Project 1: Analyze the rhetorical situation in a set of texts

In this project, you will use the concepts from Nicotra Ch. 1-2 to examine the different positions in a set of texts dealing with the same topic. These texts are related to a controversy (a disagreement among people who can be identified and quoted), and they may relate to each other (for instance, by citing and quoting each other, or by addressing the same issue, or by drawing on the same historical precedents, or by adding different dimensions to the issue that are yet to be addressed). (You may also include texts that avoid citing or quoting each other if you have evidence that authors were aware of a text but avoided engaging with it.) Reading these texts and understanding how they respond to each other will help you to better understand the rhetorical situation, including the communicators, messages, audiences, exigences, and purposes. 

I have supplied four texts; you’ll find a fifth text on your own. Your chosen text can relate to one or all of the four texts. For example, you can choose a fifth text that (1) addresses missing or excluded perspectives on the topic, (2) critiques the way the controversy is handled, or (3) critiques current proposals or proposes new concessions/solutions to the controversy. (To illustrate, you may choose texts that avoid citing or quoting each other if you have evidence that authors were aware of a text but avoided engaging with it.)

Write a report that includes

  • A descriptive title identifying the controversy.
  • A section that identifies themes you saw in the texts (and possibly themes that you expected to see, but didn’t), with texts grouped under each theme. 
  • A section discussing the set of all five texts as a whole: what are people arguing about in this set of texts? Are they arguing about the same thing, understood in the same way? Are they appealing to different values or trying to reach different objectives?
  • A section that focuses on one of these texts, examining it in the terms Nicotra uses in Ch. 1-2. How does the text lead readers to understand its topic in a particular way through:
    • exigence and context
    • purpose
    • rhetorical appeals: logos, pathos, ethos

The report will be typed, 1,000-1,500 words long, double-spaced, and follow MLA formatting and citation style.

The controversy: Water quality standards in Texas

While water quantity has become a cause of concern locally in Texas, water quality has become an increasingly controversial topic. With the increase of oil and gas fracking, many have cautioned that the chemicals used in the process find their way to local groundwater supplies. Others, meanwhile, have argued that the fracking process is safe, leaving groundwater quality unaffected. 

Water quality has become a matter of discussion about community vs. independence as local governments rely on the fossil fuel industry for jobs and tax revenue and argue that the process is safe. Fossil fuel companies often commission studies confirming their viewpoints and also work to influence the E.P.A. and state regulators. Meanwhile, local residents and activists continue to argue that the fracking process contaminates groundwater and that health concerns outweigh economic benefits to local communities.

Arguments persist about water quality and oil and gas mining. Who is responsible for ensuring water quality standards? How are water quality standards actually enforced? Should potential environmental concerns and possible health effects on residents outweigh the economic boon to rural communities? The texts below outline further context and viewpoints on this controversy
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