College Survival Guide/Improving Writing Skills

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Some people ignored English while growing up; some people weren't taught correctly; and others didn't understand what was going on. Whether you fit those group of people or not, this guide is to excel your learning in the English language. However, before we hit head-on to becoming a great writer, I'm going to cover some basic steps. I can't make you a great writer in this wikibook, nor am I a "great" writer myself. I can, however, show you the paths to walk. I'm being semi-modest. Also, there's another wikibook working on that.

A person will not survive post-secondary education very long if he or she does not have proper usage of the English language.

Grammar and writing are essential parts to creating a paper in an institution of higher learning. In a college or university, writing papers is a common task students must undertake. A typical college paper will be about five pages in length; and within that length, some grammar and spelling mistakes could be made. Some professors grade on grammar, while others do not. The grading of a paper depends on many factors: course level, course, paper requirements, etc. As someone goes into higher level courses, grammar becomes a concern to professors. Not only is it a concern, but being at a higher level means you are to become more of a professional. Thus, you will need to write like a professional. Some people might think this is too much trouble. Don't think learning this stuff is too much trouble. If you don't learn it, you'll be in trouble.

We've got four basic hierarchies of writing:

  1. The Philosophy of Language: The building blocks of linguistics and more
  2. Linguistics: The building blocks of language
  3. Grammar: The building blocks of a language's linguistic usage
  4. Rhetoric: The building blocks of presenting and identifying grammar, linguistics, and philosophical ideas in language.

The reason all of these should be studied is simple: They all have something to do with each other. It is suggest that a person starts from number one and goes up toward rhetoric. When people understands each rung of the ladder, they will be able to understand and analyze the way material is presented. Also, understanding each level will help a person present information. If you're new to college, you're going to be typing papers for the next two or more years. It's better to start now by understanding language. It may be difficult, but my advice is this: Learn faster.

By the time you're done learning this stuff, you ought to be able to diagram a sentence, make corrections in Wikipedia projects, and make a coherent paragraph with style. Hopefully, you'll be a little bit more of a bibliophile. If you don't have one, you might even go out to buy a bookshelf.

Also, by the time you're done, you ought to be a novice philosopher, linguist, grammarian, and rhetorician. You may be thinking this is a lot of effort, and this is a lot of effort. But the more energy you direct toward a cause that will effect your writing abilities is a good thing. I wanted to create a systemized way of becoming a decent writer through this webpage. By having a pathway, you won't be wasting too much energy scrambling for information in different directions. If you still think this is too much work, then I will give you my most powerful philosophy:

Power = work/time

- Learn faster - Work harder - And take the efficient pathway to least resistance

The Philosophy of Language[edit]

I remember throughout high school that my teachers would banter about a "well-rounded education"; however, I don't quite remember them talking about philosophy. Some people don't teach philosophy in high school because it would give students critical thinking skills. And people don't want young students to argue against those who may have critical thinking skills. In other words, philosophy enables a person to think about the way the universe, the world, its society, and the way a individuals work. As much as it would anger other philosophers to give my own definition of philosophy, I'm going to say it is the thing that enables a person to have a well-rounded education. Without a ground in philosophy, a person will never obtain a well-rounded education. Teachers and faculty have been stating things, but they haven't been explaining things.

Let's explain:

Philosophy is the groundwork for science, art, math, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, etc. You name it, you've probably got philosophy in there, somewhere. Whether its the arguable aspects of a single point in space being a circle or a questionable, metaphysical theory about the mind's energy states and dissociative identity disorder, you've got philosophy to argue about it and have people establish its groundwork. Although the latter may seem like a pseudo-scientific claim, it related to the philosophy of mind; and you've got philosophy that determines how language works, is represented, and is presented.

Philosophy is the foundation. If you ever have trouble understanding a topic, you could always search for the "Philosophy of _____."

The Philosophy of Psychology
The Philosophy of Rhetoric
The Philosophy of Education

Yet again, I'm going to ask you to cross a bridge and walk a path designed by local villagers. Some have an idea of what makes a good pathway, but others aren't too sure. Regardless of their efforts, they tried their best to represent their ideal pathway:

Every term you ever read from these philosophy webpages is very important; however, remembering them all is daunting. Therefore, it is suggested that you look over these things at least one hour a day and try to memorize and understand them.

Also, before you go to college or if you're already there, I suggest you rent a book from your local library. You're going to be reading a lot of books in college. And you might as well learn that fact by stepping up your knowledge of language. Just about every book uses language, and the book I suggest you grab will, too. The book you grab would be about the philosophy of language. Although some people may have their own views of the way the philosophy of language works, it will establish a groundwork for you. Afterwards, you can move onto linguistics. You can, however, mix and match the hierarchal things listed in the introduction if you you're bored with one. Doing this will enable you to have a better view of how they connect to each other.


Here's a overview of linguistics:

Again, try to understand the terms used. You don't need to—although it would be great to—memorize all the terms right away. However, remembering the terms allows you to identify the way language is used. Identification of language is a very important skill in becoming a writer.

(This section is being worked on)


Grammar can be descriptive or prescriptive. However, the kind of grammar emphasized will be of the descriptive flavor.

Note: Because this Wikibook is slanted and written mostly in English, it will be focusing on English grammar. However, many of the same principles could be applied to foreign languages.

Websites to Visit for Grammar[edit]

Obtaining Grammar Books[edit]

Grammar is an essential part to writing (typing) a paper. Sometimes, a person must relearn grammar and practice his or her English skills. An affordable way to do this is to go to a local library and pick up grammar books and grammar exercise books. If your local library doesn't suit you or have the materials, you could go to a college library. An interesting thing about a college library is that you don't need to be a student to actually walk around and read the books; a college library, sometimes, offers more books than a local library. In this situation, you would walk through the library, find the book catalogue, grab some grammar books, and finally sit down somewhere to read them. For those intellectuals out there, you could look for multiple science books, take them to a desk, and start reading.

Practicing grammar on one's own is very questionable. How does one know he or she is using correct grammar? In this situation, one of the best things to do is consult a grammar book. If one grammar book does not provide the answer you are seeking, then look in another grammar book. There are also forums online for people who are learning English. These forums often provide people who are helpful toward those learning ESL and refreshing their English skills. Whenever you write something, type something, or say something, check to see if you're using proper grammar. Grab a style usage and grammar book. Think about how you presented things. Were they correct? The way the author learned to have better English was to constantly grab for a style usage manual. If you don't have one, it is suggested that you buy one.

  • Recommended Books:
  1. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. (A large 1500+ page book.)
If you read that whole book, you'll understand more about grammar than most people understand; you'll probably understand more about grammar than most professors. It's expensive (Around $100 USD), but it's something to put on the shelf. Some libraries offer it on their shelves. If you can, constantly check it out and read it all the way through. (You'll save money that way.) Afterwards, rent it out to have it as a reference book on your own bookshelf. As with most books, write down all terms you don't understand; research those terms to gain a better understanding of them. When you're done with the whole book, you can flip through it as if it were a reference book. You can look in its index for "commas" or other things in relation to grammar.


You may or may not have heard this term, but it will be a valuable term. Some people argue about the definition, and that's why many students have no clue whatsoever as to what the word means. Nonetheless, most people like to define a word by its criteria, abilities, or things that revolve around it to make it define itself. These, of course, are the many things that create definitional arguments. Regardless of the decades of controversey, I could give you my definition:

Rhetoric is the act of presenting information and manipulating the way an audience interprets that information. The underlying principle of rhetoric would be philosophical and psychological aspects. These psychological aspects relate to a person's interpretation of the information and reaction due to cognitive influences. The philosophical aspects relate to the information being logical, sound, and valid: making sense instead of babble. Of course this could be argued, because many philosophers determine that rhetoric does not involve much Truth seeking; it doesn't seek truth but to sway an audience. However, rhetoric isn't suppose to be trick the audience into being sway, but it is to grab the audience's attention and have them pay attention to what is being said. Afterwards, it is used to influence the philosophical and psychological aspects of a person.

To make up another definition off-hand, rhetoric is breaking style into bits and pieces and creating a term for each way style is presented. It is also about how style (rhetoric) is used within different contexts (rhetorical situations). Nonetheless, there seems to be an underlying principle that style is used to influence an audience. I may have done better to say I defined rhetoric's influence. It's all up for debate, but at least you've got an idea.

It's always good to know a bit about history:

  2. Classical Rhetoric

I'm not going to ask you to read all of Aristotle's Rhetoric. But it would be nice if you knew what it was about.


Now you may be wondering, "How's this going to help me?" Well, it's going to give you a writing style and method. The style, however, will be a mix of rhetorical figures, and their usage will very depending on the way and time (kairos) you wish to present them. Rhetoric is the formal way of writing style. It seems very systematic, and it doesn't allow people to say, "Writing is a natural talent!"

You could, of course, be skeptical about all of this. "Wouldn't that mean I'm copying a style?" No. Rhetoric is about analyzing style throughout languages and learning how they are implemented. It's about analyzing style, see how it's used, and applying its concepts, not making up a style. You make a "style" by changing your usage of rhetoric. The style of language has been systematically analyzed into bunches of terms, which represent items, ideas, and the way things are. Rhetoric is the style and method of all styles and methods. Rhetoric allows for the study and usage of language, grammar, and linguistics in presentation.

By using rhetorical figures in different situations, and throwing them around like spices in a dish, you'll be working toward that perfect meal that earns 5 stars on presentation and taste.

Going into every detail about rhetoric would be elongating, and I don't have time to walk down the path with you, as Gandalf might have said in The Hobbit. I can, however, give you information and hope that you will stay on the path.

This website is bookmarked by over 1000 people on, an Internet bookmark saving website. It has a detailed discussion about rhetoric, rhetorical figures, and the way rhetoric is used. I would pay attention to the left frame of the website and follow discussed links.

However, we're going to focus on a few main parts of that website (Silva Rhetoricae):

  1. Content/Form
  2. Natural Ability or Talent ("natura" "ingenium")
  3. Theory or Art ("doctrina" "ars")
  4. Practice ("exercitatio" "imitatio")

(These were taken from this part of that website:

Content and Form[edit]

You ever hear about a person analyzing a text? You ever wonder how the heck that's done correctly? Well, it takes some practice, but understanding rhetoric is a good start, mainly because rhetoric is about understanding terminology and applying it. What you'll be doing is analyzing the way people used rhetoric and identifying the style and parts of style within a text. This may seem like a very annoying task to the megalomaniac who doesn't have the time to screw around; however, it is one of the many things that build up power and enable her or him to write better. Tough luck.

This analyzation draws on theory and practice more than natural ability. I'm going to summarize natural ability as a person without apathy. A person who has the will to wield style and slice through the audience while leaving a brilliant scar of amazement and awe on it will have the ability to gain "talent." Also, rhetorical pedagogy tries not to believe in natural ability.

The best thing you can do is grab a paper from a newspaper and identity rhetorical figures in it. Choose Newsweek, Times, USA Today, or some other popular magazine. You may want to grab Psychology Today or some other stylish magazine that implements witty banter/style. Your job is to identity the parts of style. Afterwards, you job is to write a paper, restate the thesis, and change the usage of rhetorical figures. Don't make it look the same; make it look different, but say the same thing using rhetoric.

The idea is to analyze the content, its style, and the form it takes. Afterwards, reword the content, and reshape the form of style. By doing this, you will gain practice and experience in rhetoric. Also, if you type up blogs or journal entries, implement rhetoric into each blog you type. You might give the appearance of a modern day Shakespeare.

  • See Also:

Practicing Writing Skills[edit]

Many people question how to improve their writing skills. Improving writing skills takes dilligent work; however, it is not a hard thing, in terms of academic writing, to master. It is suggested that a person has an online journal or "blog" to write his or her thoughts. These journals/diaries can be made private. Many writers believe in using LiveJournal ( for their writings. They use this website because the website will delete any articles or writings created when the writer wishes to delete the journal. In other words, when the writer wants all of his or her writings to disappear, then they disappear. The cause for this behavior is because of copyright infringement and other legal mumbo-jumbo. In other words, the writers are paranoid that someone will steal their work. And it does happen. Of course there are tons of computer science and forensic issues at work, but they can't be done without judicial or executive request; yet most writers feel writing on a private journal is one of the most secure ways to write articles, papers, and other academic things.

As a person continues to write his or her thoughts in a journal, he or she will (usually) comes across spelling and grammar errors. Looking for these key things and correcting them is what helps establish a decent writer. Good writing comes with consistent proofreading and revision. In such a writing dilemma, a person could consult a style usage book—or he or she could use the Internet to find answers. Sometimes people will use Internet forums and talk to writers when they cannot find an remedy to a specific writing problem. Sometimes a person will not know how to type something out, such as dialogue, within an entry. One should not fall into despair when he or she cannot find an answer to his or her writing dilemma; Band-Aid remedies do exist: A person could revise his or her word, sentence, paragraph, etc. Although for the silent writer who lurks behind corners and in the basement, he or she may consider going to the local library and looking for books on dialogue. Is the person wants to know more about non-fiction writing, he or she may looking for a book on non-fiction writing. One of the best ways to fix a writing dilemma, such as dialogue, is to read a book on how dialogue is used.

Good writing is not something that is achieved over-night.

A person must first work on spelling, grammar, and understanding rhetoric.
Of course, if you can read 3000 pages in a 24-hour period, you may be able to become a great writer over-night.

Style and Rhetoric[edit]

Although this may be a simple commentary I created in light of style and rhetoric, it may be of use to some people:

Social psychology holds this belief that there are a few ways to distract a person and persuade him or her. A person is easier to persuade when he or she is distracted; however, this distraction must not foreshadow manipulation. That's what tropes and schemes do in rhetoric. They allow a person to manipulate the psychology of the reader and distract his or her cognition.

In a kind of scenario, a reader may be enjoying prose and admiring it. This distracts the person, and allows him or her to be persuaded more efficiently.

In other words, changing and twisting the emotions of a person changes the cognition and processing capabilities of the person. Style's objective within rhetoric is to twist and change a person's emotions, thus to change the way a person perceives an argument.

The ways in which to use tropes and schemes differ depending on the kairos. When a writer in noticing that conflict may occur when showing alternate argument, that may be the write time to inflict style and good prose in order to change the cognition of the reader. Also, certain prose at certain times could influence and lead the person to continue with the argument instead of gaining a distaste for it.

A possible usage for it is the same cognitive route that movies use: Build a person up for a climax. A person could use style to lead to the bridge, then he or she could use emotionally charged words to build a climax. Afterwards, the person could throw in a witty line with style and brings things back down to Earth.

Much of this has a lot to do with social engineer, social psychology, cognitive behavior, cognition, and psychology.

The ability of a writer to create prose could have an influence on ethos and pathos. People may perceive the writer to be an intelligent writer because of his or her ability to create stylish prose, thus building ethos. Also, the prose may have a cognitive effect on the reader, thus affecting pathos. The trick is to make the prose seem logical and reasonable.

An analogy is a perfect example where cognition of the reader takes place. The writer must use intelligence and style when creating them. However, they must be clear to the reader and understanable. This is why many people like analogies: Analogies allow a person to grasp a concept better.

Writing in General[edit]


Make one sentence link to the next. Afterwards, you could use transitions to go from that sentence to this sentence. However, this sentence may not be as apparent as the last sentence. Of course, one could make an argument about that statement... Do you notice the coherence? That's why you need to start practicing coherence before you write a college paper.

Sites to view:


Proofreading is the most important part of any paper. NEVER turn in a college paper without proofreading it more than four times. And after you do that, do it again. Proofreading can be difficult if one does not have a full comprehension of grammatical rules: That is just one problem when it comes to proofreading. This is why this part of the wikibook suggests people read through the Internet texts recommended in the previous section. When proofreading, one of the most important parts is making everything grammatically correct, coherent, and easy to read.

Many people speak outloud while proofreading their paper: This is highly suggested. Sometimes, when a person is proofreading, he or she may not notice any grammar or spelling mistakes while speaking outloud. This is why a Text-To-Speech program (TTS) is recommended. This author uses Readplease for convenience and flexibility. By using a program such as this, a person can listen to the text version of the paper spoken aloud. Listening closely, a person can find mistakes in the paper when a word is spoken incorrectly. This is one of the many handy tools for proofreading. However, if you've proofread with a TTS method, then you will want to proofread with your eyes, a dictionary, a style manual, and a grammar book. Proofreading can be annoying, but at least you'll get a decent grade.

My Favorite Way to Save Files[edit]

Thread was created by Cyberman (Kamisama), this Wikibook's creator.

Although I'm not the best of writers, I have a new trick in my arsenal.

But first a story:

When I was in college last semester, I lost a lot of my work. I had it saved to the hard drive and the hard drive broke. I wasn't able to save my work in time. And I had to hustle and move very quickly to recover from this disaster. However, I somewhat gained a new trick out of it all.

I was looking for alternatives, and I know many are you thinking "Use a jumpdrive." But I lost my jumpdrive; and even though those things are fun to use, they can be lost, too. After a jumpdrive is lost, then the saved data is not recoverable until one finds the jumpdrive. And floppy disks are still a hot thing among many people. Yet those can fail, too. I've seen it happen. Hell, I'm a 1990's kid. I know data loss happens. I think the major thing that set me back, however, was when my AC adapater for my laptop broke. Those things cost a lot of money. And I couldn't get ahold of a new one right away. I didn't have three weeks to wait for something to get to my mailbox. The papers were due soon.

So what was I to do from that day forward? What could I possibly do?

And then I decided to use my computer experience and Internet knowledge. I haven't tried to do anything nifty in a while. I thought about this predicament; I didn't want it to happen again. I was getting sick of the trouble. After enough hard thinking, I came up with a solution: GMail.

Yeah, GMail is a really great tool. Matter of fact, I won't type anything in MSWord or anymore. Seriously. Want to know why? Because GMail constantly saves whatever I'm writing. The best thing is that it is online. Yes, online. It's an online program that saves whatever a person is typing online. It doesn't constantly save, but it saves about every 30 seconds as long as a person keeps typing. I emphasize typing because it recognizes the fact that a person is typing and decides to save that "email" as a draft. Yet the writer isn't really making an email. The writer is saving everything as a draft.

Here's the procedure for those who like a layout:

  1. Compose a letter to yourself
  2. Start typing
  3. Keep typing
  4. Notice that GMail has saved your email as a draft (takes about 45 seconds after continuous typing.)
  5. Keep typing.
  6. When you're done typing, hit "Save..."
  7. Recognize that if your computer had crashed, the hard drive had broken, or some bat out of hell came from nowhere, that your GMail has saved your email. And you can access it in the drafts folder.

When a person wishes to gain access to that file, all he or she has to do is go into the drafts folder and edit the file. If someone wants that copy to be written in stone, then all one has to do is click "send." Afterwards, if the person wants to do more to the file, then he or she can copy and paste the information into a new composed draft. I find it fairly nice to use. And the neat thing is that everything is time-stamped.

This is not to say that you shouldn't save another copy to a jumpdrive, floppy disk, or other storage medium. Matter of fact, I advise that you do when you're done for the day.

But the important thing here is that GMail saves something. It saves it while you type. And the file does not get destroyed. Of course, there may be circumstances when Google's corporation goes to hell and the servers crash; but I think a billion dollar company would make backups or have precautions.

For these reasons, I have been using GMail whenever I have something important to type up. It seems much better than using an FTP server. However, there are times when Google Mail is not accessible; it rarely happens. This is why saving something to a different storage medium is advised.

And if I do use or MSWord, then it's for doing margin work, footnotes, spelling, and other specific word processing applications.

Writing Workshops[edit]

Some colleges offer community courses or courses that do not earn college credit. All who do not fully understand grammar should take a writing workshop and improve their grammar. Grammar is of the utmost importance when writing a paper for college. Writing workshops not only help with grammar, they also help with the structure of a paper. By structure, I mean the way everything fits together in a smooth transition: this smooth transition is also known as style.

These writing workshops do cost money, but they are worth it if a person comes out with improved writing. The best thing about taking a writing workshop is that a person does not have to take a college/university course that impacts his or her GPA. Another good reason to take a writing workshop is because many English professors expect someone to already know grammar and style. Depending on one's educational background, he or she may not remember how to use a semicolon or a colon; that person may not even remember the difference between a semicolon and a colon. Albeit that many early (before 1900 A.D.) writers used colons and semicolons in a fashionable way, it is recommended that someone flip through a grammar and style book for a definite way of writing with colons and semicolons. Although the semicolon may seem to be presented in a mediocre way, at least it will be used correctly.

Writing Communities[edit]

Types of Papers[edit]


Thesis Paper[edit]

Read this:

Paragraph One[edit]

What kind of bullets are you putting in your gun?

When you create a first paragraph, you have to notice that each sentence is a bullet. However, it's a certain type of bullet. Each bullet has its own property and effect on the individual you shoot it at. Nonetheless, the bullet is going to whiz through your paper and have an affect on the reader. If you've ever seen Outlaw Star, you understand that each bullet Gene Starwind has will have a different property. Some bullets are more unique than others, yet they all have a purpose. You have to notice that each sentence in the first paragraph has a purpose. The thesis sentence could be seen as the gun that you load all the bullets into. This thesis sentence is typically the last sentence of the first paragraph. Imagine that each previous sentence is a bullet being loaded into the thesis chamber. The thesis sentence is the most important sentence in the paper. It is the controlling sentence that allows you to shoot the bullets. Otherwise, you might as well throw the bullets at your reader, and that won't do you any good.

Each time you type a sentence into your first paragraph, imagine that you're loading the chamber. Each bullet needs to slide into the chamber with relative ease. Imagine what each sentence sounds like as it's slided into the thesis. The words and thoughts need to connect to each other. Otherwise, when you shoot the gun, it might become jammed. The gun wouldn't be of any use to you.


  • How are you going to shoot your gun?

When you shoot each sentence, it begins to have its own environment. Each environment takes shape, reason, and adjusts to its surroundings. In a way, a bullet in the first paragraph is shot and creates a paragraph environment of its own. This bullet creates a world of physics, details, examples, and facts. However, as the bullet begins to make contact, the environment is aware, impacted, and changes because of the bullet's presence. You want each word, sentence, and thought to ricochet inside the person's mind. Each thought in the paper bounces around in the reader. However, it all has to make sense. It all has to be rational. It all has to have a motive, a reason to be there.

  • What are you talking about?
  • What are these things connected to?
  • Why should I care about what you're saying?
  • Why are you talking about this?

You have to address a thought. These thoughts need something to connect to. These thoughts would be connected to the thesis. Of course the bullets came from the thesis. However, if the bullets don't come from the gun, the reader is going to think God is flicking pieces of rock at him or her at amazing speeds. The person being shot at can't make any sense of what's going on. They'll question why they are in this environment, and they'll want to get out of this odd and absurd predicament. However, if you can show that the sentences are bullet, they come from the thesis chamber, then the person being shot at can understand what's going on. You have a motive, and that motive gives cause to the chamber and bullets. Although this might seem a bit macrabe, it serves a good example.

Argumentative Research Paper[edit]

"It's not what you know, it's what you can prove." - Alonzo from Training Day.

Argumentation become a common aspect of post-secondary education, yet so many people don't understand it. There are many reasons why people don't understand it, but perhaps the best reason is because it is philosophically rooted. Many people believe philosophy can be hard to grasp without correct guidance. It can often be the failure of those who teach argumentation to teach its history and philosophical side. In this sense, understanding who created argumentation, what they intended it to be, and how it works will allow someone to better understand argumentation.

You say you know something, but can you really say it? I'm not so sure until you can prove it.

History of Argumentation[edit]

Argumentation is deeply rooted in philosophy, and yet it has adapted to be part of communication, and those who study communication adapated argumentation to their field. Argumentation has a large history preceding Aristotle.

Argumentation Theory, as many people call it, had a large amount to do with formal logic. Aristotle was one of many people to contribute to argumentation with the ideas of logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos would be the logical side of the argument; ethos would be the ethics, character, or type of person the arguer present him- or herself to be; and pathos would be the emotional, yet revelant, side of the argument.

Aristotle was also responsible for bringing out the idea of "enthymeme": An argument with one conclusion, one premise, and one unstated premise.

A person must keep in mind that Aristotle is who most persons refer to when they are studying argumentation. Throughout the history of argumentation, people such as Scholars have used Aristotle's reasoning in hopes to become better arguers.

Suggested Readings and other Media[edit]

This section is broken into two part:

  1. Books that a person ought to read with explanation and/or details.
  2. A list of books and other media.

If there is an earlier version of the book, you might be able to use that version instead. Sometimes older versions are better than newer versions. If you can't buy a book, you might be able to loan it from another library through something called interlibrary loan. Ask your librarian about interlibrary loan or borrowing books from another library.

All of these have been listed because they are very relevant to the study of argumentation. Of those that should be studied first are listed:

1. Fundamentals of argumentation theory: a handbook of historical backgrounds and contemporary developments

This part of argumentation has been negelected in post-secondary education. However, it will give you a brief introduction to what this topic is all about. I really suggest you read this first. Plus you'll love the cover of the book. You might be able to view that on google images.

2. A Rulebook for Arguments

This short book is somewhat of a quick intro/reference guide. If you've read the previous book, you'll be able to understand what's discussed in this book. The book is very systematic and allows a person to flip from section to section. I'd have to say the author perceived the writer's needs when he created it long ago.

3. Argumentation analysis, evaluation, presentation

This is more of a scholary book that gives a decently detailed view at argumentatin. It includes exercises which a person should do, type out, and practice with.

4. Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings

If you have one or more fallacies in your argument, educated people are going to criticize and frown upon your argument. Your grade will probably get knocked down, too. A lot of books discuss fallacies, but sometimes the way they describe them is not very detailed. This book helps give a detailed view toward fallacies.

5. Writing argumentative essays

This is another media that helps a person focus on writing argumentative papers.

6. Ethical Argumentation

A lot of ethical concerns exist when people are going further into the future. This book will allow you to understand ethics and values when stepping into the realm of argumentation.

7. An exploratory study of junior college students' response to teacher feedback in argumentative essays.

It's always neat to get the view of a professor using students as guinea pigs. Although the previous book and other books might help help you scrutinize such a person, this research will help you get a better grasp to what's expected of you as a student.

8. In defense of informal logic

Some people think argumentation is stupid because it has little formal logic and many people argue with emotions and values. This book was created to help defend against views like that.

Another possible book to look into would be Argumentation and Critical Decision Making by Rieke and others.


  • A Rulebook for Arguments (By Weston) (Year 2000)
  • A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The Pragma-dialectical Approach (By Eemeren and Grootendorst) (Year 2004)
  • Argumentation analysis, evaluation, presentation (By Eemeren, Grootendorst, and Snoeck-Henkemans) (Year 2002)
  • Argumentation, communication, and fallacies: A pragma-dialectical perspective (By Eemeren and Grootendorst) (Year 1992)
  • Ethical Argumentation (By Walton) (Year 2003)
  • Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings (By Hansen and Pinto) (Year 1995)
  • Fundamentals of argumentation theory: a handbook of historical backgrounds and contemporary developments (By Eemeren, Grootendorst, and Snoeck)
  • In defense of informal logic (By Levi) (Year 2000)
  • Rhetorical argumentation in biblical texts: Essays from the Lund 2000 conference (By Eriksson and Olbricht) (Year 2002)
  • Teachers' perceptions of coherence in student argumentative essays at the department of Basic English of Middle East Technical University (By Feyza Konyali) (Year 2003)
  • Warranting assent: Case studies in argument evaluation (By Edward Schiappa) (Year 1995)
  • Writing argumentative essays (By Nancy V. Wood) (Year 2001)


  • An exploratory study of junior college students' response to teacher feedback in argumentative essays. (By Dorothy Cheng Suan) (Year 2000)
  • Argumentative essays written by native speakers of Chinese and English: a study in contrastive rhetoric (By Cheryl Ann Eason) (Year 1995)
  • Rhetorical/cognitive strategies evidenced in information and argumentative essays of high school and college undergraduate students: a descriptive study (By Deborah Apy Odell) (Year 1986)
  • The impact of scaffolding via online asynchronous discussions on students' thinking skills in writing argumentative essays (By Yuen Choo Koh) (Year 2004)


  • Critiquing the argumentative essay (By Kathleen Clower) (Year 1991) (VHS tape)
Abstract: Seminar session with students and instructor critiquing student essays for elements of good argumentative writing; thesis statements are examined and strengthened.

Why should people argue?[edit]

Although a person can remain skeptical of Truth, justice, and the ways people should go about things, these are the things that are often argued. Yet some people might take an egoist view of argumentation along with a pragmatic view. If a person thinks, "This doesn't effect me, so why should I care?" Ah, but decisions might affect you. The idea is that the history of a person allowed him or her to arrive at a point in time. This history has so far allowed the person to live and read these words. It is this history that enables a person to argue.

However, were the person a skeptic, then he or she might say, "I'm skeptical about the things you say, the conclusions you reach, and the reasons you use. A person cannot know anything until he or she is that thing. Therefore, I'm not going to argue." Yet the irony is that for a person to be a skeptic, he or she must give reasons for being skeptical. Along with these reasons comes out the conclusion, "Therefore, I'm not going to argue." The skeptic has just argued.

In both of these scenarios, it is shown that argumentation is required in many cases. Argumentation allows a person to fight for his or her own views. That does not necessarily mean he or she is wrong, but it means simply that the person is arguing with others and presenting views. These views must be supported with reasons (premises) and at least a concusion. As a person understands argumentation more and more, he or she will begin to notice argumentation in many places.

To bring us back to an argument already present:

  • Reason 1: This doesn't affect me.
  • Reason 2: Things that don't affect me do not matter in my life. (Unstated assumption.)
  • Conclusion: Therefore, I don't care.

One way to attack an argument is to attack one of its stated reasons (also called premises), which in this case would be reason 1. I have stated that things do affect you. Things in this physical world are dependent on something else. Nothing is independent in this universe. Therefore, you are affected by something one way or another.

  • Premise 1: Things in this physical world are dependent on other things.
  • Premise 2: Nothing is independent in this universe.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, you are affected by something in one way or another.

If you can somehow prove to me that you are independent of this universe, then maybe I'll accept your conclusion. Of course, I'll need evidence of this.

What are you proving?[edit]

  • What am I trying to prove and how am I trying to prove it?

Pick a weapon:

  1. Formal Logic
  2. Informal Logic

If you're taking a philosophy course, you will probably be doing formal logic. If you're taking an English course, you will probably be doing informal logic. Yet even choosing your weapon for arguing depends on an audience. Some audiences in pure reason and logic will accept formal logic. However, this ideal audience rarely, if ever, exists. Such an audience that accepts formal logic might be one person who studies it in depth or an audience of logicians and philosophers. The point of this is that your audience will be the ones to either accept or dismiss your argument.

Things to read:


The Technical side of Argumention[edit]

  1. Premise
  2. Warrant
  3. Conclusion (Claim)
  4. Enthymeme
  5. Evidence (Grounds)
  6. Backing (Backup evidence)
  7. Rebuttal
  • An argument must include one premise and one conclusion.

A premise (reason) is used to reach a conclusion (claim).

Words to remember:

  1. Premise (reason)
  2. Conclusion (claim)

An argument with one premise and one conclusion is called an enthymeme. An enthymeme is an "incomplete argument" that is missing one premise. This one premise, called an unstated assumption, is unprovided by the arguer.

  • Person 1: You're car is broke (conclusion) because someone blew up its engine (premise).

In formal writing, people often place the conclusion and premise(s) next to each other. However, some implied arguments do not make the conclusion and premises so obvious.

  • Person 2 thinks, "I guess so. A blown up engine cannot process gas or other things required for it to run." (unstated assumption)

The unstated assumption (also known as "warrant") is provided by the audience, in this case Person 2. In other words, the audience assumes a premise and fills in the gap for the enthymeme; the audience mentally provides another premise without the arguer providing it.

  • Arguer: Hitting people is wrong.
  • Random person walking by: Why do you think that?
  • Arguer: Hurting people causes suffering. (Major Premise / Major Reason).
  • Random person: I agree.

If you haven't figured it out yet: If someone doesn't offer you premises and only a conclusion, it's difficult to argue with him or her. As you start to learn argumentation more, you might see people only stating conclusions and giving no reasons. If you would like to start an argument with someone, you simply need to ask, "Why do you think that?" From there, you can draw out a person's reasons and argue against or for them.

But the question is, Why do these people agree?

  1. Enthymeme (Argument with unstated assumption not included)
  2. Big Thesis (Claim or Conclusion)
  3. Small Theses (Premises / Reasons)
  • Major Premise
  • Minor Premise
  1. Evidence (or Grounds)

Argumentation in Media[edit]

In the movie Training Day, the protagonist encounters the antagonist, Alonzo, played by Danzel Washington. Alonzo is a cop gone bad, and the protagonist needs a way to prove it. Although the protagonist knows very well that Alonzo is a bad cop involved with drugs and crime, there is little evidence to support the protagonist's claim (also called a conclusion). Eventually the protagonist meets Alonzo at his apartment and finds Alonzo preparing money to give to a Russian gangster that Alonzo angered. Alonzo needs to pay a "debt of respect," which in this case is a large sum of money, to the Russian gangster. The protagonist encounters Alonzo and they both go through a dialogue about the protagonist not being able to prove that Alonzo is a bad cop. Alonzo than recites the line, "It's not what you know, it's what you can prove." The protagonist sees the large bag of money and Alonzo notices that the protagonist is going to use the bag of money as evidence to support that claim that Alonzo is a bad cop. Eventually after Alonzo and the protagonist get into a long and dangerous fight, the protagonist obtains the bag of money and says that it will be used as evidence. The bag, of course, would have Alonzo's fingerprints and could be tested by forensics.

The movie Training Day includes many things that revolve around argumentation and is a recommended watch. If you've seen it already, you may want to watch it again.

Possible Argument:

  • Claim: Alonzo is a corrupt cop.
  • Reason 1: He is involved with drugs and crime.
  • Reason 2: He has people killed.
  • Reason 3: He searches houses without a warrant.
  • Reason 4: Bad cops don't do these things. (unstated assumption)


More Reading[edit]