Writing and Rhetoric
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

2013 Projects

Talia Bush

Outreach Front and Center: A Soft Power BluePrint

This white paper addresses the challenges that the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) faces in meeting its congressional mandate to raise awareness to private sector companies of the threat to their sensitive US economic information and technology that are targeted by the intelligence services, private sector companies, academic and research institutions, and citizens of foreign countries. Although some companies are aware of the inherent risks to their businesses practices, they are reluctant to allow government review of information and its hiring and other business practices to alleviate these risks to government satisfaction. Furthermore, companies see little immediate return on investment to such programs. ONCIX is relatively powerlessness in this situation, as it has no regulatory authority over the companies it seeks to persuade. I propose that using soft power/smart power theory can improve weaknesses in ONCIX's current strategic communication program through cooperative and ethos-building practices. I identify guidelines, principles, and activities that constitute an effective soft power approach to the organization's particular challenges. The results of this study carry implications to risk communication practices throughout local, state, and federal government.

Cameron Carter

Aggressively Treating Cancer: Ideological Naturalization Represented in News Discourse and Online Forums

Palliative and hospice care are becoming more acceptable treatment options within our society, but resistance to non-aggressive treatment remains. Because common-sense is culturally constructed, I analyzed feature articles and online forum threads, searching the discourse for the 'common-sense' notion that aggressive treatment is reflected or encouraged as the valued or naturalized choice for cancer patients. This naturalization was present in the following ways: aggressive treatment was figured as the means for reaching the resolution within the narrative arc; the battle metaphor reinforced the need and desire to survive; the undertaking of aggressive treatment was no longer figured as the main decision point; and palliative and hospice care were often omitted or represented adversely. I hoped this study would benefi tnon-survivors by choice in its aim to incorporate non-aggressive treatment options as acceptable responses to their situations.

Lucy Connor

Improving the Customer's Experience: Stop Wasting Time and Money Just Because You're Afraid to Abandon a Legacy Feature

How do computer users want to receive help while they use software? To answer this question, I conducted a series of documentation usability tests. These tests required the participants to complete three tasks with the option to utilize help documentation an identical user manual in paper or  online form. After the test, the users completed a survey on their preferences for receiving help. I used the results of the usability tests and surveys, along with a review of the relevant literature, to make recommendations to my company as to how we could improve our customers' experience.

Kristin George

Preparing High School Students to Write and Think Critically: Do Standardized Tests Impede Critical Thinking Abilities?

This study identified the extent to which high school English teachers are able to teach critical thinking under the current educational system; while high school teachers are, oftentimes, required to prepare students for standardized testing, college professors generally prepare students to develop higher level-thinking and analysis. This study sought to assess high school English teachers' beliefs regarding critical thinking and its importance as well as the teachers' viewpoints concerning college readiness. The main question explored was: to what degree do high school teachers believe they can teach critical thinking under the current educational system? To answer this question, four accomplished high school English teachers were interviewed in order to explore their assessment of student critical thinking and the high school curriculum's capability to develop analytic skills through writing. Ultimately, this study indicated that high school teachers regard critical thinking as extremely important in student writing, yet are often hindered in their ability to teach critical thinking due to limitations such as extensive requirements to prepare students for standardized testing. This research further demonstrated the need for a greater focus on critical thinking. If students are to be adequately prepared for college and the workplace, critical thinking must be developed in high school, and high school English teachers should be allowed the time necessary to devote their teaching to critical thinking.

Joy D. Loving

Nonacademic Career Prospects for PhDs in Professional Writing & Rhetoric

This research paper investigates the nonacademic job market for PhDs in professional writing, rhetoric, technical communication (PW/R/TC) and related fields. Results show a small nonacademic job market for these PhDs, which includes work in the federal government, medical sciences, and other industries. Findings also show that obtaining the PhD in PW/R/TC may hinder the employment of prospective graduates. It should be noted that the results of this research are based on a comparatively small number of informants.

Jacquelyn Rioux

Handbook of Ideas to Incorporate Writing into the Community ESL Classroom

Volunteer teachers in community ESL programs lack resources for incorporating writing into their courses, which often focus on oral communication skills rather than on writing. For this project, I developed a resource book, focused on incorporating writing into the community ESL classroom, to supplement the curricular materials new volunteer instructors receive from their programs. Scholarship on adult ESL learners in non academic settings is limited, and I proceeded on the assumption that expertise in such instruction can be found both in scholarly works and in the accounts of experienced practitioners. Therefore I drew on both kinds of sources to identify best practices and developed the guide, which presents an array of recommended approaches, assignments, and feedback options for teaching writing to adult ESL learners in community settings.

Brett Say

Developing Learning Outcomes in Professional Writing and Technical Communication Programs: Obstacles, Benefits, and Potential for Graduate Program Improvement

Primarily in response to the global trend of increased emphasis on curricular assessment, much has been written in recent years on the benefits of student learning outcomes as a means of improving program validity within higher education institutions. Much of the discussion to date, however, has been placed on the assessment of undergraduate curriculum with less emphasis on graduate programs of study. For the field of professional writing, a field that has long discussed the need for increased program credibility as a whole, and has recently experienced an increase in graduate programs within the field, the need to explore how learning outcomes can improve graduate programs and benefit the field in general is of particular interest. Additional exploration is needed to gauge the commitment of our field to this trend and identify reasons for adoption and/or resistance. While many researchers within the field of professional writing have written about the benefits of adopting student learning outcomes assessment as a means to improve program validity, not all stakeholders have been convinced of their necessity or effectiveness. Institutional resistance to learning outcomes implementation still exists and additional analysis of their usefulness is needed to address those concerns. Moreover, program faculty and administrators who have supported their adoption may not yet feel adequately prepared to apply them to their programs, possibly due to a lack of information on how to specifically develop them within their respective disciplines.

Ben Shaffer

Inter-Disciplinarity in Technical Writing: An Examination of the Place of the Cognate Course in Master's-Level Professional Writing/Technical Communication Programs

Though increasingly viewed as a benefit to students in professional writing programs, cognate courses those courses taken outside of the home department remain uneasily situated in the curriculum of most programs, requiring a set of ad hoc arrangements to make them accessible to interested parties. Through web-based research and semi-structured interviews, four principal barriers to expediting cognate study were identified. In addition, several "workaround" solutions, which have evolved over the years to help meet the need, have evolved and display flexibility and adaptivity. However, because a presumption of relevance for many cognates is lacking in some quarters, the implementation of these solutions is far from ideal. In order to keep curriculums responsive to the needs of the marketplace and to ensure that students are receiving adequate training for their eventual careers, periodic reassessments of program design and the use of such innovations as cognate study are a continued necessity.

Adam Swiger

A Line, But Thinly Drawn And In The Wrong Place: Habermas, Macintyre, And The Peculiar Virtues Of The Political Blogosphere

Discussion in political blogs, especially across political-ideological divides, tends to feature insulting and vulgar language and not to be conducive to rational deliberation or the reaching of consensus by rhetorical means. However, Alasdair MacIntyre's arguments for locally grounded, narratively and historically embedded traditions of morality and rationality facilitate an understanding of blogs' moral purposes beyond typical Habermasian assumptions about the pursuit of rational consensus amongst conflicting claims. An analysis of six conversation threads from two blogs representing rival political-ideological traditions suggests four main kinds of practices by which blog discussion helps to sustain blogs as moral communities: demonstrative enactment of membership in the community; articulation of narratives that embody the moral tradition, including values and rationality, of the community; debate amongst competing strains within the tradition; and exclusion of participants and utterances that threaten the community in its pursuit of its moral telos or purpose. These practices permit the use of rhetoric that may seem unusual, and require virtues that may seem peculiar, from a Habermasian moral perspective.

Lisa F. Young

Collaborative Proposal Writing

Despite the presence of courses in proposal writing for professionals in the industry, there is a lack of literature and guidance on how to teach collaborative writing in the classroom, specifically for proposals. Research on collaborative writing in a Federal proposal development center for a large IT company may determine what is required in terms of proficiencies, expertise, and aptitudes regarding the integrated, interdisciplinary model of collaborative writing. I conducted research that describe this particular model of collaborative writing to assist proposal writing teachers in tailoring their instruction on such practices and skills. My data sources included formal and informal interviews, company proposals and documents, observations, literature reviews, and key informants. This research may assist an audience of proposal writing teachers who want to teach up-to-date collaboration practices and skills to their students.

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