In this course we will examine theoretical and practical aspects of argumentation. Our emphasis will be on understanding the varied threads that have come together in the past 25 years to form somewhat of a recognizable field: Logic, Rhetoric, Dialectic. Since this course is being offered within a Professional and Technical Writing program, we will focus the bulk of our attention to the rhetorical aspects of this field. In addition, we will examine the role of argumentation theory in our technological world. In broad terms, our reading and writing about argumentation theory will focus on the following four questions:

  • How is argumentation defined as a field of study?
  • What theoretical, historical, and philosophical perspectives influence the field?
  • What methods does the field value and use to produce knowledge?
  • What happens to the scope, effectiveness, and structure of argumentation as our society turns increasingly towards technology? Consider the web, cyberspace more generally, portable devices, instant messenger technology, and so on.


Upon completion of this course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Analyze arguments and argumentation from a variety of perspectives
  • Understand various theories and approaches to argumentation
  • Locate and summarize appropriate scholarly resources regarding argumentation
  • Apply theories of argumentation to existing artifacts
  • Explain how argumentation theory helps to clarify a topic of interest

In order to evaluate how well you’ve learned these things, you’ll receive feedback and grades on your work, you’ll be expected to contribute to class discussion, you’ll receive critical feedback from the professor, and your final exam will receive feedback and a grade.


Required Book

Aguayo, Angela, and Timothy Steffensmeier Readings on Argumentation. Strata, 2008. amazon link

Required Articles

Articles taken from Argumentation and Advocacy, College Composition and Communication, and other relevant journals.

Carter, Joyce Locke. “Argument in Hypertext: Writing strategies and the problem of order in a nonsequential world.” Computers and Composition 20 (2003), 3-22.  (PDF)

Optional Books

Depending on your interests, I think the following books are well worth reading in their entirety (rather in in excerpts).  If you’re a serious student of rhetoric, you ought to have them, know them, and refer to them.


Bizell, Patricia, and Bruce Hertzberg. The Rhetorical Tradition : Readings from Classical Times to the Present, 2nd ed. St. Martin’s, 2001. [amazon]. You will use this book throughout your graduate career, just about any time you study or look up something to do with rhetoric.

Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses Of Argument. [amazon].  Small, but very influential in the fields of logic and composition.  You’d be surprised how many people talk about the “Toulmin Method” in composition with a quite poor understanding of what Toulmin was working on.

Perelman, Chaim, and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric. [amazon].  This was overlooked in the 1970’s as a renaissance of rhetoric and rhetorical theory happened in America, but scholars began taking notice in the 80’s and 90’s.  You should, too.

van Eemeren, Frans H., Rob Grootendorst, and Tjark Kruiger. Fundamentals of Argumentation Theory : A Handbook of Historical Backgrounds and Contemporary Development. Erlbaum, 1996. [amazon].  Deep, heavily European, summary and overview of the many threads of thought that have begun intertwining to create a field called Argumentation.

Course structure

Although we will explain backgrounds for the readings and certain concepts and ideas, your participation is going to be more important to this class—we will be collecting, modeling, and dissecting arguments. We will argue in class and we will listen to other people’s arguments. Online meetings and blog posts will be a time for sharing this field data, covering main points of our readings, formulating research questions, and building ties from argumentation studies to rhetoric studies via our own experiences and the readings. I will expect you to ask questions, connect ideas from various readings, and connect ideas from the readings to arguments as you see them practiced around you. All asynchronous class discussions will take place in in our group blog, where we will tag and categorize our posts to help provide structure. Where we have group exercises to do, we’ll do them together in a shared Google document.

Office hours and email conferencing

Office hours are times for you to get individual help. You do not need an appointment to see us during scheduled hours. You are also welcome to ask questions about assignments through email.

Dr. Carter will hold virtual office hours via Skype (joycelockecarter)

Grades for Your Paper Assignments

A Superior. The paper meets or exceeds all the objectives of the assignment. The content is mature, thorough, and well-suited for the audience; the style is clear, accurate, and forceful; the information is well-organized and formatted so that it is accessible and attractive; the mechanics and grammar are correct. For graduate students, the paper has publication potential.
B Good. The paper meets the objectives of the assignment, but it needs improvement in style, or it contains easily correctable errors in grammar, format, or content, or its content is superficial.
C Competent. The paper needs significant improvement in concept, details, development, organization, grammar, or format. It may be formally correct but superficial in content, or it may not meet the terms of the assignment. Unsatisfactory for graduate courses.
D Poor. While parts of the work may suggest the author’s planning, critical thinking, or meaningfulness, the paper largely fails to bring these elements together to form a coherent argument, essay, or report.
F Incompetent. The paper fails to achieve many, if not all, of the objectives of the assignment. The content is immature, underdeveloped, or mis-matched for the target audience. The structure may be incoherent or unintelligible. May have substantial grammar and usage problems.

You can figure an A as 95, A- as 90, B+ as 88 etc.


You must turn in all assigned work to pass the course. If you do not turn in an assignment, you will fail the course (because you did not complete the assignment), even though your average may be passing. You must turn in papers when they are due. If you have unusual circumstances that will cause you to be late with your work, please talk with me and we will work out a schedule that will not penalize you. If you do not make arrangements for late work, these papers will be penalized a full letter grade for each class day that they are late. (A paper due Tuesday graded as a B but turned on Wednesday will be recorded as a C.)

Attendance and Class Participation

Your participation and attendance is expected. For a theory course that depends on your engagement with the ideas, “attendance” and “participation” mean a lot more than just logging in and doing some reading. It means sharing homework and examples when they’re due. It means participating in workgroup activities. It also means being prepared for the unit’s work having read the materials.

The following types of activities will be expected of you in this regard.

Reading Responses

The majority of your textual participation will take the form of reading responses, which help you prepare for class discussions and understand the theoretical and practical implications of our readings. These responses may involve focusing on the current readings or on something your classmates have written (we expect the majority of your entries to be responses to the reading).

In either case, your goal is to understand and explain to yourself the ideas that the author presents and to connect these ideas to other readings in the course. In your responses avoid simply summarizing what the author argues. Rather, based on the other course readings and our discussions, write a response that outlines what you agree and disagree with and why. These responses should be critical in that they evaluate and contextualize rather than summarize. The day’s responses are due electronically by noon each day, Central Daylight Time. These responses should cover the readings scheduled to be discussed. I will provide you with a prompt in the blog (or perhaps a fellow student will do this); please respond to this prompt when you post your response. Late responses will not be accepted. Responses should be at least 150 words in length.

Discussion Participation

The other component of class participation involves discussion in the virtual classroom. You are expected to bring to this discussion an understanding of the readings, a clear sense of what classmates have written about the topic, and responses to questions and ideas raised by your classmates such that the class would be diminished if you were not participating.


Your success in this class is important to me, and it is the policy and practice of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to create inclusive learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have a documented disability (or need to have a disability documented), and need an accommodation, please contact me privately as soon as possible, so that we can discuss with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) how to meet your specific needs and the requirements of the course. The DRC offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process among you, your instructor(s) and the DRC. Thus, if you have a disability, please contact me and/or the DRC, at 501-569-3143 (V/TTY) or 501-683-7629 (VP). For more information, please visit the DRC website at

Academic Integrity

This course (and, indeed, all the courses offered by the Department of Rhetoric and Writing) assumes and expects complete honesty and the highest standard of integrity. Any attempt to present as your own any work not honestly performed will be regarded by the faculty and administration as a most serious offense.


3 Responses to Syllabus

  1. Kristena Merritt says:

    Hi, all!

    I am just posting a comment about the time the reading responses are due each day. I guess I should have read through the syllabus more thoroughly… So they have to be submitted by noon everyday for that day’s scheduled reading. I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t know that I needed to start reading last night. I was honestly busy, but that is besides the point and I figured I’d be okay.

    This isn’t my first Summer course either so I know how it goes. I received the email about there not being any idle time on the first day and that’s expected, but this class started today 7/5/17 not Monday and not yesterday. I also don’t see how much the readings assignments are worth on the syllabus. I understand they are counted under the participation points. I also understand that late submissions are not accepted and that if you don’t turn in all assignments you will fail. So I am just reminding everyone about this policy.

    I am also curious how missing this first reading post will affect my grade? Honestly to fully absorb this text it took me over an hour to read it so starting today was not a reasonable amount of time for this assignment, even for summer.


  2. Joyce says:

    Don’t sweat it, Kristina — if we all agree we’d like to have the work done at a different time, I’m good with that. But yes, every day of class, including Day 1, there is reading to be done and writing to be done. I’ve been writing everyone on the class roll for over a month with the readings, and I expect in a combination upper division / graduate course that students will arrive Day 1 ready to hit the ground.


    • Kristena Merritt says:

      Okay, that is a relief! I can definetly see the value of submitting responses early so everyone can respond in time. Thank you for being reasonable on this.


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