rhetorical research paper

For this paper, you will propose a research project that will span the entire semester. Your audience will be your classmates and I.

Any academic or public policy research project begins by identifying an issue, which is simply an unsettled question that matters to a community. In the proposal stage, a writer takes stock of her or his current knowledge of and position on the issue and develops a research plan. A well-constructed issue proposal serves as a blueprint for the project as a whole and helps define a feasible scope for the project.

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In rhetorical studies, invention refers to the systematic search for ideas that can be shaped into an effective composition. (The term “prewriting” is sometimes used to refer to the concept of invention.) This section of the assignment, then, is designed to help you generate the required content for your Issue Proposal. Please note that the following steps are not intended to serve as an outline for your paper. Rather, these steps will help you produce the “raw materials” that you will then refine into a well-organized proposal, and these steps are likely to produce more material than you can actually use in the draft you submit to readers.

You must first make sure the issue you’ve selected is arguable. Apply the “Twelve Tests of an Arguable Issue” (see the Unit 2 Readings and Resources page in our course). If you cannot answer “yes” to all twelve questions, change or modify your issue until you can. Please note: all the major assignments in this course build on one another, so once you select an issue, you may not change it.
It’s always a good idea to start a research project by taking inventory of your current knowledge of the topic. Draft answers to the following questions:
What do you know about the topic already? Try to be as methodical and comprehensive as possible in detailing your current knowledge.
How did you acquire your knowledge of the topic? Rack your memory to recall the specific sources of your current knowledge, and think about how your knowledge of the topic has evolved over time.
The most important goals of an issue proposal are to narrow the general topic to a specific issue and to construct a specific plan for research. Draft answers to the following questions:
What are the main questions you want to answer in your final project? Be specific! Obviously, your research questions may change and evolve as you learn more about your issue, but specific research questions will give you a place to start.
How would you answer these questions right now? Your answers may change significantly as you research the issue further, but it will be helpful to record where you stand at the moment. Your answers may be highly speculative at this point, but even speculative answers can help provide a framework for your subsequent reading and research.
Where will you go to learn more about the issue and to find answers to your research questions? Be specific as possible in describing the sources you’ll turn to first, perhaps even mentioning specific authors, titles, websites, etc.
You should also be thinking about potential audiences for your final project. Draft answers to the following questions:
What audiences would be interested in your ideas on the issue?
What types of scholars, stakeholders, decision makers, and pundits are interested in/affected by the issue?
What sorts of people are likely to be your opponents? Your allies?
The previous four inventional steps will help you generate the logos appeals (Everything’s an Argument, p. 24) of your Issue Proposal, the logical proofs that will help you convince your classmates and me that you have selected an issue that will sustain a semester’s worth of research and writing. You will also make etho sappeals (Everything’s an Argument, pp. 23 – 24) to your classmates and me in order to convince us that you are a person of good character, good sense, and good will. To make effective ethos appeals, make sure you:
are knowledgeable about the issue. Provide specific answers to the questions listed in steps 1-4 above. If you do not yet know enough about your issue to provide specific answers to those questions, you will need to conduct some preliminary research to find the information you need.
show regard for your readers. Try to come across as approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive.
are careful and meticulous in your writing, not sloppy or disorganized.
Finally, you will make pathos appeals (Everything’s an Argument, p. 23) to your classmates and me in order to sway our emotions, connect with our values, and stir our imaginations. To make effective pathos appeals, make sure you:
draw on the lessons of Ch. 9 in They Say/I Sayin order to mix standard written English with “the kinds of expressions and turns of phrase that you use every day when texting or conversing with family and friends” (121). No need to stick to stuffy academic prose in this paper, but you also don’t want to be so informal that your classmates and I can’t understand you.
evoke emotions (sympathy, outrage, anger, delight, awe, horror, etc.) in your classmates and me that make your paper more moving.
evoke sensations (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling) in your classmates and me that make your writing vivid and help us to experience things imaginatively.
appeal to values (freedom, justice, tolerance, fairness, equality, etc.) that your classmates and I share.


In rhetorical studies, arrangement refers to the selection of content generated during the inventional stage and the organization of that content into an effective composition.

To begin your paper, follow the advice offered in Ch. 1 of They Say/I Say: “To give your writing the most important thing of all — namely, a point — a writer needs to indicate clearly not only what his or her thesis is, but also what larger conversation that thesis is responding to” (20). In this case, the conversation you’re responding to is the one surrounding the issue you’ve selected. Indicate at the beginning of your paper that you’re writing in response to that conversation; then state a thesis that previews what you’ll be discussing in your proposal.

Also, mind the lesson of Ch.7 in They Say/I Say: “Regardless of how interesting a topic may be to you as a writer, readers always need to know what is at stake in a text and why they should care. . . . Rather than assume that audiences will know why their claims matter, all writers need to answer the ‘so what?’ and ‘who cares?’ questions up front” (92 – 93). Don’t assume that your classmates and I will understand why your issue matters — make us understand by explaining why your issue is important and why it matters to a community. Feel free to use the templates in Ch. 7 of They Say/I Say .

After you’ve completed these introductory moves, the arrangement of your analysis is up to you. You should include material from each step in the inventional stage, but your selection and organization of that material should follow your own judgment as to what will prove most effective with your classmates and me.


In rhetorical studies, style refers to the appropriate language for the occasion, subject matter, and audience.

One purpose of ENGL 1302 is give you practice writing in a variety of styles. For this paper, your style should be clear but informal. As mentioned earlier, you should follow the advice in Ch. 9 of They Say/I Say and mix standard written English with “the kinds of expressions and turns of phrase that you use every day when texting or conversing with family and friends” (121). This paper will allow your classmates and me to get to know you better, so write in a style that is your own.

Readers appreciate coherent, unified paragraphs, even when reading an informal piece of writing. Your paragraphs should include a topic sentence that clearly states the main idea of the paragraph and supporting sentences that cluster around the main idea without detours.

Proofread carefully; avoid errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and mechanics. Visit the Purdue OWL website ( https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/ ) for questions you have regarding style.

Other Requirements

Your paper should be 2-4 pages long — anything beyond that length will be considered a failure to adhere to one of the assignment’s basic requirements. It should be double spaced, typed in Times New Roman font, with 12 – point character size and one-inch margins all the way around. Your paper should also follow MLA formatting and citation guidelines.

Due Date Range

February 22nd to February 28th


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