Department of Rhetoric & Writing Studies, San Diego State University
19 February 2020
The Greek philosopher Plato once said that “rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.”[LC1] Rhetoric is meant to persuade the audience and its effectiveness depends heavily on how the information is delivered. Certain fields of study rely on different strategies to convince their audience. In the medical field, authors often use statistics, refer to credible sources and concede the flaws of an argument in order to appear reliable and authoritative. In both MacWilliams et al.’s (2013) “Men in Nursing” and Koukourikos et al.’s (2019) “Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy in Mental Health,” [LC2] medical scholars utilize multiple rhetorical strategies to appeal to the audience’s senses of logic, emotion, and character. In doing so, they are able to strengthen their stance and ultimately persuade the readers.
The target audience for articles in this field is typically those in the medical field, as evidenced by the fact that it requires a background knowledge of certain medical practices and diseases to fully grasp them. For example, Koukourikos et al. (2019) thoroughly explain how animal assisted therapy helps patients with depression, autism, dementia and schizophrenia, but they don’t define these diseases and they use many medical terms that those not in the medical field would not typically know (p. 1900). A certain level of medical knowledge is also necessary to understand the context of MacWilliams et al’s text, too, because it utilizes different types of evidence to show the disparity between men and women in nursing. The article is supported by different quantitative and qualitative studies that identify the causes of the gender inequality in nursing, which can be unfamiliar to the general public (MacWilliams et al., 2013, p. 39). The article “Men in Nursing” is also for readers who are interested in gender diversity in the workplace. [LC3]
Since the audience is so intimately aware of the medical field, one strategy that allows scholars to portray appropriate decorum is following the scientific method. Both articles follow this time-tested format. The organization of these texts is familiar to those in research and in the medical field, as each piece has an introduction, objective, methodology, results, and conclusion section (MacWilliams et al., 2013; Koukourikos et al., 2019). This, alone, shows reverence for the expectations of the scientific community, but to further their ethos appeal, the authors also explain how they found their credible sources in their methodology sections[LC4] . In both articles, the evidence for their arguments was found with the use of reputable databases, which gives the authors more credibility and appeals to an audience’s sense of ethos. MacWilliams et al. (2013) chose their articles using “Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) electric databases” (p. 39). These are highly reputable, well-known databases that all medical and nursing professionals will recognize, This allows the information to come from a place of authority rather than requiring readers to check the research themselves. With the use of these strategies, the audience is more likely to be persuaded because the authors demonstrated their expertise on the information and presented it in the expected format and with credible sources.
Credibility in science extends beyond the format and into the values of perpetual curiosity, so by acknowledging the limitations or flaws in their work these scholars actually strengthen their ethos. One example of this is when Koukourikos et al. (2019) assert [LC5] that although animal therapy seems to achieve positive outcomes, “research into the involvement of animals in the treatment of mental illness needs to be broadened and enriched” because there are “obvious weaknesses and constraints” (p. 1903). In other words, while success looks like a likely result of these methods, Koukourikos et al. ensure their readers that more testing needs to be done to confirm the hypotheses. This is scientific thinking at its core: the notion that the only way to confirm a truth is through replication. Scholars do not admit these limitations to degrade their work, but rather to suggest that they would prefer multiple studies find the exact same result before trusting the methods as fact. This makes the researchers appear more virtuous and honest, and the readers are more likely to trust them. This honesty is a quality that most audiences value and appreciate, but particularly in the field of science, it shows the reasonable understanding that something must be true on repeated occasions before it can be truly trusted – a core value of the medical and nursing field.
Case studies and statistics [LC6] are also common strategies in research articles because they can appeal to an audience’s logic. In “Men in Nursing”, the authors [LC7] mention that “men still represent fewer than 10% of the RNs licensed since 2000 and fewer than 12% of the students enrolled in baccalaureate nursing programs” (MacWilliams et al., 2013, p. 38). These statistics are factual and difficult to dispute because they are objective figures, which appeals to a reader’s logic. By listing these statistics, the authors are able to emphasize how there is a lack of male nurses in the field and in school. The nursing profession often relies on statistics and facts as evidence to support an action or new practice. The same article also shares a case study where male nursing students from a public university described “a diminishing population of male students as they progressed through the nursing program” (MacWilliams et al., 2013, p. 40). Case studies are also used in nursing research because it provides detailed information and insight for further research. Nursing is a profession centered around evidence-based practice, meaning that any action or decision making is supported by various types of evidence, including experiments, statistics or case studies.
While most medical fields prefer the aforementioned ethos and logos appeals, audiences can still be susceptible to emotions, which is why the field of nursing does dabble in charged language at times. An illustrative example of this is how Koukourikos et al. (2019) refer to “patients suffering from mental illness” who “often feel powerless, vulnerable and dependent on other people” (p. 1900). Had the scholars only noted the feeling of dependence, a reader could infer that patients in this description are more likely to feel a particular way emotionally. However, their choice to include not one, but three words that have sad connotations – “suffering,” “powerful,” and “vulnerable” (Koukourikos et al., 2019, p. 38) – invite the reader to feel a sense of concern rather than merely a measured decision to act on behalf of patients. Readers in this field would likely be drawn in by the hard stats alone, but this appeal can make them feel a sense of ethical responsibility, as well. Ethical responsibility is a defining factor of the medical field, as each doctor has to swear the Hippocratic Oath, so this strategy is likely to work quite well in persuading readers. By finding common ground in sympathy, the author is able to introduce the argument, which the audience will be more likely to listen too because they sympathize with the subject.
The use of various rhetoric strategies can be effective in conveying an argument. The most effective argument connects to the readers’ heart, brain, and “gut.” In the medical field, the use of statistics and acknowledging limitations can strengthen an author’s credibility, making them more reliable sources. The use of decorum and sympathy is also very persuasive because it appeals to the audience’s values and emotions. Ultimately, in healthcare, persuasion and rhetoric are incredibly important because it can lead to a better understanding and wellbeing.
Koukourikos, K., Georgopoulou, A., Kourkouta, L., & Tsaloglidou, A. (2019). Benefits of animal assisted therapy in mental health. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 12(3), 1898–1905. http://www.internationaljournalofcaringsciences.org/docs/64_koukorikos_review_12_3.pdf[LC8]
MacWilliams, B., Schmidt, B., & Bleich, M. (2013). Men in nursing. The American Journal of Nursing,113(1), 38-46. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000425746.83731.16
[LC1]Opening with a general quote can sometimes sound less academic than you think – this is something they teach in lower levels of writing – so consider abandoning the tactic. However, if you do open with a quote such as this, you only need to cite it if it is not widely available in many sources. In this case, you can find this Plato quote all over, so no need to cite.
[LC2]In APA Style, authors are introduced by either full name the first time and then by their last name for the remainder, or (as in this case) their last name the entire time. Note that texts with one, two, and three+ authors are all handled differently. See APA: Citing Within Your Paper for more help.
[LC3]This paragraph actually lowered the student’s grade, even though it contains a lot of the right ideas. Why? Because there is no analysis.
GOOD: Student has a strong topic sentence that immediately leads into two relevant examples.
HOWEVER: Student continues summarizing what the scholars do in their writing rather than pivoting into the more important questions of why, how it matters, and what it shows about the values of the field.
[LC4]This paragraph engages in a sort of “double-analysis,” presenting a more obvious idea first and only spending a single sentence interpreting and explaining how it shows value in the field before moving into a more complex strategy. Note, however, that this only works if you draw a connection between the two strategies, which this author has done in the highlighted sentence.
After presenting the second piece of evidence, they spend three more sentences analyzing how the strategy works, why readers would value it, and how this paragraph has supported the topic sentence and thesis.
[LC5]The student initially wrote “mention” here, but in revision changed it to “assert.” Keep in mind that academic writers rarely “mention” things, which implies a carelessness or lack of direct purpose. They argue, assert, or insist. Try to use active, accurate verbs in describing author purpose.
[LC6]While the topic sentence IS clear, the evidence is presented in reverse order (the first piece is a statistic, the second is a case study). Guide your reader with clear direction.
[LC7]This is inefficient, since your reader already knows the title of the texts. Instead of constantly recalling the title (as some titles can be excessive in length), it is preferable to simply refer to texts by the author name.
Furthermore, APA Style recommends that you use author names instead of generalized terms, such as “the author.” This creates more precision.
Lastly, consider showing YOUR understanding of content by paraphrasing more often than quoting. This gets the same information to your reader, but it suggests that you have a deeper understanding of your research.
Therefore, a recommended revision for this sentence might be: Koukourikos et al. (2019) use statistics to quantify just how few men enter the field of nursing when they note that males account for “fewer than 10%” of RNs and roughly one in nine students in higher education nursing programs (p. 38).
Note that this revision still quotes one statistic, but then it puts the other one into the writer’s own words. This shows a true understanding of the quote.
[LC8]Since this piece does not have a DOI and is available without a subscription to a database, the author rightly provides a URL.