A Comparison of Effectiveness of Structured and Non-Structured Strategies of Rhetorical Invention for Written Argumentation Produced by Community College Students
Smolova, Alona A.
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A recent shift in the composition studies has resulted in the renewal of interest in rhetorical invention. There is no uniformity among researchers and professionals about the optimal conditions preceding the composing process, especially among college students. This study was intended to explore the effectiveness of structured (Larson's Heuristic) and non-structured (freewriting) strategies of rhetorical invention produced by community college students. The objectives of this study were to determine the following: 1) whether there is an overall improvement of students' written argumentation after instruction in the strategies of rhetorical invention; 2) whether college student writers are more likely to use structured than non-structured strategies of rhetorical invention after instruction in both strategies; 3) whether there is a relationship between the nature of invention strategy used by the students spontaneously on the pre-test and the type of rhetorical invention used by them in the post-test; and 4) whether there is a relationship between the type of rhetorical invention and the quality of final drafts of argumentative essays. The study was designed as a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Matched-samples t-test, chi-square goodness-of-fit tests, and ANOVA procedures were employed to address specific research questions of this research. Focus groups, conducted during the final stage of the research, provided emic data about students' experience in and attitude toward the strategies of rhetorical invention. Findings indicate that though students' performance on the post-test was higher than on the pre-test, there was no statistically significant improvement in the quality of written argumentation after the completion of instruction in the strategies of rhetorical invention. Secondly, after completion of the instruction, students used structured (Larson's Heuristic) and non-structured (freewriting) strategies of rhetorical invention with comparable frequently. Thirdly, there was a moderate relationship between the type of rhetorical invention used by student writers in the pre-test and the type of rhetorical invention used by them in the post-test and that in the pre-test. Finally, there was a statistically significant relationship between the type of rhetorical invention and the quality of the final drafts of written argumentation in the pre-test. Further, the length of evidence of rhetorical invention was related strongly to the quality of the final drafts in the pre-test. No statistically significant relationship was detected between the type of rhetorical invention and the quality of written argumentation in the post-test. The results of this study enabled the researcher to articulate questions and provide suggestions for future investigation of written composing and rhetorical invention among college students.
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