Reflections on Making the Case

David Zarefsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


From a rhetorical perspective, arguing involves making a case in an attempt to convince a relevant audience of a claim about what we collectively should do or how we should act. Arguments are often made in public contexts, where norms and conventions are less clearly established than in dialogic situations. While grounded in particular situations, rhetorical argument also reaches beyond them to relate specific cases to more general theories or strategies. It seeks both to use or establish general claims and to enrich our understanding of the specific case. These two goals exist in productive tension. Both practitioners and analysts of rhetoric engage in making the case. This essay is a slightly revised version of the opening essay in Olson, K.M., Pfau, M.W., Ponder, B. & Wilson, K.H. (Ed.), Making the case: Advocacy and judgment in public argument, published in 2012 by Michigan State University Press. This book is a collection of essays originally presented at a conference at Northwestern University on the occasion of my retirement in 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArgumentation Library
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameArgumentation Library
ISSN (Print)1566-7650
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1907


  • Argumentative case
  • Context
  • Public argument
  • Public sphere
  • Rhetorical criticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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