This project involves analyzing a corporate or organizational sustainability document. In particular, you will investigate how the document makes claims about sustainability in general and how the document articulates its commitments/actions within the context of those claims. This analysis should strive to understand how the organization justifies its practices and/or goals through various kinds of evidence and persuasive appeals (including visual rhetoric). You should aim to be a criticboth honest and skepticalof how the document is constructed and how it aims to make apparent and/or obscure the organizations commitments to sustainability. This analysis will require you to dig beyond the page and research how the organization/company puts its stated sustainability goals into practice.
By the end of this project, you should be able to
Dissect and evaluate particular stated arguments and claims about sustainability,
Interrogate how an organization uses a range of rhetorical strategies to support an overarching argument or vision of sustainability,
Develop/use critical skills to research the veracity of sustainability arguments by investigating how claims hold up to real-world practice and history,
Anticipate how rhetoric and writing can be employed to both obscure and shine a light on commitments to sustainability.
Choosing an Organization/Corporation to Analyze
Your first step in this project is to choose an organization or corporation to analyze. You should make sure the organization has enough public-facing sustainability documents for you to analyze. Before you definitively select the organization, you might also do a little online research on the organizations sustainability practices (activities that may or may not end up in the stated sustainability documents). Some opening questions:
What industry do you want to know more about, specifically in relation to their sustainability policies/practices?
What area of society (tech, healthcare, education, etc.) do you see yourself working/participating in after you graduate from college?
What organization would be particularly interesting or worthwhile examining at length?
Delimiting What Documents Youll Analyze
Once youve determined your organization, you should tailor your analysis to a set of sustainability documents. Perhaps your organization has one report or maybe they have multiple webpages, videos, infographics, and other supporting documents. You should be deliberate about what documents you wish to analyze and why. This purposeful delimiting will help you to maintain focus in your analysis. Be sure to state what documents you analyzed in your paper.
Once you have your documents, you should start to read them rhetorically: what are they attempting to do? How do they attempt to move their audiences to act, feel, think, do? How do they construct a relationship with an audience or set of audiences? As youre asking these questions, pay attention to:
Argument: what is used to support any claims the documents make? Statistics? Appeals to humanity? Visual references? Etc.
Purpose: Why do the documents exists? What influences the construction and delivery of them?
Language: what words and phrases are being used? And to what effect?
Tone: how does the writing and visuals contribute to an overall sense of tone and mood?
Please note: its easy to get overwhelmed when doing a rhetorical analysis and its easy to fall into generic formulations of ethos, logos, pathos, etc. For this analysis, I invite you to focus on a few key features of the documents. You should try to detail with some precision how these features work rhetorically. For example, you might say early in your introduction paragraph that
In this analysis, I focus on how X organization strategically uses clean design, white space, and sparse aesthetic imagery to persuade readers that organization has a minimal impact on the environment. However, the imagery is at odds with the statistics mentioned both in the sustainability report and those that are not accounted for at all.
You can imagine how this statement forecasts what might be found in the rest of the analysis. You should quote, paraphrase, and use visuals like screenshots (if needed) to thoroughly unpack your point. Connect all the dots for your reader. Dont leave some of the intellectual work of your analysis up the reader; do that work for them!
Your analysis should be around 3-4 pages, double spaced, standard margins. You should absolutely quote materialsboth the documents youre analyzing and any supplementary materials that help put those documents into context.
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