Review – Good Reasons by Elaine L. Jones
For those students who have no idea what an argument is, why they should learn to write an argument, or how to go about writing an argument, they can find the answers to all of these questions in Good Reasons. While this book is geared for the novice argument writer, the text still has enough information to be of interest to the more experienced writer. The suggested tasks are innovative and inspiring for students and teachers alike.
Good Reasons is a compact, attractive book that contains pertinent information, readings and assignment suggestions, and it is divided into three main sections. The first section explains what an argument is and the many uses for argument. The second section has professional and student examples of various types of arguments with suggestions for writing assignments. The third section focuses on visual aspects of argument. A useful appendix and a complete index are also included.
The authors, Lester Faigley and Jack Selzer, begin Good Reasons with a definition of “argument,” which is, of course, a very good place to start; then, they continue by giving examples of subjects for argumentation. One of the exercises encourages students to read arguments with a pencil in hand, making notations in the margins for later analysis. This form of exercise helps students understand the structure of argument and builds writing power. While proceeding through the next chapter, I discovered what constitutes a good argument and what is not an argument. The important features of argument writing are placed on a gray background and tips are set off with icons, making the book user friendly.
Next, Faigley and Selzer remind the readers to consider their audience. At this point, some students may ask, “Why would anyone want to hear an argument, much less, read one?” Most likely, they have not read the first chapter where “argument” is defined because if they had, they probably wouldn’t be trying to argue this point. However, to calm these student’s anxieties, Faigley and Selzer give examples of the many instances where the ability to write an argument is invaluable, and they even provide blueprints with instructions of how to build the proper argument for numerous purposes. They give examples by including Leslie Marmon Silko’s narrative argument, “The Border Patrol State,” and a student’s evaluation argument, “The Diet Zone: A Dangerous Place.” They have even included a definition comic strip, “Setting the Record Straight,” by Scott McCloud, illustrating there is more than one way to present an argument. By using Good Reasons, the students will discover many uses for argument and also the different types of argument. Again, important features are placed on a gray background.
After explaining how to write an argument for any occasion, Good Reasonsoffers many suggestions for effective visual designs: photo placement, graphs, layout, visual theme, and directing the viewer’s eyes. Additional information is given on how to form an effective web page so the students can ‘argue’ with the world. These techniques are useful for all students, no matter what their major or intended line of work.
For students unfamiliar with research, documentation, and revision, Good Reasons has instructions on how to accomplish these tasks effectively. The chapter on research explains how to find books, journal and trade articles, and other print sources; it also explains how to do research on the internet. It includes a section that tells how to evaluate print and web sources, which is very important for the serious researcher. The chapter on documentation discusses plagiarism and MLA documentation. The chapter on revision leads the student through effective revision. The appendix includes the rules for APA documentation, making the book applicable for students who may be in a field of studies that requires the APA documentation. Finally, it contains a very complete index.
Before I leave you with the impression that I whole-heartedly endorse the reasoning behind Good Reasons, I want you to know I do not give the book my complete stamp of approval. In the preface, Faigley and Selzer write they will not use the words “warrant,” “fallacy,” “syllogism,” or “enthymemes” (Toulmin’s terminology) in their book; instead, they use pathos, ethos, and logos, terms they feel are easier to understand. I am not sure these terms would be any easier to remember than warrant, fallacy, syllogism, or ethymemes, the terms that are used more often in academia. Besides, Good Reasons is crammed full of other terms that are used in relation to argumentation, so I don’t see a reason to make this change. It seems this change in terminology could be very confusing for students if they continues taking writing classes and the next teacher is not privy to Faigley and Selzer’s terminology.
Overall, Good Reasons is a useful book because it is easy to understand, and it has concise instructions, marvelous photos and visuals, and text and pictures relating to current issues. The book contains an added bonus: photos of many of the articles’ authors, which allow the reading audience to ‘see’ who is talking. This, along with all the other unique features, is a good reason to giveGood Reasons a thumbs up!