ENGL001 Study Guide

Unit 2: What Makes Academic Writing Unique?

2a. Identify various genres in academic writing

  • What is academic writing?
  • What is a discourse community, and how are they relevant to academic writing?
  • What is a personal narrative? What are this genre's defining characteristics?
  • What is the purpose of comparison and contrast? What are this genre's defining characteristics?
  • What is the cause and effect genre? What are its defining characteristics?

Academic writing is essentially an argument, using language to persuade someone to adopt a certain perspective. 

Discourse communities are groups of people who share mutual interests and beliefs, and are important for an academic writer to understand how different academic disciplines communicate differently.

A personal narrative is an argument based on storytelling. Personal narratives place readers into a significant experience, expand on the story's details, and integrate context, dialogue, and character development into the essay. Personal narratives must also convey the significance of the story.

Comparison and contrast essays analyze two subjects to illuminate subtle differences or similarities between them. These essays clearly explain what is being compared and why in the thesis, and utilize two main organizing strategies: subject-by-subject or point-by-point.

Cause and effect essays are written to explore causal relationships between different subjects or parts. This genre is deeply speculative and should employ qualifying words and phrases.



2b. Identify and practice developing the essential components of a written argument

  • What are the basic requirements of an argument?
  • What should you think about when developing your audience for an argument?
  • What are the different goals for writing an argument?
  • What is a thesis, and what are the criteria for an effective thesis?
  • How can you refine your thesis?
  • What are the three primary purposes of research?
  • What are the parts of the basic rhetorical structure of an argument?
  • What is the difference between a warrant and a claim?

An argument is a conversation, and a productive argument starts with a problem. It needs an audience, a goal, a thesis, research, and organization. When thinking about your argument's audience, you should explain concepts and terms, provide necessary background information, and develop your ethos and sense of fairness.

An argument's goals can be to accommodate a skeptical audience, explore all sides of an argument and reveal any flaws, and prove your own reasons by including evidence and by using rhetorical appeals. It should seek to solve a problem, persuade others, or convince the validity of a claim.

A thesis is the guiding idea of an essay, so it must be clear, specific, and simple to support. The thesis should be reasonable, controversial, and provable. It can be refined by testing it against the opposition, conducting research, and by being actively engaged in understanding the research results.

Research has three primary purposes: to provide factual information, provide arguments for your position, and provide arguments against your position.

An argument can be organized thusly:

  • Exordium: Hooks your audience and announces your topic
  • Narratio: Provides relevant background information of your topic
  • Confirmatio: Gives evidence to prove your claims
  • Confutatio/Refutatio: Addresses any opposing reasons and refutes them
  • Peroratio: Conclusion by way of discovery, explains the significance of the argument

A claim is your main point that requires reason and evidence, or warrants.



2c. Identify academic tone

  • Why is an appropriate academic tone important?

Choosing a tone that is too informal may weaken your credibility, but a tone that is too formal may make the writing sound too complex. Utilizing language appropriate to the academic context can help create balanced communication between writer and reader.

Review Use Appropriate Academic Language


2d. Explain how academic writing is a conversation between different writers and researchers

  • How is an argument like a conversation? What is a helpful metaphor for this?
  • What are some strategies to help you enter into the conversation about the argument when you write?

A writer will enter into a particular place and time with an idea or opinion, and try to react to everything that has come before. Think of it like joining a party and entering into the discussion when you arrive. To enter into the conversation, think about what happened and was discussed before you started writing, what is happening as you write, and what do you think will be your audience's response?

Review Understanding How Conversations Change Over Time


2e. Practice techniques for identifying the rhetorical situation and forming persuasive rhetorical appeals

  • What techniques can help you identify the rhetorical situation? 
  • What techniques can help you form persuasive rhetorical appeals?

Here are some techniques to help you identify the rhetorical situation:

  • Identify the circumstances surrounding the writing project. Write down what is going on in the world at large and how it relates to your project.
  • Reflect on your intended audience. Write down a list of what they already know about the topic. 
  • Write a research plan that considers what kind of research your audience will be persuaded by: Original research? Traditional research? Personal knowledge? Facts and figures?
  • Write down your purpose for writing: To teach, persuade, analyze, entertain, etc.
  • Determine the media of your project: Will it be published online or a printed report? Will visuals be needed? What kind of technology will you need?
  • Consider your voice, tone, and persona. Think about your stance to your readers – what do you want them to think of you? Is it appropriate to express your feelings, or to appear more objective?

Here are some techniques to help you form persuasive rhetorical appeals:

  • Ethos:
    • Your viewpoint must be consistent throughout the text
    • Do not use hyperbolic language
    • Maintain an even, objective tone
    • Explain concepts and ideas thoroughly
    • Address counter-arguments and successfully rebut them
    • Use a sufficient number of relevant sources and show that you understand them
  • Pathos:
    • Use humor
    • Use narration, such as storytelling or anecdotes, to humanize the issue
    • Use descriptive and attention-grabbing details
    • Use hypothetical examples to help readers imagine themselves in certain scenarios
    • Use visuals
  • Logos:
    • Research and include statistics that support your claims
    • Use "if/then" causal statements to appeal to reason
    • Provide relevant examples to demonstrate your point
  • Kairos:
    • Create a sense of urgency by appealing to a fast-approaching moment, in order to avoid missing some sort of opportunity
    • Create a sense of urgency and excitement by using deadlines or goals
    • Refer to current crises or impending doom



2f. Demonstrate competence in various rhetorical strategies and logical structures by developing, analyzing, and revising original essays

  • What strategies and techniques can you use to demonstrate rhetorical and logical competence in your writing?
Use the following steps to help you develop and revise your essays: 

  • Determine the rhetorical situation of the assignment (e.g., its purpose, context, and primary audience). 
  • Generate topic ideas. 
  • Determine what medium you should use.
  • Determine what appeals will most effectively persuade your audience (e.g., ethos, pathos, logos, kairos). 
  • Use a calendar to schedule time to write the paper.
  • Plan your research, if necessary. 
  • Construct and refine a reasonable, controversial, and provable thesis.
  • Follow the PWR method.
  • Plan your writing by prewriting, freewriting, listing, mapping, asking questions, or outlining. This is also a good time to reread the assignment instructions.
  • Write a draft, preferably days before the paper is due. An argument can be organized as such:
    • Exordium: Hooks your audience and announces your topic
    • Narratio: Provides relevant background information of your topic
    • Confirmatio: Gives evidence to prove your claims
    • Confutatio/Refutatio: Addresses any opposing reasons and refutes them
    • Peroratio: Conclusion by way of discovery, explains the significance of the argument 
  • Revise the draft to assess its strengths and weaknesses. This can also include proofreading for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Organize the ideas in your essay:
    • Introduction: Open with an intriguing example, provocative quotation, puzzling scenario, anecdote, or thought-provoking question. Be straightforward and confident in your introduction.
    • Body: Think about your paragraphing, especially transitions. Use the PIE (Point, Illustration, Explanation) format for your body paragraphs. 
    • In each paragraph, do you need to elaborate on the preceding paragraph or introduce a new but related idea? Continue a chronological narrative? Describe a problem or cause? Describe a consequence or implication?
    • Ensure that each claim you make is supported by evidence.
    • Conclusion: Play the "so what" game, return to a theme from your introduction, synthesize information (don't summarize), include a provocative insight or quotation, propose a course of action or solution, point to broader implications.



2g. Practice techniques for using research to support various logical structures and rhetorical strategies, including analysis, discussion, and comparison/contrast

  • What can you research to support your ethos?
  • What can you research to support pathos?
  • What can you research to support logos?
  • What can you research to support kairos?
  • What is a frame, and how do you use research to establish a frame for your analysis and discussion?
  • What should you research when analyzing an argument?
  • What kind of research should you conduct to support your reasons?
  • What strategies should you use for conducting research?
  • How can you assess your research, and why should you assess your research?

Research strategies for supporting your ethos include finding sources from authors who have specific experience or education related to your issue. When you integrate that source information, address their credibility. Appeals to pathos can be supported by researching emotional stories, even first-person accounts, plus images and other non-textual media, powerful direct quotations, and humor, and incorporating them into your essay. Researching logos appeals involves finding data or statistics and expert testimony. Supporting kairos appeals could involve researching current events, such as crises, usually found in political and social campaigns.

A frame is the section of an academic paper in which a perspective that has already been accepted by a specific discourse community is presented, in order to establish the point of view from which the rest of the essay will be analyzed. You will need to research that perspective – how it is defined by experts and what theorists have said about that frame.

When analyzing an argument, you should research the credibility of the writer and the writer's research.

Generally, you should research evidence that supports your reasons. Research should be authoritative and from trustworthy sources, appropriately cited, and ample enough to convince. Evidence derived from your research should appeal to your target audience's values and priorities. Your research should build upon what your audience already knows. You should present your research from general to specific, use diagrams and other visuals, make sure data is authoritative, and help the audience identify which elements of your research are important.

You should assess your research to create confidence in your authority. Ensure that you have consulted reputable sources, and have formatted your findings according to accepted standards.



Unit 2 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes the terms that you will need to know to successfully complete the final exam.

  • academic writing
  • argument
  • cause and effect
  • claim
  • comparison and contrast
  • discourse community 
  • evidence
  • frame
  • personal narrative
  • problem
  • reason
  • thesis
  • tone
  • warrant