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The Precis + Drafting Paper 1: examples that Use

Rifkin as Model
Melissa Watson & DRWS

Table of Contents
The Rhetorical Prcis

Templates for the Rhetorical Prcis

Student Model Paragraphs: Samples of the Rhetorical Prcis

Paper 1: Sample Student Introduction Using Rifkin

Paper 1: Sample Student Discussion of Textual Organization

Paper 1: Sample Student Discussion of Strategies

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The Rhetorical Prcis


Overview: In order to concisely describe the argument and context an author presents in a text,
academic writers sometimes use a format called the rhetorical prcis. This form is a highly
structured four-sentence paragraph that highlights the essential rhetorical elements in any text.
The prcis includes the name of the speaker/writer(s), the context or situation in which the text is
delivered, the major assertion, the mode of development or support of the main idea, the stated
and/or apparent purpose of the text, and the relationship between the writer(s) and the audience.
The following is a breakdown of the information to include in each of the four sentences.
SENTENCE 1 include the following:
the name of author,
a phrase describing the author (optional),
the type and title of work, the date of work (inserted in
parentheses),
a rhetorically accurate verb (such as assert, argue,
suggest, imply, claim, etc.) that describes what the
author is doing in the text,
a THAT clause in which you state the major assertion
(thesis statement/claim) of the authors text.

EXAMPLE:
Toni Morrison, a well-known
scholar in the humanities, in
her essay, Disturbing
Nurses and the Kindness of
Sharks, implies THAT
racism in the United States
has affected the craft and
process of American
novelists.

SENTENCE 2 : An explanation of how the author develops


and/or supports the thesis (for instance, comparing and
contrasting, defining, narrating, illustrating, defining, using
humor or sarcasm, relating personal experience, depending on
facts /statistics /opinion, etc.). Consider the authors
organization, use of evidence, and/or strategies used to
construct his/her argument. Your explanation is usually
presented in the same chronological order that the items of
support are presented in the work.

EXAMPLE:
Morrison supports her
implication by describing
how Ernest Hemingway
writes about black characters
and by illustrating his
strategies for plot
development seen within his
novels and short stories.

SENTENCE 3: A statement of the


authors apparent purpose, followed by
an IN ORDER TO phrase in which you
explain what the author wants the
audience to do or feel as a result of
reading the work.

EXAMPLE:
Her purpose is to make her readers aware of the cruel
reality of racism underlying some of the greatest
works of American literature IN ORDER TO help
them examine the far-reaching effects racism has not
only on those discriminated against but also on those
who discriminate.

SENTENCE 4: A description of the


intended audience and the relationship
the author establishes with the
audience.

EXAMPLE:
She establishes a formal and highly analytical tone
with her audience of racially-mixed, theoreticallysophisticated readers and critical interpreters of
American literature.

Templates for the Rhetorical Prcis


Provided below are three templates you can refer to when using the rhetorical prcis form. You
should use these for guidance, but use your best judgment about how to form sentences
appropriate to the text and/or author you write about.

1. (Authors credentials), (authors first and last name), in his/her (type of text), (title of text),
published in (publishing info), addresses the topic of (topic of text) and argues that
(argument).
2. S/he supports this claim by___________, then___________, and finally____________.
3. (Authors last name)s purpose is to (authors purpose in writing) in order to (change in
reader/society the author wants to achieve).
4. He/she adopts a(n) __________ tone for his/her audience, the readers of (publication)
and others interested in the topic of______________.

1. In the (type of text), (title of text) ((year)), author (authors first and last name), (authors
credentials), asserts that (argument) and suggests (explanation of sub-claims or
resolution).
2. S/he backs up this claim by doing the following: first, s/he
; last, s/he
.

; next, s/he

3. (Authors last name) appears to write in hopes of (authors purpose in writing) in order
to (change in reader/society the author wants to achieve.
4. Because of the authors
audience.

tone, it seems as if s/he writes for a

and

1. In his/her (type of text) (title of text) ((year)), (authors credentials) (authors first and last
name) asserts that (argument) by addressing
,
, and
.
2. By supplying the reader with information about
(authors last name) builds his/her claims about

and

3. (Authors name) wishes to convey to readers the importance of (authors purpose in


writing) in order to (change in reader/society the author wants to achieve).
4. The authors audience likely consists of those interested in
evident through his/her references to
and
readers with a tone that is
and
.

as is
; s/he addresses

Student Model Paragraphs: Samples of the Rhetorical Prcis


[1] Writer and Economist, Jeremy Rifkin in his Editorial column, A Change of Heart
about Animals, published in September 1, 2003, addresses the topic of Animal Rights and
behavior and argues that animals should be treated and viewed with more respect since each
individual animal is so closely related to us humans. [2] He constructs this claim by introducing
the idea that animals feel the same feelings that humans feel, presenting evidence that proves the
animals behaviors to be like humans, then questioning our perceptions of animals, and
challenging his readers to expand our perception and empathy to our fellow creatures. [3]
Rifkins purpose is to illustrate the way animal behavior is similar to human behavior in order to
persuade his audience to reevaluate their perception of animals and more than that, treat them
better. [4] He adopts a persuasive, emotional, and unbiased tone for his audience, the readers of
the Los Angeles Times and others interested in the topic of human-like animal behavior.

[1] Earl Shorris, Founder and Chairman of the Advisory Board for The Clemente Course
in the Humanities, in his article, On the Uses of Liberal Education: As a Weapon in the Hands of
the Restless Poor (1997), claims that through the teaching of humanities the poor will be able to
free themselves from the forces society has on them. [2] To support his argument, Shorris does
the following: first, in a narrative form he briefly introduces his background and provides
information about the current study; second, he describes his research and explains how he met a
woman in a correctional facility that influenced his idea for the research study; third, he describes
his plan/methodology and the participants that form part of the study; and last, he explains the
happenings and outcome of his study. [3] In order to help the poor reach their fullest potential
through social politics and exposure of the teachings of humanities, the author wishes to convey
for readers that the humanities are an essential part of life. [4] Shorris establishes an educated and
inspiring article meant for educators and economically disadvantaged persons.

[1] Scholars in the field of behavior science, L. Rowell Huesmann and Jessica Moise, in
their essay Media Violence: A Demonstrated Public Health Threat to Children (June 1996),
argue that exposure to media violence stimulates aggression in children and that children should
be protected from media violence. [2] The authors support their claim by making an analogy to
the issue of lung cancer and cigarettes, by refuting claims made by Dr. Freedman, by providing
research results that show a connection between media violence and behavior, and by describing
the process of desensitization. [3] Their purpose is to make their readers aware that there is a
connection between media violence and violence seen in children in order to protect all children
from future violence. [4] The authors use a serious and academic tone to establish a reasoned,
objective attitude toward their audience of people who are involved in academics and research,
especially those concerned with behavior science and government regulations.

Paper 1: Sample Student Introduction Using Rifkin


See the student example paragraph below introducing both Rifkins text as well as the students
purpose for writing the essay. Notice that the student is careful to introduce all aspects of the
rhetorical situation: context (situation the author writes for), author (name, background,
qualifications), text (genre, publication, year), purpose (reason for writing), and audience
(demographic/population the author appears to write for). In order to address the prompt for
Project 1, the student is also careful to include an overview of the authors project and argument.
Last, the student provides a purpose statement which gives purpose to his/her essay as well as
outlines the organization of his/her discussion that follows.

The student begins like


many authors by giving
some context to the topic.

Next s/he supplies an


introduction and
background information on
Rifkin and his text.
The student briefly states
Rifkins project. We get
some insight into the
purpose of the article.
Here the student provides a
longer explanation of the
Rifkins argument
including an overview of
main claims, utilization of
evidence, and the
implications of his
argument.

Next is a description of the


intended audience. Notice
the use of hedging with
appears, showing that the
student is careful not to
assume his/her analysis of
audience is a certainty.
The writer concludes by
providing his/her purpose
statement.

For many years activists arguing against inhumane


treatment of animals have based their arguments on research
investigating the negative effects imprinted on these creatures
due to poor human conduct and handling. In response to this
issue, Jeremy Rifkin writes "A Change of Heart about Animals,"
a 2003 editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Rifkin is a wellknown American economist and author of more than 15 books
using theories of science and economics to examine how the
economy, society, and the environment interact and transform
one another. In his article, Rifkin challenges previously believed
notions about humans treatment of animals and calls attention to
this issue by revealing new research that calls into question many
of the boundaries commonly thought to exist between humans
and other animals. As a consequence of these findings, Rifkin
argues that humans should expand their empathy for animals and
treat them better. Rifkin reasons that because animals can make
tools, develop sophisticated language skills, experience selfawareness, and mourn the dead, they should be shown the same
empathy and treated the same way as humans. To support this
argument he points to numerous studies conducted by popular
fast food chains and prominent universities that focus on
animals emotions, cognitive abilities, social behaviors, and
learned behaviors. Based on this authoritative evidence, the
author seems to suggest that the U.S. is heading towards treating
animals differently. As is evident from the publication and
Rifkins focus on human perceptions, Rifkin appears to write for
the general population in the United States, especially those
interested in social change, scientific research, and U.S. policies
regarding animal rights. For the purposes of increasing readers
critical awareness of the argument constructed by Rifkin, I will
analyze his text by describing the authors claims, his use of
evidence, his textual organization, and some of the rhetorical
strategies he employs.

Paper 1: Sample Student Discussion of Textual Organization


See the student example paragraph below discussing Rifkins strategy for textual organization.
There are many successful moves to observe in this analysis:
1. Notice that there are two paragraphs. Sometimes it is necessary to take one idea and
extend your discussion for multiple paragraphs to ensure that your ideas are clear.
Particularly, look at how much time is spent on commentary and analysis.
2. Notice that much of the analysis is based on macro-charting, not micro-charting. An
analysis on textual organization should not merely be a list of what each paragraph does.
Imagine this: In paragraph 1, Rifkin does X. In paragraph 2, Rifkin does Y.In
paragraph 15, Rifkin does Z. That simplistic kind of listing isnt focused and can sound
too mechanical. Be choosy about which aspects you wish to include in your analysis.
3. Notice that this student doesnt focus on rhetorical strategies. Because strategies are
found within each section, the student could easily be tempted to discuss other rhetorical
strategies that Rifkin employs in each paragraph. However, this student is careful to stick
to his focus: a discussion of Rifkins textual organization.
4. Notice how the student guides us through the analysis: s/he mentions actual paragraphs,
provides specific topic sentences, and uses transitions and metacommentary.

The way Rifkin organizes his text likely lends to the


overall appeal of his argument. Like most texts written in
English, the argument can be analyzed as being delivered in
three sections: an introduction where Rifkin contextualizes his
topic and states his main claim (paragraphs 1-3); a body section
where Rifkin provides evidence supporting his argument
(paragraphs 4-14); and a conclusion where Rifkin questions the
implications of the findings revealed in the previous section
(paragraphs 15-16). In addition to this very general chunking of
paragraphs, the smaller organization choices found within each
section are telling of the authors strategy for constructing his
argument. Some of Rifkins rhetorical choices worth mentioning
can be found in the second section, the section revealing
supporting evidence. Anticipating that his audience might at
first doubt his claim that animals are more like humans than
commonly assumed, Rifkin is careful to provide evidence that is
easier to accept early on, and then gradually reveals examples
that could prove more risqu in later parts of this section. This
way if his audience accepts the research presented first, they

may also be more inclined to accept later studies that are


harder to believe.

Although short, this topic


sentence still signals to the
reader what the paragraph
will be about.
The student begins by
giving a broad overview of
major sections in Rifkins
text, citing groups of
paragraphs.
Next, we see the student
signal a transition to a
different focus: a closer
analysis of one of the
sections.
Concluding this first
paragraph, this analysis
introduces readers to the
major strategy that the
student will critically
dissect.

To exemplify Rifkins strategy for organizing his


evidence, the different themes of evidence found in the second
section will be presented and analyzed. First, paragraphs 4-5 are
dedicated to explaining how pigs need social attention (from
humans or other pigs) in order to maintain mental and physical
health. Then, Rifkin describes the cognitive abilities of crows
and gorillas, who, respectively, show signs of intelligence by
making tools and by communicating through sign language
(paragraphs 7-8). These examples wont likely surprise readers
too much: many of us have seen how depressed animals can get
when they are alone, many of us can imagine how clever birds
can be, and many of us have already heard about the language
capabilities of gorillas. Next, however, in paragraphs 10-12 the
author reveals some very human-like behaviors found in animals
including findings on self-awareness in orangutans, grief in
elephants, and brain chemistry of rats during play time. This
seems to be an intentional organizational scheme of Rifkin. Its
likely no accident that research regarding orangutans using
mirrors to adjust their sunglasses and studies showing how
elephants mourn for the dead come after the examples on social
needs and cognitive abilities of animals. These examples might
be more challenging to believe if they were the first presented to
readers. Furthermore, research suggesting that rats and humans
experience similar neurochemical reactions in the brain while
playing might be the most challenging for readers to accept, thus
Rifkin places this example last. While readers may find it easier
to align human behavior with orangutans and elephants, they
may find it difficult to accept that rats share similar
characteristics as humans. Rifkin consciously organizes the
different examples in order to slowly accustom the audience to
the controversial research he presents. The order that he places
his evidence, then, appears to be highly strategic and calculated.

Using metacommentary,
this student lets the reader
know whats to come in the
paragraph.
The student references the
first section under
investigation helping the
reader to understand what
part will be analyzed.
The student follows up with
immediate analysis of these
first two paragraphs.
The student follows the
same pattern by first
referencing the text, citing
specific paragraphs.

Again we see analysis


following the preceding
reference to the text. The
analysis is constructed with
inferences on why the
author likely chose to
organize his text this way
and speculations about how
the audience was likely
affected.
The student ends by
reminding readers of his/her
conclusions about Rifkins
strategy for textual
organization.

Paper 1: Sample Student Discussion of Strategies


See the student example paragraph below discussing Rifkins strategy of using animal names,
thus appealing to pathos. Notice that the focus is on how the strategy helps build the authors
argument (how it works and why the audience is affected) and we do not see the discussion of
pathos until the end.

The student begins by


identifying the claim that is
being supported by the
strategy in question.

Then, the student explains


the strategy Rifkin is
utilizing (discussing how the
author uses it) and supplies
and explains numerous
examples to help illustrate.
Look how much time is
spent providing an analysis
of these examples!

Finally, the student spends a


significant amount of time
providing commentary
highlighting important and
meaningful analysis of the
strategy in question. S/he
comments on why Rifkin
likely chose the strategy and
how/why the audience would
likely be affected
(emotionally).

One strategy Rifkin employs to build the argument that


animals should be treated more like humans is his subtle use of
animal names when introducing data. When he offers new
research about the problem-solving abilities of New Caledonian
crows, for example, Rifkin cleverly describes how Abel, the
more dominant malestole Bettys hook in order to obtain a
better feeding tool (Rifkin). Rifkin, of course, could have chosen
to ignore the birds test-subject names which in all likelihood,
were arbitrarily assigned by lab technicians and remain of little
importance to the conclusions of the experiment but by
including them he bestows a human quality to the animals
beyond what the data suggests. He repeats this technique twice
more to the same effect, once when introducing Koko, the 300
pound gorilla, who displays close-to-human intelligence and an
impressive sign language vocabulary, and again when describing
an Orangutan named Chantek, whose use of a mirror displays
human-like self awareness (Rifkin). Surely the data alone make
the argument that animals are, by turns, capable of human
qualities of problem-solving, communication, learning, and selfawareness. By offering the names of the test animals, though, he
imbues them with greater individuality, personality and dignity.
Giving the animals human names invites readers to think of them
in terms usually reserved only for human beings. This strategy is
likely intended to play on the emotions of readers by establishing
a relationship of similarity between the animals mentioned and
ourselves. The more human animals seem, the more it follows
that they should be treated with the empathy and dignity we
assume all humans deserve. This appeal to pathos thus helps
advance Rifkins claim that we should expand and deepen our
empathy to include the broader community of creatures with
whom we share the earth.