By Chase Fayeghi
Picture this: two people, each with opposing views, have been duking it out for some time. The battlefield is littered with logical fallacies, bullets of insults are shot back and forth piercing each opponent, and, in the end, only feelings get hurt with no progress made on the issue. This is often what debates and arguments look like, especially to outsiders.
Debates and arguments don’t have to be like this, though. There is a way to establish your point without causing World War III. Instead, you can utilize a Rogerian argument. A Rogerian argument depends on the writer (and subsequently the reader) being willing to find a middle ground on an issue (Kiefer, n.d.).
The introduction is critical to a Rogerian argument as this is where the writer introduces the problem to the reader (Kiefer, n.d.; Moxley, n.d.). The difference between a traditional argument and a Rogerian argument is that instead of stating the writer’s viewpoint (that would then demand agreement from the reader), the writer instead describes how the issue at hand affects both sides. The length of the introduction shouldn’t be too long relative to the rest of the paper; the overarching goal is to illustrate immediately that the writer is a mediator rather than as a biased party.
The next step is potentially the most difficult part of constructing a Rogerian argument. The writer must put themselves in the opposition’s viewpoint and understand the logic behind it. The writer must present the opposition’s viewpoint in as neutral language as possible (by avoiding stereotypes and biased language, for example). In other words, language that is intended to elicit a certain feeling or reaction rather than simply presenting the facts of the opposition is avoided.
Some writers may take this as an opportunity to manipulate or invalidate the reader’s argument; however, this would prove to be ineffective since the reader may detect this attempt and consider the writer as a threat to their viewpoint. It is important to remember that if the reader—at any time throughout the argument—considers the writer to be an instigator rather than a mediator, then the credibility of the writer and the argument will be diminished. Ultimately, this section of the argument is crucial because if either of the above conditions are not met, then the reader might not be willing to accept compromise in the later sections of the argument.
The hope is that by the third section of the argument, the reader is still, you know, reading the text, but also that the reader is in a position to negotiate compromise. The third section of Rogerian argument structure allows the writer, again in as neutral language as possible, to describe and ultimately convince the reader of the writer’s viewpoint . This can be done by presenting factual information (i.e., the writer should use data and scientific observation, not others’ analyses). When describing the writer’s viewpoint, the purpose is not to discredit the other side but to make the writer’s viewpoint appear valid.
Finally, the conclusion of a Rogerian argument should show the reader how the facts and points presented above would benefit both parties and how compromise or alternative solutions could solve the problem. A Rogerian argument structure is most beneficial when dealing with a topic that is sensitive or controversial (Moxley, n.d.). The essence of this structure focuses on the writer presenting the issue at hand neutrally and explaining how both sides of the argument are affected by the problem. This is a stark departure from a “traditional” argument in which the writer would ask the reader to abandon their interests and adopt the writer’s viewpoint.
Kiefer, K. (n.d.). What is a Rogerian argument? Writing@CSU. Retrieved from https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/co300man/com5e1.cfm.
Moxley, J. (n.d.). Rogerian argument. Writing Commons. Retrieved from http://writingcommons.org/open-text/genres/academic-writing/arguments/318-rogerian-argument.