an extended analysis of an issue currently of concern to our culture or society. YOUR POSITION or OPINION, however, is not part of this assignment. Rather, you're concerned primarily with exploring 8 - 10 "texts" (verbal, visual, multimedia, etc.) that in some way address this particular issue. You do not need to get only texts that "argue" about the issue; you might also get a political cartoon or commercial that invokes aspects of the issue. Your 8 - 10 texts will help you to establish arguments, positions, and roles (defining the rhetorical situation) for your issue, demonstrating that the issue does, indeed, exist and is, indeed, relevant at this time.

The majority of your analysis, however, will focus on no more than four (4) of those texts, and you will do a complete rhetorical analysis of these four texts, paying attention to issues we discussed in class. Your goal is to demonstrate how these texts function rhetorically and why; you should also note when the texts seem to "fail" or "contradict" themselves or when their persuasive strategies are in jeopardy.

In this project, you are merely exploring HOW the arguments around your issue get made, WHO makes them, WHY they make them, and to WHAT EFFECT these arguments are made. Do NOT include your opinions.

Final Projects should be at least six (6) pages in length and should not exceed ten (10) pages. Be sure to include a Works Cited page of the various articles/artifacts you cite/use in your analysis.

For this paper, please use four steps in your analysis outlined by Sonja Foss in her book Rhetorical Criticism:

Introduction (1/2 page): This is where you introduce your argument, stating your thesis clearly, and develop your justification for analysis of the particular artifact and/or issue chosen. Why does your artifact warrant analysis? Does the artifact have a large audience? Is the persuasive appeal unique? Is the persuasion part of a larger social pattern you wish to investigate? The four tenets of rhetoric should help you get at your justification for analysis. What advice is offered? Who is being addressed? What are the needs or the situation that bring this rhetoric into being? How is this meaning created and performed (i.e., style)?

History: Provide a brief background (1-2 paragraphs) of the artifact or issue your analyzing so we have some context to understand your criticism. Tell us about your speaker or about your issue and how she/he or it progressed through history. Foss provides a brief introduction to the Equal Rights Amendment in one of her papers, for example, but spends the bulk of her historical discussion in her analysis.

Analysis (4-5): Essentially, you’re identifying arguments within the text that support your overall thesis. Remember to provide specific examples from your artifact/text(s) to support what you’re saying; this means quoting from your messages, and then leading your audience through your interpretation of what sort of response this excerpt invites or seeks, and how it seems to be inviting or seeking that particular response.

Foss works with two perspectives of proponents and opponents to the ERA to discuss different rhetorical visions. For the proponents she crafts a vision of a grass-roots scene, effort, and people, where women are “standing at the gates of democracy” (135) and need support for this new entry into public life. Foss also argues that proponents of the ERA craft opponents as conservative, “evil,” and narrow-minded. Comparatively, she presents the opponents worldview “as it centers around the home” (141). Opponents also see supporters of the ERA as abnormal: militant, aggressive, masculine, and hateful of family and children.

Conclusion and Implications (1-2 pages): The conclusion is the “So what?” section. Wrap up your analysis by restating your argument and what we now understand as a result of your analysis. What are the key arguments? Where are possible places to enter into dialogue with advocates? What seem like impossible or irrelevant issues to debate?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Minor Analysis Paper #1

Minor Analysis Paper #1(1-2 pages): summarizing arguments and positions
Part One: Working with the "Template for Introducing an Ongoing Debate" (TS/IS, p. 24), summarize an ongoing debate of your chosen issue, topic, or case. In your summary of the debate, introduce (that is, briefly describe as neutrally as possible) at least four of the key participants' positions on the issue. You will need to read several articles (3-4) on the issue to get a sense of the debate (e.g., news articles, editorials, etc.).

Part Two: Choose one article for the second part of this paper:
1) Write a 100-word summary of the author’s argument, using as neutral language as possible. 2) Write a 100-word analysis, reading as a believer; suspend your skepticism, try to see things from the author’s point of view, attribute good faith to his/her motives, and try to hear what he/she is saying. 3) Write a 100-word analysis, reading as a doubter; bring all your natural skepticism to bear, questioning his/her values, assumptions, motives, and evidence. 4) Finally, write a 100-word analysis of the rhetorical situation. Who is the author? What needs prompted the author to write the article/essay? To what conversations is he/she responding? What constraints does he/she write under? How does your knowledge of the author and the publication affect your reading of the essay?
Please post your paper to your blog and bring a copy to class, January 15.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Minor Analysis Papers, Daily Homework, and Minor Persuasive Papers

Daily Assignment #1 (200-250 words):
In a single paragraph, first summarize very briefly (in a couple of sentences) what argument authors Graff and Birkenstein make about academic writing in the introduction to their text, They Say/I Say; then summarize very briefly (again, in a couple of sentences) what you take my argument to be about rhetoric in my Course Description of CMJR 320; and finally, in a few sentences, discuss what overlap might exist between their argument about academic writing and my argument about rhetoric. Please post to your blog before class, January 8th.