University of Wisconsin–Madison


Professor Jenell Johnson, Communication Arts 262


* to demonstrate your grasp of the theory and practice of argument

* to assess the value of different forms of argument  

* to develop a clear, well-argued thesis

* to write an organized, purposeful paper that answers, in some form, the ultimate question: So what?

In this paper, you will draw from the concepts we’ve discussed so far and apply them by critically reflecting on your experience in the informal civil dialogue and competitive debate. Which of the two argument styles did you find more productive? Like the first paper, you’ll want to think very carefully about what you mean by “productive” argument and the criteria by which you might assess this category. (You can think about this argument as a definitional argument as well as an evaluation.) Then, move to some larger questions (these are meant to stimulate your thinking – you shouldn’t think of them as a checklist): how valuable or productive are these two approaches to argument more generally? What might they offer public discourse? Does one or the other seem more conducive to a civil and/or democratic society? While this paper asks you to draw on your own experience, it’s not meant to be a five pages of your musings on “competitive debate is so much fun!” or “civil dialogues are the worst.” It should be focused around a main point, and ultimately it should offer your perspective—that is to say, a reasoned argument—on the process and forms of argumentation and their value for civil society and/or democratic politics.


  1. Consider carefully what “productive” argument means and determine which of the two styles you determine to better fit this category.
  2. Construct a paper around this basic argument, offering good reasons with specific examples and taking care to make a larger argument about the implications of argument forms.

While not necessary to cite the course readings or outside research, it is highly encouraged and, of course, papers should use a particular citation style (MLA, APA) and use in-text citation as appropriate. 

10% of final grade

5 pages, double-spaced

Due Friday, 4/8 by 5 PM to Learn@UW Dropbox