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COMM 4023/5023-01 Rhetorical Communication Research Methods
Spring 2017 TuTh 12:30-1:45 Lang 311
Description: Examination of principles and procedures of rhetorical criticism. Students complete research projects.
According to Aristotle, "Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion" (Book 1, Part 2). Since Aristotle's time, the understanding of rhetoric has expanded. The study of rhetoric is no longer only the study of intentional acts of strategic persuasion, but now includes the study of how humans' symbolic action creates, maintains, and alters social reality. Rhetoric is about more than the study of great speeches. It examines a wide range of symbolic forms, including photographs, memes, bodies, images, television shows, monuments, and even single words. Thus, rhetoric is never just "empty words" or "hollow." Rhetorical action is action. It matters to how people understand themselves and each other; in fact, it is through rhetorical naming that some people distinguish themselves from others, and it is through rhetoric that we can bridge these distinctions and create identification with each other.
The goal of this class is to instill in you an intellectual curiosity about rhetorical action. In the words of Dr. David Zarefsky, at its most basic, rhetorical criticism asks: "What is going on here? Why does it matter?" Why did FDR replace the word history with infamy in his speech about Pearl Harbor? Why does it matter that woman suffrage activists wore their prison uniforms when speaking about the 19th Amendment? Why was Ida B. Wells's evidence about lunching so compelling? Why did the "Don't tase me bro" video receive so much attention, but the UCLA tasing video did not?
In "The Gorgias," Socrates, Polus, and Gorgias debate whether rhetoric is an art, craft, or merely a knack. While calling rhetoric a craft was meant to denigrate it, there is something to be learned from that characterization. Whether an art or craft, rhetoric is learned by doing and watching others do. You do not become a good cook just by eating others' food, but you can develop your palate by eating a range of cuisines (and deaden it by only snacking on fast food). To be a good cook, you need to learn the basics (which things thicken a sauce, what makes a cake rise, what tastes tend to go together) and then one needs to get in a kitchen and start cooking. Trial and error are involved. Experimentation and invention are needed. In the end, both cooking and rhetoric can provide sustenance, one physical and the other intellectual.
In order to determine how rhetoric works, analysis is required of the elements of the rhetorical act and the rhetorical situation in which the act occurs. So, to get cooking, we'll spend time analyzing a series of rhetorical actions. First, as a class, we will attempt to analyze the rhetorical action, researching and exploring the element of the act and the situation in which it occurred. We will try and figure out the ingredients. Then, we will read a scholarly article about the rhetorical act; we'll see a true chef at work.
Revisions will appear in hot pink.
General Information: See my website, at www.uni.edu/palczews/general.htm. This site includes my late policy, the university accommodation policy, the university plagiarism policy, as well as paper format descriptions -- basically Cate's rules for survival. You should really take the time to read this.
Interaction Expectations: Lively debate, discussion, and disagreement on issues are encouraged in class. For this to be productive, respect for other people, their opinions, and their experiences is essential. The most productive way to disagree with another is to say, “I disagree with you because…” and explain and justify your position. Although everyone is entitled to their opinion, the reality is that some opinions are better supported and more reasonable than other opinions; thus, be able to explain why you hold the opinion you do and why you think your opinion is better supported than another’s. Engage each other in a reasoned exchange of ideas. In other words, present an argument (a claim supported by data, with reasons/warrants as to why that data is relevant to the claim).
Throughout the semester we will encounter a variety of challenging issues relating to gender, sexuality, race, class, etc. The content of this class has the potential to stir up strong emotional reactions. You will encounter ideas and theories that challenge you. Students are asked to follow some guidelines to help maintain a constructive learning environment. Participants in this class must be open to looking at an issue from a variety of perspectives. Further, it is possible that films, readings, images, music, etc. used in this class may be considered “offensive” by some. A student’s decision to stay enrolled in the class is an agreement to approach all course content with a critical academic lens. Above all, participants must treat each other with respect. The most fundamental way to respect class participants is to complete daily readings, listen to others, and ground your own comments in principles of critical thinking. Class discussions should take place within the context of academic inquiry and in the spirit of understanding diverse perspectives and experiences. Do not engage in private conversations, interrupt another student who has the floor, keep cell phones on, or show general signs of disrespect for the course, professor, or other students. Non-course related materials such as newspapers and items from other courses must be stowed away when class begins.
I encourage you to put away your electronic devices. Research studies have convincingly demonstrated that students retain and learn better when taking notes with pen and paper, not laptops or tablets. Laptops tend to create distractions, induce shallow processing, and result in weaker performance when answering conceptual questions (like those on tests or during discussion). Although you might type more words with the laptop, you lose the chance to synthesize ideas and focus on key concepts.
Requirements: Your primary assignment is to complete a research project. To do this, assignments center around a progressive paper -- meaning, the first paper becomes the introduction for the 2nd and the 2nd becomes the first parts of the final paper. You will need to learn appropriate citation format (APA or MLA), and will be expected to revise and edit your work as the paper progresses.
Even though I have built an extensive peer review process into the class, you still are expected to conscientiously proofread your own work. If a paper has numerous typographical, citation, or grammatical errors, I will return it ungraded. Repeated errors on citations and references will result in an automatic minimum 25% deduction.
Page limits on all assignments will be rigorously enforced. You should spend time finding ways to write more concisely and clearly. If I find your paper long-winded, and you go over the page limit, I will quit reading. (If however, you are brilliant and keep me captivated, I may not notice). Given the expectations of each of the assignments, you probably will need to use the number of pages required. If, however, you are exceptionally concise, then I may not notice if your paper falls short of the required pages.
A working bibliography should be turned in with every assignment. It will not count toward your page limit. On the top of the page, indicate the style (APA or MLA) that you think you are using. You may include citations in the bibliography you have not yet used, but plan to.
Detailed descriptions of all assignments appear on this syllabus. You are free to ask questions in class about the assignments, or contact me outside of class by email or phone. But, please be aware, I will NOT answer any questions about an assignment in the 48 hours before it is due. I recognize that students procrastinate, so, consider this an inducement to begin work early. This means if you have a question, you need to be prepared to ask it in the class session before the paper is due. I will not answer questions after that time.
Good Essay link: All papers should put into practice the skills and techniques learned in basic writing classes. Here is a link to a general checklist to consult when preparing an essay.
TurnItIn requirement: For all written assignments, students are required to use TurnItIn in order to check they are not plagiarizing. Thus, for an assignment to be considered "turned in", students must have submitted an electronic version to TurnItIn before the assignment's due date and time, and also turn in a paper copy to the professor at the assigned due date and time. I have activated the TurnItIn website in such a way that you are allowed to submit drafts of your paper and receive originality reports. These reports should be used to assist you in making sure you are attributing authorship in an ethical way. The only originality report I will see is the final report on the version of the paper you turn into me. Students can access the TurnItIn website for each assignment via the class's eLearning site. The TurnItIn link for each assignment is located in the folder labeled turnitin. Please understand: using TurnItIn is only the first step in making sure your are abiding by citation guidelines and providing fair attribution. TurnItIn is only one way to check the originality of your work, and just because your work passes the TurnItIn check does not guarantee you have not plagiarized. You are responsible for using style manuals to make sure your citation format is correct and consistent. Given this process, there will be ZERO TOLERANCE for any citation or paraphrase errors that result in you plagiarizing (presenting others' words as your own). Even a minor infraction will result in a zero on the assignment and a permanent letter placed in your file. A major infraction will result in an F for the class.
The total worth of the assignments is 100 points. The individual point value of each assignment is noted in parenthesis ( ) immediately following the assignment title. Simply doing the base requirements of each assignment will earn you a "C" -- this means you have done acceptable work. To earn a "B" you must go beyond the assignment expectations or fulfill them in an above average way. To earn an "A" you must go far beyond the assignment expectations and fulfill the base expectations in an exceptional manner.
Paper Part 1) Artifact/Text Selection: (5) [3 pages]. Write a justification for studying your artifact. Keep in mind, this paper will become the introduction for the final essay. Ultimately, this paper makes an argument as to why your artifact is worthy of study. The paper should include:
___. an introduction that situates the topic within a larger context (this will require historical research and appropriate citations),
these represent a checklist for content. It is NOT an outline for the paper.
Bring enough clean copies of your text to class so that all class members and I can each have our own copy. Due: January 31.
speech sources: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/
Scholarly communication literature can be found at:
Paper Part 2) Descriptive Analysis of the Artifact: (5) [10 pages]. Conduct a detailed descriptive analysis of the artifact using the methods outlined in FCRM chapter 6. This paper expands upon the short description of the artifact provided in paper 1. Attach an outline of answers to the questions outlined on this link to your paper. Remember, your answers to these questions form the background work required to write the paper. The outline offers a way to organize your data. The outline of answers should NOT be the outline of the paper. This paper should provide a detailed description of the artifact's distinctive rhetorical elements, and how the situation enabled or constrained the artifact's message. This essay should make sense of the artifact in context. Due: February 21.
Paper Part 3) Final paper -- Artifact Evaluation: (25) [15-18 pages]. Expanding on your insights from paper two, provide a detailed rhetorical analysis of your artifact. To expand your analysis, you will need to consult other rhetorical studies of artifacts like yours. The final paper should include additional research and may include additional arguments. This paper should make an argument about how to read the artifact. What is rhetorically significant about the artifact? Due: Rough Draft due April 18; Final paper due May XXXXX
YOU ALSO MUST SEND YOUR PAPERS AS AN EMAIL ATTACHMENT TO CATE AT firstname.lastname@example.org. Your papers will not be considered "turned in" until you send them as an email attachment and until you also turn in all the peer edits done of your paper.
4) Analysis Foundations: (30 points total, 3 points each, top ten grades count) [1 page]. The class will be structured around analyzing specific rhetorical acts. On Thursdays, we will conduct our own analysis of the artifact. To prepare for this analysis, everyone is required to provide a 1-page analysis of one element of the rhetorical situation (rhetor, audience, or subject) or an analysis of one element of the artifact (tone, persona, thesis/purpose, evidence, structure, audience, or strategy). Half your analyses should be of the situation and half of the text.
When you focus on the rhetorical situation, identify the problems and/or resources arising from one element of the rhetorical situation. To do this, you will need to conduct research and cite at least one scholarly source about audience perceptions, the social context, perceptions of the rhetor, generic expectations attached to the occasion or artifact, complexities relating to the subject, etc.
When you focus on an element of the artifact, present a claim about that element and cite evidence from the artifact to support your interpretation; identify other choices that could have been made regarding that element and explain what that choice does (not just what it means).
We will use these short papers as the foundation for discussion and to aid in our analysis of the artifact. Due: most Thursdays
6) Peer editing: (10) Remember to sign your name to any paper you edit. Authors, please remember to turn in the edited version when you turn in your paper. Authors, your papers will not be considered turned in until you have turned in all the edits.
Editing guidelines: In order to receive the minimum passing credit for editing, you are expected to provide the following each time you edit:
7) Presentation: (5). During the final exam period (May 4), we will have a formal presentation of all the papers. These presentations will be modeled after conference presentations of papers. Students will have approximately 8 minutes to present their papers. Depending on class size, the duration of the presentation may be lengthened. The presentation should provide sufficient background on the text and outline the core argument made in the paper. The student should also provide evidence to support the main argument/s advanced in the paper.
8) Discussion: (20) Being a good participant does not mean that you always have the answer; it can also mean that you know when to ask the right questions and when to recognize that the answers have already been offered by the class but need to be synthesized. Discussion is a central component of this class insofar as each person's analysis of the text can be enhanced by others' insights. For a detailed description of the criteria used in the assessment of discussion, see my discussion link.
Given that there are no tests and quizzes, I use discussion as a way to measure whether students are keeping up with the assigned reading, and have been reading each others' texts. Given this is a communication class, you should be able to communicate your understanding of the readings. You should spend time preparing for discussion in class, reviewing speeches and taking notes from the readings. You should come to class prepared to ask questions about the parts of the readings you did not understand completely. You should be able to identify textual elements in the assigned artifacts and in the texts analyzed by class members. We will use class discussion to develop our analysis at a more advanced level. I will not review the readings step by step in class, but instead will supplement them with more advanced applications and formulations.
To receive a passing discussion grade, you should consistently participate, demonstrating competence in each of the five discussion elements: argument, questioning, synthesis, readings and hypothesizing. To receive a "B," you should participate in every class, and excel in at least 3 of the areas. To receive an "A," you should participate in every class and excel in all of the areas.
Syllabus: This syllabus is subject to change, although that rarely happens. If changes happen, they will be in hot pink.