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Doug Brent's Papers on Rhetoric and Communication

Note: Some of these papers are from my own files. I have tried to insure that they are as close to the final published versions as possible, but editorial variations may have crept in. "Official" scholarly references ideally should cite the original texts.

The exceptions are the articles originally published in electronic peer-reviewed journals. In these cases I have simply set pointers to the journals' own archives, which represent the most "authoritative" versions available. In other cases, I have saved the pdf version directly from the on-line version of the original journal. You can trust these to be accurate representations of the full published version.

Articles on Information and Communication Technology

Teaching as Performance in the Electronic Classroom.  A paper on the ways in which new modes of electronic teaching can shift our understanding of teaching from "performance" to "thing." 

Rhetorics of the Web: Implications for Teachers of Literacy An exploration of the impact that "true" nonlinear hypertext might have on our ways of reading, writing and thinking, and of the implications of these changes for teachers.

E-Publishing and Hypertext Publishing. A guest-editor's introduction to the first all-hypertext issue of EJournal. Discusses the changing roles of author, editor, publisher and text in the age of hypertext. This issue also features hypertext articles by Richard Andersen, John December and Charles Ess.

Stevan Harnad’s “Subversive Proposal: Kick Starting Electronic Scholarship. Summarizes and critiques the current debate over the future of electronic journals, focussing principally on the conversation that Stevan Harnad began with his famous "subversive proposal."


Information Technology and the Breakdown of "Places" of Knowledge Discusses how electronic text is eroding the distinctions between disciplines. Uses Ong, Bolter, Myrowitz and Goffman as theoretical lenses and the rhetorical concept of "places" (loci communes) as a guiding metaphor.


Oral Knowledge, Typographic Knowledge, Electronic Knowledge: Speculations on the History of Ownership Discusses the possible fate of concepts such as copyright and individual ownership of knowledge in an age of electronic text. Uses communication history and the "theory of transformative technology" as articulated by Ong, McLuhan and Bolter as a main theoretical lens.


Reading as Rhetorical Invention: Knowledge, Persuasion, and the Teaching of Research-Based Writing. This book draws from classical and modern Western rhetorics, reader-response and discourse-processing theories to argue that rhetorical theory should include a theory of reading to describe how meaning is made during the act of reading.

Articles on Rhetoric and Writing Studies

Senior Students' Perceptions of Entering a Research Community. Written Communication 2017 34:3. 333-355. Following on from the previous "Why We Should Still Care" article, "Senior Students' Perceptions" uses interviews with fourth year Arts students to elicit stories about how they learned to write research papers, and what they think about the process of doing so. The results reveal a wide array of ways of learning, including first year seminars, professors, peers, and trial and error. It ends with some suggestions for maximizing students' chances of profiting by these means of learning.


The Research Paper, and Why We Should Still Care. Writing Program Administration Fall 2013 37:1 33-53. This article applies rhetorical genre theory, activity theory and situated learning theory to argue that the "research paper," long neglected and/or denigrated in writing studies, has a vital role to play in helping students enter the academic discourse community, and that there are good reasons why composition courses should continue to teach it. It also makes a case for following Nelson and others in calling the genre "writing from sources" to emphasize its status as an activity rather than a set of formal conventions.


Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Re-Learning to Write. College Composition and Communication June 2012 63:4 558-592. This article follows up the “Transfer” article with an empirical study of students learning to transform and re-apply the rhetorical knowledge gained in their academic work while on their first Co-op work terms.


Transfer, Transformation, and Rhetorical Knowledge: Insights from Transfer Theory. Journal of Business and Technical Writing October 2011 25: 396-420, doi:10.1177/1050651911410951. This article traces the uncomfortable relationship that Writing Studies has had with the concept of learning transfer, including in some cases nearly outright rejection of the possibility that school knowledge can transfer to the workplace. However, transfer theory itself can be much more complex, and take a much more social view of knowledge, than it is sometimes credited with. Many aspects of transfer theory, while not well explored by Writing Studies, can suggest a number of ways that we can help our students learn to transform their expertise to fit new rhetorical situations.


Getting Here: Welcoming Students to the Research University. A chapter in George Melnyk and Christine Sutherland (eds.), The University and the Teacher, Calgary: Detselig, 2011. pp. 169-186. This is not an academic book as such but rather a collection of reflections, insights and reminiscences about teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels. My chapter argues for teaching not just the techniques but also the culture of research in order to help students enter the discourse community of the research university. It also provides some ideas on how to do so.


Using an Academic Content Seminar to Engage Students with the Culture of Academic Research. A paper in the Journal of the First Year Experience and Students in Transition 18(1) 2006: 23-54.  The paper reports a qualitative study of students in the Faculty of Communication and Culture's First Year Seminars.  It concludes that a seminar offering the opportunity to work on an extended research project is an important way of helping students absorb university culture.  It also concludes that much more research is needed on academic content seminars as opposed to extended orientation seminars.


Reinventing WAC (Again): The First Year Seminar and Academic Literacy.  (2005) College Composition and Communication, 57, 253-276.  Argues that First Year Seminars can be a good bridge to Writing Across the Curriculum, and uses interviews with students to show how a FYS can teach the writing of the research paper as a genre.


Dangerous Partnerships: How Competence Testing Can Sabotage WAC.  (2005) The WAC Journal, 16, 78-88.  Argues that institution-wide writing competence tests may seem like a good way to advance the aims of Writing Across the Curriculum -- but warns that they can also establish a remedial frame of mind that is deadly to the WAC mission. 

Same Roots, Different Soil: Rhetoric in a Communications Studies Program A chapter in Roger Graves and Heather Graves' Writing Centres, Writing Seminars, Writing Culture: Writing Instruction in Anglo-Canadian Universities.  This chapter describes the unusual position of the University of Calgary's writing program in a Communications Studies program rather than in an English department.  It discusses the troubled relationship between rhetoric, media studies, and English studies in Canada and the United States, and how this relationship has affected the University of Calgary's program. (Now a bit obsolete since the death of the U of C’s writing program – see “Rolling the Rock.”)

The Researcher as Missionary: Problems with Rhetoric and Reform in the Disciplines.  Judy Segal, Anthony Paré, Doug Brent, and Douglas Vipond.  Discusses the practical and ethical dilemmas faced by rhetoricians who seek to inform the members of other discourse communities about the practices of those communities.

Is Anyone Listening? Writers Being (Mis)Read in the Academy. (Co-written with Mary-Louise Craven, Margaret Procter and Jane Ledwell-Brown.)  This paper explores narratives of failure in responding to student writing: responses that send the wrong messages, that fail to accommodate the students' senses of themselves and how they fit into the academy, and that simply fail to help students learn. The paper addresses the social and institutional forces that help produce such failures and suggests ways of addressing them.


Rogerian Rhetoric: An Ethical Alternative to Traditional Argumentation. A chapter from Argument Revisited, Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in the Composition Classroom, ed Barbara Emmel, Paula Resch, and Deborah Tenny (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1996). This chapter discusses Rogerian rhetoric and how it can be used in the classroom as an alternative or supplement to the teaching of more traditional forms of argument. It focusses on Rogerian rhetoric more as a means of ethical enrichment than of persuasion in the traditional sense.


Writing Genres, Writing Classes, Writing Textbooks. Uses genre theory (Bazerman, Miller) to analyse the genre of the textbook, particularly the composition textbook. I argue that composition textbooks represent a response to a socially constructed pedagogical situation that is largely devoid of social meaning, and present an alternative pedagogy in (adapted from Reither, Vipond and Hunt) in which knowledge is socially constructed by a class acting as a research community.


Young, Becker and Pike's "Rogerian" Rhetoric: A Twenty-Year Reassessment Assesses Young, Becker and Pike's 1970 textbook Rhetoric: Discovery and Change. This book introduced the world of composition studies to a new, supposedly more co-operative rhetoric based on Carl Rogers' therapeutic techniques. The paper argues that, while Young, Becker and Pike's approach to rhetoric is dated and does not take into account modern phenomenological notions of language, Rogerian rhetoric nonetheless offers a valid alternative to traditional argument.


Why Does Rhetoric Need a Theory of Reading? Argues that, while three thousand years of rhetorical theory has provided solid theories of how persuasive discourse is composed, rhetoric needs to turn its attention to how persuasive discourse is processed by readers/hearers. Uses reader-response theories such as those of Rosenblatt and Iser and rhetorical theories such as those of Booth and Burke.

Computer-Assisted Commenting and Theories of Written Response.  The "computer assisted" part is completely obsolete now but I still stand behind the theories of written response.  I also think the general lesson on automating education stands as well today as it did in 1991.

Indirect Structure and Reader Response.  An oldie (1985) but an often-reprinted goodie.  Argues that "indirect structure," which is commonly cited in business communication texts as a way to buffer bad news, does not take account of the ways people really read and generally does more harm than good.

Short Papers, Texts of Oral Presentations, Works in Progress


The Student as Researcher:  How Do We Welcome Students into the Universe of Academic Discourse? PowerPoint from my keynote address to the 2016 conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing. (Won’t make much sense on its own but might be handy if you were there and want to retrieve citations.)


Learning from Librarians: What Writing Studies Can Learn from Literature on Information Literacy. A short article in the Inkshed Newsletter arguing that Writing Studies folks should spend more time reading the research on information literacy published in journals aimed at academic librarians.

Rolling the Rock: A Slightly Curmudgeonly Look at Writing Studies in Calgary and the World. A short article in the April 2012 issue of the Inkshed Newsletter.

Academic Literacy Seminars. A presentation to the 2004 Conference on the First-Year Experience.  This paper describes the University of Calgary's academically based first-year seminars, and argues that first-year seminars based on academic content are hugely under-reported and under-researched in the FYE literature.  The paper also reports some very preliminary results of interviews that explore students' experience of research.

Writing Across the Disciplines: Politics and Pedagogy.  An address to the University of Regina's Faculty of Arts on Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (2003).

Materials from the Regina Writing Across the Disciplines Workshop. These handouts are from the same workshop referred to above. Some will stand on their own, some won't, but people interested in using writing in content-area courses will find some of them handy.

Creating an Academic Community of Discourse in the Classroom. A set of materials presented at the Laurentian University Writing Across the Curriculum Workshop. It consists mainly of course materials which formed the nucleus for discussion of how a classroom can be turned from a presentational device into an active research community.

Ideas from the Writing Across the Curriculum Workshop  A brief list of tips and techniques from a workshop at the University of Calgary.

The Politics of Writing in the Disciplines.  An unpublished revision of a presentation to the Confernece on College Composition and Communication. This paper follows up on the article “The Researcher as Missionary," also on this page. 

(with Diana Brent)  "Technologies of Resistance/Resisting Technology: Braille, Computers, and Literacy for the Visually Impaired."  A paper presented to the Inkshed Working Conference #17, Bowen Island, May 2000.

In the Mirror of Genre: Students Write this World.  A short hypertext based on a talk given at the Inkshed XVI conference, reporting the results of research-in-progress about how students read and write WWW genres.

Rogerian Rhetoric. A short entry on Rogerian Rhetoric, from Theorizing Composition: A Critical Sourcebook of Theory and Scholarship in Contemporary Composition Studies, ed. Mary Kennedy.

Web Courseware Authoring Packages: Some Troubled Thoughts. A brief article in the Inkshed Newsletter.

Keeping the "Literacy" in "Information Literacy."  A brief article on the convergence between Information Literacy and Writing Across the Curriculum