COMM 339 -- Persuasion

Dr. Lee McGaan  

  Office:  WH 308  (ph. 309-457-2155);  email
  Home:  418 North Sunny Lane (ph. 309-734-5431, cell 309-333-5447)

Fall 2016 Office Hours:   MWF:  9:30 - 10am, 11am - Noon & 1 -2pm TTh:  2-3pm & by apt.  |  copyright (c) by Lee McGaan, 2006-2016

Last updated 11/27/2016

Final Exam Study Guide

The exam will consist of tasks described below.  Nothing will appear on the test that is not mentioned in this study guide.  The exam is open book - open notes - open internet, but you may not collaborate with other people.


You will be given a set of materials with information and arguments concerning a public issue.  This material will come from an organization with a specific position on the issue.  The final exam will require you to do the following things:  You may bring your lap-top or use the COMM lab to write your answers.


1.  Write a persuasive “letter to the editor” of your local hometown newspaper advocating the position taken by the organization that supplied you with the information. The letter should be one you believe will gain public support for the position the organization advocates.  The letter should be no more than 300 words.

      [ I highly recommend that you look at the Op-Ed page of one or more newspapers before the exam.  Look at some of the columnists and "voice of the people" essays so you have some sense of the style and format of persuasive, reasoned writing on the editorial page.  The Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune are good papers to look at for background. You may not want to imitate just any "letter to the editor" you find since some of them are not well written.  Incidentally, in the past some students have strangely assumed a "letter to the editor" is a personal letter to the individual who edits the newspaper.  WRONG!  A letter to the editor is a letter printed in the newspaper on or near the editorial page - one which is likely to be read by the sort of thoughtful individuals who read editorials and think about issues.  Those people are your audience!  You will be writing to a fairly intelligent, engaged portion of the general public.]


2.  Write an explanation of the strategy and tactics (appeals) you use in your letter.  Explain why your message is a well-designed, persuasive message that deals effectively with thesis/exigence, purpose, audience.  Some (but perhaps not all) issues you might want to address in your explanation could include:

  • Organizational Scheme (Motivated Sequence? Pro-Con? etc.)  One side or two?

  • Attention getting

  • Comprehension and Yielding (McGuire)

  • Identification (building common ground with your audience)

  • Credibility

  • Central or Peripheral Route as the primary means of persuasion

  • Rational Model  (e.g. Beliefs open to change, Value or motive saliency)

  • Dissonance creation

  • Appeals used from Age of Propaganda  (e.g. "Ask for a mile,")

  • Cultural “Commonplaces” (i.e. general American values) used

  • Other persuasion theories used.

  Be sure your message and your explanation focus clearly on audience and purpose.  (Are you being clear on what you want the reader to think or do and why? Does the reader have enough information and motivation to act?)

Final Exam:  @ 3pm, Saturday, December, 10   -  WH 316 / COMM Lab