Rhetorical appeals and dangers of a single story discussion

this week, you’ll be working with the materials found here: Rhetorical Appeals, The Danger of a Single Story, and below. For your Roll Call Post –

Rhetorical Appeals :Techniques that Persuade: The Rhetorical Appeals

The term, “rhetorical appeal,” is a fancy term for a simple concept: when we communicate with audiences, we often want to persuade them of something. Right now, I’m trying to persuade you about this idea.

The guy in the picture at the top of this page is also trying to persuade us of something. I’m mostly persuaded that he needs better lighting.

Rhetorical Appeals: The Vocabulary

The vocabulary around rhetorical appeals, like the term “rhetoric” itself, is somewhat foreign, and this is for a good reason. The concepts were developed by the Greek philosopher Aristotle and others back in a place and time when decisions were made democratically. In democratic city-states, free men would appear in public forums to debate their points of view. Decisions were made in this manner.

Imagine if this process of decision-making were alive in the US today. Imagine if we made decisions on the White House lawn with the president and legislators. As it would in front of the White House, in Greece persuasion mattered.

So, Aristotle studied the question of persuasion and found the following appeals (and others) to be particularly persuasive.

  • Appeals to logic, evidence, reasoning (logos)
    • often used in argumentation
  • Appeals to authority (ethos)
    • often used in argumentation
  • Appeals to emotions (pathos)
    • sparingly used in argumentation
  • Appeals to relevance to given time, in a given place, and in the right tone (kairos)
    • important in argumentation

[The word, “appeal,” means simply that. It’s an action that calls out to or appeals to a listener or reader.]

Today, you’ll watch two short videos to learn more about these rhetorical appeals. But first…


Persuasion is Different From Argumentation

Persuasion is an effort to get someone else to agree. Advertisers try to persuade us that their products are the best. Lawyers try to persuade us that their clients are correct. Persuasive efforts don’t necessarily take both sides into account. This is how arguments differ.

The term, “argument” might sound more adversarial, but academic arguments are the product of careful consideration of all evidence. They weigh all sides and only then render a judgment. In addition, arguments include (broadcast, represent, bring forth) points of opposition and should do so fairly. So, academic arguments are more like judges who weigh both sides, rather than like advertisers who want to manipulate us or like lawyers who only want us to see one side.

The Danger of a Single Story : The Danger of a Single Story

Narratives or stories are not only accounts of events but are frameworks we hang lots of ideas on, some well examined, some not. Have you ever heard the story, “Boy meets girl. (Boy saves girl.)”? A lot of people from my generation grew up with that story. But, what if our lives don’t fit that narrow narrative, then what? Is there only one story for everyone?

So, when we’re creating narratives through our arguments, we want to be attentive to and ask questions about what’s going on inside and outside of ourselves. This is a form of critical thinking that helps us question and investigate our assumptions, biases, and beliefs that can be hard to see. The video that follows by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie demonstrates this process very well.

To help us think more critically about Adichie’s words, we’ll use one technique today: summary.


Summarizing: One Form of Critical Thinking

Summaries provide the main claim and key points of our sources in succinct form. To understand what an author is arguing, we have to listen and read closely.

Main Claim: Often, authors don’t state their main claims in the first paragraph or in the first few minutes of speaking. In many cases, authors build up to their main points by providing intriguing context; they want us to know what led up to their conclusions in ways we can experience. One technique to figure out an author’s primary point is to ask ourselves, “What would this author like to convince me of?”

PRO TRICK: Titles of sources often (but not always) give us a very helpful clue, as well. 🙂

Subclaims: In addition to the main claim, summaries also include the key points that authors make to support their primary claims.


  1. Define each of the following rhetorical appeals: logos, ethos, pathos, and kairos. Then, think of a time you tried to convince someone of something and a type of rhetorical appeal you used. Tell us this story. Who were you trying to convince? What did you try to convince them of? What kind of appeal did you use and how did you use it? Were you successful?
  2. Summarize Adichie’s talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” using the techniques shown below. In your summary, include how Adichie defines a single story.
  3. Provide your own example of a “single story,” as Adichie defines this concept. Who (what group) does this single story involve? What does it say about them? What makes this a single story? What should we know to improve our understanding about this group?

Review: Summarizing

  • Summaries provide readers who haven’t read, seen, or heard the sources summarized with a clear sense of them.
  • Summaries begin with the author and title of the work you’re summarizing along with the main claim or primary point the author is making.
    • Capitalizing Titles: The first letter of all key words in titles are capitalized.
    • Punctuating Titles: The titles of short works, like short videos and articles, are placed in “Quotation Marks.”
  • Summaries then explain, in your own words, the important points the author or speaker makes to support their primary point.
  • Summaries do not include your thoughts or interpretations. In this case, it should be clear that you are referring to Adichie’s ideas throughout the summary.
    • Examples of signal phrases to use to show you’re referring to another author’s ideas:
      • Adichie explains, Adichie shows, Adichie finds…
    • Use the present tense when referring to authors’ ideas, even though they wrote or spoke these ideas in the past. Ideas are considered “eternally present.”

MLA In-Text Citations for Summaries

    • Add an MLA in-text citation at the end of each key point, so a reader can easily find the points you’re referring to in the original source.
      • In-Text Citations are used after paraphrases of authors’ ideas AND direct quotations.

MLA In-Text Review

    • MLA in-text citations follow the sentences in which source information is found.
    • For an author of a video: (Lastname 00:00:00-00:00:00). <– The zeros correspond to the time signature of the section you’re citing.
    • The period is always placed after the in-text citation, not after the sentence.
        • NO: Periods are placed after in-text citations. (Larson, par. 1).
        • YES: Periods are placed after in-text citations (Larson, par. 1).
  • Complete requirements for the B Contract and
    • Provide an additional example of a single story in 125-150 words, including the same kind of information you provided for your first single story.
    • Complete all elements of the prompt, including a response to your prior poster.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the following rhetorical appeals: logos, ethos, pathos, kairos.
    • Analyze a video and summarize a video, demonstrating the qualities of an effective academic essay, as shown above.
    • Demonstrate the following technical skills:
      • Proper capitalization, formatting, and punctuating of titles
      • MLA in-text citations
      • The use of the present tense when referring to the ideas in sources
    • Write clearly and logically
 

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