In 21W.035, we explore the ways in which we communicate effectively, meaningfully, and persuasively. We discuss the ways in which elements of a rhetorical situation—purpose, audience, context, and form—play a role in the production and reception of written communication. As you craft your final article, refer back to your notes, and think about the issues that stick out in your mind from our class discussions and communication experiments. This is your opportunity to demonstrate the rhetorical knowledge and awareness that you have gained throughout the semester.
Context: Your investigative research article will be published in a widely read science magazine, such as New Scientist or Discover. Accordingly, your article should be lay-friendly, in-depth, visually appealing, and communicate the context and meaning of the information that you share.
Purpose: Thoroughly investigate and educate your audience about a complex issue involving science, medicine, and/or technology. Choose a topic that you are very curious about, perhaps something you find “awesome” or even awesomely confusing. The article should be driven by a central research question that motivates the project. For example, rather than merely trying to answer the question, “how does “hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) work?” the article could be driven by a more thoughtful and nuanced question, such as, “Does there exist consensus among scientists regarding the environmental impacts of fracking? If not, why not? If so, how have scientific findings shaped the debate over fracking?” In answering this more complex central question, the article would need to briefly explain how fracking works, and delve into deeper issues involving scientific data (published research) and the role of scientific information in shaping support for and opposition to fracking.
Your article should have a thesis—an answer to your central research question. Keep in mind that your thesis, or central claim, does not need to be a “yes” or “no” type of position. Oftentimes, researching a topic reveals more nuance and loose ends about the issue. As a result of the reading, writing, and contemplating you will do, your thesis could re-frame the issue, and pose new questions as a way of moving the discussion forward.
Working with Outside Sources: Importantly, be sure to describe any uncertainty or areas of conflict that you uncover within the sources you read. Rather than striving for consensus among your sources, identifying multiple perspectives of an issue will supply the reader with a comprehensive understanding. Amongst all of the outside sources you introduce, remember that your perspective matters too. Your audience will want to know what you think after conducting your research. By acknowledging and countering opposing viewpoints, you will demonstrate your confidence and ability to support your own position with evidence.
Audience: You are writing for a segment of the general population that has a general interest in science, though not necessarily a strong interest, understanding, or even awareness of your specific topic. Remember that your audience does not need to read your article. Indeed, they have many other articles, events, and distractions to choose from. You must try to capture and sustain the attention of the audience while accurately educating them. Why should they read your article? Why does the information you are sharing matter?
Since your readers are unfamiliar with the complex subject area under discussion, be as precise and accessible as possible. Readers will also expect to hear your own thoughts on your chosen topic, which you can do, in part, by the way you arrange your discussion, including what you emphasize, and how you link ideas in transitions (e.g. “While this poses a challenge, many researchers seem to believe that the challenge is well worth solving.”) Clear descriptions, accessible terminology, and logical organization are necessary.
Form: The essay can be 2200 words maximum. Additional requirements include:
- The project must contain at least five sources, one of which should be an interview.
- The article must contain at least two images, one of which must be original.
- In-text citations (APA format) should be included throughout the article, with a final Works Cited list at the end.
- Session 20: Upload your project proposal (see template) to the class website before class.
- Session 24: Send instructor 2-3 PowerPoint slides, one of which should an original image, before class.
- Sessions 24 & 25: Deliver a 3-5min presentation to share the key aspects of your project to-date, and field questions about your research.
- Session 26: Upload your final essay as a PDF to the class website before class.
Tips for the presentation: Rehearsing out loud and in front of an audience will be critical to ensure that you remain within the time limit without rushing through too much material. You will only be able to share the most important parts of your research with your audience. Since this presentation is in lieu of an in-class peer-review workshop, the goal is to test the clarity of your explanations and get as much feedback as possible from your audience to help with your final paper.