AP/MODR1770 6.0 B: Techniques of Persuasion

Offered by: MODR


Fall 2022






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

This is a skills-based course focusing on critical thinking, persuasive writing, and strategic argumentation. Examples are drawn from various forms of persuasion including advertising, propaganda and political argument. Course credit exclusions: AP/MODR 1730 6.00, AP/MODR 1760 6.00. Note: This is an approved LA&PS General Education course: Humanities OR Social Science.

Course Start Up

Course Websites hosted on York's "eClass" are accessible to students during the first week of the term. It takes two business days from the time of your enrolment to access your course website. Course materials begin to be released on the course website during the first week. To log in to your eClass course visit the York U eClass Portal and login with your Student Passport York Account. If you are creating and participating in Zoom meetings you may also go directly to the York U Zoom Portal.

For further course Start Up details, review the Getting Started webpage.

For IT support, students may contact University Information Technology Client Services via askit@yorku.ca or (416) 736-5800. Please also visit Students Getting Started UIT or the Getting Help - UIT webpages.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Course Instructor Contact: Dr. Jonathan Short; jshort@yorku.ca

    Expanded Course Description

This course aims to provide students with a grounding in critical thinking, argumentative skills, as applied to the techniques of persuasion we encounter in everyday life. The course focuses on skills-development as much as abstract knowledge. Students who attend lectures, participate as fully as possible in the course, and keep up with their assignments, will experience an increase in their reading comprehension and ability to think critically, with the goal of improving their sensitivity to reasoned discussion. This course seeks to present an “intellectual antidote” to some of the deeply anti-intellectual and anti-critical attitudes increasingly prevalent in North American culture.


The course will be broken down into roughly two parts. The first part will focus on the basics and mechanics of argumentation, identifying parts of an argument, logical fallacies, reading comprehension, and the use of statistical concepts. The second part will focus on the techniques of persuasion frequently utilized in the mass media, social media, and advertising designed to persuade you by non-rational or extra-rational means. The goal of this second part is to apply the skills learned in the first half to help you think more critically about the sources of information you encounter in our media-saturated society.


Please Note: this is a “double-intensity” course, meaning that the material normally covered in a two-term full year course is being compressed into a single term. That means that each class covers a lot of material and it is very easy to fall behind. Because of this you need to be vigilant not to fall behind and to keep up with assignments and reading and to set aside enough time to do the work.

    Additional Requirements

Technical requirements for taking the course:

While this course is an in-person course, it will make extensive use of the E-class platform. Accordingly, you will need access to a computer or other device with internet access.


To determine Internet connection and speed, there are online tests, such as Speedtest, that can be run.]





    Required Course Text / Readings

First Term: Critical Thinking: Argument and Argumentation. 2014. 2nd Edition. Authors: Jean Saindon and Peter John Krek. ISBN: 978-0-17-666100-7. Publisher: Nelson Education.


A selection of shorter texts and film/video works will be made available on Eclass in pdf format or with appropriate links to library sources.

    Weighting of Course
  1. Lecture Participation Assignment (LPA) Exercises: Due as indicated on E-class throughout the course: Weight: 20%
  2. Argument Quiz:   Weight: 15%, September 27
  3. Fallacies & Non-Deductive Arguments Test: Weight: 20%, October 25
  4. Passage Analysis Assignment: Weight: 25%, November 10
  5. Take-Home Test Weight 20%, December 6


    Organization of the Course

Times and locations: This course is scheduled for in-person classes twice per week. The meeting time and location is as follows: Tuesdays 7-10pm VH 3006 and Thursdays 7-10pm VH 3009. Note that the two classes are in two different classrooms.

Office hours: Office Hours will be held using Zoom or by appointment in person each week. I will post the invitation link on Eclass for these appointments. Physical office and time TBA.

While the lectures of this course will be held in-person, many of its components, including the submission of some assignments for participation will happen on the course’s Eclass site.


Because this is a skills-based course, the material will be made available in a sequential “week-by-week” format. That means you will not be able to jump around in the material, but must learn it in a particular order. The course lecture slides and other material will be posted the week we cover material and you will not have access to most material in advance of covering it in the course.

    Course Learning Objectives

This course is skills-based, meaning that it is less focussed on what you know than on how you know or what to do. In this course you will expand your ability to think critically, to formulate a cogent, logical, and coherent argument, and to spot the flaws in the arguments and claims of others. It will prepare you to live in our society with a sceptical and critical mind. You will also learn to express your ideas in writing in a logically consistent form. Finally, the course will teach you some of the approaches used by advertisers and other prominent social institutions in trying to persuade people by non-rational means. In learning about these approaches, the goal will be to enable you to better understand these so that you can better apply the techniques of critical thinking examined in the first part of the course.

    Additional Information / Notes



The grading scheme for the course conforms to the 9-point grading system used in undergraduate programs at York (e.g., A+ = 9, A = 8, B+ - 7, C+ = 5, etc.).  Assignments and tests* will bear either a letter grade designation or a corresponding number grade (e.g.  A+ = 90 to 100, A = 80 to 90, B+ = 75 to 79, etc.)

(For a full description of York grading system see the York University Undergraduate Calendar - http://calendars.registrar.yorku.ca/2010-2011/academic/index.htm


Students may take a limited number of courses for degree credit on an ungraded (pass/fail) basis. For full information on this option see Alternative Grading Option in the LA&PS section of the Undergraduate Calendar.


Assignment Submission: Proper academic performance depends on students doing their work not only well, but on time.  Accordingly, assignments for this course must be received on the due date specified for the assignment.  Assignments are to be handed in on the Eclass site for this course in the drop-boxes indicated. After the due date the system will not let you upload assignments. You must contact me to get permission to submit late assignments.


Please Note that it is not possible to submit the LPA assignments late. They are designed to test your level of participation in the course and must be completed on a timely basis (i.e. you have from the day the lecture occurs until the next lecture day to complete them.) If you do not keep up with them you cannot hand them in later; please don’t ask me to extend the deadline since this will not be done.

Lateness Penalty: Assignments received later than the due date will be penalized 2% per day that the assignment is late. Exceptions to the lateness penalty for valid reasons such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc., may be permitted by the Course Instructor but will require supporting documentation (e.g., a doctor’s letter). Students who have recognized accommodation from the Accessible Learning Centre at York that permits it will be given extra time to complete tests and assignments as appropriate and do not have to contact me to request this extra time (it will be granted automatically by the Accessible Learning Centre once you are approved for accomodation)


Missed Tests: Students with a documented reason for missing a course test, such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc., which is confirmed by supporting documentation (e.g., doctor’s letter) may request accommodation from the Course Director. Students will be permitted to write a new test after the official cut-off date for the test or assignment. Further extensions or accommodation will require students to submit a formal petition to the Department and/or Faculty.


Recording Policy: The content of this course is delivered through live lectures which remain the intellectual property (IP) of the Course Instructor. If you wish to record these lectures for your own personal use, you must secure permission from the instructor. I will give permission to record to students who have accommodation from the Accessible Learning Centre when this is part of their accommodation; if this is the case, please present me with your accommodation documentation.

Any recording of lectures for commercial purposes or to share with others is a violation of York’s Academic Honesty Guidelines as well as a violation of the Instructor’s legal IP rights and is prohibited. It is also prohibited to upload any course materials to online study sites, commercial or otherwise, such as Course Hero. Any violators will be subject to academic sanction as appropriate.

Schedule of Classes:


Session 1 (Sept 8) Topic: Introduction to the Course: Why Should I care about critical thinking?

Session 2 (Sept 13) Topic: Opinions, Evidence and Arguments: what’s the difference? [Reading: S&K Module 1]


Session 3 (Sept 15) Topic: The Principles of Argumentation [S&K Module 1]


Session 4 (Sept 20) Topic: Understanding Argument Structure [Reading: S&K Module 3]

Session 5 (Sept 22) Topic: Deductive vs. Non-Deductive Arguments [Reading S&K Module 5]

Session 6 (Sept 27) Topic: Assessing Non-Deductive Arguments (Generalization; Causation) [Reading: S&K Module 5] Argument Quiz (Online)

Session 7 (Sept 29) Topic: Assessing Non-Deductive Arguments II (Appeal to Expert Opinion; Arguments from Analogy) [S&K Module 5]

Session 8 (Oct 4) Topic: Fallacies I (Fallacies of Relevance) [Reading S&K Module 7]


Session 9 (Oct 6) Fallacies II (Fallacies of Argumentation Process) (Fallacies: Appeal to Ignorance, Begging the Question (Circular Reasoning, Complex Question) [S&K Module 7]


Session 10 (Oct 18) Fallacies II (Equivocation, Straw Person, Genetic Fallacy) [S&K Module 7]


Fall Reading Week Oct 8-14


Session 11 (Oct 20) Fallacies III (Appeal to Authority – One/Many; Slippery Slope; False Dichotomy) [S&K Module 7]

Session 12 (Oct 25) Non-Deductive Arguments and Fallacies Test (In-Class)


Session 13 (Oct 27) Topic: Passage Analysis Guide


Session 14 (Nov 1) Topic: Test Take-Up


Session 15 (Nov 3) Topic: Rhetoric: The Basis of Persuasion


Session 16 (Nov 8) Topic: Edward Bernays and the birth of Public Relations


Session 17 (Nov 10) Topic: Film: Century of the Self Part I (Adam Curtis, 2002) Passage Analysis Assignment Due


Session 18 (Nov 15) Topic: Film: Century of the Self Part II (Adam Curtis, 2002)


Session 19 (Nov 17) Topic: Hegemony and Cultural Hegemony


Session 20 (Nov 22) Topic: Hegemony and the “Manufacture of Consent” Part I


Session 21 (Nov 24) Topic: The Five Filters and the “Manufacture of Consent” Part II


Session 22 (Nov 29) Topic: Uncertainty as Technique of Persuasion: Film, Merchants of Doubt

Session 23 (Dec 1) Topic: “Information Overload” and the “post-fact” society


Session 24 (Dec 6) Final In-Class Test

    Relevant Links / Resources