The Keys to Persuasion

Module 1: The Keys to Persuasion

Module 1: The Keys to Persuasion

Welcome to ENG-123: English Composition II! In this course, you will uncover the foundations of persuasive writing and explore the research process through analysis and evaluation of various sources.

In this first module, you’ll start by introducing yourself on the course-long discussion boards. Next, you’ll explore problem solving and persuasion with your classmates. Finally, you’ll brainstorm and develop ideas for your persuasive essay (due in Module Seven) by submitting a journal entry to your instructor.

1-1 Discussion: Class Mixer (UNGRADED) This assignment does not contain any printable content.

1-2 Reading: Problem Identification

Reading: Problem Identification

We encounter problems in every aspect of our lives. On a personal level, we are constantly working on such things as mending relationships with friends and family members, managing a hectic household, and addressing health concerns. In our professional lives, we also encounter problems on a daily basis, both on a small and a large scale. For example, if you are a teacher, you may spend one class period managing poor student behavior and then spend the next class period scrambling to figure out how to finish your lesson plan before the bell rings. There are also the larger-scale issues that you may deal with, particularly if you teach in a public school system, such as reconciling the tension between government-mandated initiatives and your own beliefs about what works well in the classroom.

In response to these types of industry-specific problems, researchers are continually investigating ways to fix these issues. The results of such research will impact the types and availability of careers in various fields, while also impacting people’s personal lives. For example, in the fast food industry, many companies are responding to society’s ever-growing interest in “eating clean” and “being green.” Takeout containers are made with recycled materials, and many fast food chains are ceasing to use artificial colors and ingredients in their food. Individuals in the food industry now feel the pressure to join the “clean and green” movement in order to attract and maintain customers. And as with all change, debate follows. There will always be dissenters from every viewpoint.

Introduction to Persuasion

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In this course, you will practice the art of persuasion. You will think about a problem in your field of study/profession that has at least two clear arguable sides and compose a persuasive argument that clearly states your point of view on the issue. Your goal is to convince the audience to adopt your viewpoint. In order to do this, you will make a claim—an assertion with which your audience might disagree—and then support that assertion with evidence.

Argument in Everyday Life

The word “argument” has a negative connotation, or suggested meaning. When people hear the word argument, they often assume it is a hostile conversation about a topic. But argument can also simply mean a well-reasoned point being made about a topic, done so in a respectful, logical way. Arguments can occur between respectful parties who strongly disagree with one another’s argument, but it does not have to be hostile.

Let’s say you are sitting at Thanksgiving dinner, and you are a bit nervous because your uncle, who feels very differently about politics than you, will inevitably bring up the latest political hot topic. Knowing you have to be level-headed and reasoned in your conversation with him, in order to avoid any hostility, you choose an even tone, respectfully acknowledge what he is saying, but still hold your ground on your position toward the hot topic. Since it is different than his position, and you want to hold your own in this argument, you present him with reasons that are clear and logical. Although he may not agree with you, and you will likely not persuade him, he is more likely to at least listen to your point of view. Making sure you do not slip into insulting language, eye rolling, or walking away when he disagrees with you are all important to having an effective argument.

In all aspects of our lives, we present arguments to those around us: to car salespeople, to our children when they don’t want to do something we know is good for them, to our partners when they want to spend more money than we do, or to our grandparents when we try to get them to see the benefits of using video chats. Whether we are writing or talking to people who matter to us, argument is all about drawing people in and persuading them to at least see our point of view, if not to adopt it.

The examples in the video show us how argument and persuasion can function successfully (or unsuccessfully) in everyday life. Although the examples provided are in the first person (since they are examples from everyday life), the premise in persuasive writing is the same:

be respectful of potentially opposing positions use logic to ground your stance be clear, concise, and precise in the presentation of your argument, using indicator words such as “must,” “should,” “support,” “because,” or “oppose” to present your core argument

Opposing Viewpoints

When making a persuasive argument, it is also important to factor in any counterarguments, or opposing viewpoints, and consider how to respond to them.

Most topics generate a variety of positions, not simply two positions that sit in direct opposition to each other. In fact, it is helpful to picture the potential positions on any given topic in a circular format rather than imagining two distinct points at opposite ends of a straight line. Few topics lend themselves to such an oversimplified black and white division. As most topics are complex and layered, some of the most potent arguments can be found in the grayer areas. The more complex issues give rise to multiple points of view along a continuum, something writers need to keep in mind.

Take, for example, the topic of sex education in public schools. One position on the topic is the “absolutely not” position held by some people due to their religious and/or moral ideologies. According to this position, sex education should never be taught in America’s public schools under any circumstances. Opposing the “absolutely not” position are a range of positions, not just one. Here are only four of the many possibilities:

Yes, sex education should be taught in public schools, depending on what material is covered. Yes, if it concentrates on abstinence.

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No, if it concentrates on abstinence. No, if it begins in elementary school.

If you are writing on sex education in public schools, you will have to be familiar with all of the positions on both sides of the argument. Additionally, you will need to understand the reasons people hold these positions. Refuting any opposing position is impossible if you are unfamiliar with the issue as a whole.

The first step in composing a persuasive argument is to do a little preliminary research and brainstorm topics for your written piece. The next few pages in the module will help you get started.

1-3 Discussion: Persuasion in Everyday Life (GRADED) This assignment does not contain any printable content.

1-4 Reading: Brainstorming Ideas

Reading: Brainstorming Ideas

This week, in your 1-6 Journal assignment, you’ll be asked to look at some issues related to your potential field or degree. Before you practice some brainstorming strategies, it might help to take a look at possible issues related to your field. In module two, we’ll take a closer look at conducting keyword searches and gathering sources, but for now, to prepare for brainstorming and constructing your Journal submission this week, you can take a look at the freewriting instruction steps previously outlined— with that idea as your starting point.

Remember that the most important part of freewriting is reflecting on your writing. So, after your loop, be sure to ask yourself the same reflective questions you asked during your initial freewrite.

Freewriting Questions

After you finish freewriting, read your writing carefully to decide which ideas are most worthy of exploration. As you read over your writing, ask yourself these questions:

Do I stay on topic in most of the writing, or do I shift to another topic? Am I more interested in my initial or my new topic? What words are repeated in my writing? Words that you repeat are likely to indicate an interest in that particular aspect of the topic? Which of my ideas can be backed up with research during the subsequent research process? Opinions can help point you toward an interest, but if your freewrite consists only of opinion, you may need to conduct another freewrite that focuses more on facts, you may want to conduct a preliminary search, or you may need to pick a new topic. Can I identify one or two questions that most of my freewrite responds to? If you can, you might have found yourself a research question.

If you’d like to compare a freewriting session against a looping session, compare the loops below to the freewrites from above.

Looping Example #1

Looping Example #1

Feeding America’s poor won’t be easy. Not with one out of seven of us living at the poverty level. It’s especially bad for kids. I mean, how can a kid concentrate on learning when he hasn’t eaten in two days? When you think about how much food goes to waste every single day in this country, you’d think there wouldn’t be a problem. Just think about the food fights that go on in cafeterias all over the country. With that wasted food alone we could probably feed all the poor people. And I know a lot of people let vegetables sit in their refrigerators until they rot and then they have to throw out all

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that food. Also, just think about all the restaurants that throw away food every single day. You’ve probably seen homeless people doing “dumpster digs.” I know I have. At least, they are getting some nourishment out of what’s being discarded, but who’d want to eat food that’s mixed with garbage? I think we should have more public service announcements to make people aware of what they are wasting. That would be a first step. Maybe parents could also be advised not to put so much food on their kids’ plates at suppertime. That would solve two problems–the food waste problem and the obesity problem. Then, we could use the money that is saved to help the hungry more than we do. It’s true that some celebrities like Sandra Lee have started a campaign, but not everybody watches her on the food network channel. I guess we need more celebrities getting the word out. I know the President and First Lady are working on this and that’s helping a lot. But there’s really a lot to do. There are food banks, of course. But we really need more than famous people getting the word out. We need the average Joe thinking twice about waste.

Follow-Up Questions

Do I stay on topic in most of the writing, or do I shift to another topic? Am I more interested in my initial or my new topic? ANSWER: I really did focus on the poor and how much food-waste there is in this country. I also talked about what famous people and ordinary people can do to solve the problem of people going hungry.

What words are repeated in my writing? ANSWER: “Poor” (poverty), “food,” “waste,” “celebrities.”

Which of my ideas can be backed up with research during the subsequent research process? ANSWER: There has to be a lot of data about poverty in America and also wasted food. I could also learn more about Sandra Lee and what people like her are doing to help.

Can I identify one or two questions that most of my freewrite responds to? ANSWER: What are celebrities doing to help the poor? What can the average person do?

Research Question

Topic: Feeding the hungry

Research Question: What are the characteristics of an effective anti-hunger program?

Looping Example #2

Looping Example #2

What will I do to earn a living? Right now I’m studying liberal arts and there are a lot of possibilities in front of me, assuming I don’t change my major. There are a lot of things I know I wouldn’t do–no matter how much money I could make. Even if I was desperate, like Stephen King, I wouldn’t dig graves to earn money. I also wouldn’t do anything that would harm animals. And I would never steal from people the way Madoff did. But, as a liberal arts generalist, especially a generalist with some computer skills, I could probably enter any field I wanted to. There really are a lot of choices. Plus, I could always learn on the job. Most businesses have orientation and training programs that help new hires learn what they need in order to do a specific job. And, a lot of places will actually pay for employees to take additional college courses. Of course, I could pay for further education myself if I had to. I could get a Master’s Degree or some other degree that would help me get promotions once I’ve started working. Plus, there’s always stuff I could learn about on my own by doing research on the Internet or by taking some online courses. Things are changing so fast that I’d probably have to take additional courses anyway. Take electrical engineers, for example. I read that by the time they graduate, half their knowledge is obsolete. So maybe I shouldn’t worry too much about what I’m learning right now. Instead, I should concentrate on getting a good solid academic base, rather than a narrow or too-specific body of knowledge. Being able to communicate well is critical for career success, no matter what field I choose and I’ve always had A’s in my written and oral communications classes. Being a good problem-solver is important, too. I like challenges and have often been complimented on my analytical skills. Another thing that’s going to serve me well are my people skills. Everybody tells me I’m both a good leader and a great team player. So, I guess, now that I think about it, I won’t have to dig graves. I should be able to get any job I want…assuming the economy is better by the time I graduate.

Follow-Up Questions

Do I stay on topic in most of the writing, or do I shift to another topic? Am I more interested in my initial or my new topic? ANSWER: I did stay on the topic of my future–work I’d like to do and work I definitely wouldn’t do.

What words are repeated in my writing? ANSWER: “earn a living,” “money,” “job,” “learning”

Which of my ideas can be backed up with research during the subsequent research process? ANSWER: I should be

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able to research jobs in general, especially those available to liberal arts majors. I’d also have to find out what skills are required for entry-level jobs in certain industries.

Can I identify one or two questions that most of my freewrite responds to? ANSWER: What jobs does a liberal arts degree lead to? How soon does knowledge become obsolete?

Research Question

Topic: Job economy

Research Question: What can one do with a liberal arts degree?

Clustering

Clustering is another method of brainstorming ideas. You can use it by itself, or you can organize some of the ideas you discovered during your freewrite. Watch the following video to learn more about the clustering method.

1-5 Activity: Brainstorming Ideas (UNGRADED)

Activity: Brainstorming Ideas (UNGRADED)

Now it’s time to put into practice one of the brainstorming exercises discussed in the previous page. Please select one of the two UNGRADED brainstorming activities below.

You may want to choose a topic that is related to your career or degree, since you will be completing a journal assignment on the next page with that focus.

1-6 Journal: From Issue to Persuasion This assignment does not contain any printable content.

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  • Module 1: The Keys to Persuasion
    • Module 1: The Keys to Persuasion
  • 1-1 Discussion: Class Mixer (UNGRADED)
    • This assignment does not contain any printable content.
  • 1-2 Reading: Problem Identification
    • Reading: Problem Identification
      • Introduction to Persuasion
      • Opposing Viewpoints
  • 1-3 Discussion: Persuasion in Everyday Life (GRADED)
    • This assignment does not contain any printable content.
  • 1-4 Reading: Brainstorming Ideas
    • Reading: Brainstorming Ideas
      • Freewriting Questions
      • Looping Example #1
      • Follow-Up Questions
      • Research Question
      • Looping Example #2
      • Follow-Up Questions
      • Research Question
    • Clustering
  • 1-5 Activity: Brainstorming Ideas (UNGRADED)
    • Activity: Brainstorming Ideas (UNGRADED)
  • 1-6 Journal: From Issue to Persuasion
    • This assignment does not contain any printable content.

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