1. RHE 306
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Unit 3 - Advocating a Position

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Unit Overview

In the first two units, you assumed the part of a neutral investigator, mapping out the various positions held in regard to your controversy and then carefully analyzing one of those positions. In Unit III, you will actually engage in the debate you’ve been describing: drawing on your research and the persuasive strategies you’ve studied throughout the semester, you’ll produce an argument advocating your own informed position within this controversy.

By now you’ve very likely decided where you stand on the larger issues of your controversy, but you’ll still need to decide exactly what you want to accomplish in your argument. In the previous two units, your purpose was mainly informative, a combination of description, explanation, and analysis. In this unit, your purpose is mainly persuasive: you want to persuade your audience of something. But of what? Do you want them to change their mind about something? To open their mind about something? Or perhaps to do something? You’ll need to be very clear about what you hope to accomplish vis-à-vis your audience when you write this final paper, as an argument designed to get someone to go out and do something often looks very different than one designed to get someone to believe something (else).

You’ll also need to determine how you want to make your argument. To get a sense of how to make your argument, you’ll want to study the arguments offered by a handful of sources that advocate your selected position, as well as some key sources that offer powerful arguments against it. These sources will act as helpful guides for you, but you won’t want simply to repeat or rebut the arguments others have already made; rather, you’ll want to come up with your own unique angle, example, or source, something that makes your argument different and interesting. You might offer, for instance, new information you gathered through an interview with someone connected to your controversy, compelling results of a survey or experiment that you’ve conducted, or a close analysis in which you expose the hidden weaknesses of a familiar argument on the other side.

The rhetorical strategies that you choose to utilize will depend on many factors, but in general a strong advocate will use a combination of persuasive appeals, credible sources, and rhetorical analysis in an effort to persuade an audience. In Units I and II, your audience was assigned to you, but in Unit III you’ll need to determine your audience. An argument addressed to people who already agree with your position will sound quite different from one crafted to persuade a skeptical audience to change their minds, so it is important to know who your primary audience is and to respect their initial positions. Generally, it is most productive to address people who have some knowledge of the issues involved but whose own positions on the subject have not yet been solidly determined. What strategies might persuade such people? And where will your argument need to appear to reach them?