uite unlike the ordinary meaning of the word, argument as a term in rhetoric refers to the process of reasoning by advancing proof. Indeed, academic argument can seem dispassionate if one expects that all argument is done with raised voices and heated tempers. Though academic argument often does grow very acrimonious, it is more often the product of careful research and thoughtful consideration of all the facts that one can acquire about the issue. For centuries therefore rhetoricians advocated the writing of an argumentative essay as a means of learning how to think. Argument demands that the writer examine a belief by testing the strength of the reasons for holding such a belief. Argument of this kind forms a "dialectical structure," a dialog, within the essay itself. In this dialog, the writer explores several sides of the issue under consideration with the readers in an attempt to demonstrate why one perspective is the most enlightened. The writer's analysis of the issues (his/her evaluations of the claims, evidence, assumptions, hidden arguments, and inherent contradictions) leads the writer to champion one perspective of the subject at hand, even though reasonable, thoughtful, intelligent people advocate different perspectives.
n short, the writer of an argument essay has several goals: the primary goals is to persuade and move the audience to accept his/her position on an issue, but that is often a very difficult challenge. A secondary, and more modest goal, is for the writer to articulate why s/he chooses the stance that s/he does on an issue. The secondary goal recognizes the fact that to persuade is a difficult objective but that at least the writer can explain his/her reasoning behind his/her position.
or those reasons, many rhetoricians describe the argument as a dialog, set in writing, between the writer and the readers. In this dialog, the writer introduces his/her subject, makes his/her claim, discusses any necessary background information, and then presents the evidence for the position and in rebuttal to other positions.
riters use different patterns to organize their thoughts as they compose the argument. Essentially, the two most common patters of development are the "clustering" and the "alternating" patterns of presenting evidence. In the clustering pattern, the writer collects the evidence in one place, the objections in another section, and the rebuttal in a third section. In the alternating pattern, the writer shifts between evidence, objection, and rebuttal for each separate piece of evidence before moving to the next piece of evidence.
eading through the lists above, you can see the give-and-take, the back-and-forth nature of the argument's dialectic.
Argument vs. Opinion
he single most common misunderstanding in composing an argument is to assume that there is no difference between an argument and an opinion. "But it's all opinion!" we might rightly point out, and, yes, it is true that all claims start out as opinions. (Columbus was thought mad for suggesting that the world was round, remember. The ancients argued that the earth was the center of the universe.) At first glance, it may seem that argumentative essays are "merely" asking you to write your opinion, since there may be no single "correct" way to answer the crucial questions raised by controversial subjects. The crucial difference is that an argument should present a claim (an opinion) supported by reasoning and evidence, which persuades your reader that the thesis your paper advances is a valid one. An opinion is an assertion that is not supported by logic or evidence.
elow is an essay that I wrote in response to Ossie Davis's interesting and well-written piece entitled "The English Language is My Enemy." (I wish the piece were available to us on the web; it's a good read. You can find it widely anthologized in many different collections of essays in the library.) Davis argues on the basis of an analysis of the meanings associated with the words black and white that the English language is his enemy. My essay argues that Davis's evidence is valid but that his interpretation of the evidence is not.
he example above uses the clustering method of development. I often find the clustering method works better for a short essay while a longer, more complicated argument (with many different pieces of evidence to present) works better with the alternating method of development.
CTY’s online English language development courses are challenging, above-grade-level courses designed for students in grades 3 and up who seek to enhance their English writing skills with the emphasis on building strong grammar and vocabulary. These courses advance each student’s English academic content language in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math for academic writing in those areas.
Vocabulary, Grammar, and Writing Using STEM, Intermediate II is designed for both native and non-native English speakers. This course is open to students who have either successfully completed Vocabulary, Grammar, and Writing Using STEM, Intermediate I, or have approximately seven to ten years of exposure to the English Language. In this course, students will improve and augment their STEM essay writing skills and advance their general and STEM vocabulary and grammar through a focus on writing effective paragraphs.
The interactive lessons will give students the opportunity to take risks and have fun while working on improving English grammar, speaking, listening, reading, and composition skills. The virtual classroom includes live audio and video interaction with the instructor and online classmates, interactive whiteboard, multimedia learning materials including games, and other features to enhance online learning..
In this course, students will:
- Read upper intermediate level informational texts in English and practice related vocabulary in multiple facets.
- Continue to develop linguistic proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
- Further develop skills for formal academic English writing including paragraph and essay writing. Students will use these skills to complete writings in 5 domain-specific areas: definition, process analysis, descriptive, opinion, and narrative.
- Learn CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) and STEM academic content vocabulary and how to apply terms in various written applications.
- Acquire better level-specific English abilities by practicing tasks through all language domains.
- Be able to write effective paragraphs in five domains of writing: definition, process analysis, descriptive, opinion, and narrative.
By the end of this course, students will acquire more STEM concepts, knowledge, and vocabulary. This course will prepare eligible students to take CTY’s online science, engineering, and math courses, as well as Crafting the Essay for English Language Learners. Review course prerequisites carefully prior to enrolling
In order to determine the placement level for this course, an ELD placement test can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org
Students must purchase a headset with a microphone. A microphone with an on/off switch is recommended.
In addition, the following textbooks are required for this course:
- Great Sentences for Great Paragraphs: Great Writing 2
by Keith S. Folse, April Muchmore-Vokoun, and Elena Vestri Solomon. Heinle Cengage Learning, Third Edition, 2010.
- Wordly Wise 3000 Book 6
by Kenneth Hodkinson and Sandra Adams. Educators Publishing Service, Third Edition, 2013.
- An English Dictionary of your choice or Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
Pearson Longman, Fifth Edition, 2009.
Optional Workbook (NOT Required):
- Writers Express: A Handbook for Young Writers, Thinkers, and Learners
by Dave Kemper, Ruth Nathan, and Patrick Sebranek. 1995.
Detailed Course Information
This course provides an introduction to essay writing. Students will focus on improving paragraph writing and understanding the differences between different types of paragraphs.
- Comprehend and identify the features of a good paragraph
- Recognize the difference between various types of paragraphs and their purposes
- Develop an understanding of the essential parts of an essay
|Week||Lesson||STEM Topic||Grammar Topic|
|1||1||The Scientific Method||Introductions/Journal Writing|
Course Overview and Tour
|2||The Scientific Method||Questions/Review|
Look at: Main Features of Paragraphs, Verbs, Sentence Fragments, Simple Present and Past Tense Verbs, Imperative Sentences, Narrative Writing and the Use of “I”
|2||1||Plate Tectonics and Earth Movements||Questions/Review|
Look at: Wordly Wise 3000 to Build English Vocabulary
|2||Plate Tectonics and Earth Movements||Questions/Review|
The Importance of Brainstorming
Look at: Subject-Verb Agreement
|3||1||Weathering, Soil, and Erosion||Questions/Review|
Look at: Good Topic Sentences, Sentence Fragments and Comma Splices, and More Brainstorming Practice
|2||Weathering, Soil, and Erosion||Questions/Review|
Definition Paragraphs Part 1
Look at: Using Quotations and Citing Ideas to Avoid Plagiarism
|4||1||Atoms and Elements||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Definition Paragraphs Part 2
Look at: Good Supporting Sentences, Using Pronouns for Key Nouns, Good Concluding Sentences, and Articles
|2||Atoms and Elements||Questions/Review|
Peer Editing of Definition Paragraphs Part 3
Process Analysis Paragraphs Part 1
Look at: Simple Adjective Clauses and Combining Sentences for Variety
|5||1||The Periodic Table||Brainstorming/Journal Writing|
Writing Descriptive Paragraphs Part 1
|2||The Periodic Table||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Writing Descriptive Paragraphs Part 2
Denotation and Connotation
|6||1||STEM Midterm Review||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Writing Descriptive Paragraphs Part 3
Prepositions of Location
|2||STEM Midterm Review||Midterm Review|
|7||1||Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter||Brainstorming/Journal Writing|
Writing Opinion Paragraphs Part 1
|2||Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Writing Opinion Paragraphs Part 2
Using Facts, Counterarguments, and Refutations
Writing Opinion Paragraphs Part 3
Writing Narrative Paragraphs Part 1
|9||1||Simple Machines||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Writing Narrative Paragraphs Part 2
Using Vivid Language
|2||Simple Machines||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Writing Narrative Paragraphs Part 3
Verb Tense Consistency
|10||1||Magnetism and Electromagnetism||Constructing an Essay Part 1|
Varied Vocabulary/ Creating an Outline for Your Essay
|2||Magnetism and Electromagnetism||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Constructing an Essay Part 2
|11||1||Genes and Traits||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Constructing an Essay Part 3
|2||Genes and Traits||Questions/Review/Peer Editing|
Constructing an Essay Part 4
|12||1||Final Review of All STEM Topics Covered||Grammar Review for Final Exam Part 1 & 2|
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Students should expect to spend about 5-7 hours per week on this course.
This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.
This course uses an online virtual classroom for discussions with the instructor. The classroom works on standard computers with the Adobe Connect Add-in or Adobe Flash plugin, and also tablets or handhelds that support the Adobe Connect Mobile app. Students who are unable to attend live sessions will need a computer with the Adobe Connect Add-in or Adobe Flash plugin installed to watch recorded meetings. The Adobe Connect Add-in, Adobe Flash plugin, and Adobe Connect Mobile app are available for free download. Students who do not have the Flash plug-in installed or enabled on their browsers will be prompted to download and install the Adobe Connect add-in when accessing the virtual classroom.