The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide, Brief Edition, 2nd Edition

  • Harry Phillips Central Piedmont Community College
  • Patricia Bostian Central Piedmont Community College
  • ISBN-10: 1285438086  |  ISBN-13: 9781285438085
  • 432 Pages
  • Previous Editions: 2012
  • © 2015 | Published
  • List Price = $ 80.95
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  • Newer Edition Available



Emphasizing the practical and the local, THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT: A PRACTICAL GUIDE, BRIEF EDITION, 2E effectively brings argument into real life with community-based writing activities, illustrating that the tools and skills of argument are critical to readers today-and wherever their careers take them. With a focus on accessibility, the text encourages students to argue in response to issues in a variety of environments-school, workplace, family, neighborhood, social-cultural, consumer, and concerned citizen-and learn how argument can become an essential negotiating skill in everyday life. It offers thorough treatments of Toulmin-based and Rogerian approaches to argument as well as teaches the value of fully understanding the opposition, the importance of aiming for the middle ground, and how to use a microhistory to forge an unconventional position. The only introduction to argument written with the today's diverse student body in mind, THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT uses vivid explanations, detailed examples, and practical exercises to guide students step by step through the process of building an effective argument.

Features and Benefits

  • Providing a practical approach and local focus throughout, THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT first teaches students to analyze and identify argument, then work to plan and develop an argument using the specific strategies, and finally to stylistically understand their work.
  • The text's depth and breadth of examples help students understand the immediate application of argument in real life so that the concepts and thinking strategies are more accessible.
  • Emphasis on the middle ground and thorough attention to the opposition allow writers to construct neutral, fair-minded paraphrases of other points of view and make every effort to fully humanize other views to reduce tension and invite interaction. Using this method, students can move toward arguments that are open-minded, cooperative, and practical.
  • The authors draw from years of classroom experience with both traditional and non-traditional students to create a practical, civic-minded pedagogy that places the student at the center of the argumentative writing process.
  • Chapters open with “Arguing Within Your Community” sections demonstrating the argumentation process and placing issues within a given community.
  • “Your Turn” activities found throughout each chapter enable students to put their newly learned concepts, strategies, and techniques into real-life practice. Exercises range from discussion questions and checklists to guide thinking/writing to more formal activities such as developing reasons or working on documentation and research techniques.
  • “Keeping It Local” features conclude chapters with a final look at issues and identify an argument that responds to a local issue, such as the opening of a big box store in a small community.
  • The situations presented in the writing assignments encourage students to engage the local issues that are important to them and place the issue within the context of their own community.
  • THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT's table of contents illustrates the principles of academic and real-world argument-be it toulmin, aristotelian, or rogerian- in a student-friendly way.
  • A style guide in the appendix helps writers refine and tighten their writing in the context of argument-building and includes a list of common problems and ways to address them.

Table of Contents

1. Argue with a Purpose.
What Argument Is and What Argument Is Not. “Graduating Debtors” by Thomas Frank. Recognize Where Argument Is Appropriate in Real Life. Argue About Issues that Matter to You. Establish Local Context for an Issue Through the Research Process. Recognize Why Arguments Break Down. Match Argument with Purpose.
2. Explore an Issue that Matters to You.
Determine What Matters to You and Why. Choose an Issue within a Topic. Pre-Think About Your Issue. Define and Target Your Audience. Stake, Defend, and Justify Your Claim. Vary the Support You Bring to an Argument. Working with a Target Audience: Two Examples. Argue at the Right Moment. Getting Started.
3. Develop a Research Plan.
Use Reference Works, Encyclopedias, and Topic Overviews Profitably. Gather Search Terms. Use Search Engines to Find Internet Sources on the Surface Web and on the Deep Web. Perform Keyword Queries. Find News Sites and Use RSS Feeds to Receive Updates. Find and Use Databases in Libraries. Find and Use Primary Sources. Find and Use Government Sources. Find and Use Multimedia Sources. Find Books.
4. Evaluate and Engage with Your Sources.
Take Notes, Read Critically, and Evaluate Internet Sites. Take Notes, Read Critically, and Evaluate Articles. Take Notes and Read Books Critically. Take Notes and Evaluate Primary Sources. Introduce and Comment on Sources. Quote and Cite Quotations. Summarize and Cite Summaries. Paraphrase and Cite Paraphrases. Avoid Plagiarism. Documentation: Works Cited Page.
5. Read Critically and Avoid Fallacies.
Define Fallacies. Identify and Avoid Fallacies. Avoid Fallacies of Choice. Avoid Fallacies of Support. Avoid Fallacies of Emotion. Avoid Fallacies of Inconsistency.
6. Work Fairly with the Opposition.
Why the Opposition Matters. Resist Easy Generalizations. Listen to Local Voices. Summarize Other Voices Fairly. Value Expertise Over Advocacy. Avoid Bias When You Summarize. Find Points of Overlap. Respond to Other Views.
7. Develop a Strategy.
8. Consider Toulmin-Based Argument.
9. Consider Middle Ground and Rogerian Argument, and Argument based on Microhistory.
10. Build Arguments.
11. Support an Argument with Fact (Logos), Credibility (Ethos), and Emotion (Pathos).
12. Enhance Your Argument with Visuals and Humor.
What Are Visual Arguments? Read Visual Arguments. Use Humor in Your Argument. When Is Humor Appropriate?
12. Develop and Edit Argument Structure and Style.

What's New

  • New examples vividly illustrate each of the four types of arguments covered in THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT: A PRACTICAL GUIDE, BRIEF EDITION, 2E. These argument types are now spread over two chapters, with Chapter 8 devoted to Toulmin-based argument and Chapter 9 focused on middle-ground argument, Rogerian argument, and argument based on a micro-history.
  • Research is now consolidated in Part II, giving instructors more flexibility to assign when it best fits their class needs.
  • New assignments in end-of-chapter Keeping It Local boxes enable students to put chapter strategies into action on an issue relevant to their own communities.
  • Helping students maximize their study time, new checklists throughout the text consolidate the key features of particular kinds of argumentative writing and research.
  • Part IV: “How to Take Ownership of Your Argument: A Style Guide” now includes a guide for obtaining peer reviews of one's writing.
  • Easily create, assign, and grade writing assignments with Enhanced InSite™ for THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT. From a single, easy-to-navigate site, you and your students can manage the flow of papers online, check for originality, and conduct peer reviews. Access a fully customizable, interactive and true-to-page eBook (YouBook), writing prompts for each chapter, private tutoring options, and resources for writers that include anti-plagiarism tutorials and downloadable grammar podcasts.
  • The text's companion website includes an Instructor's Manual, written by the authors, as well as sample syllabi.

Learning Resource Bundles

Choose the textbook packaged with the resources that best meet your course and student needs. Contact your Learning Consultant for more information.

Bundle: Text + Enhanced InSite 2-Semester Printed Access Card

ISBN-10: 1285935403  | ISBN-13: 9781285935409

List Price = $93.95

Bundle: Text, Brief + Enhanced InSite 1-Semester Printed Access Card

ISBN-10:  128593539X | ISBN-13:  9781285935393

List Price = $90.95

Efficacy and Outcomes


"The sections on evaluating resources are superb. … The section on evaluating Internet sources is one of the best I've seen."

— Lauren Hahn, DePaul University

"[The Purposeful Argument] brings in some elements of classical argument, but it also emphasizes how students are engaged in arguments in so many of their own communities."

— Lindsay Lewan, Arapahoe Community College


All supplements have been updated in coordination with the main title. Select the main title's "About" tab, then select "What's New" for updates specific to title's edition.

For more information about these supplements, or to obtain them, contact your Learning Consultant.

Instructor Supplements

Online Instructor's Manual, Brief  (ISBN-10: 1285450809 | ISBN-13: 9781285450803)

This detailed manual provides sample syllabi, course guidelines, in-class exercises, and chapter objectives to assist instructors in teaching the course.

Meet the Author

Author Bio

Harry Phillips

Harry Phillips earned a Ph.D. in English from Washington State University (WSU) in 1994 and an M.A. in English with a minor in Education from North Carolina Central University in 1988. From 1994 to 2009, he was Instructor of English at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he regularly taught Argument-Based Research and a range of American literature courses. He began teaching argument in 1993 at WSU and recommended that this course be a part of the North Carolina Community College Common Course Library, a recommendation that led to the course being adopted across the N.C. Community College system. He continues to view argument as an essential set of skills both for two- and four-year college students, as well as for everyday people intent on crafting effective argument. Dr. Phillips was curator of native plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden and the principal author of GROWING AND PROPAGATING WILD FLOWERS (University of North Carolina Press, 1985). Since retiring from CPCC, he spends his time as a mediator, climate change activist, and avid gardener.

Patricia Bostian

Patricia Kennedy Bostian is the author of over 90 scholarly works for presses such as Greenwood and Facts on File. She is the editor of a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, TEACHING AMERICAN LITERATURE: A JOURNAL OF THEORY AND PRACTICE ( She completed her doctoral coursework in composition/rhetoric at the University of South Carolina. For 23 years she has taught literature, composition, and humanities courses for several two- and four-year institutions, including Central Piedmont Community College, the University of South Carolina, and Johnson C. Smith University. She is completing her M.A. in Humanities from California State University.