Welcome to English 102: Written Argument and Research

This course, the second component to Texas A&M University-Commerce's First-Year Composition program, is designed to give you a chance to do two things: (1) construct arguments for academic audiences and (2) become involved in the process of writing ethnographic research. Most of our material dealing with the latter is found in Sustein and Chiseri-Strater's FieldWorking (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006). Material about the former may be found here.

This website is not, then, a "supplement" to the course: the material posted here is essential to covering one of our course's main objectives.

"Rhetoric and Composition"

On the following pages we'll cover argumentation and rhetorical moves and what makes up the "stuff" of composing a successful specimen of what we're calling "academic discourse." Sometimes, this course is called "rhetoric and composition." Much of what you'll find here will cover the "rhetorical" side of things. Rhetoric as here defined is largely an analytical skill. To cite Aristotle, "Rhetoric is the ability (dunamis) to observe the available means of persuasion in the given case." So understood, rhetoric is awareness of what may be said or presented effectively within given parameters: the rhetorical situation, which is a complex of audience, speaker, forum (venue), subject matter, etc. Aristotle's definition has also been called "inventional," which does not mean that it points to how people come up with things out of thin air, but rather how they are able to take inventory of certain arguments and ways of presenting information that will likely pass the scrutiny of one's audience.


Rhetoric, of course, is not just analysis. For the purposes of a writing class, it is also the art of composition (lit., "placing together"), that is, putting togetherin written textwords, images and other symbols in a way that is understood by an audience and that meets the determined† needs of the situation at hand. Intelligibility and appropriateness, then, are the aims of composition. We will talk more about this in further pages.

*Aristotle's definition might appear more striking (and inventive) once considered against a prior—and still current—meaning: "the art of using language so as to persuade or influence others" (OED). The word ultimately derives from "ῥημα (rhêma), "that which is said or spoken, word, saying." You will note that the word oratory would be more etymologically related, as it refers to the mouth (cf. oral). How can we speak of rhetoric as a phenomenon of writing, then? Well, by way of a metaphor, obviously, whose argumentative warrant is analogy. But isn't rhetoric really the province of a speech communication department? Certainly, rhetoric does belong under the umbrella of speech communication; historically, it belongs too in writing studies, as writing, like speech, deals in language and persuasion.

These articles discuss some aspects of rhetoric as a discipline.

Disciplinary Identities: On the Rhetorical Paths between English and Communication Studies

Rhetoric as a Course of Study

†"Determined" by whom or what, and in what sense? That's one of the issues we'll explore when we talk more in detail about rhetorical situations.