Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
Assumptions, Claim, Logic/Logical Fallacies, Ramifications/Implications, Rhetorical Situations, Support and Evidence
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
Media Formats:
Downloadable docs, eBook, Text/HTML, Video

Education Standards (1)

Understanding Rhetorical Situations: Course Map & Recommended Resources


How to Use This Guide

This document is intended to highlight resources available to address the resource goal of Understanding Rhetorical Situations in a Second-Year Writing Course.  All resources are Open Access and can be downloaded or added to a Course Management System via hyperlink.

    Introduction & Learning Objectives


    Rhetorical Knowledge is one of the five main learning outcomes for the Ohio Transfer Module’s Ohio guidelines for Second-Year Writing. The Department of Higher Education recognizes that Second-Year Writing builds on the skills of First-Year Writing and adds the following skills to what a student should be able to do by the end of the course:

    1. Analyze argumentative strategies and persuasive appeals.
    2. Employ appropriate argumentative strategies and persuasive appeals in their writing.

    This chapter focuses student understanding of rhetorical situations as described by the ODHE guidelines in students’ writing and reading assignments.

    Second-Year Writing students should have a good understanding of the Rhetorical Situations. As students work on argumentative writing, many of the skills needed for Second-Year Writing start to coalesce or overlap. Some of the material in this chapter duplicates the recommended chapters or exercises from the Critical Thinking chapter, but the material and exercises can be easily adapted to focus the learning objectives from either chapter.

    This description is intended to apply to a range of Second-Year Writing courses and includes several collaboration activities that can be used in a seated classroom, electronically with the course’s Learning Management System (LMS), or with various Web 2.0 applications. These descriptions and exercises can be integrated regardless of the types of readings chosen for the course, the genres a course may focus on, or the types of written assignments used. This guide is intended to demonstrate items that may be incorporated into both an online or seated section of a Second-Year Writing course.  

    Learning Objectives

    Analyze argumentative strategies and persuasive appeals for the following:

    1. Rhetorical Situation
    2. Claim
    3. Support and Evidence
    4. Assumptions
    5. Logic/Logical Fallacies
    6. Ramifications/Implications

    Course Map

    The resources included here are intended to address the above listed learning objectives. They will cover each aspect of the writing process, although there are resources that may overlap. These resources can be used as standalone chapters, or in combination with other suggested resources from other chapters.

    Recommended Resources

    About Writing: A Guide by Robin Jeffrey

    • This is an electronic textbook published by Open Oregon Educational Resources, which can be read online or downloaded in a variety of formats. In addition to the chapters on understanding the rhetorical situation (“Rhetorical Concepts”) covered in first-year writing, there are chapters in the “Academic Writing” section that will benefit the second-year writing student. These chapters overlap with material used in the Critical Thinking chapter of second-year writing: “Countering Opposing Arguments,” “Putting Inductive Reasoning to the Test,” and “Most Common Evidence Used by Authors.” These three chapters are short, consisting of questions students can pose to texts or sources, or a list of examples. These can be used to introduce the topics and provide a starting point for practice.

    Writing in College: from Competence to Excellence by Amy Guptill

    • This free, online textbook targets the first-year writing student. Yet the chapter “Constructing the Thesis and Argument From the Ground Up” provides useful information for the second-year writing student, whether it is building on the writing concepts from the five-paragraph theme or an introduction to creating complex, college-level arguments. Guptill utilizes the student’s understanding of the five paragraph theme to demonstrate how to create a thesis using the three-story thesis process of taking a conclusion from a five-paragraph themed paper and using that as the starting point for students to “undertake an ambitious independent analysis, one that will yield a thesis that is somewhat surprising and challenging to explain.” There are several examples and exercises at the end of the chapter. In addition, there are links to other resources from the UNC Writing Center, Purdue OWL, and other University Writing Centers, some of which are listed in “Supplemental Content.”

    Writing Pathways to Student Success edited by Lillian Craton, Renée Love, and Sean Barnette, chapter by Sarah Hardison O’Connor

    • This anthology on writing is a collection of essays by first-year composition instructors that “examine[s] life lessons that both students and instructors learn from first-year composition courses.” Chapter 2, “A Confusion of Messages: The Critical Role of Rhetoric in the Information Age,” by Sarah Hardison O’Connor, is a lengthy reading that helps students see the connections between sources, the rhetoric of those sources, and the conclusions of the readers. In particular, it discusses how technology has allowed journalism to speed up and change how reporting works. Then, the chapter explains the significance of the rhetorical situations in shaping how readers respond to journalism. The second half of the chapter is a section titled “How Not to Lose the Message” and explains how to use the rhetorical situations to evaluate what students read and hear.

    Writing Spaces: Volume 1 edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky

    • Much like the chapter from Writing Pathways, “Finding the Good Argument OR Why Bother With Logic?” by Rebecca Jones builds on student understanding of rhetoric and argument, and serves as a good companion to lessons on argument. Jones’ chapter discusses argument and the various strategies people employ in argumentation. The chapter provides examples from various media (cartoons, Crossfire, etc.) to provide examples for students to consider. There is a section on inductive and deductive reasoning and a section on building arguments with the Toulmin method. The chapter concludes with a list of “rules” for evaluating arguments that are adapted from logical fallacies. There are some activities to help students think critically about their sources.

    Your Logical Fallacy Is: Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies

    • This is a Creative Commons Non-Commercial website, a “microsite” of The School of Thought International, that highlights and explains twenty-four common logical fallacies. Each fallacy is described with a definition and an example. Many of the examples are common arguments in debates about politics, religion, and science (vaccinations and climate change). Instructors can scroll through each fallacy or download a PDF poster of all the fallacies. There is a companion site for exploring biases, which could also be useful when discussing assumptions.

    An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi

    • This online book is similar to Your Logical Fallacy Is, featuring explanations and examples of logical fallacies. This book can only be navigated by clicking left or right page-turn arrows. Almossawi explains in the introduction that the illustrations and arguments are inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm and works by Lewis Carroll, which may be less controversial than the examples in Your Logical Fallacy Is.

    Supplemental Content

    Purdue OWL – Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab has many lessons in the “Academic Writing” section that will be useful to students. The headings of the two sections are listed below, followed by a link to the first lesson in each section.

    UNC Writing Center Handouts – The University of North Carolina Writing Center

    publishes a great array of handouts for writing and research, all of which are CC

    licensed.  Among the handouts pertinent to this set of learning objects are

    The Writing Center at Hamilton – Referenced in Writing In College, the Hamilton Writing Center offers several writing resources that can be helpful for students.

    Textbook Class Activities

    There is a basic range of class activities from these open resources.  Most of the resources have a section of explanation followed by complementary exercises for students to apply what they learn, or for instructors to incorporate into their own collaborative project objectives.  

    1. There are no exercises in About Writing: A Guide, but the questions in the chapter “Assessing the Writing Situation” form a helpful checklist for students to analyze their thesis statements or claims. The questions from the chapter “Countering Opposing Arguments” can be used in practice to counter arguments from others (Learning Objectives 1 and 2).

    2. There are four exercises at the end of the chapter “Constructing the Thesis and Argument From the Ground Up,” in Writing in College from Competence to Excellence. These exercises ask students to write complex thesis statements from simple claims and to rewrite thesis statements from prior writing assignments or essays they can find online. The first two exercises are good for standalone assignments or teaching argument. The last two exercises might be more appropriate for reinforcing lessons from first-year writing, but could be easily adapted to second-year writing by working with student-written examples such as sample argument essays written by students in previous years (Learning Objectives 2, 4, and 6).

    3. The exercises at the end of the chapter “Determining Your Audience and Purpose,” in The Word on College Reading and Writing, give students the opportunity to practice writing for different audiences. The exercises provide the scenario (purpose) where students write a persuasive letters to two of eight people described on the page. Students must select their audience and persuade that person to give the student $100. Other alternatives could be to write the letter from the perspective of the eight example audiences, to use these audiences for different writing purposes, or to create different types of media that might appeal to these audiences (Learning Objectives 1, 3, and 4).

    4. The first activity in “Finding the Good Argument OR Why Bother With Logic?” called “Thinking Outside the Text” asks students to watch a clip from Crossfire and answer questions from the video (http:// Another activity is “Finding the Middle Ground” (page 160), which asks students to evaluate the arguments of topics like gun control and universal healthcare. Instructors can substitute other topics. This activity is designed to avoid the “either/or” arguments. The activity “Applying Deductive and Inductive Reasoning” on pages 166 provides students with three arguments where they have to create deductive and inductive arguments for each position. There is an activity for audience awareness and one for the Toulmin Method (page 168). In addition, there is a list of additional activities on page 178 that requires additional readings of an essay by Stanley Fish. Students can create counter arguments or examine the logic in the arguments. Most of these activities are short and could be good for in-class discussion or short writing assignments (Learning Objectives 1 through 6).

    Additional Class Activities

    In addition to the activities from the textbooks, below are several other activities to help students develop their understanding of rhetorical situations. These activities are good for classes that have daily or weekly reading assignments that require the instructor to create a learning activity. Instructors can tailor these activities to any course theme, interest, or even student topics. Many of these exercises are the same ones described in the chapter on Critical Thinking.

    1. Working with Readings: Students can gain practice working with sources through their daily reading assignments. In class, instructors can ask students to identify the rhetorical situation, claims, support, and logic of their reading assignments. In addition, students can be asked to evaluate the logic, the assumptions, or the implications of the arguments they have read. If there are strong arguments in the reading, then ask students to create a list of unintended ramifications/consequences of such an argument. This could be beneficial when discussing current events to increase student involvement and draw from student interest, but can work with any sort of argument within the theme of the course or topics selected by students (Learning Objectives 1 through 6).

    2. Writing Arguments: Students can be given the opportunity to write arguments about anything, not just controversial topics. Practice writing short arguments by asking students to take a stance on a topic, whether it is something in the news or something that seems mundane (is a hot dog a sandwich?). These can also be given as timed in-class writing prompts using “should” statements that students will have to defend, refute, or resolve (students should pay more for tuition, students shouldn’t be allowed to wear flip-flops on campus, faculty should live on campus, etc.). The results can be commented on by instructors or shared with the class for discussion. The class can discuss whether there is sufficient support for an argument or start to examine ramifications/implications. For instance: If a hot dog is a sandwich, does that mean a burrito is? Or, if a hot dog isn’t a sandwich, does that mean a burger can’t be a sandwich? (Learning Objective 1 through 6).

    3. Writing Bad Arguments: As much fun as it can be to debate the various topics above, some students might be reluctant to participate due to the desire to be “right” or the fear of being wrong. If this is the case, it might be beneficial to ask students to construct bad arguments that rely on logical fallacies. By actively creating bad arguments, students can see how easy it is to rely on faulty logic and learn how to identify faulty reasoning (Learning Objective 5).