Writing Activity 1A: Analyzing Writing Situations
- Working individually or in small groups, consider the following writing situations. Are these situations opportunities for argumentative writing? If so, what elements of argument do you see? Use your experience as a reader and imagine the kinds of published texts that might result from these writing situations. Apply the ideas about argument mentioned so far in this chapter, including the “explicit” and “implicit” arguments.
- A group of scientists develops a hypothesis and conducts a series of experiments to test it. After obtaining the results from those experiments, they decide to publish their findings in a scientific journal. However, the data can be interpreted in two ways. The authors can use a long-standing theory with which most of his colleagues agree. But they can also use a newer and more ambitious theory on which there is no consensus in the field, but which our authors believe to be more comprehensive and up-to-date. Using different theories will produce different interpretations of the data and different pieces of writing. Are both resulting texts arguments? Why or why not?
- An author wants to write a memoir. She is particularly interested in her relationship with her parents as a teenager. In order to focus on that period of her life, she decides to omit other events and time periods from the memoir. The finished text is a combination of stories, reflections, and facts. This text does not have a clear thesis statement or proofs. Could this “selective” memory” writing be called an argument? What are the reasons for your decision?
- A travel writer who is worried about global warming goes to Antarctica and observes the melting of the ice there. Using her observations, interviews with scientists, and secondary research, she then prepares an article about her trip for The National Geographic magazine or a similar publication. Her piece does not contain a one-sentence thesis statement or a direct call to fight global warming. At the same time, her evidence suggests that ice in the Arctic melts faster than it used to. Does this writer engage in argument? Why or why not? What factors influenced your decision?
- A novelist writes a book based on the events of the American Civil War. He recreates historical characters from archival research, but adds details, descriptions, and other characters to his book that are not necessarily historic. The resulting novel is in the genre known as “historical fiction.” Like all works of fiction, the book does not have a thesis statement or explicit proofs. It does, however, promote a certain view of history, some of which is based on the author’s research and some—on his imagination and creative license. Is this a representation of history, an argument, or a combination of both? Why or why not?
You can probably think of many more examples when argument in writing is expressed through means other than the traditional thesis statement and proofs. As you work through this book, continue to think about the nature of argument in writing and discuss it with your classmates and your instructor.
Writing Activity 1B: Analyzing Purpose
Recall any text you wrote, in or outside of school. Think not only of school papers, but also of letters to relatives and friends, e-mails, shopping lists, online postings, and so on. Consider the following questions.
- Was the purpose of the writing well defined for you in the assignment, or did you have to define it yourself?
- What did you have to do in order to understand or create your purpose?
- Did you have trouble articulating and fulfilling your writing purpose?
Be sure to record your answers and share them with your classmates and/or instructor.
Writing Activity 1C: Analyzing Audience
Every writer needs to consider his or her audience carefully when writing. Otherwise, you writing will be directed at no one in particular. As a result, your purpose will become unclear and your work will lose its effectiveness.
Consider any recent writing task that you faced. As with all the exploration activities included in this chapter, do not limit yourself to school writing assignments. Include letters, e-mails, notes, and any other kinds of writing you may do.
- Did you have a clearly defined audience?
- If not, what measures did you take to define and understand your audience?
- How did you know who your readers were?
- Did your writing purpose fit what your intended audience needed or wanted to hear?
- What were the best ways to appeal to your audience (both logical and emotional)?
- How did your decision to use or not to use external research influence the reception of your argument by your audience?
Writing Activity 1D: Analyzing Rhetorical Exigency
- If you are considering a topic for a paper, think whether the paper would address a specific problem or issue. In other words, will it address a real exigency, something that needs to be solved or discussed?
- Who are the people with interests and stakes in the problem?
- What are your limitations? Can you hope to solve the problem once and for all, or should your goals be more modest? Why or why not?
Share your results with your classmates and instructor.
Writing Activity 1E: Finding the Origins of Knowledge
- Seeing writing as an exchange of ideas means seeing all new theories, ideas, and beliefs as grounded in pre-existing knowledge. Therefore, when beginning a new writing project, writers never work “from scratch.” Instead, they tap into the resources of their community for ideas, inspiration, and research leads. Keeping these statements in mind, answer the following questions. Apply your answers to one of the research projects described in this book. Be sure to record your answers.
- Consider a possible research project topic. What do you know about your topic before you begin to write?
- Where did this knowledge come from? Be sure to include both secondary sources (books, websites, etc.) and primary ones (people, events, personal memories). Is this knowledge socially created? What communities or groups or people created it, how, and why?
- What parts of your current knowledge about your subject could be called “fact” and what parts could be called “opinion?”
- How can your current knowledge about the topic help you in planning and conducting the research for the project?