Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

David Grant


Communication in science; Rhetoric--Study and teaching (Higher);


Student use of rhetoric can provide insight into student learning since rhetoric is, in part, epistemological. Epistemology refers to the study of the way someone thinks about a topic. Rhetoric is epistemological, therefore, because rhetoric is, at its core, the way ideas are thought about and expressed. Therefore, identifying and analyzing student usage of rhetorical techniques has the potential to allow a glimpse at the epistemological state of the student mind concerning their rhetorical learning. Insight drawn from knowing what students do and do not know concerning rhetoric could be extremely valuable to teachers in that it could pinpoint opportunities for greater learning. It could also be very valuable to STEM teachers, considering that science, math, and technology are need areas in both academia and the rest of the world. Finding ways to teach students to be more effective communicators, especially in mathematical, scientific, or technological contexts, then, is a topic that ought to receive attention because it provides the foundation for students’ later achievements.

In light of the importance of examining the rhetorical learning accomplished by students in connection with the sciences, I have investigated the rhetorical appeals and techniques used by students in the University of Northern Iowa Spring 2014 College Writing and Research course focused on writing in the life sciences. Since this course is partly focused on the sciences, seeing the connections between rhetorical learning and scientific discourse will be an easier process due to the fact that students will be learning about rhetoric and expressing it in both scientific and non-scientific assignments. My goal in this study is to answer the following two research questions: what kinds of rhetorical techniques and practices do students in a composition class use? and what do these rhetorical techniques and practices say about these students’ epistemological understanding of rhetoric? My answers to these questions will not be definitive, but they may be indicative of the ways in which the rhetoric is an important aspect of composition for the sciences, due to its foundational place in the educational life of all students, including those going into the sciences.

Date of Award



Department of Languages and Literatures

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

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