The Rhetorical Précis Civil Disobedience

Report
THE RHETORICAL PRÉCIS
Sample for “Civil Disobedience”
The Rhetorical Précis
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
In 1988, Margret Woodworth reported on a
reading/writing method that demonstrated significant
success with her students at various levels, particularly in
their reading comprehension and preparation for using
source materials in their own academic writing. That
method, which Woodworth calls “the rhetorical précis,”
will be used to complete this Syndicated Columnist
Assignment.
In a four sentence format, the rhetorical précis offers a
short account of an article, essay, or resource that does
more than summarize its content.
Sentence 1:
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Name of author,[optional: a phrase describing the
author], the genre and title of the work, date in
parentheses, a rhetorically accurate verb (such as
“asserts,” “argues,” “suggests,” “implies,” “claims,”
etc.) and a THAT clause containing the major
assertion (thesis statement) of the article or essay.
Henry David Thoreau, an American
transcendentalist, in his essay “Civil Disobedience”
[1849] asserts the need to prioritize one's
conscience over the dictates of laws.
Sentence 2:


An explanation of how the author develops and/or
supports the thesis.
Thoreau illustrates this belief by criticizing
American social institutions and policies, most
prominently slavery and the Mexican-American War.
Sentence 3:


A Statement of the author’s apparent purpose,
followed by an “in order” phrase indicating the
change the author wants to effect in the audience.
His purpose is to make readers aware of the
notion that government rarely proves itself useful
and that it derives its power from the majority
because they are the strongest group, not because
they hold the most legitimate viewpoint in order
to encourage the reader to reflect on what s/her
believes in strongly enough to take some sort of
nonviolent stance.
Sentence 4:


A description of the intended audience and the
relationship the author establishes with the
audience.
He establishes an formal relationship with his
audience of educated adults who are interested
in the how they might “wash their hands” of
government when it’s laws are ideologically out
of line with one’s strongest beliefs.
Final Sample

Henry David Thoreau, an American transcendentalist, in his essay
“Civil Disobedience” [1849] asserts the need to prioritize one's
conscience over the dictates of laws. Thoreau illustrates this belief by
criticizing American social institutions and policies, most prominently
slavery and the Mexican-American War. His purpose is to make
readers aware of the notion that government rarely proves itself
useful and that it derives its power from the majority because they
are the strongest group, not because they hold the most legitimate
viewpoint in order to encourage the reader to reflect on what s/her
believes in strongly enough to take some sort of nonviolent stance.
He establishes an formal relationship with his audience of educated
adults who are interested in the how they might “wash their hands”
of government when it’s laws are ideologically out of line with one’s
strongest beliefs.

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