Argumentation and Communication >> Content Detail



Course Description

This Communication and Argumentation seminar is an intensive writing workshop that focuses on argumentation and communication. What does it mean to make an argument? What are the different types and styles of arguments that you can make? What are the different forms of writing that you need to learn in order to be successful here at MIT and when you move into the professional world?

This seminar provides the forum we will use to discuss your ideas, thoughts, apprehensions, frustrations and successes that go along with writing and communicating effectively. In this class we will write, revise and revise again. We will also practice oral briefing skills.

This class uses some of the assignments in your other classes as a springboard for the writing that we will be doing in this class. This means that I do not intend to make up all the writing for you to complete. Instead, I encourage you to use assignments from your other classes (such as the Gateway class, 11.201) to analyze, revise and rethink your arguments about topics that interest you.

Here are just a few of the topics we will discuss:

  • Understanding the parts of an argument
  • Drafting memos that get results
  • Creating and giving oral briefings
  • Understanding good, bad and horrible graphics

As part of this class, you will be given many opportunities to practice your writing and speaking skills. In-class writing and peer review will provide the means by which you practice and refine your ability to communicate complex ideas clearly.

Collaborative Learning

This class works best for those students who use class time to share their ideas, thoughts and creative suggestions. This means practicing active listening and participating skills. You will find that giving and receiving constructive feedback can be a highly useful tool for learning to analyze and improve the quality of your writing and analysis. Your peers can provide a new perspective, valuable insights, and guidance for you as you work through your research question.

Toward this end, we will work together to test your writing in order to help you find ideas that can be structured into viable arguments. As in many group situations, those students who commit to coming to each class and who are more willing to put forward nascent ideas and thoughts will get the most time and assistance.


The Grade for the course is based on a series of written and oral assignments.

Short Assignments50%
Oral Presentations25%


As indicated above, attendance is critical to a class forum which will largely be a round-table (although we have a rectangular table) discussion. We will use the time together to discuss ideas, review writing and presentation work and explore the next steps in the research process. As such, students will be allowed only two unexcused absences from class.

Written Work

All written assignments must be submitted in hard copy on the day it is due (this includes PowerPoint® presentations). Written work must be typed, spell-checked, and neatly formatted. Please include your name, the course number, assignment number, and date at the top of the page or on a cover sheet. While an occasional typo or editing error may slip through, the presence of several mistakes indicates a lack of attention and will lower your grade. Specific formatting conventions are negotiable, based on standards in your field and appropriateness for your intended audience. All work must be professional looking and designed for easy reading.

Documenting Sources

Do not cut and paste material from Web pages or other documents without making evident the source of the information. This is called plagiarism, which is a serious offense and subject to formal action by the Institute. Inadequately documented papers (including bibliography and footnotes or in-text citations) will not receive a passing grade. When in doubt, document the source.

Weekly Workshops

The focus of this class will be on editing and revising. So, each week we will review writing that you or I bring to share with the class. You will take turns bringing in writing to share with the class so that we get a chance to really focus on what you have brought. Student samples should be no more than one page long.

How this works: I will assign each of you two dates for which you will be expected to bring in writing to share with the class. This is your chance to get substantial feedback on the areas that you need to work in. So, I encourage you to select your pieces of writing carefully in order to get the most out of the workshop session.

We will work in small groups and together as a larger class. Please bring in an electronic copy and also 10 copies of each piece of writing on your assigned day.

Weekly Readings

In order to be able to write arguments, you need to read well-written published arguments. So, each week you should be reading 5 to 10 opinion/editorial pieces.


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