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Skills Lab I: Argumentative and Rhetorical Strategies




Admission requirements

This course does not have any participation restrictions; it is open to all LUC Students and students from the Honours College.


How to distinguish between good and bad arguments? And how to recognise rhetorical tricks? In this course, we will analyse the reasonableness and effectiveness of argumentation.

This course will teach you about verbal manipulation. Each week will cover another aspect of both the examination of rhetorical strategies (session 1) and the analysis of argumentative discourse (session 2). The course will focus on two classical rhetorical practices: politics and law.

You will learn that speakers do not only use argumentation for persuading their audience, but also ethos and pathos, as well as stylistic devices and presentational means. You will learn how to find the implicit elements in their argumentation, make a schematic overview of the arguments in their line of reasoning and recognise fallacies. This will enable you to pass a well-considered judgment on the tenability of the expressed opinion.

Course objectives

  • To gain knowledge of basic argumentative concepts;

  • To gain knowledge of basic rhetorical concepts;

  • To be able to identify and analyse the argumentative and rhetorical devices used in a text;

  • To be able to provide a basic assessment of the use of these devices.

After completion of this course, you will be able to critically analyse and evaluate argumentative discourse. Additionally, you will gain insight into making your own speeches and discussion contributions as convincing as possible.


Tuesdays 11:00-12:50 and Thursdays 17:00-18:50, from November 1st until December 15th.


Leiden University College (LUC), Anna van Buerenplein 301, The Hague (next to The Hague CS), Room 03.04.


Every week there will be two meetings.

Seminar 1.1 Rhetorical principles
This class will provide an introduction to the study of rhetoric. We will place it in historical perspective and take a look at its current application.

Seminar 1.2 Standpoints and argumentation
In this session, we will take a closer look at argumentation theory. A distinction will be made between types of differences of opinion and the stages of an argumentative discussion will be analysed.

Seminar 2.1 Speech arrangement
We will discuss the classical speech division as proposed by Cicero. This division shall be used to analyse fragments of actual speeches.

Seminar 2.2 Implicit standpoints and premises
In this session, we will examine indirect and implicit elements in argumentation. More specifically, we will analyse indirectness based on the communication principle and the rules for communication. Implicitness in the argumentation will be analysed by using the modus ponens and modus tollens logical forms.

Seminar 3.1 Main lines of argument
We will examine the ars inveniendi: the art of finding the right arguments. In a policy discussion, some standard issues need to be addressed (who? what? when? where? why? how? and with what resources?), we will discuss these issues and analyse examples based on them.

Seminar 3.2 Types of argument
Arguing by referring to cause and effect, by drawing an analogy, or by presenting a symptom of the acceptability of the standpoint. These are different types of argumentation that will be discussed in this session.

Session 4.1 + 4.2 Presentations
A team of two students presents a speech on a current affairs topic of their choosing and a justification of the presentational choices made in this speech (each student presents). The presentation is not graded, but evaluated during class, as to prepare the students for their final speeches.

Seminar 5.1 Ethos & pathos
Central to this class will be the way in which a discussant’s character or credentials affect the outcome of a discussion and the way in which his appeal to emotions can influence the effectiveness of the argumentation. In other words, how can a discussant make use of ethos and pathos?

Seminar 5.2 Fallacies I
Although certain rhetorical strategies might be very effective in argumentative discourse, they are not always reasonable. Based on the first five pragma-dialectical rules for a critical discussion, fallacies will be identified and analysed in this class.

Seminar 6.1 Style
Which stylistic devices are available to present your argumentation in a reasonable and effective manner? We will examine how a discussant can make use of figures of speech, figures of thought and tropes.

Seminar 6.2 Fallacies II
We will now identify and analyse the fallacies that relate to the last five pragma-dialectical rules for a critical discussion. Examples of various fallacies will be provided during class.

Session 7.1 + 7.2 Presentations
The same team of students who presented in week 4 deliver a speech in one of this week’s sessions. This time, however, a current affairs topic that differs than the one in week 4 should be chosen (or a different perspective on week 4’s topic should be taken). A justification of the presentational choices needs to be written down and handed in.

Week 8: Exam

Assessment method

  • 20% Weekly assignments (5), Weeks 1-3 and 5-6;

  • 30% Oral speech + written reflection, Week 7;

  • 40% Written exam (questions about theory and text analysis), Week 8;

  • 10% In-class participation, weeks 1-7.

Assignments should be made individually. At the start of the class for which an assignment is due, students have to hand in a hard copy of their assignment. For each day that an assignment is late, a letter grade will be deducted. To receive the course credits, not more than two assignments may be missing.

Oral speech and written reflection
In weeks 4 and 7, a team of two students delivers a speech in which they apply the argumentative and rhetorical insights gained in this course. Additionally, a written version of the final speech will be handed in, accompanied by a written reflection in which it is argued why certain presentational choices have been made (max. 2 A4). In principle, the students will be graded as a team. Their grade will be based on the students’ final speech (50% of grade B) and on the written reflection on this speech (50% of grade B).

Final exam
The final exam consists of theory questions and questions on text analysis. The exam will focus on all the assigned literature. This is a closed book exam, meaning that students cannot bring along any of the texts or notes on the literature. Please note that, mobile telephones, smart phones, or PDA’s (personal digital assistant) of any cannot be used either.

In-class participation
Active participation is paramount in this course. The course literature has to be prepared by making individual assignments, which will be discussed during class. Students are expected to actively engage in the class discussions.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list


  • Andeweg, Bas, Jaap de Jong & Hans Hoeken (1998). “May I have your attention?”: Exordial Techniques in Informative Oral Presentations. Technical Communication Quarterly 7(3), 271-284. [Available through Blackboard]

  • Crowley, Sharon & Debra Hawee (2012). Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. 5th edition. Boston [etc.]: Pearson.

  • Eemeren, Frans van, Rob Grootendorst & Francisca Snoeck Henkemans (2010). Argumentation. Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation. New York [etc.]: Routledge.


  • Eemeren, Frans van, Bart Garssen, Erik C.W. Krabbe, A. Francisca Snoeck Henkemans, Bart Verheij, & Jean H.M. Wagemans (2014). Handbook of Argumentation Theory. Dordrecht: Springer, H1 & H2 (pp.1-139). [Available through Blackboard]

  • Kienpointner, Manfred (1997). On the Art of Finding Arguments: What Ancient and Modern Masters of Invention Have to Tell Us About the ‘Ars Inveniendi’. Argumentation 11, 225-236. [Available through Blackboard]


This course is open to LUC students, Honours College students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator.

For non-LUC students, enrolling in this course is possible from August 17th until September 5h through the Honours Academy, via this link


Dr. Roosmaryn Pilgram