Lori Ostergaard



BA/BS Standing 

Degree and Checklist Applicability

Communications Core Course - Upper Division 

Catalog Description

This course surveys the theoretical and empirical literature relating to persuasion and public opinion. It examines how persuasive messages are crafted and their impact on individual and group attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. (2001-2002 Catalog) 

Course Overview and Requirements

Any course that attempts to teach the "techniques of persuasion" is essentially a course in rhetoric, which Aristotle defined as the "art of persuasion." The objectives of this particular course are simple: We will investigate the various components that go into persuading a particular group at a particular time to do a particular thing. Because our focus is on writing and speaking techniques that persuade others (and ourselves, often), we will be reading and listening to many "texts" and applying the analytical lenses we will be learning about during class time and in our textbooks. 

Course Goals 

  • Recognize techniques that effective writers use to convince their audiences. 
  • Explore various types of "texts," including traditional print, Internet, oral, and visual texts, using rhetorical concepts. 
  • Learn about the social and psychological factors that go into persuading an audience to think, feel, or do something. 
  • Develop analytical skills through extensive reading and writing exercises so that you will be better prepared to function as an active, productive citizen in a democracy. 

Required Texts

  • Cialdini, Robert. Influence: Science and Practice. 4th ed. Boston : Allyn and Bacon, 2001. 
  • Covino, William. The Elements of Persuasion. New York: Longman, 1997. 
  • Handouts provided by the instructor and internet sources.

Additional Supplies

  • Three-Ring Binder for Handouts, Notes, Etc. 
  • Computer Disks, Blank CDs, or Thumb Drive
  • An established email address.

Required Reading

Students are expected to complete assigned readings before class. Specific dates are given on the attached schedule. Discussions, writing, and reading will consume much of class meetings; students who do not participate will not receive full credit. 

Course Assignments

(See Course Schedule for Specific Due Dates) 

Class Work, Homework, Writing Exercises, Quizzes, Attendance (30%)--Each class meeting will involve several different kinds of writing and thinking assignments (responses to readings in journals, short analytical writings, etc.). These will be collected periodically for evaluation, which will be based on completion and willingness to do the work more so than "correctness." I expect all students to complete any homework before class, as we will often start class by using the homework assignments. Likewise, when we work in class, I expect that all students will stay in class and do the work. Participation in the class includes (but is not limited to) completion of in-class writing; active, engaged, and lively involvement in class discussions; collaborating with classmates to complete in-class work and/or presentations; and generally illustrating your preparedness and willingness to contribute to the learning/knowledge/experiences of your classmates and your instructor. 

Short Papers (30%)--descriptions of each are available online by clicking here. Throughout the course, students will work on 2-3 page papers that require rhetorical analysis. These projects are designed to give students fluency with rhetorical concepts like ethos, pathos, and kairos, by analyzing various texts that somehow speak to the students' chosen problems/ideas/issues so that they may more easily and effectively produce the longer Final Project. Students who do not complete these short paperswill not be allowed to turn in the major project, which will result in their inability pass the course. Part of this process will involve rough drafts, peer reviews, and extensive revision. The grade for these projects will be based on students' engagement in this process as much as the products. 

Final Project (25% )--Several weeks into the course, you will be asked to pick a problem/idea/issue that they want to analyze in depth based on the rhetorical concepts we will discuss throughout the semester. In order to scaffold this assignment, I will ask for you to choose this problem/idea/issue early so that you can begin writing your short papers on the same issue. Later, you will begin to put these short exercises together so that you produce a more complete rhetorical analysis of their chosen problem/idea/issue. In other words, the short papers you write early in the semester will make up, in large part, the final project you produce. Part of the process of writing this final project will also involve classroom presentations, rough drafts, peer reviews, and extensive revision. The grade for the project will be based on your engagement in this process as much as the product.  Another part of the grade will be based upon the analytical coverletter you write explaining your writing process, the purpose of your analysis, and any other information I need to know about the project.

Class Debate (10%)--mid-way through the semester you will put your rhetorical skills into practice by participating in a debate with your classmates. Your attendance at the debate prep sessions and at the debate are mandatory for you to get any credit for this activity.

Paper Presentations and Peer Reviews (5%)--Because I believe that we learn from one another in this class, you will be expected to have drafts of each of your papers ready for peer reviews throughout the semester. This way you will learn from your classmates how to make your papers stronger and better. You will also be expected to share your work with the class by presenting on what you did with each paper on the day it is due.While this requirement represents only 5% of your grade in the class, failure to participate in peer reviews or paper presentations may also result in a failing grade on your papers.

Grading System

  • Class Work, Homework, Writing Exercises, Quizzes, Attendance: 30%
  • Short Papers (including drafts, peer reviews, etc.): 30%
  • Major Analysis Paper (including drafts, peer reviews, analytical coverletter, etc.): 25%
  • Classroom Debate: 10%
  • Presentation of Final Project: 5%

A = 90 - 100 pts 
B = 80 - 89 pts 
C = 70 - 79 pts 
D = 60 - 69 pts 
F = 50 - 59 pts 

Attendance Policies

Instructor's Policy: Be there, end of story. You must be present, as participation in discussions and activities will affect your grade. However, I realize that sometimes life happens and you simply cannot make it to class. Thus, you may miss two classes before your grade is adversely affected. After the second absence, each additional absence will result in a three (3) point deduction from your average. Please communicate with the me about any absences. While I will never ask you to explain specifics of your absence, I do expect you to act as any professional and inform me of your absence. Students who miss more than ten (10) classes will not receive a passing grade for the course. Students who are late more than twenty (20) minutes will receive a one-class absence. You will be expected to email me the work that was due on the day(s) you missed and to bring a hard copy of that work to the next class meeting. 

Lincoln College Policy: Due to the direct correlation with academic success, class attendance is required of all Lincoln College students. Parents, students, and advisors are informed of excessive absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism may result in administrative withdrawal from the course and/or failure.

Revision Policy

Since the short papers you will write this semester account for 30% of your grade, and since they were designed to help you to prepare your final project for the class, you may revise these short papers for a better grade and additional feedback from me. However, to do so you must turn in the paper on time. When you receive that paper back from me, you have two weeks to revise that work and turn it in. During the first of these weeks, you will send me an email explaining what (specifically) you plan to do to revise: what comments did I make and how do you plan to incorporate those comments into a substantial revision of the work. You must send me this emailed revision plan before class the following week. You will then have an additional week to revise your work and turn it in to me. 

For additional classroom policies and social practices, please see the Course Policies link.