Understanding rhetoric and multimodal composition


The purpose of this assignment is to understand different rhetorical appeals and strategies by putting them into practice yourself. This assignment will also allow you to practice with multimodal writing and with Medium, the tool you will use for your Multimodal Research Assignment at the end of the course. There is a Medium tutorial page in this module. 

Writing in fields ranging from journalism to the health sciences is increasingly multimodal (occurring in more than one mode, such as print, electronic, visual, etc.) and mixed media. This means that writers in the 21st century, across all disciplines and career fields, need to have media and multimodal literacy skills. Whether those skills are put to use by integrating charts or graphs into reports, or by making infographics that transmit complex information, or by composing editorial news stories that incorporate video, audio, image, and text, it is important to understand the growing overlap between the principles of design and those of composition. 

According to the National Council of Teachers of English (Links to an external site.), “because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable.” In their most recent Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (Links to an external site.) (2014), the Council of Writing Programs Administrators removed “digital literacy” as a separate category, instead integrating digital design and multimodal writing into the traditional categories of “Rhetorical Knowledge,” “Critical Thinking, Reading, and Composing,” “Processes,” and “Knowledge of Conventions.” For example, under “Rhetorical Knowledge”, the WPA states that students should be able to “match the capacities of different environments (e.g., print and electronic) to varying rhetorical situations.” In “Processes,” the WPA believes at the end of First-Year Composition, students should learn to “adapt composing processes for a variety of technologies and modalities.” This shift from the strictly textual to the multimodal is reflective of larger cultural shifts toward multimodal communication.


This assignment has two parts. First, you will compose a multimodal Medium essay in order to raise awareness about an issue that is important to you. You must use Medium.com to complete this part of the assignment. You will think about how to use rhetorical appeals and strategies to persuade your audience, as well as how to leverage a multimodal tool–Medium–to help you make your point effectively. Second, you will compose a short companion narrative to your Medium essay that analyzes and explains the rhetorical choices you have made. This is a composition written in Word. By analyzing your own rhetorical choices, you will see how all writers/authors make intentional choices about how best to appeal to their audience.

For the first part of this assignment, you will choose an issue that is important to you and use the media tools in Medium to compose a multimodal text that raises awareness about your topic. You should complete this part of the assignment by creating a page at Medium.com (see tutorial in this module). You can choose an issue that is political, like voting rights or environmental policy reform, an issue that is social, like high stakes testing in education or the importance of public parks, or individual/personal, like the need for personal fitness or the importance of fighting breast cancer, and anything in between. The most important criteria for choosing your issue is that it is important to you and it is something you think others should care about as well. Your audience for this Medium essay is made up of adults (18+) in the general population (not a specialist audience). You should think about how to craft your Medium essay in order to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Before composing, you should define for yourself your purpose, stance, context, and think about how to use medium and design in Medium. The minimum number of words for your Medium essay is 500, but there is no maximum number of words you must use in your essay–your length should be appropriate for your rhetorical goals.

For the second part of this assignment, you will write a short companion narrative that explains the rhetorical choices (strategies, appeals, and devices) you have made in order to appeal to your audience. In your narrative, you should state your purpose, stance, and define your context. You should also explain how you used specific rhetorical devices and strategies in order to make ethical, emotional, and/or logical appeals to your audience. You should be able to demonstrate how you used the tool or method of communication (Medium) and design rhetorically in order to connect with your audience to achieve your purpose. This portion of your assignment allows you to reflect upon and justify the rhetorical choices you made in the Medium essay. Your companion narrative will be composed in Word; it should be 350-500 words in length and the document design should conform to MLA formatting guidelines. 

You will submit two things for this assignment: a link to your published Medium essay (created in Medium.com) AND a Word, Rich Text, or PDF document as a companion narrative. NOTE: You will have to submit both items separately OR add link to your Medium essay as a comment when you submit the companion narrative or at the beginning or end of your companion narrative (Part I).

TIP: You should use “The Basics Cheat Sheet: Rhetorical Devices” and the “Rhetorical Appeals Playing Cards Peer-to-Peer Activity” in addition to the textbook for guidance on this assignment.

Here is an example of how a Medium essay (Links to an external site.) for this assignment might look. This should not be considered a formula, but rather a guide.

Here is an example of how the companion narrative (Links to an external site.) for this assignment might look. This should not be considered a formula, but rather a guide. Please note that the example refers to Storify to complete the multimodal essay, however, we are currently using Medium.com. 

Refer to the Grade Guidelines page to see the descriptions for “Achieves Excellence”, “Exceeds Expectations”, “Meets Expectations”, etc.

Assignment Rubric

Part 1: Medium Essay

A Medium essay that “Achieves Excellence” will be distinguished in the following criteria:

  • The writer/designer has a clear purpose and structure that are appropriate for a general audience of adults.
  • The writer/designer uses balance to incorporate both text and media.
  • The writer/designer uses text and media to capture the interest of the audience.
  • The writer/designer’s Medium essay is readable, unified, and thoughtfully organized.
  • The writer/designer effectively and purposefully integrates multi/media elements into his or her Medium essay.
  • The writer/designer has clearly considered the most effective way to leverage the medium of Medium to raise awareness about his or her topic.
  • The writer/designer effectively communicates the significance of his or her topic in order to raise awareness.
  • The writer/designer meets the standards for effective communication (clarity, accuracy, precision, logic, relevance, fairness, significance).

Part 2: Companion Narrative

A companion narrative to the Medium essay that achieves excellence will be distinguished in the following criteria:

  • The writer defines his or her purpose, stance, and context for his or her Medium essay.
  • The writer explains and discusses how he or she appealed to logic, emotion, and/or ethics in his or her Medium essay.
  • The writer discusses specific strategies or devices he or she used in order to make rhetorical appeals to the audience.
  • The writer explains how he or she used medium and design rhetorically.
  • The writer justifies his or her rhetorical choices for achieving his or her purpose with the audience.
  • The writer reflects upon how writers/authors make intentional choices in order to appeal to their audience.
  • The written portion of the assignment meets the standards for effective communication (clarity, accuracy, precision, logic, relevance, fairness, and significance).
  • The document design for the companion narrative conforms to MLA formatting guidelines.
  • The companion narrative is 350-500 words in length.

NOTE:  The rubric may refer to Storify to complete the multimodal essay, however, we are currently using Medium.com.

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