Conditions of Use
The textbook covers a great breadth of content with the appropriate depth for 100-level writing courses. The chapters provide an introductory understanding of a wide range of composition content including argument, academic research, the writing... read more
The textbook covers a great breadth of content with the appropriate depth for 100-level writing courses. The chapters provide an introductory understanding of a wide range of composition content including argument, academic research, the writing process, and writing conventions.
The content is accurate, unbiased, and error-free.
The textbook provides a variety of examples of claims on relevant topics today. Some of the sample arguments and articles, though, may be too timely for the textbook to stand up well in the long term, such as the Coronavirus article. Updating this will not be easy as the articles and student response examples are threaded throughout the text in multiple chapters. The border argument is another example that would be difficult to update as it is referenced throughout the text and would require substantial revisions throughout the textbook if revised.
The brief introductions to evidence and logical fallacies are the right fit for 100-level composition students who are new to the rhetorical terminology. The definitions and examples are explained in simple terms. The overview of the research process, source evaluation, and MLA format is also simple and straightforward.
The textbook’s framework for template phrases is used consistently. Each chapter ends with a reference sheet of phrases. The argument examples are also referenced consistently throughout, with chapters referencing the example text from the chapter before. This is great for consistency but can negatively impact longevity and modularity.
The textbook is organized in smaller reading sections. Chapters, though, are primarily set up for sequential reading as references are made to the examples and concepts covered in the previous chapter. Not only does this impact reading sequence, it also impacts being able to pull chapters/sections for reading independent of the textbook. Some chapter sections reference example texts or concepts from the previous chapter and would not make sense as an independent lesson.
The common phrases at the end of each chapter are an excellent standalone resources for pulling out or quick reference. If the entire textbook is not used, these sections at the end of chapters would still be useful for teaching students how to read, analyze, and incorporate common phrases in academic argument.
The textbook is organized with clear scaffolding and building of concepts. I do find it unusual that the pathos and ethos chapters are placed after evaluating an argument rather than with the logos chapter.
The online version of the text is easy to read and navigate. When downloading and accessing as a PDF, the navigable table of contents and index hyperlink to the online text rather than within the PDF. This is problematic for students accessing the text offline and wishing to navigate with the TOC or index. Also, in the PDF version, sections 5.8 and 6.7 are blank.
The text offers a diverse representation of students in images. One article and argument that is referenced multiple times is focused on border crossings and immigration. Because of the frequency of use of this argument, this may appear to single out immigrants.
The textbook has many assets for the 100-level composition course, specifically those focused on argument evaluation and development. The language is approachable, the breadth is comprehensive, and the depth is appropriate. The Teacher's Guide at the end offers excellent resources, including quizzes, assignments, course maps, and lesson plans.
In the model of They Say/ I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, the textbook leans heavily on teaching students how to read, analyze, and use the common phrases of academic writing. Having taught with They Say/I Say, this textbook develops many more concepts than Graff and Birkenstein, making it possible to use as the single text in the composition class. If one does not agree with the pedagogy of teaching template phrases, this textbook would not be a good fit.
The articles and arguments threaded throughout the text as recurring examples do pose a few problems for longevity, modularity, and cultural relevance. Another concern with these texts are that they are from popular sources (The New York Times and The Atlantic) rather than academic sources. The section that addresses academic sources refers to types of sources at tiers 1 – 4 rather than academic/scholarly sources and popular sources. While the explanation of the types of sources is accurate, the terminology of tiers is not common academic language.
The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary. read more
The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary.
Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased.
Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.
The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
In the past, I have used, for my argumentative and research writing courses, several different 400-600-page textbooks whose primary focus was on the argumentative writing process approach. In every single instance, I felt guilty by the middle of the semester - first, for knowing that there would be no way that, as a class, we could or would cover all content within a 16-week time frame; as well, I felt guilty because my students spent a considerable amount of money on the textbook, even for a used copy. And, while probably 75% of the information in any given text would overlap with information from another text, each text, in itself, contained information that was unique to that particular text.
However, I have found that the How Arguments Work text covers most everything under the sun - a clearing house of sorts, content-wise, in the area of written/approach to argumentation. Yes, chapters do exist such as (#1) “Why Study Argument,” (#4) “Assessing the Strength of an Argument (Logos),” and (#8) “How Arguments Appeal to Emotion,” - but chapters also exist on the research process, (#6) “The Research Process,” and (#7) “Forming a Research-Based Argument) - and on (#11) “The Writing Process,” (#12) “Essay Organization,” and (#13) “Correcting Grammar and Punctuation.”
As well, each chapter has a number of sub-sections (easily delineated both on the Contents page and throughout the text), e.g., 1:1, 1:2, etc.; timed audio versions of each sub-section, e.g., 2.3, 2.4, etc.; and practice exercises for each sub-section, e.g., 3.2., 3.3., etc.
For sure, this OER text is a blessing. I can pull information to use not only in my argumentative and research writing courses, but in both my composition and business writing courses!
Table of Contents
- 1: Introduction
- 2: Reading to Figure out the Argument
- 3: Writing a Summary of Another Writer’s Argument
- 4: Assessing the Strength of an Argument (Logos)
- 5: Responding to an Argument
- 6: The Research Process
- 7: Forming a Research-Based Argument
- 8: How Arguments Appeal to Emotion (Pathos)
- 9: How Arguments Establish Trust and Connection (Ethos)
- 10: Writing an Analysis of an Argument’s Strategies
- 11: The Writing Process
- 12: Essay Organization
- 13: Correcting Grammar and Punctuation
- 14: Style: Shaping Our Sentences
- 15: Teacher's Guide
About the Book
How Arguments Work takes students through the techniques they will need to respond to readings and make sophisticated arguments in any college class. This is a practical guide to argumentation with strategies and templates for the kinds of assignments students will commonly encounter. It covers rhetorical concepts in everyday language and explores how arguments can build trust and move readers.
About the Contributors
Anna Mills currently serves as the English Discipline Lead for the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges OER Initiative. She has taught English at City College of San Francisco since 2005 and has specialized in teaching Argumentative Writing and Critical Thinking since 2008. She earned a master’s degree from Bennington College in Writing and Literature with a focus on nonfiction writing. Her collection of book reviews, “Anna Mills on Nature Writing,” can be found at onnaturewriting.blogspot.com. Her essays have appeared in The Writer's Chronicle, The Sun, Salmagundi, Cimarron Review, Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing, North Dakota Quarterly, Under the Sun, Banyan Review, and various anthologies. She interned as a technical writer at Sun Microsystems and spent two years as a writer and web developer for the nonprofit CompuMentor, where she published a collection of articles for the portal TechSoup.org.