Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Argumentation Two Ways: Enthymeme or Thesis

Structuring an argumentative essay or speech can be tricky. Writers have to make important decisions about the type of structure that most benefits the intended audience: Which structure will most effectively help the intended audience understand the topic and accept the given claim or position? One way to make a determination about a work's structure is to try outlining it two ways and then choose the one that will have the greatest impact on a reader: Outline it once using a thesis, and outline it once using a special type of thesis called an enthymeme. 

Thesis and Topic Sentences as Reasons

In an argumentative speech or essay, a thesis should present the writer's claim or position on a topic or issue. For example, if asked if they believe shoppers should be responsible for the environmental impact of the things they buy, a writer might answer one of two ways. First, however, a writer will need to investigate the issue, read about the environmental impacts of various industries or specific products, look through their own inventories, identify experts, and talk to or read what have to say about the issue. After investigating, they will come to a conclusion based on their new knowledge, and they might say that shoppers are not responsible for the environmental impact of the things they buy, or they might say that shoppers are responsible for the environmental impact of the things they buy. Either one of those two statements could be a thesis. In order to write a speech or essay about the topic, however, they will also need to explain their reasons for coming to that conclusion, and those reasons will appear in an essay or speech as topic sentences.

The following is a minimal outline that demonstrates how a thesis and topic sentences stated as reasons might appear in an essay or speech outline. Because the thesis does not include a reason for the claim, the topic sentences should be stated as reasons for the claim.

Thesis: Shoppers are responsible for the environmental impact of the products they buy.

Topic Sentence One: Shoppers are ultimately responsible for the environmental impact of the things they buy because of the impact of capitalism, supply and demand.

Topic Sentence Two: Because of the global economy, and an unknowing of regional environmental issues, shoppers are responsible for the environmental impact of the things they buy. 

Topic Sentence Three: Shoppers are responsible for the environmental impact of the things they buy because only shoppers can control their individual conspicuous consumption.

Enthymeme and Examples or Categorical Topic Sentences

An enthymeme is a statement of a writer's claim or position on an issue that includes the reason why the writer came to that conclusion about the issue at hand. For example, a writer might generate a rough draft or working thesis in which they state, "Shoppers should look into the environmental practices of the companies they buy from." In order to revise and elevate that claim, the writer might later state,  "Responsible shoppers investigate the source of their products before buying in order to avoid rewarding environmentally destructive practices." The revised claim includes the writer's reason for making their claim. Because the enthymeme includes a reason for the claim, the topic sentences need not be stated as reasons. Instead, the writer might use the topic sentences to break their paragraphs into examples or types of destructive practices to be avoided or ways to do so.

The following is a very minimal outline of an enthymeme and its topic sentences. Notice that the topic sentences introduce examples or categories instead of listing additional reasons. The main reason "trickles down" to the paragraphs from the enthymeme.

Enthymeme: Responsible shoppers investigate the source of their products before buying in order to avoid rewarding environmentally destructive practices.

Topic Sentence One: Palo Santo wood, sage, turquoise, and other natural or unprocessed materials are one example of a type of resource that is endangered because of irresponsible sourcing and shopping practices.

Topic Sentence Two: The fast fashion industry is also well known for its negative impact on the environment.

Topic Sentence Three: The most often cited industry for its negative impact on the environment is, unfortunately, something everyone buys: food.


Which of the two minimal outline above are more interesting to you? Personally, I like the second a bit better and would opt to use it as my structure if I were assigned this writing prompt. However, the first leaves room for exploring some economic philosophies, and that would be interesting reading, as well. It's hard to decide!

No matter which type of claim a writer makes, thesis or enthymeme, the reasons for why they came to their conclusion about the topic are an essential part of making a complete argument. When using a thesis, topic sentences become reasons why the writer came to the conclusion. When using an enthymeme, the reason becomes part of the claim statement. 

Want to read more about argumentation and argumentative essays and speeches? Try

Writing an Argumentative Essay: Basic Terminology

Revising Thesis Statements

Writing for an Intended Audience

The Difference Between Persuasion and Argumentation

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Contemplative Approach to Prewriting: The Higher "Why"

A Subtle Shift in Thinking

In an article entitled "Embracing the Higher Why," writer Danielle Poitras interviews Lyndsay Farrant, who holds an MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology and is the Executive Director of Strategic Projects at Naropa University. Farrant introduces the idea that when we ask "why," we often follow our response with a "because." As an alternative, we may sometimes want to practice contemplating "why" followed by "in order to." When we ask "'why in order to,'" we are embracing "'the higher why,'" the "'why that embraces curiosity and meaning and involves questioning and looking at fresh perspectives'" (Poitras 25). 

When writers ask "why in order to" instead of "why because," they think more divergently about their topics during the prewriting step of the writing process, which elevates and strengthens their argumentative essays.

Enthymemes: Reason or Purpose

One common way to formulate a thesis statement in an argumentative essay is to construct an enthymeme, a statement of the writer's position and the word "because" followed by a reason why the writer has come to that conclusion. The following is a simple enthymeme: "The campus should institute a recycling program because it will help the environment." As an alternative, the writer might formulate an enthymeme with a "higher why," such as "The campus should institute a recycling program in order to help the environment." 

How are these different?

Using the subordinating conjunction "because" indicates the writer is about to present a reason why they have come to adopt a particular position. It indicates the writer has looked at evidence that had already been written and documented. There is a sense the writer is looking to the past to come to a conclusion and is asking the reader to do the same.

Using the subordinating conjunction "in order to" indicates the writer is about to present a purpose for their position. It indicates the writer is looking into the future and anticipating outcomes that align with their position and purpose. The writer in this scenario is asking the reader to do the same.

Although the language itself is only subtly different, the way the writer is asking readers to think about a topic are quite different: It's the difference between looking at what has happened, unchangeable, and that which has yet to happen, a future with an abundance of possibility. 

Shifting Thoughts from Past to Future

When faculty or mentors ask students why they are interested in a specific major or career path, students may respond with, "I want to be a psychologist because it sounds interesting," or "I want to be a nurse because I want to help people." While a connection to the future is implied in these responses, it becomes a direct connection when students apply the "higher why." "I want to be a psychologist in order to lead an interesting life," or "I want to be a nurse in order to continue helping people." Whereas the initial statements indicate the student has looked back at their lives or have read evidence about being a psychologist or being a nurse, the revised statements clearly indicate the students have shifted their thinking to the future. 

Even in more scholarly essays or research papers, the shift can be profound. A poorly articulated thesis such as "Research shows working outdoors is beneficial for students," might be shifted using the "higher why" to "Working outdoors is a beneficial pedagogical method teachers use in order to incorporate experiential learning." The experiment in thinking of the "higher why" yields results both in the writer's ability to develop an idea and to articulate it as a well-written thesis.

 To return to the words of Lyndsay Farrant used to open this post, there is a "higher why," we can access when we explore not only the "because" but the "in order to." Shifting the use of language, even ever so slightly, allows writers to  embrace curiosity, explore meaning, and "involves questioning and looking at fresh perspectives'" (Poitras 25). 

Works Cited

Poitras, Danielle. "Embracing the Higher Why: The Entrepreneurial Mindset of Naropa Students." Naropa Magazine 2021-22, pp. 23-25.

Friday, October 8, 2021

How to Build Dungeon Tiles and Terrain: Felt Four Ways

Felt is an inexpensive and easy medium to use to create dungeon tiles and battle map terrain for a tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) like Dungeons and Dragons. 

Felt comes in a variety of thicknesses, sizes, colors, and textures, and it's easily shaped into tiles and maps using a ruler, a fine tip marker or fabric chalk, some good craft scissors, a glue gun, and a plentiful batch of glue gun sticks. With the addition of a few needle-felting supplies, like felting needles, a felting pad, and wool roving or wool top coat, felt can even be used to create 3-dimensional objects or blended surface colors.

Mosaic-Style Interior Build

The mosaic-style build is a great option when duplicating a previously published map with complicated forms, like from an official Wizards of the Coast adventure that includes circular or organic spaces, like towers and caverns. The major benefits of using this building method include the ease of creating a measured replica and the end product having a usable grid and engaging texture.

At its most basic, a mosaic-style build is simply a matter of counting out and cutting enough squares to fit each room of a build. After cutting enough squares to meet the specifications of the map, they can be arranged in the pre-established pattern on a large base, leaving base-color gaps or using base-color squares for walls and doorways, depending on the map.

For example, as shown in figure 1, a mosaic build of a 4” tower room requires 12 full tiles and 4 triangles to complete the room. The outer walls can also be constructed using 1” tiles of a varying color, depending on the size indicated on the map that’s being duplicated, or a builder may want to use ¼” or ½” rectangles or squares to match previously built dungeon or terrain tiles.

Figure 1.

Measured Interior with ¼, ½, or 1-Inch Walls

Sometimes maps, especially those consisting mostly of interiors or stand-alone buildings, do not require grids in order to calculate movement. A game master might simply know that a room is 4” across and therefore know how much of a character’s movement it takes to cross the room or how far a spell can travel. Alternatively, rulers can be used to calculate distances in rooms without grids. The benefits of gridless tiles are the ease and efficiency of creating them and the “less busy” look of the finished product.

Creating rooms without grids requires, like the mosaic-type build, careful measuring and marking. If the map requires a 20’ x 40’ room, and 1” = 5’, the room itself will need to be 4” x 8” plus the additional space required to create walls. A room with ¼” walls will need to be 4 ½ by 8 ½ inches, for example. The example in figure 2 shows a 4” x 4” inch room that’s been cut at 4 ½” x 4 ½” to accommodate ¼” walls. The two doorways are 1” across.

Gridless tiles can also be used to create new and original configurations. The grey tiles with cream walls shown below are based on a 4" x 4" set, and I've added doors, stairs, larger rooms based on the 4" x 4" measurements, and a 4" x 6" tower room. 

When building multiple rooms that fit tightly together, it sometimes helps to create the build on a large base and later cut the rooms along the walls. Parts of the map can be added during a session as characters explore the space, or an uncut map can be revealed by uncovering parts of it as the character’s explore. 

Figure 2.

Felt dungeon tiles
4" x 4" Dungeon Tiles with 1" Walls


Including needle-felted elements in a build adds both texture and dimension. A needle-felted base can be constructed by carefully measuring and marking squares onto plain craft felt and using core wool or top wool to create the grid pattern. The colors of wool roving can be blended to good effect, and with some work, 3-dimensional objects can be constructed: firepits, boulders, boxes, sacks, greenery, and other reusable elements. 

Felted grids can be used as a base battle map for outdoor spaces, as a base for stand-alone buildings, or as a gridded area within a build’s negative space, as shown in figure 3. 

Figure 3.

Hints and Tips

No matter which type of felt build a person chooses, there are some general hints and tips for the felt build

  • Measure carefully before cutting. 
  • Arrange pieces (walls, tiles, doors) before gluing.
  • Only glue those elements that will never be removed or that need to be used elsewhere.
  • Glue on a protected surface to avoid damaging a table or countertop.
  • Glue carefully. Hot glue is very hot.
  • Felt safely. Felting needles are very sharp.