Chapter 10

Arranging an Argument

Once you have determined the arguments you will make in your persuasive paper, you will have to decide the order in which you shall make them. This final chapter of Controversies suggests a few organizational patterns—or boilerplates—that many strong writers have found effective. 

Meeting Readers’ Expectations

We may criticize a book or article for being too predictable, but in fact making predictions is an important part of the reading process. If you organize your ideas following a boilerplate your readers are familiar with, you are more likely to ensure that they trust and understand you.

Different kinds of writing require different boilerplates. Newspaper journalists, for example, write following the specific-general pyramid, while scientists organize their methods, supplies, and results into the sections of a lab report

One boilerplate you may already know is the five-paragraph essay, which many students write for tests like the SAT and STAAR. The perennial debate about whether students should or should not be encouraged to write five-paragraph essays highlights the strengths and risks of following models your readers know well. 

At UT’s Undergraduate Writing Center, you will find handouts explaining a number of common boilerplates, including the lab report, the resume, and the personal statement

The Classical Template

The argumentative paper you write for this class will most likely follow what Controversies refers to as the classical template. 

The classical template utilizes sections for exordium, narration, partition, argument, refutation, and peroration. Brigham Young University provides helpful short definitions of each of these terms

Readers tend to expect a persuasive text to include each of these sections. However, as the writer, you have the responsibility to decide how long the individual sections are what they should say. Before you write, we recommend you spend some time thinking through exactly what points you could or should convey in each section. Start by collecting your thoughts in the attached table.

Winning over a Hostile Audience

If you anticipate writing for an audience that is hostile or extremely suspicious, then you may deviate from the classical template in order to concentrate on winning their trust.

As Chapter 10 explains, one way to win an audience’s trust is to utilize a boilerplate based on the research of psychologist Carl Rogers. For tips on writing a Rogerian argument, check out this video.

Toastmasters International offers additional advice for addressing a hostile audience.

Persuasive Presentation

Toward the end of the class, you will deliver a short persuasive presentation on your controversy topic. For this presentation, you will likely prepare some kind of visual aid.

Many websites offer tips for creating strong visual aids.

If you are writing a paper handout, see the advice from the UT Library and eHow.

If you are making a Prezi presentation, see wikiHow and this video by Prezi. At the Prezi blog, you will also find a number of examples of excellent presentations other people have written. 

If you are making a Power Point presentation, see LifeHack, wikiHow, and

If your Rhetoric and Writing class meets in a computer classroom, you have access to UT’s Digital Writing and Research Open Lab which provides access to many other software programs that can help you prepare excellent visual aids. Be sure to clear your ideas with your instructor before proceeding.