During your college career, you will probably take a variety of classes in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and other fields. Although the demands for these courses will vary widely, in each of the classes you will need to determine the information required, evaluate the credibility of primary and secondary resources, communicate complex ideas in simple and clear ways, research sources for your own writing, and use such sources to help you explain your ideas.

As a reader, a developing writer, and an informed student and citizen, it is extremely important for you to be able to locate, understand, and critically analyze others’ purposes in communicating information. Being able to identify and articulate the meaning of other writers’ arguments and theses enables you to engage in intelligent, meaningful, and critical knowledge exchanges. Ultimately, regardless of the discipline you choose to participate in, textual analysis—the summary, contextualization, and interpretation of a writer’s effective or ineffective delivery of his or her perspective on a topic, statement of thesis, and development of an argument—will be an invaluable skill.

Use a double-entry format to extend your thinking on a topic or to critique an author's presentation.

One very effective technique for avoiding note-bound prose is to respond to powerful quotations in what writing theorist Ann Berthoff calls the double-entry notebook form. The double-entry form shows the direct quotation on the left side of the page and your response to it on the right.

An important part of research writing (and many other kinds of writing) is identifying when sources are “speaking” to each other. When researching a particular topic, you will likely collect many sources that seem to discuss the same thing. Sometimes the authors of these sources will explicitly know about each other and reference one another in their own texts. This is common in academic writing, where explicit conversations between different scholars are expected and valued.

Two Types of Essays

Your composition professor has given you an assignment, requiring you to write an essay in which you identify your favorite book and explain why you like it best. Later she assigns an essay in which you take a stand either for or against homeschooling.

Both assignments require you to write a paper, yet the essays called for are in two different genres. Thus, you will need to present your views in two different ways.

As you learn in “Critical Reading Practices,” an effective argument contains a thesis, supporting claims, and evidence to support those claims. The thesis is the writer’s central argument, or claim, and the supporting claims reinforce the validity of the thesis. When reading another writer’s argument, it is important to be able to distinguish between main points and sub-claims; being able to recognize the difference between the two will prove incredibly useful when composing your own thesis-driven essays.

The website eHow has a page on “How to Freestyle Rap” (“Difficulty: Moderately Challenging”), and I’m trying to figure out what I think about it. On one hand, it seems like it would be against the ethos of an authentic rapper to use a page like this to brush up on freestyle skills. After all, the page is hosted on a corporate website owned by Demand Media, Inc., the same people behind, among other things, a golf site.

 

"Logic is the anatomy of thought."
– John Locke

"Logos" is the appeal to logic. Logos isn't logic like the formal logic in math, philosophy, or even computer science; it is the consistency and clarity of an argument as well as the logic of evidence and reasons.

In formal logic, in abstraction, the following is the case: if A is true and B is true and A is an instance of B, then the repercussions of B will always be true. The problem, however, is that this kind of logic doesn't work for real-life situations. This is where argument comes into play. Formal logic would say that speeding, for example, is a violation of traffic laws. A repercussion of violating a traffic law is a ticket; therefore, every person who speeds gets a ticket.

I've always wondered why candidates have to "approve this message"; I mean, if President Obama is on camera talking about himself, then can't I assume he approves the message? Why does he have to state that he approves it at the end?

There's certainly a law that governs what must be said at the end of a political advertisement, or else President Obama wouldn't say exactly the same thing as every other politician at the end of an ad, but there's also an element of persuasion at work here. 

To view the Rhetorical Appeal table, please open the full article.

Successful writers write to win. Whether a writer wants to achieve a particular grade on a paper, persuade a specific audience to adopt an argument, or obtain an interview with a company, a writer writes with a purpose that he or she aims to fulfill. Using rhetorical appeals, particularly in persuasive writing, is a powerful way to persuade an audience.

Why use rhetorical appeals in persuasive writing? Using rhetorical appeals in persuasive writing increases a writer’s chances of achieving his or her purpose. Any rhetorical purpose must be connected to an audience, and rhetorical appeals have been proven to successfully reach and persuade audiences.

  • Ad Hominem (Argument to the Person): Attacking the person instead of the argument. For example, "You say I shouldn't drink so much, but you drink every day." The validity of the argument (drink less) can't be based on the behavior of the person making the argument. Instead, the validity of the argument should be evaluated on its own terms—separate from the person making the claim.

By now you know that all arguments operate according to an internal logic. No matter which of the four rhetorical appeals the author uses, her thesis will succeed or fail based on the soundness of her argument. In classical logic, an argument is sound only if all of its premises are true and the argument is valid. And an argument is valid only if its conclusion follows logically from the combination of its premises. For example, Plato’s classic syllogism, “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man: therefore, Socrates is mortal” is both valid and sound. Its premises are true, and the conclusion is undeniable given an understanding of the definitions of the terms.

"Fallacious Pathos" was written by Kendra Gayle Lee, Jessica McKee, and Megan McIntyre

  • Argument by Dismissal: Rejecting an idea without providing a reason or explanation for its dismissal. For instance, there is a tendency to cry "socialism" when faced with calls for a single-payer system in the ongoing health care debate. Such a dismissal of the single-payer system may include the observations, "This is America!," or, "You are free to live elsewhere if you prefer." While we do live in the United States and people are free to live wherever they want, neither of these observations actually addresses the argument, either for or against the single-payer system. The observer relies on the simple (and fallacious) dismissal of the opposing viewpoint.

  • Appeal to Nature: Suggesting a certain behavior or action is normal/right because it is "natural." This is a fallacious argument for two reasons: first, there are multiple, and often competing, ways to define "nature" and "natural." Because there is no one way to define these terms, a writer cannot assume his or her reader thinks of "nature" in the same way he or she does. Second, we cannot assume that "unnatural" is the same as wrong or evil. We (humans) have made lots of amendments to how we live (e.g., wearing clothes, living indoors, farming) with great benefit.

Why is it that when you’re flipping through the pages of a magazine, walking through an art gallery, or browsing on the Internet, some images capture your attention more than others? Why are you drawn to particular photographs, advertisements, political cartoons, or protest posters?

We come across many images on a daily basis, but we rarely stop to think about what those images mean or about how they persuade us. Yet, images have power, which is why we need to understand how to analyze them. When you’re analyzing an image to understand the message it portrays, this is called visual rhetoric. Visual rhetoric is a means of communication that uses images to create meaning or to make an argument.

As you progress throughout college and into your professional life, it’s going to become increasingly important to remember what you read. You might say, “Well, it was important for me to remember what I read in high school, because I was tested on the material and even had pop quizzes.” But that’s a different type of reading—you were reading to take a test or quiz, so you remembered the material temporarily. Do you still remember things you read in high school? How can you change the way you read now, in college, so that going forth you will be able to retain the things you learn from others’ writings? By annotating the margins of what you read, you can become a more active reader.

We need to be aware of how advertisers appeal to us, and we should think critically about the persuasive messages we encounter to ensure we are savvy, not passive, consumers. Because consumers purchase products with which they identify, it is important to examine the subtexts of advertisements as well as the role those subtexts play in determining what products men and women choose to associate with their personal identities.