Welcome to composition and rhetoric! While most of you are taking this course because it is required, we hope that all of you will leave with more confidence in your reading, writing, researching, and speaking abilities as these are all elements of freshman composition. Many times, these elements are presented in excellent textbooks written by top scholars. While the collaborators of this particular textbook respect and value those textbooks available from publishers, we have been concerned about students who do not have the resources to purchase textbooks. Therefore, we decided to put together this Open Educational Resource (OER) explicitly for use in freshman composition courses at Texas A&M University. It is important to note that the focus for this text is on thesis-driven argumentation as that is the focus of the first year writing course at Texas A&M University at the time of development. However, other first year writing courses at different colleges and universities include a variety of types of writing such as personal essays, informative articles, and/or creative writing pieces. The collaborators for this project acknowledge each program is unique; therefore, the adaptability of an OER textbook for first year writing allows for academic freedom across campuses.
This text was designed not only to teach students about composition and rhetoric, but about research skills, too. The editors of this text maintain that research skills, or information literacy as librarians put it, have rhetorical elements. The processes of writing and researching are intertwined, and as people write, they filter what they have heard or read from others, often seeking out and evaluating information along the way. The steps of writing and researching are iterative, too, building upon each other in loops, twists, drafts, and revisions.
Writing, as this text presents it, is contextual. It is set in a place, time, and conversation. Information is the medium of the context. Finding, evaluating, using, and creating information are integral parts of the college writing process, and the editors wanted to make sure that these processes are represented in the same textbook. Writing and research are not discrete; the editors compiled this textbook to ensure they are presented as interconnected concepts, which reflects their interconnected reality.
Research, at the college level, is often conceptualized as searching library databases for scholarly articles. It certainly can be that, and this text discusses how to develop skills to find scholarly materials. However, research, more broadly conceived, also involves seeking and using information for a given purpose. You research customer reviews and specifications before making a big purchase. You may ask friends who have been to a given restaurant whether or not they would recommend it. You may be creating information that you are disseminating on social media, such as pictures, blogs, vlogs, videos, and tweets. It is important to address the larger principles of research that apply to those areas as well. If you are a teacher using this text, the editors invite you to consider texts as both pieces of rhetoric and information. If you are a student using this text, then please examine how you both use and create texts that are both informed and informational.
Thanks to a generous grant from former Dean David Carlson of the Texas A&M University Libraries and funding from Dr. Maura Ives, Chair of the English Department at Texas A&M University, this project became a reality. It is a collaborative endeavor undertaken by faculty in the Libraries and English Department as part of the Provost’s Student Success Initiatives at Texas A&M, and it continues to be a work in progress. We are especially grateful to David Carlson and Maura Ives for their support in the initial creation of this text.
The selection, assembly, and editing of this work was a long process, and we greatly appreciate all the feedback we have received as this work has moved from a pilot text to this, the second edition of the text. We appreciate the thoughtful and careful review from Dr. James P. Purdy of Duquesne University. His comments were invaluable in our revisions.
Our student workers and graduate assistants have been indispensable in this process as well. Thanks to Brandi Gomez, Jessie Cortez, Ashlee Chensky, Noah Ghormley, John Arndt, and Sherry Adadi.
We owe a great deal to all of the authors who have agreed to openly license their texts. Because of their generosity in participating in the OER community, we have been able to assemble, edit, and add to their works. Their OERs made this OER possible. Much of the text of Informed Arguments comes from complete or remixed chapters and essays listed here. Throughout this textbook you will find citations for each of the texts that we used, as well as the texts from which they drew. While this attribution style entails attribution boxes, as editors we wanted to be as transparent as possible about all of the source material for this text. In particular, we especially want to acknowledge these works here:
- A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success First-Year Writing by Melanie Gagich and Emilie Zickel
- Successful College Composition, 2nd Edition, by Kathryn Crowther, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson
- “Finding the Good Argument OR Why Bother With Logic?” by Rebecca Jones in Writing Space: Readings on Writing, Volume 1
- “On the Other Hand: The Role of Antithetical Writing in First Year Composition Courses” by Stephen Krause in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 2
- The Information Literacy User’s Guide: An Open, Online Textbook by Allison Hosier, Daryl Bullis, Deborah Bernnard, Greg Bobish, Irina Holden, Jenna Pitera (Hecker), Tor Loney and Trudi Jacobson
- “Making Sure Your Voice is Present” by Kyle Steadman on the Writing Commons website
- “Evaluation,” by Ann Inoshita, Karyl Garland, Kate Sims, Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma, Tasha Williams, and Susan Wood in English Composition: Connect, Collaborate, Communicate.
As we assembled this textbook, we found that some of the OERs we used had themselves drawn upon other open resources, and we want to acknowledge and celebrate the complex chain of OER creation. The OER authors listed above drew upon previous open texts, including:
- The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear
- About Writing: A Guide by Robin Jeffrey
- The Process of Research Writing, Version 1.0 by Steven D. Krause
A Note on the System of Attribution
This open textbook was assembled from many other open educational resources, and in many cases, those were created from yet more open resources. These might be thought of as our primary OERs and then the secondary OERs. Traditional authorship listings in books make it difficult to represent the complex chains of authorship and editorship through layers of importing, adapting, and remixing texts. In the creation of this textbook, much of the material is drawn verbatim from other sources, while in other places there are slight alterations. There is remixed material, and many of the images were recreated or altered to ensure accessibility. Here are some of the considerations that went into the system of attribution in this text:
- Authorship is represented as close to the texts used as possible while still keeping material readable. That means that there are attributions at the subsection level rather than the chapter level. Each section contains author bylines at the beginning and citations for OER used at the end. Where we were original authors of the entirety of a section, the attribution citation at the end of the section is for this textbook.
- In cases where the OER texts we used drew upon other OER texts, we credited the secondary OER texts in attribution boxes as they had been credited in our primary OERs. We relied upon the primary OERs to guide us in matters of authorship listings for sections anor the account of the OERs they, the primary OERs, had employed. We included at the authorship level the authors as they were listed in primary OERs.
- Our goal is to make this text easy to use for future OER adapters and adopters. In order to make the carrying through of internal citations as easy as possible, we have used a modified version of Chicago footnotes. This is to help people keep citations together as they remix this text. All figures contain attribution footnotes for a similar reason.
- All Creative Commons Licenses and Pixabay are listed and hyperlinked throughout the text. Please note that while Informed Arguments is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, other texts throughout have different licenses.
Combined, Dr. Terri Pantuso, Dr. Kathy Anders, and Prof. Sarah LeMire have over 30 years of experience in writing and research instruction. Our goal is for students to leave this course as critical thinkers, polished writers, and informed citizens who can engage in civil public discourse.
Dr. Terri Pantuso is the Coordinator of the English 104 Program and an Instructional Assistant Professor in the English Department at Texas A&M University.
Prof. Sarah LeMire is the Coordinator of First Year Programs and an Associate Professor in the Texas A&M University Libraries.
Dr. Kathy Anders is the Graduate Studies Librarian and an Associate Professor in the Texas A&M University Libraries.