What rhetorical methods does the author use to persuade us that this new knowledge is valid and true?

What rhetorical methods does the author use to persuade us that this new knowledge is valid and true?

Genre Analyses Instructions—English 3010—W19—Gillham 1

Genre Analyses

Background: In formal academic and professional writing, there are many kinds

of texts. Each type of text constitutes a “genre” of writing. For example, there are proposal arguments (deliberative or political arguments about the future: What should be done? Why should your foundation fund my research?), evaluative arguments (called “epideictic” arguments by the ancients, i.e. arguments of praise or blame: Are you a good witch, or a bad witch? Has this contractor completed the project on time and under budget? Could Gillham have been clearer in his assignment instructions?), expository arguments (mostly just listing long-established facts about a topic, e.g. an encyclopedia article), forensic arguments (those about the past, legal arguments: Did this person commit this crime? Did this cause that, etc.?), and, more broadly, many arguments are purely analytical and are directly purely at finding something out, i.e. adding to our knowledge (If we know A and B, doesn’t that mean, logically, that C must be true? And if C is true . . . ).

Also, genres of text can be subdivided by the fields/discourse communities that employ them. For example, the humanities and the arts heavily use varieties of evaluative arguments; in law, forensic arguments are frequent; since so much needs to be done, proposals for future action are common to all academic and professional fields. Likewise, in all of the academic fields of study and in all professions, there is an analytical, professional literature of research reports detailing knew knowledge contributed to that discourse community by various members of that field. The most common modes of reporting that knowledge are academic/scholarly journal articles or longer, book-length treatises reporting on larger, more extensive research.

English 3010 is a course in academic and professional writing, and

we begin by analyzing texts from across the spectrum of academic and professional fields. We will read 11 texts as examples of 11 different genres of professional or of academic writing. Our purpose will be to define what the parts of those arguments are and how those parts fit together to make those arguments work. The work those arguments do is adding to the collective knowledge of those discourse communities; our task is to find out how.

The purpose of this kind of writing is to construct knowledge, and how that knowledge is constructed varies by the genre and by the field of writing, depending upon the epistemic assumptions prevalent in a given discourse community/profession/field of study (remember that we defined “epistemology” on the first day of class). In general, we will compare and contrast how these genres are similar and how they differ, with attention to

Zain Alsaadi
Genre Analyses Instructions—English 3010—W19—Gillham 2

different or similar assumptions about how knowledge is constructed and how it ought to be shared.

The Genre Analyses, then, are exercises in what our textbook defines as “rhetorical reading,” i.e. reading texts with attention to their topics, purposes, writers and intended audiences. You might call this “reverse engineering” of texts. “Reverse engineering” is taking apart something that someone else has made to find out what it’s made from, how it was assembled, and how its parts work together to make it function successfully. When reverse-engineering a written text, what we want to know is what the topic of the text is, what we’re meant to learn about that topic from the text, and how we’re persuaded that these new facts and ideas are true and thus truly constitute new knowledge.

The Assignment:

For this assignment, you will practice rhetorical reading to present

genre analyses of 11 texts of different types and from different fields. We will begin with group work in class in which we will discuss that

week’s assigned exemplary text, working together to identify the topic of that text, its overall structure and organization, the epistemological assumptions being made, the types of evidence being offered, the stylistic elements of the writing and the logical rigor of the argument.

Next, working individually at home, each student will prepare a written genre analysis of that text, based partly on his or her own reading of the text, and partly on notes taken during group discussion in class. These analyses will be written as e-mails to me, your humble instructor, of two to three paragraphs each. These should be composed in the provided text-entry box in the “assignment” for each reading in Canvas.

Your analysis must address three significant points of analysis:

  1. What is the topic of the text? At times, this will be painfully obvious, even from the text’s title; at others, you’ll have to do some thinking about this.
  2. What is the author’s argument about that topic? That is, what is the new thing that are we being asked to learn about this topic? What is the argument’s thesis?
  3. What rhetorical methods does the author use to persuade us that this new knowledge is valid and true? This is the difficult part of the analysis, since it requires you to address not only what evidence is offered to support the argument, but what logical reasoning is offered to connect that evidence to the thesis/claim being supported, as well has how this is all presented. Key to this part of the analysis is the comparison and contrast between genres and fields. Types of persuasion or evidence offered might include

Zain Alsaadi
Genre Analyses Instructions—English 3010—W19—Gillham 3

empirical facts, logical facts, logical inferences based on those facts (logos), emotional appeals (pathos), appeals to expertise or good will toward the reader (ethos).

The typical form that this genre analysis essay takes is a first

paragraph entailing discussion addressing the first two questions and a second paragraph discussing the third analytical point. If you’re more comfortable forming this into one paragraph for each point of analysis, that’s fine. Likewise, if your discussion of the rhetorical methods is too long for a single paragraph, you may wish to break it into two. Requirements:

• Length: 2-3 paragraphs (200-400 words) for each analysis • Compose in the provided text-entry box in the Canvas “assignment”

provided for each reading and arranged by in-class discussion dates in the “assignments” section.

• Discuss all three analytical points, and nothing else (do not evaluate or summarize the text; stick to the genre analysis).

The texts to be analyzed: We will work on these for several weeks at the beginning of the

semester. Usually, there will be one genre analysis due per week, but we will begin with two examples from the sciences, and on the week in which we examine the discourse of business, there will be three texts to analyze. Be sure to do all of the readings for a given week, then, since they’re listed as separate assignments having the same date. They are included as downloadable files in the “assignments” section of the class Canvas site. The exemplary readings are listed there under the dates when they will be discussed in class as “{Reading #1},” “{Reading #2},” and so on.

How to submit your analyses:

We will discuss these exemplary texts during class each

Monday/Tuesday (depending on which section of the class you’re in) until we’ve done them all. (See the schedule in the syllabus.) Your individual analyses will then be due by not later than 11:30 p.m. on the Thursday on which they are discussed.

• Submit by typing into the text-entry box for that reading in Canvas.

• Remember that, if quoting the text directly, include appropriate quotation marks and a parenthetical reference containing the relevant page number.


Zain Alsaadi
Zain Alsaadi
Genre Analyses Instructions—English 3010—W19—Gillham 4

I will read your genre analyses and include comments and your grade in Canvas, pasting in at the end of the comments my own analysis of the text as an example.

Each of the Genre Analyses is worth 3 points, for an overall total of 33 points for this assignment, or 33% of your final grade.

The evaluative criteria are, or grading rubric is, as follows: • Is the assignment complete? Have all three analytical points

been discussed? • Are statements made in analyzing each point factually

accurate, for example, if the article is about the ailanthus tree, do you label that as its topic, or have you claimed that the topic is social stigma connected with food poisoning?

• What is the level of the basic writing skill used? Grammar? Punctuation? Word usage? Coherence? Sentence and paragraph structure? Spelling? This is a formal writing assignment. Form counts, as it does in any rhetorical situation.

Learning Objectives: Read

• Use rhetorical reading methods and group collaboration to “reverse engineer” a genre of argument.

• Determine the parts and structure of that argument. • Compare and contrast epistemological assumptions and the

resulting rhetorical methods with other genres and/or fields of study.

Write • Compose a coherent explanation of what you’ve found through this

rhetorical reading, i.e. be able to share the knowledge you’ve gained through the medium of writing, in the process solidifying and clarifying for yourself what you know.

• Recognize that reading and writing are reciprocal processes, that what you write comes in part from what you’ve read.

Reflect • Can you differentiate between reading a text for its content and

reading it to discover something about the rhetorical standards which give it form?

• Will you be able to apply this in other contexts, for example the Extended Research Project for this class, in working with source texts to familiarize yourself with a new body of discourse and the rhetorical standards of the community out of which it arises?

Zain Alsaadi

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