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Page history last edited by west0524 9 years, 7 months ago



Finding an Argument in Documentaries:

by Jake Westrum


find an argument.  in a documentary of the student's choice (or depending on context, among a list designated by the teacher) and state what the argument is, and how it follows the basic principles of communication.  this activity would be prefaced on the basics of argumentation as a communication tool and the students would be provided with the characteristics of an argument.  the student would then be required to go down this list of characteristics:


1. an inferential leap

2. a perceived rationale for the leap

3. a choice among competing claims

4. willingness to confront

5. an optimally shared frame of reference


within the film chosen, the student will be asked to go through these characteristics and show where/if these characteristics are present.  from here, in groups of three, the students share their results: what are the common arguments they see?  what characteristics seem to be shown?  is the argument one of persuasion?


Teaching idea: Take a Look at the Source

By Dan Thompson


Select a credible documentary, watch it, and as you do make notes of the studies/data presented as evidence for or against the major argument of the film. Ask students to do the same, pausing at moments when such sources are presented. Then, in small groups, find a few of these sources in their original context. Who created the study or data? If the source is a person, what else has he or she contributed to, and what else has the person said about the documentary topic? Are there other ways to interpret the data? Is the documentary using the data as they were intended, or is the director twisting their application at all? Ultimately, the point of this activity is to show students that even data can, in some cases, be either selectively chosen to make a point or misapplied for the same reason. It is important to be skeptical and to analyze original sources whenever possible.






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