Support your arguments with reasoning, library and Internet research, and original research, including questionnaires, interviews, and ethnographies. Employ emotional, ethical, and logical appeals to sway readers’ opinions.

Arguments are persuasive texts. Writers make specific claims and support these claims with reasoning; library and Internet research; and original research, including questionnaires, interviews, and ethnographers. There are three main types:

Why Write an Argument?

On a daily basis, we all deal with family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who try to persuade or even manipulate us. Buy me, trust me, believe in me—such is the chatter of routine life. According to some psychologists, we experiment with persuasion from the moment we realize as babies that people respond to us when we cry.

As a student, citizen, and professional, you’ll need to be adept at creating and critiquing arguments. Throughout your life, you will respond to persuasive arguments on a range of topics–from child-raising practices to more abstract arguments regarding our nation’s foreign and social policies. Politicians will try to convince you of the need for tougher immigration restrictions, for more money for education, for improved roads. Much of what you read in newspapers, magazines, textbooks, research reports, procedural manuals, and sales catalogs was produced to influence you to do something or believe something. You will have to evaluate all these uses of persuasion.

Diverse Rhetorical Situations

Arguments are exceedingly common. As illustrated in the table below, people write arguments for many different reasons, addressing varied audiences, and employing diverse media. People argue in informal writing spaces (bumper stickers, post-it notes, junk mail, email, Instant Messages) and formal writing spaces (letters, speeches, business proposals).

Sampling of Rhetorical Situations

Purposes Audiences Voices/Persona Media
Claims of fact


Claims of cause-and-effect relationships

Claims about best solutions

Claims about values

Consumers Decision makers Clients Friends Family Voters Technicians Passionate Concerned Objective or scientific Sales


Letters Fact sheets Press releases Mission statements Research reports Interactive webs Video

Rhetorical Analysis of Online Readings

Analyze the sample arguments annotated below. Consider the context, audience, purpose, and media invoked by the following readings. Also examine how ideas are developed in these texts. Are assertions grounded in personal experience, interviews with authorities, questionnaires, Internet and library research, or empirical research?

  1. Sex without Strings, Relationships without Rings. In the format of a formal report, sponsored by an organization called The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the authors review their survey research on the dating habits of young adults. While much of the report summarizes the results of their questionnaire research, the authors energize their interpretation of the survey results by forming an argument:The young men and women in this study expect their future marriages to last a lifetime and to fulfill their deepest emotional and spiritual needs. Yet they are involved in a mating culture that may make it more difficult to achieve this lofty goal. Today’s singles mating culture is not oriented to marriage, as the mating culture was in the past. Instead, based on the reports of these singles, it is best described as a low-commitment culture of “sex without strings, relationship without rings.”
  2. Into the Electronic Millennium. This passage from Sven Birkert’s best-selling book, The Gutenberg Elegies, argues the Internet and multimedia are destroying reading and human beings’ ability to be reflective. The Gutenberg Elegies engaged many educated readers in spirited discussions when it was published, thereby thrusting it into the national spotlight and the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction. Interestingly, Birkert bases his opinions on personal experience and reflection as opposed to Internet and library research or primary research methods.