Writing a Rogerian argument is a matter of developing the art of compromise. First, the writer must acknowledge differing viewpoints, then they can present their thesis. This can result in a very effective argument if done properly.
Definition of a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is the main idea of your essay. It is the paper’s controlling argument. It is important that your thesis is a focused, single idea. A thesis asserts your point of view regarding the subject of the essay. Writing a thesis statement for a Rogerian argument essay uses this same idea while incorporating the specific idiosyncrasies that create this type of paper.
Definition of a Rogerian Argument
The psychologist Carl R. Rogers advocated communication based on compromise, an approach he wrote about in his 1961 book On Becoming a Person. Rogers felt a person should suspend judgment on a topic until he or she had listened to the adversarial point of view. Once this happened, a person would be capable of coming to a well-rounded conclusion that would take into account this alternative perspective. A Rogerian argument takes this idea and applies it to the essay format. A Rogerian essay structure acknowledges that a subject can be looked at from different standpoints.
Positioning the Main Idea
In most traditional essays, the thesis statement is given first, often in the introductory paragraph, and does not take into consideration opposing views. What makes a Rogerian thesis different from a regular thesis is that it presented only after the writer has conceded that opposite viewpoints exist and that they have some merit. This concession of merit may even lead into your thesis statement, as in this example from a Seton Hill professor: “Regardless of whether the fetus is entitled to legal protection, society as a whole will benefit if we treat a high abortion rate as symptomatic of a greater social illness. Identifying and addressing that illness will do more practical good than endlessly pitting the rights of a woman against the rights of her fetus."
The Rogerian structure includes the following parts: An introduction that gives a fair assessment of the opposition; a section detailing the viewpoints of the opposition and stating where you see merit in their views; the thesis statement that shows how you have taken the opposition into account but have still developed your own perspective; a section of support for your thesis that illustrates why it is valid; and a conclusion that illustrates why your position is beneficial to those on both sides of the argument.
Getting the Tone Right
It is important that the Rogerian thesis be delivered in neutral, non-adversarial language. The thesis should not be an attack on the opposition. It should present the writer’s viewpoint without dismissing or demeaning the viewpoints of others. For example, in a thesis that advocated the death penalty, you would not want to refer to those on the other side of the issue as "bleeding-heart liberals."
In addition, the thesis has to be supportable. It is easier to persuade a reader of your point of view if you are able to offer support through research. Saying that "anyone who takes a life should pay with his life" is an impassioned statement, which is all wrong for a Rogerian argument, and it is not supportable through research. Show the reader why your way of seeing the issue is valid in certain circumstances.
Why It Works
For some subjects, especially controversial and divisive ones, people have strong viewpoints. In order to get an adversary to listen to an opposing idea, it is important to treat him or her with respect. This means being willing to see worth in that conflicting viewpoint. Successfully writing a thesis statement for a Rogerian argument means correct placement of the main idea in the body of the essay and writing the thesis in dispassionate language. Doing this creates the type of communication Carl R. Rogers advocated.
Rogers, Carl R. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
Glenn, Cheryl, et al. The Writer's Harbrace Handbook. 2nd ed. Boston: Heinle, 2004.
- Building an Argument (Dennis G. Jerz, Seton Hill University) (http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/argument/building.html)
Writing a Rogerian Essay
Need to write a Rogerian essay but have no idea what the term means? This series defines a Rogerian argument, explains its structure, and tells how to create a successful Rogerian thesis.
- Essay Structure for a Rogerian Argument
- Writing a Successful Thesis Statement for a Rogerian Argument