All of the decisions an author makes, whether small or large, contribute to the overall rhetorical situation of their text. Whether it be the audience, purpose, or context of the text, or the word choice and sentence structure that the author chooses, they each are factors in the larger rhetorical situation.
The author makes these choices based on what he or she wants to accomplish and how he or she thinks that can be executed best. For example, if a scientist wants to share his or her findings with the scientific community, he or she will use an objective voice and present the facts and evidence that he or she found rather than put personal anecdotes in the paper.
Whereas, an author for a newspaper will want to use language that the general public can understand, rather than using uncommon language specific to a field.
Janice D’Arcy’s article, “Childhood environment affects brain growth and function, a series of new studies finds”, is a popular article that attempts to communicate the findings of new scientific studies about the correlation between a child’s environment and the child’s brain growth to the general public.
However, an article referenced by D’Arcy, “Neural correlates of socioeconomic status in the developing human brain” by Kimberly Noble, Suzanne Houston, Eric Kan, and Elizabeth Sowell, published by Developmental Science, has a different purpose. Noble et al.
attempt to communicate their findings to their colleagues and other scientists researching brain development.
D’Arcy and Noble et al. make conscious rhetorical decisions in order to achieve their purpose in the best way possible. D’Arcy and Noble et al. achieve their purposes by using specific rhetorical devises such as word choice, visual appearance, tone, and many others, as well as appealing to ethos, logos, pathos, and kairos, based on what each of their audiences will appreciate. While the authors make many different rhetorical decisions, they do make some choices that are similar. One example of this would be their attempts to appeal to ethos, meaning they want to give their paper credibility.
D’Arcy and Noble et al.’s articles not only have specific purposes and audiences, but also come in response to the current events at the time. In 2011, the year before these two articles were published, the economy of the United States was still recovering from the collapse of the stock market on September 16, 2008, that triggered a recession. According to Alemayehu Bishaw, a writer for the United States Census Bureau, “In 2011, about 15.9 percent of the U.S. population had income below the poverty level” (1).
The children who were growing up in poverty at the time would have been significantly affected. This is where the articles by D’Arcy and Noble et al. come into play. Their articles are examining the relationship between the environment a child grows up in and the development of his or her brain. The environment for many children changed dramatically in the years following 2008. Some children went from living comfortably in a home to being thrown out in the streets and having to beg for money. Because these two articles come in direct response to the 2008 stock market crash and examine the issue of the childhood environment, a relevant issue in 2012, these articles show kairos.
Janice D’Arcy makes many conscious decisions that affect the rhetoric of her article in order to achieve her purpose of communicating the findings of new scientific studies about the relationship between a child’s environment and his or her brain growth to the general public. D’Arcy wants to share the scientists finding about how a child’s surroundings can affect their brain growth, but in order to do this, she needs to entice readers so that they actually read her article.
In the first words that the reader sees, the purpose begins to become evident. The article’s title “Childhood environment affects brain growth and function, a series of new studies finds” attempts to draw in the reader by using words that a normal person can understand. Additionally, the title grabs the reader’s attention, especially parents reading the article, because it talks about how a child’s environment can affect his or her brain growth. Every parent who cares for their children wants them to have the most success that they can. Therefore, parents would definitely want to read an article that could help them create an environment where their children’s brains can grow to their maximum potential.
D’Arcy also makes the article easy to read so that she does not lose her readers by keeping her paragraphs short and using a decent size font that is visually pleasing to readers. Instead of having a few long paragraphs, D’Arcy uses 17 paragraphs in an article that is only 670 words long. Another way that D’Arcy reveals her audience is by explaining terms that the general public would not understand.
For example, D’Arcy says, “The greater the income levels, the more hippocampal (crucial for learning and memory) volume; the higher the educational level, the less volume in the amygdala (where stress is processed)”. The general public would not understand the words hippocampal and amygdala, so D’Arcy explains their significance, revealing that her audience is not a group of specialized scientists but rather normal people. The fact that D’Arcy’s article has no formal sources and only references where she gets her information confirms the fact that her article is not scholarly and therefore doesn’t have a scholarly audience.
D’Arcy uses many rhetorical devices such as ethos and pathos to draw in her readers and give her article credibility. One way she builds her ethos is by providing a hyperlink to the studies that she references in her article. D’Arcy also reveals that the studies she references were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. This lets the readers know that the studies conducted were done by some of the leading experts in their field. Additionally, she tells her readers the names of the researchers who worked on the studies throughout her article. This lets the reader know that D’Arcy is not using random studies, but has picked particular studies to report on.
The first reference to pathos in D’Arcy’s article is a picture of a little boy playing in a sandbox on a playground. The picture makes D’Arcy’s argument real for her readers. Her readers can physically see that this child’s environment while growing up will affect the growth of his brain and his future. Additionally, D’Arcy attempts to appeal to the reader’s pathos when she says, “Another study found that children exposed to abuse at a young age as adults exhibited ‘enhanced stress response””. By talking about children being abused, she makes the reader feel sorry for the children. This helps to make the article come to life for the readers because it puts an actual face on the issues being discussed, keeping the readers interested in the article.
Noble et al. make rhetorical decisions to share their findings with other scientists and experts in their fields in their article, “Neural correlates of socioeconomic status in the developing human brain”. It is evident that the audience of this paper is not the general public and rather educated scientists for many reasons. First of all, the paragraphs are very long and the font is small.
This in combination with the fact that they do not explain field specific words signifies that the authors are not trying to draw the reader in with the visuals and language they use. Rather, they are depending on the factual evidence they provide to entice their audience. Because Noble et al. know that their audience will respect work that is very objective, they use a very scientific and direct tone without unnecessary colloquial language.
In order to achieve their purpose of furthering the conversation about brain growth by presenting new research, Noble et al. appeal mostly to their reader’s ethos, kairos, and logos. The first reference to ethos comes at the beginning of the paper when it says that the article was first received by the publisher on June 23, 2011, but it was not accepted until January 30, 2012 (Noble et al.). This shows that the article underwent peer review and therefore is approved by other experts in their field. Additionally, there is information about the authors at the beginning of the article that confirms their validity as researchers.
For example, Noble, the main author, is part of the Department of Pediatrics of Columbia University, the GH Sergievsky Center of Columbia University, and the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical center. This shows her readers that she is has extensive experience in the field she is researching. Throughout the paper, Noble et al. reference where they are getting their information from. For instance the article says, “Currently, over one in five U.S. children live below the federal poverty line (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2011)” (Noble et al.). This adds to the ethos of the paper because the reader knows exactly where Noble et al. are finding their information. They even provide the hyperlink so that the reader can quickly cross-reference their information to make sure it is credible.
However, the sources that the article provides may not be credible for every audience. Noble et al. chose their specific sources because they believe that their audience, which is mainly other scientists and scholars researching brain development and or socioeconomics, would think that the sources are credible. Additionally, this quote demonstrates Noble et al.’s appeal to kairos. Their study was not conducted out of the blue without a stimulus, but rather was relevant to the current events at the time. Noble et al.’s study comes just four years after the United States’ worst recession since the Great Depression.
The recession had left many families without income and forced them out on the streets. Noble et al.’s article helps to examine a new perspective on the effects of the recession. Not only will the recession cause much physical and emotional pain for children, it may also affect the growth of their brains. Next, the article appeals to logos. The largest way that the article appeals to logos is through the structure of the paper. The paper is very organized and presents the all of the procedures and data first. Then, Noble et al. interpret the data and make conclusions in the discussion section of the article, the last section.
For example, one of their conclusions is, “Given the prevalence of socioeconomic disadvantage, an understanding of the neural mechanisms by which it operates has vast potential implications for intervention and prevention,” (Noble et al.). They only draw their conclusion after establishing that socioeconomic disadvantage is prevalent. Noble et al. also increase their logos and ethos by being in a conversation with the other scientists in their field.
The easiest way to tell this is by the 72 sources the article has. But, there are some other key indicators that the article is part of the larger conversation. For example, at the end of the article it says, “Certainly, more research is needed” (Noble et al.). This reveals that not all of the research is finished. There is still more to explore and discover about the relationship between socioeconomic status and the human brain.
The rhetorical decisions that D’Arcy and Noble et al. make are not done carelessly, but rather with a specific purpose in order to achieve their respective goals. In D’Arcy’s article, she appeals to ethos and pathos through word choice, structure, visual appearance and many other rhetorical devices. However, in “Neural correlates of socioeconomic status in the developing human brain” Noble et al. have a very different purpose.
Instead of trying to draw the general public into reading an article, they want to further the conversation about socioeconomic status and brain growth. Noble et al. appeal to ethos and logos by using specific language, having a multitude of sources and references, and structuring their paper in a logical way because they know that their audience will appreciate these rhetorical decisions. The two articles use different rhetorical devices because they have different purposes and different audiences.