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Skills lab I: Argumentative and Rhetorical Strategies




Admission Requirements

None. This course is a prerequisite for The Power of Words course.


How do you get persuaded? Are you capable of distinguishing between good and bad arguments? Do you recognize rhetorical tricks? In this course we will teach you how to resist verbal manipulation. Starting with analyzing argumentative discourse, you will learn how to find the implicit elements of an argument, to make a schematic overview of the different arguments in a line of reasoning, and how to recognize fallacies. After that we will focus on two classical rhetorical practices: politics and law. You will learn that speakers often do not only use argumentation for persuading their audience, but also ethos and pathos, as well as means of style and presentation. If you are capable of seeing through these means, you are capable of passing a well-considered judgment of the tenability of an opinion.

Course Objectives

  1. Knowledge of basic argumentative concepts
  2. Knowledge of basic rhetorical concepts
  3. Being capable of identifying and analyzing the argumentative and rhetorical means of a text
  4. Being capable of providing a basic assessment of the use of these means

Mode of Instruction

Active participation is paramount in this course. The course literature has to be prepared by answering questions about it and by making assignments to be discussed during class. All students are expected to engage in discussions actively.


Assessment: Weekly assignments
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1-3; 5-6

Assessment: Oral speech + written reflection
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week Week 4 & 7

Assessment: Written exam (1) (questions about theory and text analysis)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week Week 8, session 2

Students are expected to be well prepared for all classes, and to participate actively during all sessions. Admission to class may be denied to students who have not prepared fully for a session. If this happens, it will influence one’s attendance record for the course, and one’s in-class participation grade (see below). There may be an obligatory guest lecture outside class hours.

A. In-class participation
Preceding each class, at 17.00 the day before the meeting takes place, students hand in an assessment (in their own file on Blackboard). Max. two of these assignments may lack in a student’s file. If the file is not complete (more assignments missing), the student cannot earn the course credits.

B. Oral speech and written reflection
In week 4 & 7, students present a speech in which they apply the argumentative and rhetorical insights gained in this course. Also a written version of the speech will be handed in, accompanied by a written reflection in which it is argued why certain presentational choices have been made (max. 2 A4). Details about this assignment will be published on Blackboard; the grade for the assignment will be based both on the student’s performance of the oral presentation (60%) and on the written reflection (40%).

C. Final exam
The final exam consists of theory questions and questions on text analysis. The exam will focus on all the literature assigned.


  • Andeweg, B., J. de Jong & H. Hoeken (1998): “May I have your attention?”: Exordial Techniques in Informative Oral Presentations. Technical Communication Quarterly 7 (3), 271-284. THIS ARTICLE WILL BE AVAILABLE VIA BLACKBOARD.

  • Crowley, Sharon & Debra Hawee (2012): Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. 5th edition. Boston [etc.]: Pearson.

  • Van Eemeren, Frans, Rob Grootendorst & Francisca Snoeck Henkemans (2010): Argumentation. Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation. New York [etc.]: Routledge.

Contact Information

Drs. Roosmaryn Pilgram,

Weekly Overview

Weekly overview

  • Week 1: Rhetorical principles / Standpoints and argumentation

  • Week 2: Arrangement of a speech / Unexpressed standpoints and premises

  • Week 3: Main lines of argument / Types of argument

  • Week 4: Oral presentations by students (1st version)

  • Week 5: Ethos & pathos / Fallacies 1

  • Week 6: Style / Fallacies 2

  • Week 7: Oral presentations by students (final version)

  • Week 8: No class (reading session) / Final Exam

Preparation for first session

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