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Argumentative Norms and Rhetorical Strategies in Institutional Settings




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level and 300-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


Argumentative norms are partly affected by the argumentative practice arguers are engaged in. The norms for a discussion between two parents arguing about their son’s education differ from the norms a judge has to comply with when giving the reasons for a judgment. The norms of a scientific debate about the effect language has on people’s perceptions are different from the norms that regulate the decision process in parliament. Sometimes these norms are explicit, as in the institutionalized contexts of law and politics, and sometimes they remain implicit but are nevertheless known by language users. But the norms of an argumentative setting always determine the possibilities for the (rhetorical) strategies that arguers can apply in their argumentation.

In this course students will study the norms of some specific practices (e.g. politics, law) and relate them to the argumentative goals of these practices. The practices and their norms are examined through case studies that will be presented by the students themselves and in relation to their major subjects.

Course Objectives

  1. Knowledge of the specifics of some argumentative contexts, their argumentative goals and (rhetorical) characteristics
  2. Knowledge of the relation between argumentative goals and argumentative norms
  3. Being capable of analyzing argumentative discourse along the lines of the relevant argumentative practice

Mode of Instruction

In each class we will discuss parts of books and articles. Active participation is paramount. The reading work has to be prepared by uploading weekly web postings; during class all students are expected to engage in discussions. We will apply the theoretical insights to actual texts. Each week a number of students will be asked to prepare and lead parts of the group discussions about the assigned literature.


Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Weekly web-postings (500 words)
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Group presentations (2 per student)
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Final research essay (3000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8


The literature for each class will be placed on Blackboard. Students are required to print the compulsory literature themselves, and bring to class. In the case that material cannot appear on Blackboard due to copyright restrictions, a web link will be placed. Again, students will then need to retrieve and print the compulsory literature themselves.

Contact Information

Drs. Maarten van Leeuwen, m.van.leeuwen@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Introduction: Institutional contexts, argumentative norms and rhetorical strategies
Week 2: Argumentative norms and rhetorical strategies in politics
Week 3: Argumentative norms and rhetorical strategies in politics II
Week 4: Argumentative norms and rhetorical strategies in law
Week 5: Argumentative norms and rhetorical strategies in health communication
Week 6: Norms and intercultural communication
Week 7: Presentations by students
Week 8: Reading week (no classroom hours)

Preparation for first session

Homework for the first session will be published on blackboard, a week before the course starts.