Writing and Rhetoric
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

2012 Projects

Corrinne Callins

Disruptive Education: Applications for Mobile Assisted Language Learning

This report examines the latest developments and research regarding mobile-assisted language learning to what pedagogic approaches to English as a second language (ESL) instruction they support, and then to compare what is currently available in mobile learning technology against the findings of the literature review to develop a picture of the gaps that exists between what is needed and what is currently available in MALL applications. The report is threefold and contains a literature review to uncover what's needed regarding the features and content of language learning applications (apps) geared toward ESL learners, an analysis of a sample of 10 MALL applications currently on the Android market, and recommendations based on the analysis. The recommendations will assist international education stakeholders and application developers in creating mobile learning curriculums geared toward beginning English learners under the age of ten.

Erin Cushing

The Persuasion of Plastic: The Rhetorical Moves Made in Retail Credit Card Programs

An ethnographic study of a retail apparel store in Northern Virginia sought to identify successful rhetorical moves in the company credit card sales program. Employee sales pitches were examined as rhetorical arguments and analyzed as to discover which rhetorical elements, if any, were being used. Research found that employees were engaging in rhetorical moves, namely by establishing a rhetorical appeal, using individual invention and disposition in their arguments, and showing an awareness of the rhetorical situation by actively choosing audiences for a higher success rate. Managerial documents relating to credit card program were also analyzed, and showed that managers could better take the rhetorical situation into account when spurring employees on to greater efforts.

Joy Fulton

Ensuring Accurate Data Capture and Building in Usability for a New Usability Form Used by a Federal Agency

Usability Testing (UT) is a process to provide objective data regarding the ease of use for a web site. Existing testing methods have been inadequate to accurately capture information that would lead to the improvement of various sites in the federal agency for which I work. Results from web site UT using existing methods is provided, as well as an examination of processes to improve the data collection form. The findings suggest a new form is required to improve the UT. An improved form is developed and tested, and the underlying research validates the new form and its benefits.

Randi Lee

Connecting through Twitter: How Interactivity Contributes to Establishing Success in Marketing for Businesses Online

I examined the rhetorical decisions that three local area businesses made in marketing themselves through the social media site, Twitter. Using Bitzer's theory of the rhetorical situation along with conducting phone interviews and a textual analysis of each business's tweets, I discovered that businesses tended to shape their tweets toward the type of audience they wanted to attract and that their tweets reflected the type of business that they were running and the identity of the store. I also discovered that the 140 character limit of Twitter posed a major constraint to some businesses that lead them to use Facebook for posting messages instead. Lastly, I discovered that the interactivity between the businesses and their audience online was very important in establishing a successful relationship between the two and in turn created an atmosphere where the audience (as customers) felt more valued and appreciated. As a result of embracing social media to market their businesses, all three stores that took part in this study claimed to see an increase in business.

Melissa McElfish

Email Communications of Power & Authority in Organizational Hierarchy: A Textual Study of Change Communications within a Growing Organization

This project focuses on how the executive leadership in my company communicates organizational changes by email. I've seen tremendous growth in my organization over the past 5 years, so I'm analyzing these emails sent to the staff listserv to understand how they have transformed along with the organization over time. As the organization has grown, the chain of command has expanded significantly, which has expanded the pool of people who disseminate information about changes in the organization. Because of this, I'm interested in how the emails support and reinforce this evolving organizational hierarchy.

Bridgetta Parker

Genres worth Analyzing: A Description of TEDTalks

TEDTalks have swept the globe as a new form of entertaining information and educational media. By using Carolyn R. Miller's theory of genre as social action and Amy Devitt's suggestion of formal features as guiding points for a description, this article aims to be a pilot study for this genre and its description and how its constraints help define the genre and ensure its success.

Misti Riley

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? Examining the Fashion Advertising Image as an Interpretive Transaction Site

This project analyzes rhetorical mechanisms behind images used to advertise women's fashions to determine how selected advertisements function as a transaction site between what's pictured and the viewer's interpretation. In the analysis, America's Next Top Model (ANTM) will serve as an example of the living image, which dismantles the portrayal of perfection found in still images such as those found in popular fashion magazines. Using a series of sample images and ANTM, I analyze how these images perpetuate a social institution, which implicates and gradually conditions women to look and behave in ways reinforced through ideology or practices that repeat themselves indefinitely to create norms concerning what is beautiful and desirable.

Rebecca Rivard

Documenting Project Launches in an International Organization: Standard Operating Procedure Analysis and Creation

For this project I created a standard operating procedure (SOP) to document project launches in a company that provides services to scholarly publishers. The company currently has few documented procedures, which leads to inconsistency because there is work done between the U.S. and India, a high turnover rate, and an increasing volume of work. I used content analyses and interviews to create a detailed list of steps for managers to take in setting up new clients, including information that must be gathered from client, documents that must be created before the start-up, and what information must be discussed in the turnover meeting.

Sara Ronken

Investigating College Students' Preferred Mediums for Accessing Online News

Based on the ideas set forth by the "uses and gratifications" theory and the "information needs" theory, this study looks at medium preference as it relates to online news. More specifically, it examines how general medium-related behavior, type of information accessed, and physical contexts correlate with medium preference. The findings of a survey of 172 undergraduate students at George Mason University suggest that in today's technologically advanced society, text is still a significant medium. However, the findings also show that because a combination of video and text is also often preferred, video is still vital when consuming news online.

Lori Swanberg

Elite Media's Tea Party News Framing: Bloggers Talk Back

In 2009, the Tea Party movement attracted media coverage through the organization of local and national Tea Party-related events. Soon, many in the blogosphere took issue with the way the events were framed by elite media. This research rhetorically analyzed media criticism bloggers' posts to reveal their identification of a rich repertoire of elite media framing practices used to report on the Tea Party movement and its participants. The results suggest that bloggers are using new media tools--and using framing practices they critique---to "talk back to power" and challenge elite media's monopoly of interpretation of events.

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