Communication 238
Argumentation & Debate
T & Th 10:30-12:00




Instructor & Objectives

Course Schedule






Instructor: Chris Richter
Office: 207 Pleasants Hall; Phone: x6358
Office Hrs: M & W 1:30-3:30 p.m.;
Th 4:15-4:45 p.m. and by appointment

Course Objectives:
This course is designed to help you develop argumentation and  critical thinking skills. In particular you will:
1. Learn theories of argumentation;
2. Develop your critical thinking skills with regard to logic and appropriate use of evidence;
3. Develop your writing, oral presentation and research skills;
4. Apply all of the above in the process of crafting, presenting and critiquing arguments.

Required Reading
The textbooks for this class are:
Rybacki, K. C. & Rybacki, D. J. (2000). Advocacy and opposition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. ("Rybacki" in schedule)

Wood, N. V. (1998).Writing argumentative essays. Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall. ("Wood" in schedule).

In addition, all students are required to subscribe to the daily New York Times (available through the bookstore).

Electronic Resources:
APA guide to citing electronic references:


Attendance: This is a highly participatory class. Lecture and discussion involve important concepts not covered in the readings, and will also involve activities which will help develop your argumentation, oral presentation and writing skills. Thus, regular attendance is expected. You are permitted two absences. Use your two absences wisely. More than two absences for any reason will result in your grade being lowered. On any day marked with an "*" in the schedule below, attendance is required of all students

Lateness: Showing up for class late on a regular basis is very rude, and will result in grade reduction.

Participation: You are expected to complete all reading assignments prior to class, and to ask useful questions and participate in class discussions in an informed and thoughtful way.

Honor Code: As with all your courses at Hollins you are expected to be familiar with, and abide by, the student honor code, as laid out in the Student Handbook. In particular, pay attention to the definition of plagiarism.

Grading: I will make every effort to grade and return all assignments by no later than one week after they are turned in. The Grading Scale for each assignment and for the final grade is based on a total of 100%, as follows:





















44 or lower



In this course you will prepare a variety of assignments. A brief description of each, and point distributions, are presented below. More detailed descriptions of assignments will be linked to this web page and discussed in class. (NOTE: assignments and schedule are subject to change based on consultation between instructor and class).

Issue Clippings: Everyone is expected to bring in one or more newspaper/magazine clippings every class. These should be on controversial social issues, that is, issues that people are likely to feel strongly about (e.g. environmental issues, free speech, television violence, domestic abuse, etc.). Clippings should be mounted on a piece (or pieces) of three-hole note-book paper. Include your name on each, plus the source, date and page number. These will be put on reserve in notebooks in Robertson Library for you to use in choosing/researching topics.

Exploratory Paper: Pick an issue from an article or articles in the binder. Identify ALL the possible sides that people might take on this issue. In the paper, identify the issue, and the different sides or perspectives people might take on it. Justify EACH of the sides, or explain why people would support each one.

Position Paper # 1: Address the same issue as you did in the exploratory paper. This time, choose only one side--the one you feel strongly about--and write a persuasive paper on this position, in which you acknowledge, but rebut arguments from other perspectives. You will also use this topic for your first graded presentation, the persuasive speech.

Position Paper #2: As a class we will agree on three to four topics for the second issue paper and the traditional debate. You will write a longer, more thoroughly researched position paper taking one side of your topic. You will also use this paper in preparing for the traditional debate.

Persuasive Speech: craft and present to the class a persuasive speech based on your first position paper.

Traditional Debate: In-class debate based on participants' second position paper.

Consensus Debate: As a class, we will develop techniques for working toward consensus or agreement on controversial issues, then apply them in a debate in class.

Speech & Debate Evaluations: Everyone will evaluate two speeches and one debate (forms to be provided).

Written Assignments

Exploratory Paper
Position Paper #1
Position Paper #2


Oral Presentations

Persuasive Speech
Traditional Debate
Consensus Debate


Class Involvement

Issues Clippings
Speech & Debate Evaluations







Week 1
Sept. 2


Introductions; assign clippings

Week 2
Sept. 7
Sept. 9

Rybacki Ch. 1; Wood Ch.1
Wood pp. 110-113

What is argumentation?
Assign exploratory paper

Week 3
Sept. 14

Sept. 16

Rybacki Chs. 2 & 3

Rybacki Ch. 4; Wood Chapter 12 (optional)
Exploratory Paper due

Basic Terms, Concepts & Processes;
Assign position paper #1

Week 4
Sept. 21
Sept. 23

Rybacki Ch. 5; Wood Ch. 5

Toulmin's argument model
Assign position speech

Week 5
Sept. 28

Sept. 30

Wood Ch. 7; Rybacki TBA
Position Paper # 1 Due

Argumentative proofs & reasoning.

Week 6
*Oct. 5
*Oct. 7

Persuasive speeches
Persuasive speeches


Week 7
*Oct. 12

Oct. 14

Persuasive speeches (if needed) Rybacki Ch. 6; Wood Ch. 11 (optional)
Rybacki Ch. 9 & Appendix A

Research processes; Determine debate topics; Assign position paper # 2 & traditional debate
Arguing facts; determine debate format

Week 8
Oct. 19
Oct. 21

Rybacki Ch. 10
Rybacki Ch. 11

Arguing values
Arguing policy

Week 9
Oct. 26

Oct. 28

Rybacki Ch. 12

No Class: Fall Break

Audience analysis & presentation skills

Week 10
Nov. 2
Nov. 4





Week 11
*Nov. 9
*Nov. 11

Traditional Debates
Traditional Debates


Week 12
*Nov. 16
Nov. 18

Traditional Debates
Wood Ch. 8

Alternatives: Common ground; choose topics & assign consensus debates

Nov. 23 & 25

Give Thanks!!

Week 13
Nov. 30

*Dec. 2


Consensus Debates

Formulate rules for consensus debate

Week 14
*Dec. 7
*Dec. 9

Consensus Debates
Consensus Debates