Objective: This project will give you the opportunity to present a detailed argument about the rhetoric used in a currently-existing practice, controversy, or trend of interest to your academic field or specialization. You will describe the rhetoric, connect it to relevant theories or strategies we’ve discussed (and any others you’ve discovered in your research), and analyze its practical, theoretical, and or ethical implications.
Possible Topics: Here are some general project ideas (many other kinds are possible – check with me – that analyze the uses of rhetoric in a particular area)
• Scientific fields: Read several research-based articles about on a particular “hot” topic (i.e. global climate change, animal research ethics, etc.) in scientific or medical journals, such as JAMA, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, etc. Analyze the rhetorical strategies and conventions used by the writers to justify and validate their findings, and the possible implications of these arguments.
• Any field: Rhetoric online: Examine a group of websites or a combination of websites and print texts (editorials, etc.) dealing with a current controversial issue in your field. The sites/texts can be generated by members of your field or others or a combination. What rhetorical strategies are used in these sites, and how do they differ from those used in traditional oratory? Are they forensic, epideictic, political, or otherwise? How are images/graphics, video, and hypertext used rhetorically (or are they)?
• Language-focused fields: Literature: Read a popular bestseller (in any category) and read its reviews from a variety of sources, including “popular” reviews from sites like Amazon.com. Analyze both how the reviews affected your reading of the text (a la reader-response criticism) and how the reviews interact with the text, possibly creating new meanings. Finally, examine the rhetorical strategies used by the reviewers (particularly the appeals) and discuss the ways these strategies are used to influence potential readers.
• Education-focused fields: Interview a broad variety of students concerning their views on and/or experiences with some rhetorical skill. For example, you might ask about where and when they have learned useful argument strategies like rebuttal. Write a report and proposal about rhetorical education based on your research results. (Note: If you choose this option, it will be important that you follow certain research protocols to ensure fairness and validity. You may already be familiar with some of these. However, I would like to help you design a research instrument and a research plan.)
Instructions: Your argument must be 7-10 pp. in length (not including the works cited page or any appendices), so you should choose a topic that will allow you to be thorough and rigorous within those parameters. You should definitely consult with me both when you select your topic and at the early draft stage, so we can be sure that the project is “do-able.” Follow MLA format and citation rules, or consult with me about other citation formats that may be appropriate.
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