What is the Rogerian Method?
The Rogerian Method of Argumentation is a conflict-resolution technique that you can use to build common ground while still stating your position. It’s a less aggressive form of argumentation than, say, the Toulmin method or 5-paragraph essay, where a claim is made with little regard to the feelings of someone who opposes your view. With the Rogerian Method, the goal is to build toward a common understanding, to open you and the person you are speaking to towards new ideas, but not necessarily to change their mind.
Even though the goal isn’t necessarily to change the person you are speaking to’s mind, the Rogerian method is still considered a form of argumentation since you are persuading your opponent to at least respect your point of view.
When Do I Use the Rogerian Method?
The Rogerian Method is especially effective when addressing highly controversial issues where you or the person you are speaking to may have a tendency to be highly emotional. In order to avoid slinging insults or false claims, the Rogerian method can help to come to a common understanding or at least a mutual respect for each others’ opinions, even if the two of you will never fully agree with the other’s opinion.
How Does the Rogerian Method Work?
When writing in the Rogerian method, you need to be ultra-conscious of your opponent’s view; the goal is to clearly state the source of conflict or opposing ideologies, recognize the validity of your opponent’s view, and then position your argument as equally valid. One way you might think about the order of your paper is like this:
- Introduction: Address the problem at hand, identifying what the source in conflict is and why there are multiple ways of looking at the issue;
- Opposing View: Identify the overarching view of your component. If your opponent’s view is complex (this will be determined by the topic at hand), you may wish to just give a brief synopsis at this point, then clarify later. If your opponent’s view is easily explained in two ore three paragraphs, go ahead and describe it in it’s entirety.
- Validation of Opponent’s View: As a way to show respect an understanding, point out why your opponent’s view is logical. State the view as you understand it and how you recognize why someone could feel or think the way they do.
- Your Position: After clarifying that you understand their perspective, shift politely to suggest what your view is on the matter. Again, if your view is complex, simply state the overarching point in 1 – 3 paragraphs.
- Validation of Your Position: Elaborate now on why your position also makes sense. Provide convincing evidence and sound reasoning as to why your argument should also be considered. While you may be trying to persuade your reader that your idea is better than theirs, don’t explicitly state that or you’ll often lose the respect and mutual understanding you’re working towards.
- Argument Back-and-Forth: If the problem/issue at hand is sufficiently complex that it would help your reader to follow the argumentation by taking the argument in broken-down segments, move back and forth between their sub-arguments and your sub-arguments, always validating their point of view while showing convincing evidence as to why your point of view is also very strong.
- Benefits of Your Position: As you conclude, summarize your position, moving your reader towards knowing why that position is beneficial in some way.
While you may or may not convince a person that you are right when arguing in the Rogerian method, the goal is to at least show that you have compelling reasons why someone should respect your opinion; but if you give enough convincing evidence, you may just change their mind!
Rogerian theorist Douglas Brent has stated that it’s important to not be too prescriptive when writing in the Rogerian method. There isn’t a precise step-by-step formula, though it may help to look at the steps below to think about how you move from problem to opposing position to your position to conclusion.
Example of the Rogerian Method
Imagine you are writing a paper about freedom of religion and you hold the view that religion should be permitted to be openly practiced in public schools and government-run organizations. You have opponents, however, that claim there should be a strict separation of church and state and that, especially in schools, discussing or practicing religions marginalizes groups and may make children and other groups susceptible to being taught a belief structure in a place that should be religiously neutral.
In a case like this, your goal would be to recognize your opponent’s viewpoints, stating an understanding of the issues they perceive with allowing religious perspectives to be shared freely in schools. You would validate their opinion through anecdotes, interviews, and other primary and secondary research. You would then position yourself to state your opinion, giving evidence that may draw from similar types of sources. While you are giving equal weight to each argument, you are making a rhetorical move towards your opinion as you finish with your opinion and the ultimate benefits of your position.
You’re sitting in class, and let’s face it, your mind is wandering a little bit. But then your instructor says that your next assignment is to write a Rogerian essay.
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Confusion strikes. You immediately sit up in your seat, hoping for some sort of elaboration on how to write a Rogerian essay, or at least an explanation of what it is. Unfortunately, your instructor is moving on without clarification.
You wonder if you should raise your hand and ask, “wait, what is a Rogerian essay?” But you don’t, thinking maybe you’re the only one who doesn’t know what to do. You don’t want to look stupid.
Don’t worry. You’re not stupid.
The term “Rogerian essay” can throw off a lot of people. It turns out it’s really pretty simple once you know the basics. Ready to jump in?
So… What Is a Rogerian Essay?
By now, you have probably written a lot of different types of essays, and you may have even written a Rogerian essay without even realizing it.
The Rogerian essay is named for the type of argument it makes–the Rogerian argument named after psychologist Carl Rogers. He believed that the key to effective communication lies in each side’s ability to negotiate differences in order to better understand each other.
Basically, a Rogerian essay is the diplomatic version of an argumentative essay. I’m sure you’ve had real-life arguments where you can’t just change your opposition’s point of view, right? In those cases, you look for common ground from both arguments so that each side can reach some sort of consensus.
You’re not looking for total domination, but instead for some kind of benefit to both sides.
How to Write a Rogerian Essay
In the spirit of the Rogerian essay, I’m going to use my favorite Roger as an example–Roger Rabbit, of course.
Photo by theNerdPatrol via flickr
For the purposes of this example, I’ll be exploring one of the main topics of Who Framed Roger Rabbit–integrating cartoon characters with the general population–to give a basic framework for your Rogerian essay.
The introduction to your Rogerian essay requires four main parts–a hook, the problem, some background information about the problem, and your thesis statement.
Your hook is a sentence or two that draws the reader in and makes them interested in reading the rest of your essay. This can be a quote, surprising fact, rhetorical question, or any other attention grabber. The problem is the issue that two sides disagree over, followed by the background information about that problem. The thesis statementwill let the reader know your proposed solution.
My introduction might go something like this:
Do cartoons deserve the same rights as humans?Some people don’t think so, and they argue against the integration of toons and humans.While opponents may think that cartoon characters belong on the screen, other people want them to be able to roam freely within our own world.While segregating toons and humans is wrong, there should be certain enforced rules for behavior when the two groups are together.
Now that we have our introduction taken care of, it’s time to get into the meat of the essay–the body. As opposed to the traditional 5-paragraph essay, which has three main points as the body paragraphs, the Rogerian essay focuses on trying to work out the main arguments of each side.
The first body paragraph should focus on one side of the argument, and the second paragraph should focus on the other side. It doesn’t matter which side you write about first, but I like to focus on the opposition’s side first and then my own views.
For our example, my first body paragraph would read:
The opposition to the integration of toons and people has several points of concern, but many of these concerns boil down to a sense of fairness and public safety. For example, toons can unfairly manipulate their bodies and surroundings to slip out of handcuffs. Since the cartoons are more resilient, they are less able to grasp the concept of human mortality, and thus, they are more prone to dropping pianos or anvils on passers-by without a second thought.
My second paragraph would discuss how it would be unfair to eternally separate toons and humans, and would touch on the fact that cartoon characters deserve some kinds of basic rights–access to the free world being one of them.
The third body paragraph should link the two opposing arguments together, trying to build on some common ground.
My third paragraph would look like this:
While those opposed to the integration of toons and humans site safety as their main concern, those in favor are equally worried about public safety. However, just because something is unsafe does not mean it has to be completely banned from society. The benefits of integrating cartoons into the rest of society, such as the opportunity to learn about different cultures and the elimination of grudges toons have about being separated, would far outweigh the potential risks. This is especially true if certain laws were created to monitor the behavior of both toons and people.
The conclusion explains your proposed solution. This should transition smoothly from your final body paragraph. Your conclusion should also end with a closing statement about why you think this solution benefits both sides, giving your Rogerian essay a sense of closure.
Here’s how my conclusion would look:
Stricter enforcement of behavioral laws for both cartoons and humans would be the best solution. These laws would set up a committee of both classes that would decide the best and most fair rules for all citizens. Toons-only districts could still be set up for cartoons who wanted to let loose, but when interacting with people, they would have to tone it down. Humans, too, would have to follow certain rules, mainly pertaining to harassment of cartoons. These laws would be enforced by both cartoon and human police officers. This new set of rules would calm the fears of integration opposers while ensuring more rights and more harmonious living among cartoons and humans.
How to Write a Rogerian Essay: Quick Tips to Keep in Mind
Don’t Be Combative
When you’re thinking about how to write a Rogerian essay, don’t fall into the trap of being too one-sided. You want to be more of a neutral mediator instead of a writer on the attack.
Think Like the Devil’s Advocate
In order to be neutral, you first have to get into the head of your opposition. Even if you feel very strongly about something and that your view is the right one, the other side probably has some good points, too.
Don’t Forget about Common Ground
Forgetting about the common ground is a mistake that will turn your Rogerian essay into a straight-up argumentative essay. Even if the views are radically different, think about the underlying sentiments of those views. You can usually find something in common between two sides of an argument, but you might have to get a little creative in the process.
Additional Sources for How to Write a Rogerian Essay
If you’re still looking for help with your Rogerian essay, there are several places you can turn to. Writing Commons has a wealth of resources for almost any kind of writing you can imagine. College and university websites such as Oklahoma City Community College and the University of Calgary have several writing resources available to anyone who can navigate the internet.
And, of course, the Kibin editors can help sort through your Rogerian essay draft, making sure that everything flows well.
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