Week 7: Argumentation & persuasion: Part 2 of 2
From Part 1:
How argumentation-persuasion fits purpose &
Strategies for using argumentation-persuasion:
1. Identify controversy & define your position
2. Provide strong support for your thesis.
3. Avoid using a hostile tone
4. Organise the supporting evidence
5. Acknowledge and refute differing viewpoints
6. Use induction or deduction to think logically
about your argument
7. Use Toulmin logic to establish a strong
connection between your evidence and thesis
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8. Recognise logical fallacies
Ad hominem fallacy
To the man - occurs when someone attacks a
person rather than their point of view. A poor
substitute for reasoned argument. For example,
attempting to destroy the credibility of an opponent
by saying they have a drinking problem or a
criminal record etc.
Appeals to questionable or faulty authority
Most people are wary of statements like ‘sources
close to …’, ‘an unidentified spokesperson says …’,
‘Experts claim …’, ‘Studies show …’ If a source is
reliable, it should be named. Sources hiding behind
anonymity can say anything and get away with it.
Begging the question
Failure to establish proof for a debating point. The
writer expects the audience to accept as given a
premise that is actually controversial. For example,
if you say the Governor General should be stood
down because his appointment is unconstitutional,
you would have to first prove how his appointment
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Wrongly implies that because two things share
some characteristics, they are therefore alike in
every respect. For example, if you compare
tobacco with cannabis, saying both involve health
risks and are addictive, then conclude that because
smoking tobacco while driving is legal, it should
also be legal to smoke cannabis while driving. This
overlooks a major difference between the two - that
cannabis is known to affect co-ordination and
perception, while there is no evidence that tobacco
does the same.
Where it is assumed that a particular viewpoint or
course of action can have only one of two
diametrically opposed outcomes. For example,
‘Unless universities continue to offer scholarships
based solely on financial need, no one who is
underprivileged will be able to attend university.’
This ignores the fact that some bright but
underprivileged students might get a scholarship
based solely on their academic excellence.
An intentional digression from the real issue - a
ploy to deflect attention from the issue. For
example, ‘Mass killing of wild goats in western
Queensland is immoral’. If you reply, ‘The goat is
an introduced species and shouldn’t be there’ is a
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Persuading international readers
Some adjustment may be necessary when
addressing international readers.
What is considered to be a benefit differs from
country to country. For example, in Australia,
beer is served cold. In England beer is served at
room temperature. Ads for Australian beer in
England (XXXX) focus instead on its thirst
quenching qualities, i.e. ‘Australians wouldn’t
give a XXXX for anything else’, showing a road
petering out at a Hotel somewhere in the
Australian Outback. The roadbuilders had
simply given up when they reached the Hotel.
What readers consider to be good reasons differ
from country to country. In Western countries,
decisions are generally made based on fact – or
should be; whereas in Middle Eastern countries,
the facts are used to support a primarily
What is considered to an appropriate role differs.
In strongly hierarchical societies, the writer must
avoid appearing disrespectful, whereas in
Australia, a writer can afford to be more direct at
the risk of offending superiors.
It is important to be fully aware of the cultural
norms of the target audience.
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The ethics of persuasion
Persuasion should never be used to further one’s
own interests at the expense of other people’s
Even if it succeeds at the time, unethical persuasion
is usually revealed as such at a later time. The
deceived audience is likely never to trust the writer
again, and may actively warn others not to trust the
Do not mislead
Your reader has a right to evaluate a situation based
on accurate facts and figures, as supplied by you.
You must not intentionally supply misleading
information, even by only leaving certain
information out, so that the reader is basing their
decision on a false premise.
For example, if a salesman tries to persuade you to
buy a Motorola-chip computer instead of a Intel
Pentium-chip computer because the Pentium is
known to be faulty, he is leaving out the important
fact that the fault only appears when a calculation
to more than 32 decimal places is being performed.
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Do not manipulate
Kant said that we should never use others merely to
get what we want. The action we are trying to
persuade others to take must advance their
interests, as well as our own (Win/Win situation).
High pressure sales techniques are often unethical.
Be open to your reader’s point of view
Empathise with the audience to determine their real
needs. If they have a legitimate objection, based on
their real needs, then you need to modify your
position accordingly, rather than see it as an
objection to be overcome.
The reader is not an adversary, they are a partner in
your joint search for a course of action that is
suitable to everyone.
Argue from human values
If human values are relevant, always mention them.
If they are disregarded initially, they are likely to be
recognised at a later point.
For example, when trying to persuade an
organisation to purchase a new computer system, it
could be pointed out that such a system would
improve the quality of the staff’s working
conditions by freeing them from boring, repetitive
jobs, allowing them to focus on the kinds of jobs
help them to develop.
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