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The Structure of Argument Chapter 2

By Annette T. Rottenberg

Chapter Two. Responding to Argument

good reader, good listener: to uncover the clues that reveal the meaning and to become sensitive to the kinds of organization, support, and language that experienced writers use in persuading their audiences. to distinguish between responsible and irresponsible speech. your purpose is to learn what the author wants to prove and how he or she proves it, and to frame a response to it as you read.

A full response to any argument means more than understanding the message. It also means evaluating, deciding whether or not the message is successful and, then, determining how it succeeds or fails in persuading us. … we adapt the strategies that produce clear, honest, forceful arguments.

Responding as a critical reader

complex and mutlilayered issues,

strategies for close reading: annotate; learn to extract meaning by attending to clues both in the material itself and in their knowledge of the world around them.

  1. pay attention to the title and the subtitle: purpose, reference, attitude
  2. first time: main idea and the structure. make a skeleton outline in your mind or on paper.
  3. main idea or thesis statement: sometimes in the first two or three paragraphs; sometimes not, maybe the beginning my lay out the position that the author will oppose, or background for the whole argument.
  4. topic sentences
  5. don’t overlook the language signposts: but, however, nevertheless, yet, moreover, for example, at first glance, more important, the first reason, etc.
  6. adopt method for vocabulary search
  7. use marker sparsingly
  8. ask questions
  9. Discuss

Responding as writer

your essay sometimes does not need to do justice to a complicated and highly debatable subject. What is can do is provoke thought and initiate an intelligent discussion.

organization, support, style

  • Tone: “we don’t know.” “No one knows for certain.””Such evidence as exists.” Careful studies can answer these questions.”
  • word choice: educated layman
  • Transitions: but, at least, indeed, on the contrary, in a sense, on the other hand, however, for example
  • sentences: long vs short, simple, compound, complex; sentence beginnings
  • parenthetical insertions

Responding as critical listener

  • persona: voice, delivery, bodily mannerisms, dress, and physical appearance
  • slang, colloquialisms, grammar and usage errors
  • ad hominem fallacy
  • Guidelines to Critical Listening
  • concentration: flow sheets, outlines
  • concentrate on logic, instead on persona
  • not allow your prejudices to prevent careful evaluation

Responding On-line

On-line you may find yourself writing quickly, carelessly, and intimately; without help of your tone and body language, you may end up being seriously misunderstood.

network etiquette guidelines – “netiquette”

  • Keep your sentences short and uncomplicated.
  • separate blocks of text. use subheadings
  • Refer specifically to the text to which you are responding. quote
  • Greet
  • Be wary about attempting to be funny.
  • Avoid profanity or invective
  • avoid discussion of politics or religion
  • do not ridicule public figures.
  • frame all comments in a helpful, not critical, tone. “You have some good ideas in this paper and with a few changes, I think it will do well.”


Mention “orphanage” to some one and the image that springs to mind is Oliver Twist begging for another bowl of gruel in a bleak prison. [True. I don’t get it. Nowadays, we have good prisons for criminals. But we don’t trust we can have good orphanage for homeless kids. What’s wrong?]

the social-control theory: prisons, asylums, and orphanages were institutions designed by the privileged classes to ensure control over poor people. (Anthony Platt The Child Savers, & David Rothman The Discovery of the Asylum)

Nurith Zmora “Orphanage Reconsidered”, They don’t take incorrigible children. They are not orphanages but boarding schools that charged no tuition. dressmaking and secretarial skills. The school devoted great effort to finding jobs for their graduates. Child labor not allowed after 1870s.

shocking: these orphanages failed due to their success and the ideology of there rivals: private charities and public agencies (cannot afford and don’t make up the difference), social workers (broke family), liberal reformers (social control), fiscal conservatives (expensive)

Critics think these places are “warehouses” and propose to provide money for their parents to take care of the children.

Not all families are worth preserving. family preservation

Exercises for G.

  • Pre-reading 1
  • Annotation 2
  • On-line 8


  • egalitarianism
  • subvert
  • hereditary
  • pseudo-aristocratic
  • indenture
  • paranoid
  • snuff
  • obtrude
  • spurious
  • victimology
  • chauvinist
  • specter
  • latch-key
  • crack-abusing
  • conciliatory
  • impromptu
  • moderator
  • derision
  • anecdotes
  • ad hominem
  • far-flung
  • rebuttals
  • jocular
  • profanity
  • invective
  • brusque

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