Genre Conventions

22 Argument and Digital Writing

by the Excelsior Online Writing Lab

So, by now, you must feel like you’re becoming an expert in all of this argument stuff, even though there is a lot take in. However, before you conclude any lessons in writing good arguments, it’s important to think about the different forms arguments can take.

It’s not all about the essays, and though they are likely to be an important part of most college classes, digital writing is likely to play a role as well. You may be asked to create an argumentative presentation to supplement your essay, or you may be asked to create a web page or photo essay instead.

When you enter the world of digital writing, the same rhetorical principals will apply: You have to think about your audiencepurpose, and voice, and you have to consider your persuasiveness by thinking about how you will appeal to ethospathos, and logos. It’s just the medium of presentation might be different.

The following pages will offer some important tips on creating arguments in digital environments and link you to some additional resources, which can be helpful as you work with the technology.

Argumentative Presentations

All good presentations have a clear purpose, and an argumentative presentation will have a clear argumentative purpose.

Many college students are required to build presentations to present information to an audience, and your writing class is likely no different. Chances are, you’ll use PowerPointPrezi, or some other presentation software to build a presentation that would present your argument to a broader audience.

Before you begin to build your presentation, be sure to review the tips and help on creating effective PowerPoints and Prezis in the Online Writing & Presentations area of the Excelsior OWL. Then, remember the lessons you have learned about building a good argument and apply those to your presentation.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Remember to present your thesis statement or main idea clearly, and remember it should present your argument.
  • Provide the highlights of your evidence from your essay (if you are building from an essay) or simply focus on the key points of evidence from your research.
  • Remember to address the opposition. How you do this will depend upon your goals and the type of argument you are making, but you should always do it.
  • Use images relevant to your points as evidence. Images are powerful and are important pieces of an effective presentation.
  • Always cite your sources

The sample video linked below was created using Prezi by a student in a beginning writing class. She took an essay she had written on issues in the clothing industry (Cheap Thrills: The Price of Fast Fashion) and developed a Prezi to share with a broader audience. Click here to see how one student developed an argumentative presentation for her writing class.

Argument and the Web

Fortunately, there are plenty of free sites out there that offer free web space and easy-to-use programs. In fact, you can have your very own web page with just a little pointing and clicking.

Free and easy-to-use sites for creating web pages for your classes can be found at sites like WixWeebly, and even Google Sites. In fact, if you have a Gmail account, you have access to some free web space already.

The key is to remember you are bringing your argument to a different environment—the web, so you wouldn’t just copy and paste your argumentative essay, plop it in the site, and call it good.


  • Reformat your paper to make it work for the web. This means shorter paragraphs, no more MLA or APA headings, and a font that works well. Times New Roman may be required for your college essays but won’t work well for the web.
  • Use images to bring your argument to life. This could be pictures or graphics. If you get them from other sources, be sure you have permission or use images available for reuse. And, always cite them!
  • Remember, when you present your sources, link to them. One great benefit of writing for the web is that you can make it so easy for your audience to find out more from your sources by linking directly to them.
  • Study other web pages to get an idea about what works well and what will work well for your rhetorical situation.

Argument in Photo Essays

If you’re building your first photo essay, get ready for an exciting challenge. A photo essay is essentially a story—or in this case, an argument—that is made through mainly images instead of text.

When you build an argumentative photo essay, just as with any other essay, you’re going to think about what your main argument is and what kind of evidence you’ll use to support your claims. In the case of a photo essay, your evidence comes through visually via pictures.

For example, let’s say you want to create a photo essay about people who live with food insecurity in your area. You would want to take pictures of people who deal with food insecurity, perhaps take pictures of their pantries and refrigerators. These pictures could be extremely powerful and persuasive. The appeals to pathos would be strong and moving.

Of course, you should be sure to get permission before you take anyone’s pictures, but photo essays can be a wonderful opportunity to express your creativity and make your argument in a powerful manner.

Sometimes, seeing an example is the best way to get started with a new project. The video below shows a sample student photo essay on the dangers of plastic. Notice the powerful argument the student is able to make by using images and very little text.

Argument in Video Essays

An argumentative video essay uses video to present an argument and can be very powerful. If you think about it, the documentaries you watch are actually really long, argumentative video essays.

Of course, the video essays you make do not have to be the length of a documentary and do not have to be as fancy. But creating a video essay can be an exciting endeavor and a great way to get your arguments and ideas to a wider audience.

In a video essay, you use videos, images, text, and narration to present your argument. For example, if you’re creating an argument to call for changes to environmental policies in your area, instead of writing a traditional argumentative essay, it would be extremely powerful to create a video essay, which would allow you to use videos and images of the environments you hope to improve.

The Online Writing & Presentations area of the Excelsior OWL offers some helpful tips and software advice for creating a strong video essay. Remember, you must argue a point!

You can also check out this student’s sample persuasive video essay created for her college application package.

Argumentative Portfolio Letters

If you’re in a class that requires a writing portfolio, you’ll likely be required to submit a reflective cover letter that introduces your work to your audience. In some cases, that audience is your professor, but in other cases, that audience is a committee of professors.

Many times, this reflective cover letter will have an argumentative angle to it. You may be working to make the case that your work shows you have met the requirements of a course or a program and are ready to move on to the next level in your writing.

Thinking about the lessons you have learned in this area of the Excelsior OWL can help you write that letter. If you’re making an argument that your writing meets the requirements of a course or program, what examples and evidence can you provide to your audience? What examples or evidence should you provide? What tone will you take?

The following sample outline for a portfolio letter shows you how this type of writing is really persuasive and what kinds of things you might consider including in your own letter. Of course, this is just a sample outline, and different courses and programs will have different requirements. Still, if you approach your portfolio letter as a persuasive letter, you are likely to be more convincing to the portfolio scoring committee, or your professor, that you have met the requirements of the course and are ready to move forward with your writing.

  • In your introduction, provide the portfolio committee with a little background about yourself as a writer. Don’t tell your life story but describe some of your past experiences as a writer. Where were you starting from as a writer when you began this course?
  • At the end of your introduction, provide a thesis statement that makes a clear assertion about your growth as a writer and what the portfolio committee can expect to see in your portfolio.
  • In your body paragraphs, spend some time discussing each piece of your portfolio. Give specific examples of your work, your revision, and what you learned. Make sure you address the outcomes or goals of your course. How does your work reflect these outcomes being met? You may need several pages to make your case here. Be sure to review length requirements with your professor.
  • In your conclusion, explore your continued struggles as a writer, acknowledge where you want to go, but remind the committee that you have grown and made improvements thanks to your work in the course.



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Writing Arguments in STEM Copyright © by Jason Peters; Jennifer Bates; Erin Martin-Elston; Sadie Johann; Rebekah Maples; Anne Regan; and Morgan White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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