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Academic Writing and Referencing Style: Generating Ideas

Different Types of Essays

Writing doesn't always have to happen in the boring, five-paragraph essay form! When we come to college, we will be asked to engage in a deeper, more critical form of writing that goes beyond the 5-paragraph essay mode that we learned in high school. While the five-paragraph essay is a good start to writing, we can take that model further and think of writing as rhetorical - writing has a purpose, and how we compose an essay depends a great deal upon the message we want to convey. The following are some other models you might use in writing an essay. Carefully consider your topic, and how you want to express your ideas in order to persuade your audience. These different models might help you better express your claim!

The Classical Argument

Within the five canons of classical rhetoric (Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, Delivery), the canon of Arrangement speaks directly to essay writing. Arrangement offers a Classical Oration style that can help you compose your argument. You can use the Classical Oration Model to help demonstrate the importance of your topic to the reader, and present your argument regarding the topic in a clear, organized, reasonable matter. There are six parts to the Classical Oration model; here is a brief summary of each element:

Exordium (Latin for "urge forward"): this is the introduction. Its goals include:

--Get audience's attention  (known as the "hook" introduction)

--Gain the good will of the audience through establishing your credibility (help them be willing to listen to your point of view)

--Introduce the topic and show relevance/immediacy (Why does this matter right now?)


--Offer a brief overview of the context of the argument


--Outline the arguments you're going to use to defend your claim


--Take each of your reasons one at a time and offer evidence to support it.

-- Spend a lot of time here - think about the organization of the arguments. You probably want to start off strong and end strong in your choice of arguments.


--Shows that you know a lot about your topic by addressing opposing viewpoints about your topic

--Be ready to discuss your own claim with repsect to these alternate points of view.


--Summarize your argument

--Suggest a plan of action for the audience

The Toulmin Model

The Toulmin Model was developed by 20th century British philosopher Stephen Toulmin. Toulmin's main interest was moral reasoning, and how to develop practical and reasonable arguments through writing. The Toulmin model may be used when we want to present an argument from a logical standpoint. Toulmin did not focus as much on introductions and conclusions (as the classical oration model does); instead, he outlines the body of an essay through logical connections.

Claim: A controversial, debatable statement that is not immediately obvious to the reader

Reason #1: The first line of reasoning (argument) that backs up the claim

     Warrant: Connecting the first reason to the claim

     Evidence #1, #2, #3...: each of the reasons that support the claim

Reason #2: the second line of reasoning that backs up the claim

     Warrant: Connecting the second reason to the claim

     Evidence #1, #2, #3...: each of the reasons that support the claim

Use this for as many lines of reasoning that you have in the paper

Refutation Section:

     Objection #1: the first argument against your claim (your argument would focus on the reason, the warrant, the backing, or the evidence)

     Objection #2: 
the second argument against your claim

Like the Reason section of the essay, the Refutation section can go on as many points as you need.

Remember, this method doesn't include guidelines for an intro and conclusion. Your introduction would probably posit the Claim, while your conclusion would make sense of the Reasons and Refutations you have analyzed in the essay.

Rogerian Argument

Rogerian argumentation was developed by a psychologist named Carl Rogers who was interested in helping people become more empathetic listeners.

When people "debate" a topic, oftentimes they are so busy talking over each other that they have difficulty actually hearing what the other is saying. (Sound familiar in our current political climate?) Rogers advocated that instead of loud and non-listening debate, that people attempt to become practice empathy in their communication lives - that we learn to be empathetic and listen to one another. In empathetic listening, one person listens to another and refrains from commenting until she has heard the speaker's position and tried to follow the speaker's line of reasoning. The listener does not pass judgment until she has heard and acknowledged the speaker's point of view. As opposed to modes of persuasion that focus on attacking the other party's point of view, Rogerian argumentation focuses on mutual understanding and respect for the other's point of view.

When we translate Rogerian argumentation to writing, the focus is on building a mutual respect and understanding between ourselves and our readers. Rogerian argument utilizes common beliefs and values held by both the writer and reader. Instead of "I win - you lose," Rogerian argumentation utilizes a "We both win" philosophy. This can be especially useful when trying to convince the reader of an emotional or controversial point of view.

A Rogerian argument does not have a set organization, but it does include the three following sections:

Exploring the Common Ground: A Rogerian argument begins by establishing a common ground that the writer and her audience might share. This may mean that the writer needs to expand her topic to a broader point, one she can agree upon with her audience. In this section, the writer tries to give credence to the audience's point of view, so that the audience understands the writer is treating their perspective respectfully.

Objection Position Statement: Once the writer has established a common ground with the reader, she can give an objective statement of her position. The writer should try to avoid attacking or superior language, or any other language that may suggest her point of view is superior to the reader's. In this section, the writer explores her point of view and places it within a particular context in an attempt to show her position is valid from a certain perspective. The writer also explains how her point of view differs from the audience's, and how her position may be considered valid.

Thesis: In the conclusion, the writer finally reveals her thesis. This thesis differs from the argumentative thesis typically seen in Toulmin or classical rhetoric because it tries to show that the writer has made concessions given her audience's point of view. By giving up some ground, the writer hopes to open up dialogue between two sides and for more persuasion to take place.