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How to Write a Rhetorical Response

What is rhetoric?

The word “rhetoric” comes from ancient Greece and it literally means “the art of persuasion.” It has a rich history stretching back to Aristotle and up through the European Renaissance and into today. You may wonder how if rhetoric continues to influence the world today, but your answer is in the world around you. Rhetorical arguments are on television, on the radio, and in the newspaper. When the president delivers the state of the union address he is delivering a statement that is built solidly on a rhetorical premise that has carefully considered genre, audience, and position.

Paper Masters Teaches You the Steps in Writing a Rhetorical Response

  1. To begin, you must read the literature of your choice over carefully more than once. After reading the research paper over once, develop questions you want to ask as you read. These will be helpful for reference as you develop the first draft of your response research paper.
    1. Which of the author's points are you in agreement with?
    2. Did you learn anything form the text?
    3. Do you agree with everything the author says?
    4. Do you think the author left anything out?
    5. What would you add to the text?
    6. Is there anything about the reading that you find compelling?
  2. Next, you need to develop a statement of your opinion for the research paper you plan to write.
  3. Now, begin the project by briefly summarizing the research paper. Place your thesis statement at the end of your summary. This will construct your introduction.
  4. It is a good idea to include the supports of your opinion with your thesis statement. These supports will provide the body of your paper. It is time to write about the supports, each with its own paragraph. Three is a good number.
  5. Now you have provided the most of the research paper. The final thing is to write the conclusion. Again, refer to the How To Construct an research paper handout provided in the Documents section. Make sure that your conclusion isn't too short.

How to Think About Rhetoric When Writing a Retorical Response

Let us say that your research paper requires you to analyze a book as you read it and the professor is also asking for you to do some reverse thinking. When you read the selections from the book, you’re seeing finished products. You’re seeing the product of pre-writing, revision, and drafting. But ultimately you need to figure out how the writer is doing what they’re doing. How are they persuading?

For a rhetorical research paper you don’t need to confuse yourself with whether you agree or disagree with the points that are argued. You instead need to think about how rhetoric is being used and why (or why not) it is effective. Where is the author writing from—for what purpose, genre, or slant? Who is the writer trying to persuade? Who is the audience? How do you know? Where is the author making logos, pathos, and ethos appeals? Are they effective? Why or why not?

As you read critically and begin to pre-write on your own research paper, think about the above questions. If you follow these questions, you are certain to be on your way to becoming a rhetorical research paper writing expert.

What does rhetoric mean to me?

No matter what career you are planning to pursue, your ability to communicate and persuade audiences will be important to you. When you write a cover letter to an employer, or an opening argument in a law case, or an article for a medical journal, you will have to consider rhetoric. You will have to think about how to best persuade your given audience. And there are many factors involved in how to do this. A rhetorical analysis endeavors to make you more knowledgeable about this very subject and to better prepare you to create effective arguments.

How do writers think about rhetoric?

In writing an research paper, we encourage you to think about pre-writing as an act of thinking before you write. It’s the planning stages of writing, which in many ways are as important as the actual act of writing itself. Rhetorical writing is no different. You should be engaging in basic research paper pre-writing, but now we’re going to apply some advanced rhetorical concepts to the act.

Writers generally start with a purpose. This purpose may come from an outside source—your professor assigns you to write a one page argument research paper about abortion or your employer asks you to write a grant proposal—or internally from yourself (a cover letter to a prospective employer). This purpose will affect your rhetorical aim.

Your rhetorical aim is what you plan to do; what your goals are in your writing assignment. You may be writing to express an opinion or to explore options, or to inform an audience on a Rhetoric they’re unfamiliar with, or to persuade them to believe in your opinion. What you aim to do will affect what you write, not only in terms of content but in terms of tone and diction. You will want to choose between open-form vs. closed-form writing, and your choice between these two styles (where your writing will fall along the continuum) will be based on your rhetorical aim and/or your purpose.

Aim and purpose aren’t the only things that writers think about in the pre-writing stage. They also consider audience. Considering audience will vastly alter the rhetoric you use in your writing. Here are just a few questions you may want to think about when considering audience:

  • Who am I trying to argue to?
  • How old are they?
  • How much background information do I need to provide?
  • What are their values (religious, social, etc.) likely to be?
  • How much do they already know about my subject matter?
  • What can I assume their opinion on the subject is?
  • How much interest do they have in the subject?

Writers also consider genre when they consider their pre-writing decisions. Considering genre is to think about the conventions (style, subject matter, design, etc.) that you need to consider for writing a particular piece. If you were to write an article for the magazine GQ it would have to consider the conventions of the magazine (male-oriented, etc.).

How do writers use rhetoric in their writing?

When writers persuade, they make something that we call appeals. Appeals are messages—whether stated or unstated—that try to persuade an audience in a particular way. We see appeals all the time—in every advertisement we see and statement that’s spoken on the nightly news—but most of the time we’re not keeping our eyes open or actively analyzing them. Aristotle defined three different types of appeals.

Pathos appeals are literally appeals of emotion and value. They try to get an audience to feel something in order to persuade them. They also try to appeal to shared values.

Logos appeals are appeals to logic and reason. They commonly refer to the facts, figures, statistics, statements, and the quality of an argument. Logical arguments are sound and believable because they make sense and can be proven. When you assert a clear thesis in your research paper and then support it with evidence, reasons, and facts, you’re creating effective logical arguments.

Ethos appeals are ethical appeals—or appeals to character. They are the arguments that are presented by who arguing. When a medical doctor makes a statement, his/her ethos argues on his/her behalf. Because they are a doctor—a respected figure who we assume has spent years in school and therefore is intelligent and believable—we may be persuaded on the grounds of their ethos.

You likely aren’t a doctor (yet!) but there are still ways that you can make your ethos, your character, seem more reliable and believable. By adopting a tone that is forthright and honest, you can sound like someone who we should believe. By crediting your sources and appearing fair in your arguments you can also construct a believable ethos. Your grammar and format can also speak worlds for your ethos.

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