• Accurately reconstructs opposing arguments on an issue
• Employs appropriate tone and diction as to not alienate the reader
• Successfully researches and integrates sources from multiple perspectives on an issue
• Employs the Rogerian style of argument
• Use academic conventions such as MLA
• Use the writing process, including invention, drafting, revising, peer review, and editing strategies
- Audience: primary: opponent; secondary: instructor and peers
- Purpose: present a Rogerian argument on a divisive social issue
- Format: MLA
Thesis or Focus
What are the two sides of the contentious issue? How can you move both sides closer by using understanding, compromise, and critical thinking? The
genre of this project is an analytical essay that prepares for social
action by identifying the strategies used by those with differing
In the first project of ENC 1102 you learned about the rhetorical strategies of argumentation, such as ethos, pathos, and logos. In Project 2, you will make your own argument following a particular style called Rogerian argumentation, named after psychologist Carl Rogers. Your Rogerian argument will convince someone who disagrees with you about a contentious social issue to see your side of the debate.
Project 2 challenges students to explore, analyze, and engage arguments based on Rogerian argumentation. Students enhance their knowledge of the conventions of academic discourse by developing an annotated bibliography and integrating research into their argument.
Additionally, students enhance their writing abilities by receiving feedback from their instructor on three different drafts of this assignment as well as feedback from their peers.
Rogerian arguments emphasize compromise, mutual respect, and empathy. A Rogerian argument persuades by showing readers how their own points of view are compatible with the writer's perspective. In other words, Rogerian arguments are more like negotiations than arguments, as the writer needs to go to special lengths to demonstrate a full understanding of the opposing point of view.
In this case, you will apply this technique in the context of a social problem in which you are interested. You'll identify a social problem (perhaps through a method approved by your instructor) that has created controversy of some kind. You’ll then try to convince an audience that disagrees with you to consider your side. You’ll use Rogerian argumentation in your organization and in your content, by demonstrating that you are well versed with the logic of the opposing side.
Write a 1,200 – 1,500-word Rogerian argument about a social problem about which reasonable people disagree. You will argue for your own perspective on how to resolve this problem.
Organize your essay following the standard Rogerian argument organization, which follows a particular and non-classical paper order. For instance, your thesis almost always comes at the end of a Rogerian argument. Follow this order as you write your paper by heeding the advice of this handout*
and by following the advice from your textbook.
You must use and document at least four outside sources in your essay. These might be informative sources that describe the details of your chosen issue, or they might be opinionated sources from both sides. (After all, to show your audience that you understand opposing viewpoints, it makes a lot of sense to show that you've read and understood writers who disagree with you!)
Role of Research
Students will research the best arguments for both sides of whichever topic they choose in order to compare and contrast the major, reliable claims of either side in the most responsible way possible.
The key to Rogerian argumentation—and to this assignment—is strategic empathy. First, this means that you need to be fair to those with other points-of-view by explaining their claims, priorities, and values and then recognizing their importance. Second, you should persuade your readers that their priorities and values can be reconciled with your own argument about the social issue, even if they seem too different.
For instance, if your topic was the possibility of a carbon tax to counteract global warming and you were arguing in favor of such a tax, you would need to recognize the legitimate objections others might have to your plan. For instance, such a tax would do little good if not applied in other countries; it would punish small businesses too much, and it would not motivate people to change their consumption habits. After recognizing these objections, you might show how they can be met by your proposal for a carbon tax: a carbon tax will eventually bring down energy prices and thus offset any burden to small businesses; and by America taking the lead, other countries will be encouraged to initiate a carbon tax as well. Ultimately you’re still arguing for your own point-of-view, but rather than persuading others to change their minds you are focusing on compromise and connecting arguments together. Similarly if your topic was on the legal drinking age, and you were arguing in favor of lowering it, then you might concede that alcohol is a very powerful drug that should not be used irresponsibly.
You might also find yourself with these issues:
1. “I feel uncomfortable making someone else’s argument.” Part of the challenge of this paper is exploring different points-of-view, even if you find them objectionable. Effective writers try to work past what psychologists and sociologists call “confirmation bias,” a tendency to only interact with people and ideas that confirm our already-held beliefs. By demonstrating an attempt at compromise, your readers will be encouraged to reach past their biases and consider your position as well. Remember that you are persuading your readers of your own point-of-view by showing how it is—at least in some ways—compatible with their own viewpoints.
2. “Why bother researching another person’s point-of-view?” The goal of this assignment is not to change your own opinions but rather to help you make the strongest argument possible about your position on a selected social issue. Oddly enough, by recognizing the validity of opposing claims, you can help to make your own argument stronger. This can happen for several different reasons:
First, in order to understand an issue, a writer must understand how that issue impacts all interested parties, and that means looking at things from their points-of-view.
Understanding a different perspective might not change your own opinion, but it can help to complicate it in a constructive way.
The Early Draft should be an outline or other organizing draft
that includes a working thesis and a brief explanation of major points.
This draft should clearly demonstrate that the student has thought critically about the major claims of both sides of the debate.
The Intermediate Draft should be a working draft that addresses the
core assumptions and points of conflict that characterize the debate on both sides. This draft should include a
thesis, all major points, evidence to support these points (including
in-text citations from appropriate sources), and a Works Cited page.
final draft will be an 1,200-1,500 word essay that presents a Rogerian argument about a contentious, divisive social issue.
*Note: Document adapted from the University of Michigan.