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CHAPTER 2: The Rhetorical Situation: Understanding Audience and
1. What are the five elements in the rhetorical situation? Use TRACE to help you
remember. (pages 28–30)
Elements of the rhetorical situation are:
2. How can a reader use the rhetorical situation to analyze an argument essay?
A reader may use the five parts of the rhetorical situation (TRACE) to
analyze an argumentative essay:
Text—to determine the kind of text and any special qualities and features
Reader (or audience)—to determine the targeted audience and its nature
Author—to attempt to discover the background and motivation of the author
Constraints—to determine constraining circumstances that might influence
the responses of the reader and the author to the subject
Exigence—to discover the motivation and context for the argument
How can a writer use the rhetorical situation during the planning phase of writing
a paper? (pages 30–35)
The five parts of the rhetorical situation can help the writer get started:
Exigence provides the author’s motivation for writing on a particular issue;
Audience encourages the writer to consider who will read the argument and
if the author and the audience share enough common ground;
Constraints identify value systems, experiences, and affiliations that can
either bring author and audience together or drive them apart;
Author encourages students to think about their interest in the topic, what
they already know, and what they still need to learn;
Text includes understanding the assignment, and selecting strategies to
produce a paper that meets its requirements.
3. Why is the audience important in argument? What types of positions might an
audience initially hold? What possible outcomes are associated with arguments
directed to each of these audiences? (pages 32, 35–36)
The purpose of argument is to bring about some change in the audience. In
order to do that, a writer needs to analyze the audience’s present opinions,
values, and motives, and show as often as possible that the author shares
common ground with the audience. A friendly audience may become more
convinced; a mildly friendly or mildly hostile audience may decide to agree,
take a new interest in the issue, or tentatively accept the arguer’s position; a
neutral audience may change its level of indifference; and a hostile audience
may lower its hostility and listen.
4. What is a discourse community? (pages 36–37)
A discourse community is a specialized group that shares subject matter,
background, experience, values, and a common language (including
specialized and technical vocabulary, jargon, or slang).
To what discourse communities do you belong?
Answers will vary and may include sorority, fraternity, professional group,
family, ethnic group, etc.
How does a discourse community help establish common ground for its members?
Common ground automatically exists because they understand one another
5. What is the universal audience? (page 37)
The universal audience is a composite audience imagined by the audience that
has individual differences but also important common qualities. Every arguer
constructs the universal audience from his or her own past experiences, so the
concept of the universal audience varies somewhat from individual to
individual and culture to culture.
What are the special qualities of this audience? (page 37)
The universal audience is educated, reasonable, normal, adult, and willing to
Why is it a useful idea? (page 37)
The concept of the universal audience is helpful when the audience is largely
unknown and you cannot find much information about it. It is also useful to
try to construct an unfamiliar audience’s possible initial position on your
issue. When you don’t know your audience’s position, it is best to imagine it
as either neutral or mildly opposed to your views and direct your argument
with that in mind.