Using the modes is like putting together pieces of a puzzle: most major paragraphs use at least one mode, and most essays use several modes. The modes are useful i n particular in helping writers learn how to develop paragraphs, create longer papers in many subjects and disciplines in college, and complete careful analysis of college readings.

        The modes may help you survive writing assignments in a wide variety of subjects and disciplines.  This is because some instructors give assignments using the names of the modes as key words: e.g., "Write a comparison-contrast paper on the psychology of Sigmund Freud and the philosophy of Plato."  For this reason, this chapter may be of help to you as a reference--to help you understand just what the instructor is expecting.   

          Once you know your rhetorical modes, it is a simple matter to look for them in your readings.  Often is is easier understand and summarize such readings by understanding just what kind of thinking pattern the author is using.  If you understand these modes--these thinking patterns--you will find it easier to follow the logic an author is attempting to use--and, as is sometimes quite important in college reading--to disagree with the author, too         

            A rhetorical mode is a strategy--a way or method of presenting a subject—through writing or speech.  Some of the better known rhetorical modes are, for example, "argument" and "cause and effect."  There are literally dozens, perhaps hundreds, of strategies or methods for presenting subjects; however, the modes are among the most basic. Instructors have used rhetorical modes to teach writing or public speaking since ancient Greek times over two thousand years ago, perhaps longer.  Knowing the modes can help us understand the organization--the methodology--of most kinds of writings or other presentations. 

            Each rhetorical mode is an excellent device to use for writing a paper.  Such writing helps you practice the pure form of the mode in an extended way.  The other types of college papers and as you analyze and argue about college reading assignments.  It is possible to make the modes fun: practice, for example, narration by telling the blow-by-blow account of an interesting or even silly event in your life; cause and effect by showing how one part of your life inevitably leads to your doing or participating in another; comparison/contrast by comparing and contrasting two activities, people, or activities you really like or dislike; etc.  However you practice the modes, your practice will have the serious purpose of helping you understand, use, and find in others these basic methods of thinking.


Cause & Effect
Extended Definition
Process Analysis


            An "argument" is, simply, an educated guess or opinion, not a simple fact. It is something debatable: "Men have walked on the moon" is a fact, but "People will walk on Venus in the next ten years" is an opinion. Anything that reasonably can be debated is an argument. A simple argument paper usually presents a debatable opinion and then offers supports in favor of it, or sometimes an argument paper will discuss both sides of an issue and then give good reasons for choosing one side over the other.  For example, a paper about space flight might argue that humans should not spend large sums of money in sending people into space.  The paper might then argue that three good reasons this is true is that there are many poor on our planet, on whom our resources should be spent, that space flight is not as enlightening for humankind as increasing literacy or cultural awareness, and that most of he money being spent on space is for military purposes, which is useless.  Another type of argument paper might ask the main idea as a question: "Should the human race spend large sums of money to send people into space?"  Then it might argue both sides thoroughly and, finally, choose one side and give strong reasons why this side is best.

            A typical argument paper often has what is called a "thesis" structure.  It starts with an introduction that offers an interesting opening--a quotation, perhaps, or an interesting story, a statement of the main argument, and sometimes a list of the several reasons (often three, but not necessarily so) to be given in support of this argument.  Then, step by step, the reasons are given with supporting details such as quotations, facts, figures, statistics, and/or people's experiences.  If the paper is short, there may be just one paragraph per reason.  In a longer argument paper, there may be several paragraphs or even several pages per reason.  At the end, a conclusion provides a restatement of the main argument and a final interesting quotation or other detail.

        In the alternative form, the introduction is much the same, and often starts with an interesting quotation or story, but it offers the main idea as a question and provides the two (or more) possible answers.  It may or may not state which answer it will choose in the end.  The body is formed by having a section discussing the first possible answer with reasons and details supporting it, the second possible answer and its reasons and supporting details, and a final section in which you choose one of the two answers and give strong reasons why you are doing so.  The conclusion once again restates your final choice and offers a final interesting quotation or story.

            As with all the other modes, argument is a thinking pattern or skill that is used in a number of types of college papers in shorter form.  You will find it in any sentence, paragraph, or section of a paper in which an opinion is expressed, especially when one or more supporting reasons are given for the opinion.  Argument is one of the most basic forms of human thinking.  When you use argument, you rise above the mere offering of a personal opinion precisely because an argument requires supporting reasons, preferably with specific supporting details, to justify the position you are taking.

To convince a reader that your side of a debatable issue is the better one.

Some Methods
logic, emotion, ethics, morals, intelligence, anything that will convince the reader.

Be sure to:
* Acknowledge the other side. (without degrading the thinking - respect your opposition - it will help your argument)
* Refute the other side - anticipate the opposing argument and show how to debunk it.
* Do not insult or be sarcastic - this will weaken your argument.
* Be sure to support your opinions with development (as with any other essay)

There are several ways to argue a point, depending on the topic.  Considerations on what to include
Audience and Purpose: To whom is your argument directed?

                                    What do you want to accomplish?

Background: Why is your issue important?

                   What is the history of the issue or problem?

                    What is the scope of the issue you will deal with?

 Introduction: How can you capture the reader’s attention? (A startling statistic or fact?

                    Narration of a pertinent incident?  Other? See EXP handout.)


Necessary components
What is the argument?

Be sure the reader knows what you are arguing about before taking a side to support
Brief Summaries of each side
t is helpful to a reader to understand both sides; therefore, writing a brief summary of each side is required.
What is your position on the issue in a concise and clearly stated sentence?
Proof to support your position

Examples of possible organizational strategies
(When writing the actual outline everything must be in complete sentences)

Example Strategy 1

Argument: What evidence, facts, proof, or reasoning do you have to support your

                   position on the issue?


A.     Your stronger argument:

B.     Your strong argument:

C.     Your strongest argument:


Refutation: What are the objections which oppose your position on the issue? How do

                   you show opposing arguments are faculty or invalid, or that your position is


A.     Opposing argument:

Your refutation:

B.     Opposing argument:

Your refutation:

C.     Opposing argument:

Your refutation:


Conclusion: Restate your position.  What are the implications of your argument? What do

                    You want the reader to believe or to do?  What strong ethical or emotional

                    Appeal might be convincing?

Example Strategy 2

 I. Broad theme for your catchy hook (avoid “Have you ever . . .”)

A.    Identify how your specific topic relates to “justice”

B.     List reasons why this topic is important

C.     Identify the topic’s place in history

D.    Identify “general” aspects of the topic; do NOT give specifics

E.     Identify the various positions (for and against)

THESIS STATEMENT: the only complete sentence in your outline (not a question); this should focus your argument and clearly present your position on the topic


II. Background about the issue

           A.   What it is

           B.   Beginnings in American “history”

                       1. when it first became an issue

                       2. how it has evolved as an issue

                       3. where “it stands” today

           C.   Why it is a controversial topic


III. State the position opposite of yours (clear topic sentence – not catchy hook or question)

A.   1st Reason people feel this way   

1. Specific evidence or example or statistic

2. Explain why this may be true BUT . . .

B.   2nd reason people feel this way

1. Specific evidence or example or statistic

2. Explain why this may be true BUT . . .

C.   Analysis of the contrary position – transitions to your position


IV. State your position as fact (needs clear topic sentence – not a catchy hook or question)

A.   1st Reason people feel this way   

1. Specific evidence or example or statistic

2. Explain why this is true

B.   2nd reason people feel this way

1. Specific evidence or example or statistic

2. Explain why this is true


V. Your Synthesizing Statement/Conclusion (do not include details in your conclusion)

A.    Synthesize specific causes of controversy, overview of topic (highlight)

B.     Transition from specific to “general” – how this specific topic has lasting effects

C.     Give your opinion about how the general effects impact injustice/justice

D.     Consider – concluding with your opinion or a “call to action”



Examples of completed outlines

example 1
Thesis: Marriage should be open to the homosexual couples that seek matrimony.

I Same sex marriage greatly benefits society and the homosexuals it serves.  
As demonstrated by a number of prominent American studies, same sex marriage benefits society economically and psychologically
   B. Economically: millions of dollars are spent on marriage licenses and the state may use such funds to better itself; married couple taxes
        are applicable as well
   C. Psychologically: Lesbians and gays in states that legalize gay marriage have notably low rates of alcohol consumption, mood swings and
       generalized anxiety disorder when compared alongside states that do ban gay marriage
       1. Alcohol consumption and mood swings, when unchecked, may lead to unnecessary crime; reduced drinking and psychological disorder rates
           helps make society safer
   D. American Psychological Association advocates these statistics promote the need for same sex marriage legalization
        1. Same sex marriage does not undermine or clash with traditional marriage.
        2. Same sex marriage legalization, as demonstrated by Massachusetts’ leading example, has reduced divorce rates by a staggering 21% across
             the state
        3. American Anthropological Association, through its own study conducted in 2004 ("Statement on Marriage and the Family”) found no evidence
            that same sex marriages increased divorce rates of heterosexuals or increased out of wedlock births
        4. Data found actually promotes same sex marriage through the benefits of various family types within communities

     E. Same sex marriage does not lead to stealing of heterosexual males and females from stable relationships; this connection does not have concrete
        1. Same sex marriage should be allowed to ensure America’s gay community is not discriminated against
        2. Allowing one group more rights over another will likely lead to discrimination between the two groups
            a. Heterosexuals may feel homosexuals are less American than they are because heterosexuals are able to marry while homosexuals are not
     E. First Amendment rights state that individuals have the freedom to express themselves as they see fit
         1. May be applied to same sex marriage through homosexual’s freedom to be attracted to whichever gender they choos

example 2
Thesis: Steroid use in sports is a risk to the health of the institution as well as the players.

    I Argument: Steroid use presents more risks than benefits.
  Sports celebrate life and are a showcase of human ability, keeping athletes as safe as possible while playing sports is a primary concern.
                1. Safety equipment requirements, even in the face of a little sacrificed ability, in various sports show this to be true
                     a. Soccer players could run faster without shin guards
 Football players could run faster without pads and see the ball better without facema
                     c.  Steroids present too much of safety risk to be allowed, even if their use can improve ability.
                2.  Keeping athletes safe is in the best interest of sports.
 More big name players makes for a more interesting game.
                     e. Injured players can’t participate
                     f. The risks may keep people from playing and even reaching a professional level.
 Steroid use in professional sports is alienating.
                1.  Since it is illegal, players may not fully disclose use to doctors putting them at risk for ineffective treatments if negative symptoms arise.
2.  Further removes athletes from  observes.
      II. Refutation: The use of steroids in professional sports does more harm than good and should remain banned despite arguments to the contrary.
  There is not enough research to confirm negative health consequences of steroid use.
                1. Refutation:  The risks presented are grave enough to limit steroid use while further research is being conducted.
                    a.  Deformation
                    b.  mood swings, depression
                    c.  cancer
                    d.  death
  Sports are for entertainment and players using performance enhancing steroids are more entertaining.
1. Refutation: Performance enhancing steroid use is illegal, condoning steroid use is condoning an illegal activity.
2. Beyond the health risks of use, there are risks involved with obtaining and distributing steroi
                      a.  Potential fines and jail time
                      b.  interactions with drug dealers
                      c.  Funding illegal activities
d.   Little to no protection from the law for deals gone wrong
 Sports have not been practiced by pure humans for a while, so excluding steroids is nonsensical.
                  1. advances in technology, training, nutrition.

2.  Refutation: Steroids should continue to be banned in professional sports so they do not become a requirement to compete at a
                       professional level, the boundary has to be set somewhere
example 3
Thesis: Magazines filled with mostly sickly looking fashion models are harmful images to perceive as ideal and can create a negative body image for some woman.

1.       I. Magazine editors and fashion enthusiasts contribute too many women’s self-confidence issues.

A.    Many people see fashion models as how society should look

B.    Editors do not realize the impact some images can have on the consumers

C.    By displaying size zero models in these clothes, it promotes an unethical idea for woman and men

D.    Sometimes people do not notice what is being advertised because they are too busy focusing on the impeccable model underneath the clothes and jewelry

                                          1.    In reality though they  are ultra-thin and an unnatural image for the public

                                          2.    Some believe that being this size will help to looks best clothes

a.    But beauty is no as narrow; women of all sizes and shapes have something special about them.

2.        II. Many magazine covers constantly relate size with being happy.

A.    So if an individual is not a double zero its normal to be unhappy

B.    Magazine have an abundance of contradictions

C.    To these companies sponsoring magazines, they are after money

                                          1.    Health magazine showcase how to lose weight and feel great but then advertise harmful weigh loss drugs

                                         2.    These magazines will also elucidate the dangers diets can bring about

                                         3.    Cosmopolitan has many articles how to enjoy your life with sex, drinking and cosmetic surgery but don’t express any risks involved with each category

a.    These companies do not care if they are putting someone’s mental/ physical health at risk

b.    What looks good sells

3.        III. The fashion world sometimes displays standards that are hard for the average person to meet.

A.    Evidence shows that in the last 50 years models have gotten smaller

B.    On the runaway and also in magazines not only to stand out but to make their products sell

C.    Not all celebrities look the way there portrayed in magazines

D.    Tiny models bodies are being manipulated as it is to alter perfection even more (no wonder so many models acquire mental illnesses)

                                          1.    Many models in magazines are airbrushed and digitally altered (not everyone is aware of this)—I only found out through research

4.   i        IV.  Some fashion models torture and deprive themselves to stay ultra-thin, to the majority of these models maintaining this
         size is even worth death. 

A.    A 21 year old fashion model Ana Carolina Reston seemed to be a model who had everything under control

B.    In reality she had become obsessed with staying this ultra-thin size

C.    She was starving herself eating only apples and tomatoes  and died at 88 lbs. all with hopes to become a the IT girl

D. This tragedy itself should have displayed a message to the fashion industry about the impact that really does come from this field


Example Completed Argumentation Essay
Issue: Obama care (medical coverage for all Americans) - will it be good for the country? (either yes or no - right?)
Ok - let's say we take the negative side.
As with any essay be sure to engage your reader with something to garner interest. Don't state the obvious or  a standard dictionary definition, or something everybody knows. ome possibilities: an anecdote, interesting background, provocative questions, a scenario, importance of the issue, etc. Be sure to include include  exactly what the issue is about & exactly what side you are going to support and convince the reader to accept. (doesn't have to be in the intro - but that is very good place for it, so the reader knows what's coming)
Sample Introduction
     An elderly woman experiencing heart palpitations enters an emergency room and is told to take a seat in the waiting area. There are several dozen others reading newspapers, flipping though emails and text messages, and others behind her in line. After some time her name is eventually called, and she is ushered into a examination room. With a quick look the young doctor explains that she needs an EKG (Electrocardiography) test; however, because of her age, under PPAC  (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "Obama Care") she is not eligible to receive it. He gently explains that it is up to the government to decide who receives what, and they do it on an expectation of success, usefulness, and cost effectiveness. In simple terms they seem to asking, is it a good investments? The poor women is old and does not have a long life expectancy. An expensive EKG is not a good investment on her. She is sent home with some aspirins and told to relax more.. This sounds like something from a bad movie but could easily be what will happen when Obama care which is scheduled to come into effect within the next two years becomes a reality. Obama care gives the government control of your healthcare! What has the government ever got its hand on that worked well? Because of massive bureaucracy, political pandering, incompetence, disregard for financial overburdening the average taxpayer, and disregard of the freedoms that the constitution guarantees all US citizens, this massive incredibly expensive and intrusive policy is not good for the country.

Sample very rough Outline
THESIS = Obama care will not be good for the country. (that is the author's overall opinion)
MI = It will weaken the quality of medical care for all Americans (idea#1-author's opinion that clearly supports the THESIS)
MI = It will be more costly than the current system (idea#2-author's opinion that clearly supports the THESIS)
MI = It contradicts the constitution and is a sever infringement on American freedom. (idea#3-author's opinion that clearly supports the THESIS)

Now you must support (Develop)  each MI - (NOT WITH MORE IDEAS or OPINIONS - or by saying what should be  - but with convincing argument.

Sample Support
Let's take MI#1 -  It will weaken the quality of medical care for all Americans

     Because the government will decide the cost and payments for all medical attention, doctors will be forced to accept whatever the government decides is fair. Those who are thinking of entering the medical profession may decide against it if they feel their earning capacity will be limited by a huge government bureaucracy. There will be less doctors available, and inferior medical candidates may be the only ones willing to accept this. Furthermore, the most current medical technology may not be available, and Americans may be forced to accept inferior treatment because of the same financial restriction. If those interested in advancing medical technology feel that they will be governed and told how much they can earn, research will not be as vigorous as it is under a free system. Europe has suffered from this problem for decades. Those interested in the best care have always come to America because we have the most competitive medical technology and parishioners. Why? Because they are free to govern their own actions and earn a fair amount, not decided upon by a political machine. Years ago, when visiting London, I stopped in on my friend who is a dentist. I just had a dental procedure that was fairly advanced, and I showed it to her. She was shocked, and amazed. She read about it but only dreamed of learning it because her government, who operated a social medical system much like Obama care, would not fund research into it, and she was still using techniques that my dentist said where at least 10 years behind the US. I would have never been able to get the best treatment had I lived in London. When Obama care is fully instituted, we can expect this type of problem, so be ready to accept whatever the government decides is best for you! Worse yet, senior citizens may not get required care at all because the treatment they need may not be covered. The government will have a graduation age related scale that only provides treatment to those who have a strong life expectancy that will warrant the cost. They surely will not cover expensive medical procedures for old folks who only have a few more years to live. It is not cost effective for them. Just look to Europe where this has been happening for years. It is not uncommon for seniors to die awaiting or denied treatment. Leaving one's life in the hands of the government, which cannot agree an anything, is like playing roulette with the lives of our lived ones. The odds are stacked against us, and we will pay the prices.

Note: The above is an attempt to support the MI - not restate it - no say is should be in effect because I think so - not make a circular argument - it is an attempt to appeal to economics, emotion, & logic based on history and a comparison to to a system that has already experienced a similar type of Obama care.

Now you must support the other MI - (NOT WITH MORE IDEAS or OPINIONS - or by saying what should be  - but with convincing argument

When all MI are adequately supported - it is time to wrap it up - write the Conclusion.

Sample Conclusion
The US is the richest most generous country in the world. Quality medical coverage should be available to all Americans. There are many options to "Obama Care" that will not infringe on our constitutional freedoms and not cost the taxpayer more taxes, business lost revenues, and investors diminished income as the current anticipated plan will. One such plan is called "the Pipes Plan." it is the work of Sally Pipes, president of the San Francisco based Passaic Research Institutes. The highlights of this plan include: giving citizens control of picking insurance coverage; opening a national insurance market; and most importantly stopping government from deciding what is covered and what is not. There are several other plans none of which abridge our constitutional freedoms of choice. If you want to know just how good this plan is, think about our government officials medical coverage. Many of them have special coverage. They are not obligated to accept this plan; and they don't! They choose other coverage that the average person cannot get! Obama care is a huge undertaking that will take charge of about fifteen percent of all the money spent in this country. It will decide who gets care and for what ailments. It will weaken the economy by imposing more taxes and less cooperate dividends, and most critically it will lessen the quality of our medical professionals and their services. Let's all take a deep breath and get the wind back in our sails for freedom and choice. Repel Obama care!


Return to top.


Cause & Effect

            "Cause and effect" simply means that you start with a subject (an event, person, or object) and then show the causes (reasons) for it, and/or the effects (results) of it.  Note: In an essay you will address either the Cause OR the Effect - Do not do both.

"Cause" means the reasons why or for something, or the source of something. "Effects" simply are results or outcomes. Cause-and-effect writing shows a chain of connected events, each the logical result of the one before it. A simple cause-and-effect paper discusses the chain of events related to a person, event, or object, showing what are the causes and what are the results.  For example, a paper about a solar car might describe how it came to be built by an inventor and how he first became interested in solar cars (the causes), and what the results of this solar car might be--how its existence might lead people to take energy efficiency and environmental concerns more seriously and even lead to mass-produced solar cars (effects or results).

            Typically a cause-and-effect paper has an introductory paragraph defining or clarifying the subject itself, and stating the nature of the paper (i.e., that your paper is a cause-and-effect paper); a body of several to many paragraphs; and a brief concluding paragraph.  Assume, when you write a cause-and-effect paper, that you are explaining events to someone who may know a little about them but never has heard the entire story of how the events are linked by logical cause and effect.  

            At the end of your cause-and-effect paper, add a final, concluding paragraph.  It should summarize, very briefly, the most important cause and effect concerning your subject.  And it might offer a final interesting thought or two about the subject. 

            It also is possible to use cause and effect in less than a full paper.  In fact, many explanations and discussions involve cause-and-effect logic in just a paragraph or two, just a sentence, or even within a phrase within a sentence.  Anytime you want to answer the question of why something has happened, you are using cause-and-effect logic.

For more info see: cause\effect

Return to top.



            "Classification" means that a subject--a person, place, event, or object--is identified and broken into parts and sub-parts. This type of paper is slightly more complex than others.  For this reason, you might first want to learn to write "Extended Definition," "Comparison/Contrast," and "Description" papers.  

            For an example of a classification paper, imagine you want to classify a specific student.  You might first start by identifying this student by name and briefly defining him or her.  Second, you would choose a system by which to classify him: e.g., you could choose a system that would describe his looks, school classes, and after-school activities; or you might choose a biological system and describe him by his physical type, health, blood type, and other biological markings; or, perhaps, you might choose to describe the student by his psychological makeup, his family history, and/or even his medical history.  Third, once you have chosen a system, you would then describe the person.  As you do so, you would want to show how, in each part of our classification, he is similar to others like him and also how he differs from them--this is the heart of developing lengthy description in a good classification paper, to use comparisons and contrasts with each small element of our classification system.     

            A standard classification paper starts with a short introduction.  In it, you state and briefly define (see "Extended Definition") your subject.  You also should state clearly that you intend to classify your subject.  In the body of your paper, you describe your subject according to the classification system you have chosen.  You choose a system based partly on what your audience expects (e.g., a psychology instructor probably would expect you to classify and describe using a system of psychology; a biology instructor, a system of biology; etc.) and partly on how many classification categories you need to make your paper be well developed (often, the more categories you have, the more length you can develop).  Be sure to break down the body into a number of separate paragraphs.  Finally, your conclusion briefly reminds your audience of the subject and purpose and, perhaps, ends with a final, interesting sentence or two.

            Classification is used as a pattern of thinking, speaking, and writing in shorter forms, too.  Whenever you must break down a subject into its separate parts, you are classifying.  Classification is almost as basic a way of thinking as are "Cause and Effect" (above) and "Description" (below).

Return to top.



            "Compare/contrast" means to show how subjects are alike and/or different. A simple comparison/contrast paper often has two subjects and describes how they are alike and then how they differ. For example, a comparison/contrast paper on two forms of weekend entertainment, camping and dancing, might first give details on how both can involve physical skills, friends, and enjoying sounds and sights; then the paper might give details of how camping and popular dancing differ in that one happens in nature and the other in the midst of civilization, one usually is slow and quiet and the other often fast and loud, and one peaceful while the other is rousing. If you are asked to write a comparison/contrast paper on just one subject, you can first compare it to the subjects it is like and then contrast it to the subjects that seem opposite it; several different similarities and several different opposites are acceptable, even helpful, in such a paper.  For example, if you were going to write a comparison/contrast paper about airports, you might decide compare them to city bus stations, train stations, and street bus stops.  Then you might contrast them with each of these.

            In academic writing, comparison/contrast writing sometimes is used to show how two related viewpoints--two ideas or opinions--can be similar but different: for example, in the abortion controversy, some people believe that abortions are wrong; others believe that artificial birth control is wrong. These two positions are similar, but they also are different--leading to different arguments and different results at times.  Comparison/contrast also can be useful in analyzing an author's argument by comparing it to someone else's argument (yours or another author's), showing points of similarity and points of difference. For example, if an author argues for a constitutional amendment preventing gender discrimination, you could analyze the argument by comparing and contrasting it to the reasons for other constitutional amendments which already exist.

            Start a comparison/contrast paper simply and clearly: tell your readers in a brief introduction what you are going to do (compare, contrast, or both) and what your subject or subjects are.  It also may be helpful to offer a very brief definition (see "Extended Definition") of your subject(s).  Then write the body.  It is a good idea to provide at least one paragraph for each intellectual function you are going to do.  For example, you might first have just one paragraph (or one set of paragraphs) that use comparison, then another set that uses just contrast.  Instead, you might organize our paragraphs by subject: using the example above of airports, you might have one paragraph or set of paragraphs comparing and contrasting them to city bus stations, a second set comparing and contrasting them to train stations, and a final set to street bus stops.  The organization you choose for your body paragraphs should be the one that helps your readers most easily understand your comparisons/contrasts.  Your conclusion should be one paragraph containing a summary of your subject and purpose (to compare and/or contrast), and a final interesting sentence or two.  The audience you should consider as you plan and then write your paper is anyone who knows all of the subjects you are talking about but who would find it interesting to read about how they are compared/contrasted.  

            Comparison and contrast both are commonly used in short form in many other types of papers, too.  For example, you must use comparison and contrast to define something (see "Extended Definition": you show what the subject is like; then you show how it differs or contrasts from others like it).  You also use comparison anytime you explain that something is "like" something else; likewise, you use contrast whenever you want to show how something is different.  Comparison/contrast is quite deeply and naturally imbedded in our everyday thinking and logic.

Return to top.



            "Description" means "illustrative detail." A description paper often takes a person or object and then describes that person or thing in great illustrative detail.  For example, a description paper about a close friend might describe his or her appearance, her actions, and her personality, both through direct descriptive words--like paintings of her in different situations--and through stories or vignettes showing him in action.  It is important to e thorough--to provide plenty of details.  Often it is helpful to use one or more plans or systems of description.  One typical plan is to move in a specific direction: e.g., from head to foot when describing a person, or perhaps clockwise when describing a room or place.  The exact direction or order does not matter as long as you are consistent.  Another system is to use the five senses to describe; still another, is to use the five W's of journalism by answering the questions "Who, What, Where, When, and Why or How?" When you describe a subject that moves--a person or moving object--it is wise to describe not only its appearance when standing still, but also its movement.  In fact, whenever you write a description paper, it is wise to include as much action as possible: to make your readers see a movie whenever possible, and not just a painting or drawing.  

            A description paper is organized very simply.  You can start with a very short paragraph introducing or defining the subject, or a longer one that offers a particularly striking first description or overall summary.  Next, you can write the body in as many or as few paragraphs as you need to fully describe the subject.  Organizing these paragraphs according to one or more plans or systems often is helpful.  Finally, you can write a concluding paragraph either briefly or at length, depending on whether you want to achieve an abrupt end or to provide some kind of especially strong final description that you have saved for the last.

            This rhetorical mode is very common in shorter form, as well.  When someone writes a story, for example, whether he or she is a famous story writer or a simple school child, he will use two main rhetorical modes: narration (the giving of a series of events, as above) and description. Even business reports must sometimes use description to provide an accurate and full account of the appearance of something.  Description plays an especially important part in the teaching of writing, as writing instructors usually want their students to learn to write in great detail--the more specifics, the better.

Return to top.



            "Exemplification" means "the giving of an example." An exemplification paper usually starts with a main idea, belief, or opinion--something abstract--and then gives one extended example or a series of shorter examples to illustrate that main idea. In fact, an exemplification paper is a paper that illustrates an abstract idea. For example, if I wished to write an exemplification paper about "The Opposite Sex--Problems and Pleasures" (as a man or as a woman), there might be two ways I could go about this. One would be, after introducing my general idea, to tell several little stories about--give examples of--how the opposite sex can be both a problem to deal with and a pleasure to be with. The other way I might write the paper (and a stronger, more unified way of doing it) might be to pick out one person of the opposite gender I have dated or lived with and describe how this one person gave me both problems and pleasures in my overall relationship with him or her.

            A typical short exemplification paper is written like most of the other rhetorical-modes paper.  It usually starts with a single introductory paragraph that briefly defines your subject and states what you will do in the paper--exemplify. Then there are one or two to many paragraphs offering one or more extended examples of your subject.  Finally, there is a brief closing paragraph restating what your subject is and offering some kind of final brief, strong example or some other kind of interesting ending.  Your audience is anyone who might only have a partial understanding of the subject and to whom an example would be helpful: in fact, you choose your examples partly by deciding what the audience will easily understand.

            Shorter versions of this rhetorical mode exist, as do the others, within the space of a few paragraphs, one paragraph, or even as part of a larger paragraph.  Exemplification simply means to give an example of a subject, and it is possible to do this in as little as a sentence.


Return to top.


Extended Definition

            This section describes how to start an "extended definition."  An extended definition simply defines a subject in a fuller or more extended--more thorough--way than does a dictionary. Typically an extended definition has a brief introductory paragraph of a few sentences, a body of one or several paragraphs, and a brief concluding paragraph.  Assume, when you write an extended definition, that you are defining something for a student or perhaps a foreigner who never has heard the term before.

            To write an extended definition, start with an introductory paragraph first.  Write it in just two or three sentences as if it were a dictionary definition.  A good dictionary definition has the following parts:  

(1) the exact term (the who or what) being defined,
(2) its classification--the class or group of people, events, or things to which it belongs, and
(3) a brief summarizing description of the term. (This description often helps define your subject by showing how it differs from similar subjects that fit in the same classification as you have described in "2": in other words, provide enough details that your subject cannot be mistaken for a similar but different one.)

            These three items are the three parts of a good dictionary definition. Use these in the introduction; then the rest of your news release is the "extended" part of the definition, adding further description of or about the term. Here are three examples of good dictionary definitions using the three defining items above:

(1--term:) "Chris Smith
(2--class:) is a student at George Washington College.
(3--sum/des:) He is 19, is working on an engineering degree, and is from Chicago, Illinois."

(1--term:) "The Sun Car Race
(2--class:) is a national competition.
(3--sum/des:) It is based in Utah for solar-run cars developed by independent inventors and schools."

(1--term:) "La-Zee
(2--class:) is a new silicon-based car polish.
(3--sum/des:) It is made by Dup Chemicals and can be used so easily that it practically applies itself."

            A simple extended-definition paper usually starts with such simple dictionary-like definitions; then the definition is extended by writing a long body further describing the term.  The body paragraph(s) may consist of any or all of the following:

  • further description and/or details about the subject 

  • one or several excellent examples

  • a description of the subject in action or use

  • a background or history of the subject

The conclusion should simply summarize your subject or say something particularly interesting about it in a final paragraph.  Try to make your conclusion relatively sort--just several sentences, if possible.

            Definition is a rhetorical mode that can be used in something smaller or shorter than a full paper. You can use extended definition for several paragraphs only in a paper of much greater length.  You also can add to a paper a one-paragraph definition--like a brief encyclopedia definition.  And you can use a short definition, dictionary style, in many types of writing situations that call for just a sentence or two of definition.

Return to top.



            "Narration" or a "narrative" provides details of what happened.  It is almost like a list of events in the order that they happened, except that it is written in paragraph form.  A narration or narrative doesn't have to show any cause and effect; it only needs to show what happened in the order that it happened.  History books are filled with narrations. For example, if I were to describe the visit of the Pope to Denver in 1993, I would use his itinerary and give details of each major event in that visit. If I were writing a book about it, I would give details of many of the more interesting minor events as well. I would do this in the order in which they occurred: first the Pope did this, then he did that, and then he did a third thing.

            A typical short narration paper starts with a brief introductory paragraph consisting of two parts.  The first is a sentence or two stating the event you are going to narrate; you might even want to include the who, what, where, and when of the event in this part.  The second part is a simple statement that the paper you are writing is a narrative of this event.  In the body of the narrative, you break the event into several parts--one part per paragraph.  Each paragraph would then further break down the event into sub-events and enough description of them that your reader will know what you mean.  The body may have just a few paragraphs or many, depending on the length of paper and complexity you want.  The conclusion can be very brief: just a final rewording of the overall event you have narrated, and a final interesting comment or two about it, or perhaps a statement about how, where, or when this event fits into the larger flow of history around it.  Your audience is anyone who knows little or nothing about the event but can understand it easily once you explain it.

            As with other rhetorical modes, narration often is used in a context shorter than an entire paper.  More commonly, you may need to explain a sequence of events, event by event, in just a paragraph or two when you are writing a longer paper for some other purpose: if you need to give a long example of one or two paragraphs, this example might, perhaps, be in story form--in the order in which events happened.  This would be a short narration.  Any other time as well that you write about events in the order in which they happened, you are using narration.


Return to top.


Process Analysis

There are 2 types of Process Analysis writing.

* "How It Happened" process analysis answers the question: “How?” Process analysis explains how the sequential steps of a procedure lead to its accomplishment; or, how a certain series of events occurred. There are two kinds of process analysis: directional and informational.

* "Directional\Prescriptive" process analysis asks: How do you do it? This kind of analysis examines how to do something in such a way that a process may be repeated. The analysis provides directions, as in the Methods section of a laboratory report, or
prescribes a certain process to follow.

Informational, or descriptive, process analysis asks: How does it work or occur? How is it done? This kind of analysis explains how something is, or was, accomplished. The analysis provides information, as in the outline of an organic process, or describes how
(not why) certain events led to a particular outcome.

Why? What is the purpose?

The purpose is to explain how to do something or how something works or occurs in order to argue for the effectiveness of a proposed process or to discuss the significance or value of a process

When is a process analysis required?

Directional process analysis is usually required as part of the Methodology section of lab reports and studies. It may also be required in certain proposals. Informational process analysis is often required in analytical essays that examine how a process
works. Here are some examples of university assignments requiring process analysis:

Management: Write a proposal for a training program for upgrading employee communication skills.
Biology: Conduct a study to determine the seasonal growth rates of transplanted deciduous trees. Political Science/International Development Studies: How can non-governmental organizations assist in the United Nations’ distribution of emergency aid in cases of disaster relief?
Psychology: Plan a treatment program for autistic youth. History: Analyze the negotiation process that led to the Warsaw Pact.
Anthropology: Compare the grooming rituals of captive and wild orangutans.

As you may notice from these examples, process analysis is often a part of other kinds of analysis, such as comparison/contrast and cause and effect.

How? What is the technique?

Think the whole process through carefully. Make sure you haven’t forgotten any steps, events or phases. The most common error made in process analysis is mixing up the order of a process or forgetting a crucial part. Make sure you include the preparation required, e.g. preparing handouts and slides for a proposed training program. Write down an outline of all the steps or phases involved in chronological order (from first to last). Make sure the sequence is correct and thatnothing has been left out. For an involved process, group smaller steps together into larger categories or
create sub-categories. For example, an analysis of the stages of early childhood development might first be divided into the ages of the child (0-1 month) then into sub-categories based on areas of development (Emotional). When giving directions for a process to follow, make sure you include necessary precautions when appropriate, and the reasons for these. For example, the methodology for a study on the effect of cardiovascular exercise on smokers might include a precaution of screening potential study subjects for pre-existing heart conditions prior to acceptance to prevent injury or death of subjects during the study. If appropriate, use your critical thinking skills to analyze the whole picture of the process, asking questions such as: “Is this process effective? What is the significance or relevance of this process? What is its value? What does it mean?
What are the implications?” Define technical terms that the reader might not know, e.g. “behaviour modification.”
Use time-marking transitions in your draft to make the order of the steps clear: “first,” “next,” “then,” “after,” “finally.” Also use transitions to distinguish sub-steps from major steps. Write in short, direct, declarative sentences. Illustrate steps with examples. Narrate
the steps in order. Describe what is involved in each step or phase as clearly as possible. Revise your draft carefully. This is one of the most difficult kinds of analysis to write clearly. Have someone read it to ensure clarity.

First (begin) before then
second during later
third after when
fourth next as soon as
fifth while prior
finally meanwhile subsequently
Return to top.