Unit Seven: Persuading and Advocating

In Unit Seven, we will direct our rhetorical skills to persuading audiences and advocating for causes and ideas. We’ll discuss the subtle differences between persuading and advocating as we attune ourselves to the forms of our arguments. Unit Seven consists of two major assignments, each worth 12.5% or your final course grade. We will also be publishing these works as signature pieces on our class’s very own “Think Tank” website (see below).

1. The Issue Brief (15% of course grade)

The aim of this 7-10-page, policy-oriented “issue brief” (or position paper) is to draw on all the rhetorical skills you have been building, incorporating research and analysis in a responsible and convincing way. For this issue brief, you will make a sophisticated, substantiated case for implementing, changing, or enforcing a policy or strategy. This issue brief 1). should be directed toward governing bodies who can enact the policy or course of action; 2) should affect public opinion with regard to this policy and 3). should incorporate convincing research and substantiated arguments and 4). should aim to be shared widely.

Your issue brief should:

  • Establish a relevant title, context, and exigence for the issue brief
  • Establish a thesis regarding the course of action that should be adopted
  • Provide evidence and arguments for such a course
  • Incorporate two to four infographics that support your policy direction
  • Discuss issues of feasibility and handle possible objections
  • Be submitted in PDF form
  • Use end notes

2. Advocacy Campaign (15% of course grade)

For this assignment, you will draw on your studies and performances so far in Rhetoric and Civic Life to produce an advocacy piece for the issue featured in your position paper or blog topic using the communicative mode of your choice (you are welcome to use another topic). For example, perhaps you will want to take a civic issue that you have been exploring mainly on the level of the nation and create an advocacy project for the Penn State or State College communities or for your hometown. After you have given some thought to specific action you would like to encourage, the other key part of this assignment is to choose an appropriate mode for this advocacy work. Will it be oral? Written? Visual? Will it be made available online? Recorded live? Another option is to work in the opposite direction: that is, begin by choosing the mode in which you would like to work and then ask to what message or action or audience that mode might suggest. The assignment should be presentable at the advocacy fair and on our course advocacy organization website and disseminated beyond that. It’s “sharability” or potential to become “viral” should also be a factor.

Students are welcome to work in pairs for this project. In addition to the project itself, each student will submit a one-page justification of the mode and audience for the advocacy project on Canvas. Thus, the choice itself needs to be a rhetorically sound, deliberate one, and the choice of mode should be based on the conditions under which your desired audience will encounter the advocacy piece. The range is wide open: a short video, a speech of some sort, a podcast, a photo essay, an installation or public performance, a visual flyer or poster, some sort of flash performance, the list of possibilities could go on for awhile.

In addition to your justification of mode, please include a two- to three-sentence description of the advocacy project that we could use for our advocacy organization website. You might mimic this example: Question to hook the audience about the advocacy topic you treat? [Title of project] of [this genre of project] shows/helps/discovers/reveals [the thing at stake] or [how to help] or [makes this kind of statement].

The aims of this assignment are twofold:

  1. to demonstrate an awareness of what constitutes effective advocacy (e.g., its differences from persuasion)
  2. to show a strong awareness of the rhetorical benefits of different modes of communication as well as their weaknesses.

This assignment is worth 15% of your grade–the same as the Issue Brief. It should be appropriately challenging in its scope and design; this determination will be the starting point for your grade. You will be offered a number of sample projects to help you define the parameters of this project. Additionally, you can opt to work in pairs to develop your project, but please note that this increases the demand for what is considered appropriately challenging. A version of your project that could be posted to your e-Portfolio should be submitted on Canvas by Monday, April 17 by class time.