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The Abductive Inference: An Effective Tool for Science Communication

Suggests that the interrelated skills of understanding and representing (re-presenting) the abductive inference (often neglected in technical and professional communication pedagogy) are critical for the scientific communicator vis-a -vis kairos, and that science communication instructors ought to develop a pedagogy that includes the instruction of this skill.

Graham, S. Scott. Orange Journal, The (2005). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Behind the Scenes of Scientific Debating

In analysing a scientific debate, there are at least two types of relevant information. One is the debate itself, experienced first hand or via a transcript. Another is what can be called backstage information, which includes the debaters’ preparations, plans, notes, thinking and reservoir of arguments and responses. Familiarity with backstage information can provide insights for understanding the dynamics of the debate. Often, the only individuals with much backstage information are the debaters themselves, plus perhaps one or two advisers or close friends. An observer of the debate seldom has access to backstage information. The next best thing, then, is generalisations based on backstage experience with debates of a similar nature.

Martin, Brian. University of Wollongong (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Boundary Objects as Rhetorical Exigence: Knowledge Mapping and Interdisciplinary Cooperation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article uses qualitative material gathered at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to construct a model of the rhetorical activity that occurs at the boundaries between diverse communities of practice working on complex sociotechnical systems. The authors reinterpret the notion of the boundary object current in science studies as a rhetorical construct that can foster cooperation and communication among the diverse members of heterogeneous working groups. The knowledge maps constructed by team members at LANL in their work on technical systems are boundary objects that can replace the demarcation exigence that so often leads to agonistic rhetorical boundary work with an integrative exigence. The integrative exigence realized by the boundary object of the knowledge map can help create a temporary trading zone characterized by rhetorical relations of symmetry and mutual understanding. In such cases, boundary work can become an effort involving integration and understanding rather than contest, controversy, and demarcation.

Wilson, Greg and Carl G. Herndl. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Collaboration>Rhetoric


The Common Topoi of STEM Discourse: An Apologia and Methodological Proposal, With Pilot Survey   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this article, the author proposes a methodology for the rhetorical analysis of scientific, technical, mathematical, and engineering (STEM) discourse based on the common topics (topoi) of this discourse. Beginning with work by Miller, Prelli, and other rhetoricians of STEM discourse—but factoring in related studies in cognitive linguistics—she argues for a reimagining of topoi as basic schema that interrelate texts, objects, and writers in STEM communities. Then, she proposes a topical method as a stable, broadly applicable heuristic that may help fit the rhetorical dynamics of the much-studied research article (RA) into the wider context of written technical discourse—exactly the type of improvement that Gross, Fahnestock, and others have proposed. Finally, as an illustration of this argument, the author performs a pilot topical survey of 18 RAs representing six STEM disciplines. This survey yields a set of 30 topoi used samplewide that can form a starting point for future surveys. She answers challenges to the significance and relevance of a topical method and finishes by sketching some future applications of the method that can move rhetoric of science beyond the RA.

Walsh, Lynda. Written Communication (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric>Assessment


Dam Visuals: The Changing Visual Argument for the Glen Canyon Dam   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Arguments manifest in scientific visuals through graphic representation, content placement, and overall document structure. These arguments, designed to influence public perception, change over time in relation to sociopolitical climate. Analysis of a series of documents constructed deliberately to influence perception can help to determine patterns of argumentation and perceived exigencies. In this article, four self-guided tour brochures produced for distribution to visitors to the Glen Canyon Dam in 1977, 1984, 1990, and 1993 are analyzed in order to identify rhetorical strategies designed to influence public perceptions of the dam site, and examine how public perception of the dam, and related argumentation, is structured by sociopolitical climate.

Ross, Derek G. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Technical Illustration>Visual Rhetoric


Differential Discourses: The Contribution of Visual Analysis to Defining Scientific Literacy in the Early Years Classroom   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article presents a kindergarten science inquiry as an exemplar for the purpose of suggesting an analytic graphic that is visually inclusive of the multimodal resources brought to bear by children and teachers engaged in classroom interaction. The central aim is the visual representation of the analysis so that the analysis itself becomes visual communication, a means of generating knowledge about multimodal discourse. This makes the discourse structure much more accessible to viewers than a verbal transcript. Findings demonstrate that the children and teacher carried out activity that reflected generally mismatched classroom discourses. The children engaged in the science processes of observation, interpretation, and design of the investigation while the teacher focused on the social process of classroom management. Visual communication is central in helping researchers and teachers to visually associate the elements and structure of interactions so that teaching response can be designed.

Britsch, Susan. Visual Communication (2009). Articles>Education>Scientific Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Effective Presentations

An essential aspect of any research project is dissemination of the findings arising from the study. The most common ways to make others aware of your work is by publishing the results in a journal article, or by giving an oral or poster presentation (often at a regional or national meeting). While efforts are made to teach the elements of writing a journal article in many graduate school curricula, much less attention is paid to teaching those skills necessary to develop a good oral or poster presentation - even though these arguably are the most common and most rapid ways to disseminate new findings. In addition, the skills needed to prepare an oral presentation can be used in a variety of other settings - such as preparing a seminar in graduate school, organizing a dissertaton defense, conducting a job interview seminar, or even addressing potential philanthropic sources!

Radel, Jeff. University of Kansas. Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric>Scientific Communication


Keeping the Rhetoric Orthodox: Forum Control in Science   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Academic disciplines certify knowledge through publication in scholarly journals; therefore, peer review of journal articles is one method of authorizing someone’s speech.  It is possible, however, to see peer review and other strategies as methods by which elites silence or de-authorize voices that pose a threat to their status.  This article discusses four methods of forum control--peer review, denial of forum, public correction, and published ridicule.  Examples are drawn from cases in science.

Sullivan, Dale L. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Moving Beyond the Moment: Reception Studies in the Rhetoric of Science   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies in the rhetoric of science have tended to focus on classic scientific texts and on the history of drafts and the interaction surrounding them up until the moment when the drafts are accepted for publication by a journal. Similarly, research on disasters resulting from failed communication has tended to focus on the history of drafts and the interaction surrounding them up until the moment of the disaster. The authors argue that overattention to the moment skews understanding of what makes scientific discourse successful and neglects other valuable sources of evidence. After reviewing the promises and limitations of studies from historical, observational, and text-analytic approaches, the authors call for studies of responses to research articles from disciplinary readers and argue for studies using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies that will explore the real-time responses of readers to scientific texts, test the effects of rhetorical strategies on readers, and track the course of acceptance or rejection over time.

Paul, Danette, Davida Charney and Aimee Kendall. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2001). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Plain Language in Science: Signs of Intelligible Life in the Scientific Community?   (PDF)

'The importance of the work is inversely proportional to the number of people who can understand it' is an outdated attitude in today's scientific arena. The trend toward plain language is gathering force in government, academe, and scientific journals.

Locke, Joanne N., Lily Whiteman and Devora Mitrany. Science Editor (2001). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric>Minimalism


Plastic Language for Plastic Science: The Rhetoric of Comrade Lysenko   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Rhetoric of science reveals the role of rhetoric in the complex social enterprise that is standard science. Rhetoric plays a role in non-standard science too. The recent elucidation of the human genetic code calls to mind an earlier, tragic episode in the history of genetics, Lysenkoism in Stalinist Russia. It involved the repudiation of standard science in favor of an insular, intuitive, and anti-intellectual science called agrobiology which supposedly could shape agricultural productivity to political will. The tragedy is that careers were ruined and millions suffered starvation as the new science failed to bear its predicted fruit. Whether seen as a debased rhetoric of science or as a rhetoric of debased science, it assumed that language is plastic and can support a plastically reconceived science that reflected the plasticity of nature itself. This plastic rhetoric is strikingly similar to Plato s view of sophism, which of course differs considerably from contemporary views of sophism.

Dombrowski, Paul M. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric>History


Presentation Traps 1: Hazardous Comparisons

In your presentation, usually at the beginning in the motivation part, a slide appears, and on that slide you compare your method to previous state of the art methods, or methods widely accepted and recognised as adequate by practitioners in the field. Of course, you carefully chose the topics of comparison to ensure your work appears superior... This is a trap. The author explains why.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Presentation Traps 2: Forced Audience Interaction

“Probe the audience”, “Interact with the audience”, the pundits say. And out on a limb they go, the misfortunate presenters for whom good advice but poor timing garner nothing but the deathly silence of an unsympathetic audience. Do not rush the audience into action. An audience that has had time to be interested in both the presenter and his topic is easier to engage. By the time the talk ends, the audience is ready to interact through the Q&A: the time is right, and the audience is ready.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Presentation Traps 6: The Conclusion Traps

You are in danger of falling into one of three conclusion traps. 1. Your conclusion slide is a summary of your results. 2. You know you are close to the end of your talk, everything has been said, and you rush through that slide, simply reading its bullets. 3. You do a great job with your conclusion slide, and after clicking one last time the next slide button on your presentation remote, you land into one of the following slides: a) the black screen indicating the end of your presentation (a PowerPoint feature); b) the traditional Acknowledgment slide; or c) a black slide on which the words “Thank You” are written in Font size 88 – for good luck The author explains why.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Reading Darwin, Reading Nature; or, On the Ethos of Historical Science   (PDF)

Darwin must be read and reread, interpreted and reinterpreted. We find this attention to a body of work that is well over a hundred years old to be highly unusual and worth investigating.

Miller, Carolyn R. and S. Michael Halloran. North Carolina State University (1993). Articles>Scientific Communication>History>Rhetoric


The Relevance of Feenberg's Critical Theory of Technology to Critical Visual Literacy: The Case of Scientific and Technical Illustrations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Andrew Feenberg's critical theory of technology is an underutilized, relatively unknown resource in technical communication which could be exploited not only for its potential clarification of large social issues that involve our discipline, but also specifically toward the development of a critical theory of illustrations. Applications of critical theory help strengthen our discipline by forcing us to delineate extant approaches and consider whether democratic goals are being achieved through those approaches. If a critical theory of illustrations can be built from Feenberg's critical theory of technology, it should be useful for classroom instructors and researchers as well as theorists.

Northcut, Kathryn M. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Visual Rhetoric>Technical Illustration


Resources of Ambiguity: Context, Narrative, and Metaphor in Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene illustrates the power of ambiguity in scientific discourse. The rhetorical and epistemic resources that ambiguity provide are most apparent at the level of metaphor but are also central to the exigency for Dawkins’s argument and to the narrative form that the argument takes. Using ratios derived from Burke’s dramatistic pentad, I analyze how ambiguous language helped Dawkins to link different theoretical conceptions of the gene and consequently posit connections between genes and organisms that had not yet been empirically established. I thus demonstrate at a conceptual and textual level how ambiguity contributes to the construction of novel scientific arguments. For Dawkins, ambiguity provided a discursive space in which he could speculate on connections and developments for which he did not yet have evidence, data, or terminology. Despite his insistence that his use of figurative motive language was simply a ‘‘convenient shorthand’’ for more technical language, The Selfish Gene demonstrates the powerful epistemological and rhetorical role that ambiguous metaphors play in biological discourse.

Journet, Debra. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Rhetoric


The Rhetoric Of Promoting Health   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article uses Chaim Perelman's theories of argumentation to examine a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Promoting Health: Intervention Strategies from Social and Behavioral Research (2000). The IOM's text explores social and behavioral research to devise multipronged intervention strategies; it focuses on social, economic, behavioral, and political health as a means of assuring population health--and thereby expands the conventional boundaries of public health. Since Chaim Perelman's rhetoric is seldom applied in the field of health communication, employing his ideas to consider the role of style, arrangement, and argument in such a cutting-edge document can illuminate public health writing, as well as shed new light on Perelmanian rhetoric.

Hamilton, Margaret. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2002). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Rhetoric


Seeing Cells: Teaching the Visual/Verbal Rhetoric of Biology   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This pilot study obtained baseline information on verbal and visual rhetorics to teach microscopy techniques to college biology majors. We presented cell images to students in cell biology and biology writing classes and then asked them to identify textual, verbal, and visual cues that support microscopy learning. Survey responses suggest that these students recognized some of the rhetorical strategies used and conflated others, revealing intriguing questions for further research in undergraduate microscopy education.

Dinolfo, John, Barbara Heifferon and Lesly A. Temesvari. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Visual Rhetoric


Review: Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Given Alan G. Gross's substantial contributions to the rhetoric of science, most recently with Joseph E. Harmon and Michael Reidy (2002) in Communicating Science, I looked forward to reading Gross's latest work, Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies--until I read the preface. In the preface, Gross notes that Starring the Text is not a new con- tribution but a 'major refiguring' (p. ix) of his earlier work The Rhetoric of Science (1990). Like most readers, I am decidedly less enthusiastic about reading a revision of an older contribution than I am about reading a new contribution.

Paul, Danette. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2008). Articles>Reviews>Rhetoric>Scientific Communication


Tips for Scientific Communicators: How to Become a Member of the Research Team   (PDF)

Communicators usually focus on audience needs, and rightly so. But scientific communicators may find it equally important to consider the needs and cultural values of the scientist/engineer researchers they work with. Working within the context of their culture, as well as observing (or at least recognizing) their etiquette and standards, can help us become their trusted collaborators.

Davis, Nancy E. and Mark Hodges. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Scientific Communication>Engineering>Rhetoric


A Visual and Social Analysis of Optometric Record-Keeping Practices   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article investigates the contribution visual rhetoric and rhetorical genre studies (RGS) can make to health care education and communication genres. Through a visual rhetorical analysis of a patient record used in an optometry teaching clinic, this article illustrates that a genre's visual representations provide significant insights into the social action of that genre. These insights are deepened by an insider analysis of the patient record that highlights how content analyses of visual designs need to be elaborated by contextual considerations. A combined visual rhetoric and RGS analysis shows that clinical novices learn to interpret the record's visual cues to safely traverse the complex requirements of this apprenticeship genre. The article demonstrates that visual rhetoric research can meaningfully contribute to the understanding of genres by presenting an enriched contextual analysis achieved by consulting with context insiders.

Varpio, Lara, Marlee M. Spafford, Catherine F. Schryer and Lorelei Lingard. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Visual Rhetoric


Why 2007 I.P.C.C. Report Lacked ‘Embers’

Several authors of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the projected effects of global warming now say they regret not pushing harder to include an updated diagram of climate risks in the report. The diagram, known as “burning embers,” is an updated version of one that was a central feature of the panel’s preceding climate report in 2001.

Revkin, Andrew C. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric


Your Voice: Your Passport to Authority

A growing body of evidence from multidisciplinary research in acoustics, engineering, linguistics, phonetics, and psychology suggests that an authoritative, expressive voice really can make a big difference when making scientific presentations.

Louët, Sabine. Science (2012). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Особенности понимания естественно-языковых аргументов в научном тексте

Аргументацию можно рассматривать как социальную знаковую подсистему (если принять, что системой является язык), которая, как и всякое человеческое знание, создана, по Канту, силой человеческого разума (Kant 1929). Согласно Канту, человеческое знание основано на производимых мышлением операциях структурирования, которые трансформируют ощущения в чувственные образы. Знание есть конструкт человеческого мышления и возникает в результате взаимодействия "узнаваемого" ("knowable") с мыслительными возможностями познающего субъекта. Конструктивные знакообразующие потенции познающих субъектов считаются общими для всех людей. Это не означает, что все познающие субъекты создают идентичные познавательные конструкты; но разнообразие конструктов на некотором абстрактном уровне является отражением категорий, управляющих этим процессом - например, логических (Collins 1954; Kneupper 1977) Всякая социальная реальность становится межсубъектной посредством коммуникации. Важным фактором в становлении или изменении знаковых подсистем является, соответственно, принятие или отвержение структуры знания. Если старая структура знания отвергается или оказывается непригодной для описания или объяснения некоторого объекта, ее место заполняется новой или модифицированной. Поэтому можно говорить о сосуществовании конкурирующих структур знания, каждая из которых, являясь продуктом человеческого разума и человеческого взаимодействия, не может претендовать на абсолютную истину. Следовательно, можно говорить о том, что и аргументативные теории могут быть поразному пригодны для разных целей.

Vasilev, L.G. Argumentation (2002). (Russian) Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric



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