Public Policy Argumentation and Debate

A Practical Guide for Advocacy, Second Edition

by Philip Dalton (Author) John R. Butler (Author)
©2021 Textbook XXIV, 232 Pages


Through an exclusive focus on public policy advocacy, Dalton and Butler offer practical guidance for determining the fundamental issues that make up a controversy and what expectations public audiences will have for advocacy based on the issues and the burdens of advocates challenging or defending the status quo. Through examples that span a wide range of advocacy situations and subjects of contemporary importance, the authors build a framework for public policy advocacy that is organic to the communication discipline, recover and refresh foundational lessons about the uses of evidence, and provide critical questions that can be used to develop and communicate policy proposals that are sensible and appealing. Written in an accessible, respectful, and motivational style, the book is suitable for students of debate, professionals who function as advocates, and people who wish to voice their opinion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Part I: Emergence
  • Chapter 1. Orientation
  • Chapter 2. Analyzing Issues and Policy Propositions
  • Part II: Arguing
  • Chapter 3. Understanding Stock Issues in Public Policy Advocacy
  • Chapter 4. Reasoning I: Reasoning about Cause
  • Chapter 5. Reasoning II: Reasoning by Deduction, Induction, and Analogy
  • Chapter 6. Evidence I: Theories and Uses
  • Chapter 7. Evidence II: Evaluation
  • Part III: Reasonable Goals
  • Chapter 8. Targeting Your Audience
  • Chapter 9. Adapting to the Advocacy Setting
  • Appendix
  • Index


The two of us entered the world of argumentation and debate at just about the same time, both as undergraduates at Northern Illinois University (Dekalb, Illinois) studying political science in the early 1990s. We came to NIU’s debate team from similar backgrounds: both from working-class suburbs west and south of Chicago, both from families who valued education as a route to political and economic empowerment, and both interested and involved in political issues. We were very ambitious, full of outrage and discontent, and never short of opinions; but, like many undergraduate students, our elementary and secondary education experiences did not leave us with a comprehensive understanding of history, politics, and science upon which to draw conclusions with any certainty, or the research, writing, and analytical skills required to piece together alternatives to policy directions we did not support. Religion, while present in our family systems to varying degrees, was not a sensemaking force for either of us when it came to societal problems. It is not surprising to us today that our search for a system through which we could filter what we learned and enable us to determine how to solve problems would lead us to the study of argumentation and debate.←NaN | xii→

Traditions and Innovations

While we did not know it at the time, joining the debate team at NIU was tantamount to being brought on board a particularly styled vessel, piloted by a captain and first officer. We would learn later that the coaching team of M. Jack Parker and Dorothy Bishop, both faculty members in NIU’s Department of Communication, had invited many other students to become part of their teaching and learning community. Once we found ourselves safely inside the unfamiliar vessel, we marveled at its gears and levers and were quick to agree to stay on board.

When students are first introduced to the academic field of argumentation and debate, typically unknown to them at the time, they find themselves in vessels that are designed to function in particular ways. Only if they continue to study argumentation might they learn some of the mechanics behind the façades of gears and levers, or anything about the engineers who built them. These metaphorical vessels might be called intellectual traditions, hereditary lines of thinking and teaching that formed communities across generations that have passed on knowledge and skills in particular ways. In the study of argumentation, many of these communities have read the same foundational texts—Aristotle’s On Rhetoric, Cicero’s De Inventione, and other works commonly encountered in the academic field of argumentation—but each creates, presents, and engages in advocacy within unique frameworks and formats found in textbooks and passed on through coaching protocols.

Our intellectual tradition can be found most vividly described in the 1963 work of Robert B. Huber, Influencing through Argument.1 Influencing through Argument was the culmination of several years of learning and teaching argumentation by Huber, then a faculty member in the Department of Speech at the University of Vermont, and a community of colleagues and graduate students who worked with him, including the person who would become our debate coach, M. Jack Parker (the textbook was reissued in 2006 by Huber’s student, Alfred Snider2). Huber forms an inventory of objections that incorporates many of the complex rules of logic, and formal and informal fallacies, that take students years to master. His self-titled “lines of argument” approach to explaining argumentation is an “attempt,” he explains, “to translate the tests of evidence, the tests of reasoning, and the methods by which fallacies can be revealed into language readily available to the student speaker.”3 Moreover, unlike the logicians of his time, Huber is aware he is helping students both analyze proposals and speak about them.4 Huber’s focus on a set of ←NaN | xiii→common objections in the teaching of argumentation and debate, and his particular interest in the role of argument in policymaking, offered us a framework for engaging the world of public policy, a world in which people use argument to influence others to alter the status quo—to alleviate what Huber called “evils”5—or maintain the status quo.

One exceptional work that we place within the legacy of Huber’s approach is Martha Cooper’s Analyzing Public Discourse.6 Cooper was once a graduate assistant working for Parker and Bishop and eventually joined them on the faculty at NIU. She taught both authors and became the master’s degree advisor to Phil Dalton; and, for a brief time before her death, John Butler was her departmental colleague. In Analyzing Public Discourse, Cooper seeks to identify practical lessons from public controversies, where argumentation and debate leads to real consequences for real people, as opposed to focusing on lessons that might come from the increasingly technical practice and study of argumentation occurring in the intercollegiate competitive debate community. Consistent with Huber’s lines of argument, her text places an emphasis on the “critical tools for analyzing messages.”7 Huber, Cooper, and many others appreciate the challenges of teaching students to apply formal logic and logical fallacies to “everyday argument,” and seek to develop “objections that are fairly typical in the course of discussions regarding public issues” that are easy to recall and deploy.8


XXIV, 232
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2012 (August)
Audience Public debate Academic debate Communication Debate format Evidence Controversy
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XXIV, 232 pp.

Biographical notes

Philip Dalton (Author) John R. Butler (Author)

Philip Dalton (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is Associate Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Public Advocacy and Director of the Center for Civic Engagement, at Hofstra University. He studies political communication and public discourse. John R. Butler (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh) has worked as a debate coach, communication professor, and consultant. He serves as the Director of Communication and Strategy for the Painters District Council No. 30 and its affiliated funds, a labor union located in Aurora, Illinois.


Title: Public Policy Argumentation and Debate
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
258 pages