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IM: 9781891136276
325 pages
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New edition!

Understanding and Shaping Arguments

fourth edition

James A. Herrick
Hope College

Highly acclaimed by professors and students, this textbook explores the concepts and principles of clear thinking, critical listening, and careful analysis that active citizens and professionals need to evaluate and make arguments effectively. Its emphasis on real-life argument highlights the role of argument in democratic discourse, as well as in students’ social, professional, and personal lives.

Drawing on classical and contemporary theory and principles, Dr. Herrick explores the structure of arguments; relationships between reasons and conclusions; the criteria of evidence, validity, and definitional clarity; common types of arguments and fallacies; and issues of adapting arguments to audiences.

The new edition reflects current theory and issues, including narratives and visuals in argument, as well as multiple Internet uses and functions. Stronger, more accessible explanations of the Toulmin model and other analytical methods make them even more useful and engaging to students. Throughout the book, examples have been carefully updated to reflect current events and public concerns.


  • focus on argument in democratic discourse and day-to-day life, from business and personal contexts to public and civic discourse
  • substantive, clear, and engaging explanations of major principles and guidelines
  • systematic, step-by-step approach to understanding and analyzing arguments
  • an emphasis on ethics and on audience-centered argument
  • examples from a wide range of contemporary issues and contexts


  • expanded explanations and additional annotated examples of the Toulmin model and tools for analysis (Chapter 3)
  • new discussion of visual evidence (Chapter 6) and visual arguments (Chapter 14)
  • expanded, updated discussion on the Internet as a source of evidence and as a forum for public discourse (Chapter 7)
  • new discussion of narrative argument (Chapter 14)
  • expanded chapter on causal reasoning, including new discussions of argument from sign and generalizing from samples (Chapter 15)
  • updated examples reflecting current events and issues (throughout the book)


  • abundant exercises following each chapter
  • key terms at the beginning of each chapter and a glossary at the end of the book
  • epigrams, pull quotes, figures, and photos highlight salient points, add visual interest
  • photographs at part openers and to illustrate visual argument and evidence underscore the pervasive role of argument in contemporary life
  • Instructor’s manual with many additional exercises and teaching resources (expanded in this edition)


“This text is an important contribution to the instruction of argument theory and practice. I have enjoyed using it in my class and I look forward to introducing students to the new edition.”
Lisa Gring-Pemble
George Mason University

“I want my students to see the arguments occurring naturally around them, to understand how those arguments function, and to be able to make educated decisions for themselves. Herrick’s text allows me to accomplish these goals.”
Treva E. Dean
University of Alabama

“Herrick’s writing is organized and his explanations clear. His examples illuminate the key points he is illustrating in interesting and relevant ways. These aspects of Herrick’s text make it easy for the student to use for first-time reading, disciplined study and pretest review.”
Samuel Nelson
Cornell University

“I like the way it approaches argument through an advocate’s lens and teaches a morally and intellectually responsible approach to learning and using argument.”
Carroll Nardone
Sam Houston State University

“It’s crisply written, brief, and well suited for classroom discussion.”
Philip Voight
Gustavus Adolphus College

“Good incorporation of recent examples and citations.”
Douglas Fraleigh
California State University, Fresno

“It’s a great book. It has suited my needs exceptionally well.”
Beth Brunk-Chavez
University of Texas at El Paso

“It is intelligent, well-written, and useful to anyone who wants to be involved in advocacy in their public or private lives (which should be everyone).”
Jennifer Reem
Nova Southeastern University

“Thanks for writing it!”
Nancy Nicole Meyer
Metropolitan State College of Denver

"Best I've found."
Randall Iden
Northwestern University

on student responses

“Students really like the book.”
Samuel Nelson
Cornell University

“Students read it—it is accessible and the chapters are an appropriate length.”
Cynthia Martin
James Madison University

“It suits our students and my course better than anything else on the market. Students respond to it well.”
Robert Greenstreet
East Central University

“I asked my students on the course-end evaluation to rate the book and the overwhelming majority recommended using it again.”
Lisa M. Gring-Pemble
George Mason University

on the features of the book

“I particularly like the book’s tools for analyzing argument. I find students dog-ear this section as much as they do the fallacy chapter, and I refer to it constantly so that the students don’t fall back on their previous habit of forming their opinions without thinking about why they hold those opinions.”
Carroll Nardone
Sam Houston State University

“This building-block process helps the students assimilate new cognitive processes more easily.”
M. I. Lauer
Western Illinois University

“Major strengths include the scanning and diagramming material.”
Fred Sternhagen
Concordia College, Moorhead

"Useful exercises and clear description."
Randall Iden
Northwestern University

"Direct, easy to read; explains without overexplaining. Good examples."
Debra L. Hoover
Tiffin University

"Logical organization.”
Carl Isaacson
Bethany College

“Helpful exercises; clear writing; solid content; strong, logical organization.”
Robert Greenstreet
East Central University

on the new edition

“It’s a strong text now and the revisions promise to make it stronger.”
Lenore Langsdorf
Southern Illinois University

“I am particularly impressed with the changes to the section on mapping and diagramming arguments and the accompanying exercises and with the new language that helps students understand why the Toulmin model is useful. Allowing students to emerge with a firm understanding of the structural components of argument is a primary objective of the course. I also like the new treatment of argument from sign.”
Philip Voight
Gustav Adolphus College

“What was already a strong text has been supplemented with a much broader explanation of Toulmin’s model and a new explanation of how people use stories persuasively.”
Joel Worden
Goldey Beacom College

“Often, students come to class expecting that argumentation is limited to spoken or written discourse. Herrick’s revisions challenge this notion and help students see arguments in every form of communication. I particularly approve of the section on visual argumentation.”
Treva E. Dean
University of Alabama

on the instructor’s manual

“Good supplementary material for instructors. The Instructor’s Manual was very useful.”
Lenore Langsdorf
Southern Illinois University

“The Instructor’s Manual has been very helpful, especially with in-class quizzes and midterm/final exams.”
Morgan Ginther
University of Memphis

“The instructor’s manual has good ideas for discussion topics and exercises.”
Jennifer Reem
Nova Southeastern University


"Herrick is a good writer, and I like the disciplined, no nonsense approach that he takes here. I also sense that this is written by someone who has a solid command of the philosophy of argumentation. . . . Textbooks reflect their fields, and I think this one speaks well of the communication discipline."
Thomas Lessl
University of Georgia

"Students responded favorably and non-honors students not only kept pace but excelled. I attribute their success to the direct, concrete, and concise nature of Herrick's prose-and to the high utility and heurism of the exercises following each chapter."
Robert Greenstreet
East Central University

"Herrick consistently connects his discussion back to ideals and traditions of civic discourse and the practical dimension of rhetorical argument. These themes recur throughout the text and form another of the main strengths of the book."
James M. Farrell
University of New Hampshire

"[T]he explanations provided in the text are clear; the examples and exercises assist the students in applying the relevant theoretical material."
Margaret Michels
Pennsylvania State University

"The students seemed to both like it and learn from it."
Beth Brunk-Chavez
University of Texas at El Paso

on the focus on ethics and reasonable arguments

"I am pleased to see a concern for ethics."
Karen Lee
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

"I find especially important the discussion of argument ethics and the focus on 'reasonable' arguments and 'reasonable' people as crucial to the process of argumentation."
Diane Blair
California State University, Fresno

"Another major strength of the text is the emphasis on ethics and the related discussion of the qualities or virtues of 'reasonable' people."
James M. Farrell
University of New Hampshire

"One of the things that attracted me to this book was its more extensive discussion of the role of ethics in argument. Most books of this kind have what I regard as a superficial treatment of 'communication ethics,' but they don't really reflect on the value issues that underlie ethics."
Thomas Lessl
University of Georgia

on the explanations and examples

"Nicely accessible."
Erica Hollander
Metropolitan State College, Denver

"I appreciate the range of examples-from the everyday, academic, political, to pop culture. . . . The examples are numerous and varied. If one doesn't make sense in a student's mind, another one will."
Beth Brunk-Chavez
University of Texas at El Paso

"The examples are well chosen and to the point."
David Zarefsky
Northwestern University

"I appreciate Herrick's clear and concise writing style."
Diane Blair
California State University, Fresno

"The Herrick text is thorough without developing the unnecessary detailed refinements that many unsophisticated, younger students find obfuscatory."
Dennis Wignall
Dixie State College

"[I]ts greatest strengths are detailed discussions of different kinds of arguments and how to analyze them, as well as the exercises."
Beth Innocenti Manolescu
University of Kansas

"Good definitions and examples are provided."
David Moss
Crafton Hills and Mount San Jacinto College



James A. Herrick received his B.A. from California State University, Fresno; his M.A. from the University of California, Davis; and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the Guy Vander Jagt Professor of Communication at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where he was department chair for ten years.

Herrick is the author of six books, on topics ranging from the history of rhetoric to the religious discourse of Enlightenment England. He teaches courses in argumentation, critical thinking, and the history of rhetoric.

Professor Herrick sits on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals and is a founding member of the Baylor University Press series in rhetoric and religion. He has received the John and Ruth Reed Faculty Achievement Award for excellence in teaching and research.



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