I’ve begun to notice a pattern. Apparently I think of information literacy as a branch off of the field of rhetoric rather than science, no matter what the title of my degree says.
In my job talk for my current job (before I really knew anything about being a reference or instruction librarian, or about what my work would look like) I talked about how research allows you to listen in on the other end of the phone conversation — how any one piece of writing is only part of the story, and a fuller picture emerges when you listen to more voices.
My understanding and teaching about citation and attribution always deals with citations as rhetoric, not only because they build bridges between the various parts of the relevant conversation but also because they signal to your readers “See, I have chosen evidence that you will think is really great evidence for this claim, so please think highly of my claim.”
The rubric my colleagues and I have been developing to help us sift through student papers to learn about the students’ habits of mind when it comes to incorporating evidence into their own work is all couched in their rhetoric, since that’s all we have to go on. So we look for how well they make a case for their evidence being the ideal evidence for their goals, and then at how skillfully they weave it into their justification for their claims.
And now I’m reading They Say / I Say, which has gained great traction on our campus, and the first paragraph of the preface starts out:
The core of this book is the premise that good argumentative writing begins not with an act of assertion but an act of listening, of putting ourselves in the shoes of those who think differently from us. [...] When writing responds to something that has been said or might be said, it thereby performs the meaningful task of supporting, correcting, or complicating that other view. (xiii)
And I’m thinking “that sounds an awful lot like the way I teach information literacy.” Listening in on what’s been said before and using that activity not just as a way to gather facts but more importantly as an ongoing act of building a framework for your thinking and writing and communicating.
And I’m thinking that maybe I should actually learn something about rhetorical theory since I’m currently basing a whole lot of my work on an area that I really know very little about.
So, rhetorician denizens of the internet, what do you recommend that I read as I reverse-engineer some actual knowledge into this theme of mine?
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. Second Edition. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.