Nelson Higher Education

Higher Education

The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide, 2nd Edition

  • Harry Phillips
  • Patricia Bostian
  • ISBN-10: 1285438051
  • ISBN-13: 9781285438054
  • 624 Pages | Paperback
  • Previous Editions: 2012
  • COPYRIGHT: 2015 Published
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About the Product

Emphasizing the practical and the local, THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT: A PRACTICAL GUIDE, 2E effectively brings argument into real life with community-based writing activities, illustrating that the tools and skills of argument are critical to success in school-and well beyond. 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. In addition, a rich anthology of arguments covers a wide range of today's leading issues.


  • 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.


"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

About the Author

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 suggestion 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 communication. 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 crisis 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 also is the editor of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal TEACHING AMERICAN LITERATURE: A JOURNAL OF THEORY AND PRACTICE ( For 29 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 completed an M.A. in English and doctoral coursework in composition/rhetoric at the University of South Carolina and now is completing an M.A. in Humanities from California State University.

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.
Intersections: Contemporary Issues and Arguments.
Linda Gonzalez, Driving to a Reasonable Solution. Blaine Schmidt, Red Light Cameras-Pursuing Profit Without Process Or Purpose. Ben Szany, Vouching for Our School System?

New to this edition

  • New examples vividly illustrate each of the four types of arguments covered in THE PURPOSEFUL ARGUMENT: A PRACTICAL GUIDE, 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.


All supplements have been updated in coordination with the Main title.
Please see Main title page for new to this edition information.

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.

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MindTap English for Phillips/Bostian's The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide, 2nd Edition is the digital learning solution that helps instructors engage and transform today's students into critical thinkers. Through paths of dynamic assignments and applications that you can personalize, real-time course analytics, and an accessible reader, MindTap helps you turn cookie cutter into cutting edge, apathy into engagement, and memorizers into higher-level thinkers. MindTap English is the premier composition workflow solution that helps students become better writers and gets you papers you want to read. All in one easy-to-use place, MindTap improves student skills in research, grammar, citation, and above all, writing, by combining necessary resources -- like writing assignments, peer review, remediation, tutorials, and a gradebook -- into a singular and fully customizable learning environment. Access to this product is valid for 6 months of usage. Attention: This MindTap contains Flash-based content. Due to the year-end retirement of Adobe Flash, we will no longer support this unique digital solution after November 30th. Please contact your Cengage Sales Representative to find an alternative Flash free MindTap.

Student Supplements

MindTap English, 1 term (6 months) Instant Access for Phillips/Bostian's The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide  (ISBN-10: 1305073002 | ISBN-13: 9781305073005)

MindTap English for Phillips/Bostian's The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide, 2nd Edition provides you with the tools you need to better manage your limited time -- you can complete assignments whenever and wherever you are ready to learn with course material specially customized for you by your instructor and streamlined in one proven, easy-to-use interface. By combining readings, writing assignments, practice, peer review, and tutorials in an interactive learning environment, MindTap English will help you improve your skills in research, grammar, citation -- and above all, writing. Through these resources and an array of tools and apps -- from note taking to flashcards -- you'll get a true understanding of course concepts, helping you to achieve better grades and setting the groundwork for your future courses. Access to this product is valid for 6 months of usage.