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Deconstructing Academic Persuasive Essays by Constructing Argument Maps and Analysing Means of Persuasive Appeal

Brooke, M.

Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Volume 23, Issue S, July 2015

Keywords: Academic literacy, argumentative persuasive essays (APE), argument map construction, Aristotelian means of persuasion

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As Rider and Thomason (2008) argue, facilitating activities that focus on developing cognitive processes are commonly ignored in academic literacy classes, despite being crucial. In most programmes, reading for general meaning (gist) is the most common reading objective and little regard is given to activities that transfer directly to writing. This presentation of a classroom-based, action research project will demonstrate how students' academic persuasive essay literacy skills were enhanced through conducting argument mapping and analyzing the means of persuasive appeal in text. Rhetorically-intensive academic papers commonly move from a major premise to a related specific statement, then to a conclusion, following the principles of Aristotelian syllogism; they also supply evidence to support claims, critique assumptions and rebut objections. Asking students to notice these patterns in a text and to organise them into a visual representation (argument map) facilitates transfer to their own writing. Following this activity, students can be asked to analyse the means of persuasion in the argument map. Aristotle divided these means into three categories: Ethos (credibility or ethical appeal); Logos (logic or the use of reasoning) and Pathos (eliciting the reader's sympathies and imagination). In order to persuade readers that their ideas are more valid than their counterparts', writers appeal to these means. When an analysis has been conducted, students can be asked to critically assess the effectiveness of the persuasive appeals and to compare authors' argumentation. Apart from deconstructing a text through critical reading, students can look to apply similar methodology in their own writing. Skills of this nature are not just common in academic tertiary courses (Kibler, Walqui, & Bunch, 2014), but also in other disciplines, for example, Law (Berger, 2010). Results from this research will be presented using examples from this researcher's undergraduate Ideas and Exposition writing courses at the National University of Singapore.

ISSN 1511-3701

e-ISSN 2231-8542

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