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Assigning Reference Texts, Handbooks, Rhetorics, and Readers

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PWR does not require that its instructors adopt a particular handbook or rhetoric/reader for their classes.  In fact, most PWR instructors do not assign textbooks or handbooks for their class – in part because instructors tend to prefer to customize their readings and in part because the quarter is so short that students rarely can get through much material contained in what is often a very expensive textbook. That said, it is the instructor’s choice as to whether s/he wants to have his/her students purchase and use a textbook or handbook.

Choosing a Reference Text or Handbook

Such texts vary widely, from highly prescriptive and rule-bound guides to the more rhetorically based manuals, from those with maximum coverage and exercises to “midsize” books or bare-bones reference texts.

If you decide to order a handbook, it should not have a narrow disciplinary focus (for example, the MLA Handbook is unsuitable because it focuses narrowly on the conventions of writing in a particular field). A more appropriate choice is a book that includes citation styles of a range of disciplines, including the sciences (such as the St. Martin's Handbook or Penguin Handbook).

Choose the most up-to-date edition of the text available, since reference information regarding online writing, documentation of sources, and writing conventions changes rapidly.  Online resources may be sufficient in lieu of printed texts. 

Choosing a Rhetoric or Argument Text

Good rhetoric and argument texts can be useful in PWR, since we focus on teaching the rhetorical strategies associated with effective academic analysis and argument. Many PWR instructors use Booth and Colomb’s The Craft of Research or Graff and Birkenstein-Graff’s They Say, I Say.

Other instructors use texts published by members of the PWR community, such as

  • Envision, by Christine Alfano and Alyssa O'Brien (Pearson)
  • Everything's an Argument, by Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz (Bedford/St. Martin's)

Remaining Mindful of Costs to Students

We strongly encourage instructors to make a copy of any course reader or required textbook available to students through Library Reserves so to be sensitive to how such costs might adversely affect students, especially those from low-income backgrounds. 

Resources for Choosing Reference Materials, Handbooks, Rhetorics, and Readers

In choosing texts for your class, you may want to

  • Browse examples of handbooks, rhetoric and argument texts, readers, and anthologies in the PWR Resource Library on the 3rd floor of Sweet Hall
  • Review past course syllabi to see lists of assigned texts from previous quarters (many available in the PWR Coursework site)
  • Order desk copies from publisher representatives so you can preview different handbooks and rhetorics before you assign them to your class

See also our guidelines for ordering readers and putting materials on reserve at the library (TBU)