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Writing a Rogerian Argument

When writing an essay you must decide what kind of argument is appropriate. Not all arguments must be adversarial in nature. In many circumstances the approach that one person is correct and the other incorrect works, such as in most legal arguments. However, many other contexts demand a more mediating style.

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If there are multiple correct answers to an issue or even no completely correct answers, then you should consider mediation. The typical adversarial stance in essay writing begins with a declarative opinion, whereas the mediating approach delays making any commitment to viewpoint until the middle or end of the essay.

The approach we recommend is derived from the work of Carl Rogers, the psychologist. He believed that if two people disagreed, but had good will toward each other, a common ground could be found or forged that would help them move a little closer toward the other viewpoint. Without good will it does not work, since the role of emotions is minimized and reason takes the center stage.

Introduction

The Rogerian essay begins by expositing the effects of the issue on both the audience and the author, regardless of viewpoint. It avoids any attacks, but puts all into the same boat. The goal is unity.

Audience's Viewpoint

Use neutral language and present the audience's viewpoint and why it is valid. If you achieve this then you will have established a level of good will. You must be authentic or the audience will destroy any credibility they were beginning to hold out to you.

Author's Viewpoint

Again, the language must be absolutely neutral. Describe the situations where this view is valid and back it up with proof, but neutral in language.

The Closing

You are not requesting the audience to abandon their view, but simply revealing the benefits or at least the possibility of shifting to a closer compromise or alternative. This new ground must account for more than either of the previous views could on their own.

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