Perspectives on Argument

Perspectives on Argument

by Nancy V. Wood, James Miller

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Editorial Reviews

This college text teaches students strategies for reading, thinking, and writing that they can use in all types of argument, both inside and outside the classroom. The author notes that modern arguments often encompass a variety of perspectives, rather than a right or wrong position, and do not always result in a declaration of winners. She includes 123 readings, 15 of which are argument papers written by students. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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New Edition
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5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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The most important purpose of Argument is to teach students strategies for critical reading, critical thinking, research, and writing that will help them participate in all types of argument both inside and outside of the classroom. A basic assumption is that argument exists everywhere and that students need to learn to participate productively in all forms of argument, including those they encounter in school, at home, on the job, and in the national and international spheres. Such participation is critical not only in a democratic society but also in a global society, in which issues become more and more complex each year. Students who use this book will learn to identify controversial topics that are "at issue," to read and form reactions and opinions of their own, and to write argument papers that express their individual views and perspectives.

A central idea of this text is that modern argument is not always polarized as right or wrong, but that instead it often invites a variety of perspectives on an issue. Another idea, equally important, is that not all argument results in the declaration of winners. The development of common ground and either consensus or compromise are sometimes as acceptable as declaring winners in argument. Students will learn to take a variety of approaches to argument, including taking a position and defending it, seeking common ground at times, withholding opinion at other times, negotiating when necessary, and even changing their original beliefs when they can no longer make a case for them. The perspectives and abilities taught here are those that an educated populace in aworld community needs to coexist cooperatively and without constant destructive conflict.


Both instructors and students who pick up Argument have the right to ask how it differs from some of the other argument texts that are presently available. They deserve to know why they might want to use this book instead of another. This text, which is targeted for first-year and second-year students enrolled in argument or argument and literature classes in two-year and four-year colleges, is both a reader and a rhetoric. Within this reader and rhetoric format are a number of special features that, when taken together, make the book unique.

  • Reading, critical thinking, and writing are taught as integrated and interdependent processes. Comprehensive chapters on the reading and writing processes show how they can be adapted to argument. Extensive instruction in critical reading and critical thinking appear throughout. Assignments and questions that invite critical reading, critical thinking, and original argumentative writing appear at the end of every chapter in "The Rhetoric" and at the end of every section of "The Reader."
  • Cross-gender and cross-cultural communication styles are presented in a unique chapter that provides for a classroom in which every student can find a voice. Students learn to identify and develop their own unique styles of argument and to recognize how their styles may have been influenced by family background, gender, ethnic background, or country of origin. Also included are international students' perspectives on the argument styles of their countries. Many readings in the book are by authors of varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Explanations of the elements and structure of argument include the Toulmin model of argument, the classical modes of appeal, the traditional categories of claims derived from classical stasis theory, and the rhetorical situation. Theory is integrated and translated into language that students can easily understand and apply. For example, students learn to apply theory to recognize and analyze the parts of an argument while reading and to develop and structure their own ideas while writing.
  • Audience analysis includes the concepts of the familiar and the unfamiliar audience as well as Chaim Perelman's concept of the universal audience.
  • Productive invention strategies help students develop ideas for papers.
  • Library and online research is presented as a creative activity that students are invited to enjoy. Workable strategies for research and note taking are provided. Students are taught to document researched argument papers according to both MLA and APA style.
  • Exercises, class projects, and writing assignments at the ends of the chapters invite individual, small group, and whole class participation. Collaborative exercises encourage small groups of students to engage in critical thinking, and whole class projects invite students to participate in activities that require an understanding of argument. Classroom-tested writing assignments include the exploratory paper; which teaches students to explore an issue from several different perspectives; the position paper based on "The Reader," which teaches students to incorporate readily available source material from "The Reader" in their first position paper; the researched position paper, which teaches students to locate outside research, evaluate it, and use it to develop an issue of their own choosing; and the Rogerian argument paper, which teaches students an alternative strategy that relies on establishing common ground with the audience. Examples of student papers are provided for each major type of paper. The writing assignments in this book are models for assignments that students are likely to encounter in their other classes.
  • Summary charts at the end of the rhetoric section present the main points of argument in a handy format. They also integrate the reading and writing processes for argument by placing strategies for both side by side and showing the interconnections.
  • A total of 124 different readings in the rhetoric section and "The Reader" provide students with multiple perspectives on the many issues presented throughout the book. Twelve of these readings are argument papers written by students.
  • The readings in "The Reader" are clustered under eighteen subissues that are related to the seven major general issue areas that organize "The Reader." This helps students focus and narrow broad issues. Furthermore, the readings in each subissue group "talk" to each other, and questions invite students to join the conversation.


  • New five-part organization creates clearer assignment sequences, more immediate application of theory, and more flexibility for instructors. The three chapters on the research paper now follow the three chapters on argument theory, which encourages the use of theory in writing the research paper. The stand-alone chapters on Rogerian argument and argument and literature appear in Part Four and can be taught at any point in the course.
  • Improved explanations, clearer assignments, and new examples of the exploratory argument paper and the Rogerian argument paper appear in Chapters 4 and 11.
  • Revised and improved assignments and assignment sequences that have been classroom-tested repeatedly appear at the end of every chapter. Less productive assignments have been deleted.
  • Earlier and more complete information on incorporating and documenting sources, and using electronic sources in particular, appear in Chapters 4 and 11.
  • Information on how to evaluate online sources has been added to the research section of Chapter 9.
  • More than half (65) of the 124 essays in the book are new. Three-fourths (57) of the 75 essays in "The Reader" are new.
  • Four new issue areas explore issues associated with the family, computers, race and culture, and genetic engineering.
  • Thirteen new issue questions, each accompanied by sets of three to seven essays that provide different perspectives on the questions, appear in "The Reader." These questions include, "How Do Men's and Women's Ideas about Themselves Influence the Roles They Play in Their Families?" "What Are Some Variations on the Traditional Family? How Effective Are These Variations?" "What Can Be Done to Improve Schools?" "How Should We Treat Convicted Criminals?" "Do Violent Video Games and Books Cause Young People to Commit Crime?" "How Are Computers Changing the Culture?" "How Are Computers Changing Their Users?" "How Are Computers Changing Education?" "How Do Race and Culture Contribute to an Individual's Sense of Identity?" "How Close Has America Come to Achieving Racial Equality?" "To What Extent Should Genetic Engineering Be Applied to Agriculture?" "To What Extent Should Genetic Engineering Be Applied to Animals?" and "To What Extent Should Genetic Engineering Be Applied to Humans?"
  • Four new examples of student writing provide models for an issue proposal and three new Rogerian argument papers, including a Rogerian response paper.
  • New essays for analysis have been added to Chapters 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
  • New examples of summary and response appear in Chapter 3.
  • More immediate connections between theory and practice are now included in Chapters 5, 6, and 7; in them, new assignments teach students to use the Toulmin model, the claim questions, and the proofs to generate material for argument papers.
  • Streamlined Chapters 8, 9,10 now function as one long assignment that culminates in the researched position paper.


The book is organized into five parts and, as much as possible, chapters have been written so that they stand alone. Instructors may thus assign them either in sequence or in a more preferred order to supplement their own course organization.

Part One: Engaging with Argument for Reading and Writing. This part introduces students to issues and the characteristics of argument in Chapter 1, helps them begin to develop a personal style of argument in Chapter 2, and provides them with processes for reading and writing argument in Chapters 3 and 4. Writing assignments include the issue proposal, the argument style paper, the analysis of the rhetorical situation paper, the summary-response paper, and the exploratory paper.

Part Two: Understanding the Nature of Argument for Reading and Writing. This part identifies and explains the parts of an argument according to Stephen Toulmin's model of argument in Chapter 5, explains the types of claims and purposes for argument in Chapter 6, and presents the types of proofs along with clear examples and tests for validity in Chapter 7. Writing assignments include the Toulmin analysis and the position paper based on "'The Reader."

Part Three: Writing a Research Paper That Presents an Argument. This part teaches students to write a claim, clarify purpose, and analyze the audience in Chapter 8, to use various creative strategies for inventing ideas and gathering research materials in Chapter 9, and to organize, write, revise, and prepare the final manuscript for a researched position paper in Chapter 10. Methods for locating and using resource materials in the library and online are presented in Chapters 9 and 10. An Appendix to Chapter 10 provides full instruction for documenting sources using both MLA and APA styles.

Part Four: Further Applications: Rogerian Argument/Argument and Literature. This part explains Rogerian argument in Chapter 11 as an alternative to traditional argument and as an effective method for building common ground and resolving differences. Chapter 12 suggests ways to apply argument theory to reading and writing about literature. Writing assignments include Rogerian argument papers and papers about argument and literature. A summary exercise in the Appendix to Chapter 11 invites students to review and synthesize argument theory as they analyze and respond to a well-known classic argument.

Part Five: The Reader. This part is organized around the broad issues concerning families, education, crime and the treatment of criminals, computers, race and culture in America, genetic engineering, and social responsibility. Strategies and questions to help students explore issues and move from reading and discussion to writing are also included.


In preparing the Instructor's Manual, my co-contributors and I have included chapter-by-chapter suggestions for using the book in both the traditional and the computer classroom. We have also included sample syllabi. Three instructors have written day-by-day teaching journals, in which they detail how they worked with this book in class and how the students responded. Also included in the manual are strategies for teaching students to use electronic databases, the Internet, and other resources for conducting online and library research. Another chapter suggests how student argument papers can be developed with the help of tutors in a writing center and by online MOOs and chat groups. A set of class handouts ready for photocopying is also provided. Copies of this manual may be obtained from your Prentice Hall representative.

A Companion Website for Perspectives on Argument can be accessed at (...

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