[SEE UPDATED VERSIONS ON VIMEO] Researching Rhetoric and Composition in the MLA Bibliography
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[SEE UPDATED VERSIONS ON VIMEO] Researching Rhetoric and Composition in the MLA Bibliography

September 11, 2019

Rhetoric in the MLA International Bibliography
refers to a diverse set of techniques, practiced since ancient times, for effective speaking and writing that aim to
accomplish some purpose. Rhetoric and composition, on the other hand, is a modern academic discipline concerned with
teaching the application of these techniques to
different kinds of writing and studying how these techniques are used in
both literary and nonliterary contexts. To help you better understand the wide range of
topics that the word rhetoric encompasses, we
created this tutorial. It introduces you to the variety of scholarly
works published about rhetoric and composition
indexed in the bibliography and demonstrates how you can search for them. Rhetoric can appear in the MLA Bibliography
database in various ways. Knowing the classification for its different
contexts can help you find useful terms to make
your online search more effective. The bibliography classifies general works on
rhetoric under literary forms. Therefore, if you are looking for scholarship on
rhetoric in general, you can search the terms “rhetoric” along with
“literary forms” as subjects from the Advanced
Search page. This limits your results to items where rhetoric
is a main topic of a scholarly work, not simply a
term mentioned in a work’s abstract. Rhetoric is also classified under the national
literature of the place in which it is written. For example, if you were interested in the
rhetoric of authors in the United States, you can add “American literature” to a search for
“rhetoric.” To search for resources on the rhetoric of a
specific author, add the author’s name to your
search. As a resource noted for its coverage of literary
topics, the MLA Bibliography makes the distinction
between literary and nonliterary rhetoric. Rhetoric is considered literary if it applies to
subject authors within the scope of the
bibliography. For example, rhetoric in the writing of Ernest
Hemingway is considered literary, while rhetoric in contemporary newspaper
articles is generally not. You can better search for rhetorical approaches
to nonliterary material using the phrase
“discourse studies.” This phrase encompasses genres and media
that do not fit into—or are too broad for— our classifications for national literature and for
film and television. You can make this kind of a search more
precise by adding terms for the type of discourse you may be studying
or the topic of the discourse. For example, you can search for “electronic
discussion groups” and their rhetoric
surrounding “female beauty.” If you are not sure that the type of rhetoric
you’re researching is literary, search both “rhetoric” and “literary forms or
discourse studies.” If you are researching a specific type of rhetoric,
you can use subject terms such as “political
rhetoric,” “feminist rhetoric,” or “visual rhetoric.” Linguistic approaches to rhetoric can also be
applied to both literary and nonliterary works. In the bibliography, these kinds of approaches to
rhetoric are classified under language (or a
specific language) and further classified under stylistics. Therefore, to find resources discussing these
approaches, use the terms “language” and
“stylistics” along with “rhetoric” in your search. To find resources on teaching writing at the
college level, search for the subject “rhetoric and composition”
along with any other topics you might be
interested in. Note that indexing of materials on rhetoric and
composition was not introduced into the
bibliography until 2000. Previously, articles and books on writing
pedagogy were considered out of the scope of
the bibliography and thus were not indexed. However, some pre-2000 articles were
subsequently indexed. Rhetoric has aspects that overlap many areas of
the bibliography—literature, linguistics,
discourse studies, composition, and more— which means it may take more than one search
to find just what you’re looking for. For more tutorials on searching the MLA
International Bibliography, visit
www.mla.org/bibtutorials. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to
get announcements as new tutorials are
released. And if you have more questions, consult a
librarian at your college or university library.

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