Introduction to Senior Argumentative Thesis

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SWBAT identify different modes of argumentation.

Big Idea

What are the different types of argument?


This lesson is an introduction to a month-long unit on persuasive argumentation writing. Students will:

  • Learn about the different modes of argumentation 
  • Research a topic of high interest
  • Develop a plan of action they want their audience to engage in based around that topic
  • Write a multi-page argumentative thesis on the topic and action


Through this assignment students will strengthen their understanding of the writing process in several key areas:

  • How use inductive reasoning to form a thesis
  • Identifying and correcting logical fallacies in their writing
  • Correctly using APA format in Google Docs

Different Modes of Argumentation

10 minutes

Because we have engaged in different modes of argumentation throughout the year, I want to take the time now to give my students a broader overview of argumentation and the different purposes it takes. 

I handout this chart which comes from the rhetorical reader I used in college, and which I found helpful enough to continue using. 

I briefly go over the different forms and purposes of arguing with my students, and answer any questions they have about the different forms. 

I then  have students get into pairs and come up with a real-world scenario for each of the different types of arguing.  Students come up with fairly common scenarios like choosing college, buying a car, deciding which candidate to vote for, understanding complex concepts like water pollution or other environmental hazard, and recommending a movie. 

We then discuss the different types of argumentation we've engaged in during class whether in discussion or in writing. The students are beginning to understand that argumentation is not just about two people having a disagreement, but it's a method for achieving a decision or even truth. 


Introduction to the Assignment

20 minutes

I have all the different parts of the assignment stapled together and hand it out to the students as a single packet.  This way the students aren't overwhelmed by the idea of a lengthy research project and they can start planning to write the paper. 

We then go through the different parts of the project, I answer their many, many questions and reiterate the different deadlines throughout the project. 

The majority of the questions center around APA formatting and how strict I plan to be when grading.  I remind them several times that I didn't make the APA format up and I explain that following it closely will help them write a better organized more persuasive paper than if they merely write a paper without any formatting. 

I explain that APA stands for American Psychological Association and it represents the formatting standards for their peer-reviewed journal.  Standards that have since been accepted by the larger scientific research community. The major difference between APA and MLA, I explain, is the emphasis on dates in APA over MLA.  I suggest that they also follow suite and look for material that represents the most recent research and scholarly thought. 

I explain very closely the difference between the requirements of a rough draft and that of a final draft and explain to them that I want to see significant changes between the two drafts. Not a complete re-write, but evidence that there has been some reflection the feedback they've received from me and each other, and hopefully people outside the classroom. 

I end this section by reminding students that if they need more time or are struggling I am more than happy to work with them, but not after the due date, only before it. 

Deciding on a Topic

20 minutes

Next I direct students to this blog from The New York Times  and encourage them to browse the extensive lists of topics here to get an idea of a solid topic. I encourage them not to pick a topic right away but to graze through the topics first and look at several topics that interest them. I explain that once they've written their outline they are committed to the topic, there will be no changing horses mid-stream.