Writing for Academic Aims: Discovering Argumentative Writing in Your Discipline

Brief Description: This assignment asks students to research, analyze, and advance an argument about conventions of scholarly discourse in their disciplines.

Contributed by UCCS Rhetoric and Writing Program, UC-Colorado Springs

 Writing for Academic Aims

According to linguist Robin Lakoff, in order to make an argument within a discipline, students need to have more than just a command of facts, theories, and methodologies.  In addition to all of the content-type knowledge, students also need to consider layers of important discursive knowledge including which sources to cite and how to cite them, what style of writing is appropriate, which questions are legitimate to ask, and the historical/political situations within their fields.

What makes this so difficult for students, according to Lakoff, is that professors do not communicate such information outright. 

The Task

For Paper 2, your task is to analyze the way that academics write in your specific area of study. To do this, you will need to choose an article from a scholarly journal in your major area (ask your interviewee for recommendations).  Once you have selected and carefully studied the article, analyze the rhetorical strategies that the author(s) employed. 

Your thesis will be a claim about how scholars communicate in your discipline and why they might communicate in this particular way, given the aims of the discipline.


When you analyze the rhetorical strategies of the article, consider both the article itself and its context.  Here are some questions to help you do that:


For this assignment, you will address other undergraduates in your discipline.  Your insight is potentially valuable to them, so work to make your essay as clear and accessible as possible.


The main source in this assignment is the journal article that you select.  However, you will also be interviewing a professor about what it means to write in a specific discipline, and you will be reading articles, like Lakoff’s, which might provide informative context for your claims.  You are free to draw from both the interview and class readings in your analysis.  Additionally, you may choose to use outside sources to provide context for the argument you are analyzing and shed light on the conventions of the discipline.  Outside research is not required. 

Essay Requirements

Your essay should:


  1. Does the text fulfill the requirements of the assignment?  Does the thesis make a general claim about how scholars communicate in a discipline and why they may communicate this way, given the aims of the discipline? Is this claim supported by the analysis that follows?
  2. Does the summary provide the reader with an understanding of the article under analysis? Is it accurate, comprehensive, and neutral?
  3. Is the analysis of disciplinary discourse comprehensive, detailed, and supported by evidence from the text? Does the analysis support individual claims with evidence and examples? Are the examples and quotations explained in a way that details their significance?
  4. Does the essay seem organized on the macro level? Are paragraphs well-structured with strong topic sentences? Are the paragraphs cohesive? Are there transitions between them?
  5. At the sentence, or micro, level, are the sentences clear and ideas easy to follow? Are sentences overly wordy or tangled? Are there frequent grammatical errors?

Important Dates

Article to Class: Wednesday, March 30

Paper 2.1 due in conferences with instructor, TBA

Paper 2.2 due Saturday, 4/16 in via email