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Thinking Rhetorically_A Quick Guide for Students


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Thinking Rhetorically_A Quick Guide for Students

  1. 1. Thinking RhetoricallyA Quick Guide to Rhetoric for Students of Academic Writing Gwendolynne Reid N.C. State University May 18, 2012
  2. 2. What is rhetoric?Aristotle defined rhetoric as the art of finding and using “all availablemeans of persuasion.”Today, we often define it as the art of writing and speaking effectively.Some also define it as the art of producing change through language.[It is sometimes said that violence is a failure of rhetoric. We come toarms when we give up on the power of language to produce change.]
  3. 3. you try to convince your parents to change their minds about something important to you, you are speaking rhetorically.
  4. 4. When you manage your Facebook profile, you are not only expressing yourself, but also rhetorically composing your identity.You are thinking rhetorically about how to create the right sort of “change” in your viewers—how you want them to perceive you.
  5. 5. When scientists write, eventhough it isn’t persuasive,” it isstill rhetorical.The scientists are creatingchange in the world throughtheir written choices.And they are considering howto manage their written choicesto create the sort of changethey want to create.
  6. 6. So, while rhetoric seems like a fancy, academicterm, it is a concept you already know a lot about!
  7. 7. Some basic concepts and terms: Every rhetorical situation or transaction has at least three elements: Logos: the logic and reason of the text; its main claim and Text evidence, and how they are linked.Ethos: the credibilityof the author, asrevealed in the text.How authors Pathos: appeals topresent themselves the audience’s Author Audience emotions, beliefs,through their texts.The personas they and values.create. The Rhetorical Triangle
  8. 8. But there’s more! Each rhetorical situation exists within a larger context: Text Author Audience These all shape theContext includes relationship betweenculture, community, thehistorical moment, author, audience, andcurrent events, timing, The Rhetorical Triangle text and determinekairos, exigence, etc. what will or won’t be rhetorically effective.
  9. 9. Good or bad kairos (timing)?After the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting thatkilled 32 people and wounded 17, someopponents of gun control took the opportunityto argue against gun regulations on collegecampuses.An example of good timing? Or bad timing?
  10. 10. So what does all this have to do with academic writing and research?Rhetoric can help you think more critically about communication in all contexts(academic, professional, civic, or personal). Rhetoric is an important toolbox.Thinking rhetorically and understanding rhetorical concepts will help you examine howlanguage works in different contexts and situations, helping you adapt more quickly(e.g. when you take a class in a new discipline or need to write at a new job).Finally, realizing that community can determine what is or isn’t effective communicationand that disciplines (i.e. fields like engineering, sociology, or history) are communitiescan also help you adapt more successfully. (Yes, engineering is a community with itsown history, customs, values, expectations, and language conventions!)