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Note status: :seedling:

One of the most frustrating things about reading widely is the situation where you’ve read something, but can’t recall any details or situate that piece among the other things you’ve read.

As with Casey Boyle’s “…something like a reading ethics…,” writing a rhetorical précis is a great, brief method for engaging with what you read. casey-boyle-something-like-reading-ethics

Rhetorical Précis

As the name implies, a rhetorical précis focuses not just on the content of the text, but also on its rhetorical occasion. I feel like I learned this structure—or one quite similar—sometime in high school or undergrad. When digging around for it online years ago, I found a nice, brief explanation from someone who taught Philosophy at Oregon State. Here’s their rhetorical précis format overview, courtesy of the WaybackMachine (since it doesn’t still seem to be readily available at Oregon State’s site).

Rhetorical Précis Structure

Here’s the structure of it, taken from Oregon State. (Their page does have a nice example, so it’s still worth clicking through!)

  1. In a single coherent sentence give the following:
    • name of the author, title of the work, date in parenthesis;
    • a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “assert,” “argue,” “deny,” “refute,” “prove,” disprove,” ”explain,” etc.);
    • a that clause containing the major claim (thesis statement) of the work.
  2. In a single coherent sentence give an explanation of how the author develops and supports the major claim (thesis statement).
  3. In a single coherent sentence give a statement of the author’s purpose, followed by an “in order” phrase.
  4. In a single coherent sentence give a description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience.

Rhetorical Précis Template

Here’s my condensed version of that structure, suitable for a file template or code editor snippet:

{ author }’s { format }, { title } (date), { verb } { major claim }. { how supports major claim }. { author’s purpose }, in order to { desired intervention }. { description of and/or author’s relationship with intended audience }.

:seedling: = emerging note
:herb: = established note
:evergreen_tree: = evergreen note