Wednesdays, 6 pm, WIH (Williams Hall) 308

Professor: Dr. Joseph Zompetti                                                                         Office Hours: T/TR 3-4:30; W 3-4pm

Office: Fell 459                                                                                                 Office phone: 438-3277




This course involves the study of argumentation, its principles, and the application of those principles.  The course requires that each student research, analyze and develop sound arguments on various controversial issues.  Second, this course is designed to introduce the student to the basic principles of argumentation.  We will explore the different types of arguments and argumentative fallacies.  Towards the end of the course, each student will be able to apply the basic principles of argumentation to a form of academic debate, in order to simulate the creation, development and response to arguments and fallacies.  We will emphasize the ability to use critical thinking skills in developing and supporting a reasoned argument.



At the end of the course, students should be able to:

1.  know what evidence is, how to find and use it to prove a claim, and how to evaluate the adequacy of opposing evidence.

2.  understand the methods of argument and how to evaluate arguments.

3.  develop skills in refutation and advocacy.

4.  learn how to organize arguments into a persuasive case.

5.  develop and utilize critical thinking skills.

6.  discern the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

7.  gain an understanding of academic debate.



There are no required texts for this course.  All materials will be premised on lectures and class discussions.





Every class period is critical if you are to obtain the most of your education.  Furthermore, issues that we discuss in class (which will frequently stray from the texts) will be necessary for your on-going assignments and the exam.  Your participation grade also will undoubtedly be reflected in your attendance.  Additionally, there are 5 points assigned to your attendance.  For each class period you miss that is not officially excused, you will lose 1 point.  After the third absence, not only will you forfeit all 5 points, but your overall grade will also be reduced by one full letter grade for each day you miss.  A tardy during “debate” days will count as an absence. 



This course is designed to improve your ability to communicate and interact with different concepts, particularly concepts that relate to argument.  Given the inherent communicative nature of argument, your participation in class discussions is critical in practicing, developing, and understanding communication skills and messages.  Additionally, we all learn more if everyone contributes.  I expect all of you, as you should expect from yourselves, to contribute to our educational experience. DO NOT think that your “attendance” is your participation grade.  To participate means you add to the overall learning environment with your ideas and critical, albeit respectful, comments.  It is up to you to come to class prepared to participate as a citizen — to listen attentively to others, to engage critically and creatively the perspectives of others, and to contribute meaningfully to discussions of the class topics.  Your participation grade, worth 5 points, will be assessed by calculating holistically at the end of the semester, based on my subjective assessment of  your contributions that have occurred throughout the semester.



Out of courtesy for all those participating in the learning experience, all cell phones and pagers must be turned off before entering any classroom, lab, or formal academic or performance event.



There will be six exams during the semester.  I have scheduled the first and last exams for you, so that you may study for them in advance.  Other than these, however, the remaining four can occur at any time during the semester -- so make sure you pay attention in class!  The final exam is listed under the tentative schedule.  It will be a short answer exam.  There will be no make-ups for the exams, except for a university-recognized excuse.






Make sure you proofread all of your work and that they are photocopied or saved on disk.  If you forget to proofread or if you misplace your work, do not expect me to be sympathetic.  Any late work will be automatically reduced one-letter grade for every class period that it is late -- this includes the briefs. If you foresee problems, make sure you discuss them with me BEFORE the assignment is due. The assignments for this class are as follows (more detailed descriptions will come later):

1.  Argument Analysis:  Beginning October 1, each student will be expected to turn-in an argument analysis report for each class.  The report will consist of an argument (or fallacy) found in popular media (e.g., magazines, journals, newspapers, but NO internet) concerning contemporary politics or social issues.  Each report will provide a brief description of the argument/fallacy, why it should be considered an argument or fallacy, the supporting material used for the argument, and a brief description of analysis from the student concerning the strengths and/or weaknesses of the argument/fallacy.  On October 1, we will begin each class discussing the arguments you analyze.

2.  Student debates:  At the end of the semester, we will have a series of debates about current events.  The debates will consist of one-on-one debates on a topic chosen for each debate (i.e., no repeat debate topics will occur).  The debates must center on an important, controversial issue in contemporary society.  All topics must be approved by the instructor by October 1, 2003.  I will provide a list of topic examples to help you.

3.  Research:  After you have chosen the area for your student debates, you must research your topic.  The research will consist of using library materials (no Internet research unless approved by instructor) to formulate your arguments as described in class.  Once you have obtained your supporting material for your arguments, you must construct argument briefs for use in the debates.  The briefs will be discussed in more detail in class.  A copy of your brief must be submitted to the instructor prior to your debate to count for your "research" grade.



The class is essentially divided into two sections, one theory-based and the other application-oriented.  While class lectures and discussions are occurring, please remember that your research for the Student Debates should also be occurring simultaneously.  Do not be fooled that if we have a lecture in class that it does not also mean that other assignments are still pending.  A crucial factor for the successful completion of this course is to stay on schedule for your other assignments.  DO NOT FALL BEHIND -- it will be detrimental to you in the end.



Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact Disability Concerns, FELL 350, 438-5853 (voice), 438-8620 (TDD).”



Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated.  This includes cutting and pasting from the internet (even if such cutting/pasting have a reference), and generally any material that is not your own unless broken off with quotation marks and cited to the proper author.  Specifically for this class, intentional borrowing material from others without proper citation or falsification/fabrication of supporting material, will automatically result in an “F” for that assignment and may result in additional action taken by the appropriate university officials. 



The nature of this course requires examining controversial issues.  By their nature, controversial issues foster disagreement.  Our efforts in this course are to analyze these issues, discuss them, and criticize the strengths and weaknesses of the rhetorical messages and strategies employed in social movements.  As such, respect and tolerance for the interrogation of movements in this course is imperative.  At the same time, we should also be mindful of the sensitivities of others.




Note:  Failure to turn in any of the course requirements may result in failure of the overall course.  The Grading Scale is an  A (4) = 90-100, B (3) = 80-89, C (2) = 70-79, D (1) = 60-69, F (0) = 0-59.


Participation                                          5 pts.

Attendance                                           5 pts.

Exams                                                  30 pts.

Debates                                                20 pts.

Argument Analysis                                20 pts.                   

Research                                              20 pts.    

Total                                                     100 pts.




W, 20     Introductions, the Syllabus, Introduction to Argumentation & Propositions        

W, 27     Stock Issues, Propositions and Topics; Exam One



W, 3       Ethics, the Audience, the Language of Argument  

W, 10     Evidence

W, 24     Reasoning



W, 1       Research; Student Debate topics must be approved; Argument Analyses Begin

W, 8       Briefing, Outlining, Organization           

W, 15     Fallacies, Refutation

W, 22     Academic Debate qua Simulation – Basic Issues, and Cross-Examination         

W, 29     Preparation for Student Debates; Research Briefs are due



W, 5       Student Debates 

W, 12     Student Debates 

W, 19     No Class -- NCA 

W, 26     Thanksgiving Break – No Class           



W, 3       Student Debates

W, 10     Final exam, 5:30 pm