The role of ethos in the writing of proposals and manuals



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Texas Tech University


This study examines the role of ethos in research proposals and computer documentation. Rhetoricians and composition theorists have historically been interested in modes of persuasion. Aristotle identified these primary appeals (or "artistic proofs") as logos, pathos, and ethos. The logical and emotional appeals have been extensively investigated by discourse analysts; however, the ethical appeal has been relatively neglected as a subject of research. Recently, the role of ethos has become an important issue in technical writing, which has traditionally been considered the most objective type of discourse. The purpose of this study is to examine how writers of proposals and manuals project their personalities in their discourse. The method used to investigate these projected roles is ethnographic, a variation of the discourse-based interview used by Lee Odell, Dixie Goswami, and Anne Herrington.

The first two chapters examine the theory of ethos. Chapter 1 reviews the role of ethos in classical and modern rhetoric; Chapter 2 explores the role of ethos in technical writing theory. The following three chapters detail the study itself. Chapter 3 focuses on the methodology of the study, and Chapters 4 and 5 include transcripts of interviews with writers of manuals and proposals. Chapter 6 contains the results, and Chapter 7 concludes the study.