Forensic Composition

It’s important to understand how effective composition works–or doesn’t.

A primary objective of this course if for you to recognize the components of successful composition and to understand how the fundamentals of oral communications relate to composition. Essentially, oral and written compositions are different modes of the same process.

Oral communications must impart meaning to an audience solely through audible or visual representation. Nonetheless, the same rules of logic and composition underlie the process, although the level of complexity of oral communications is necessarily limited by the audience’s memory: unlike written communication, there’s nothing for an audience to refer back to–all information must be kept in the audience’s mind.

For that reason, we can learn a lot about effective composition by analyzing good oral communications. An excellent example of effective oral communication is–when you find it–decent video editorials.

That can include commentary of many sorts: news, sports, the arts, politics and business. The sources are endless but the crucial element, as in our selection of written resources, is to find credible, mediated and accredited source.

Perhaps the strongest advantage oral communications, particularly in the media of television and video, is the ability to use visual images to explain events or to create meaning. Along with a speaker’s words, carefully selected images can intensify and clarify meaning.

From an opinion piece advocating restrictions on VFR flights.

(To read the essay and see how the picture, video and text work together, click here)

The blogs that you’ve created offer a unique opportunity to combine all of the modes of communications–oral, written, visual (both photos and video) and audible–into one rhetorical effort. Aiming towards a final project, we’ll begin to analyze these elements one at a time.

We’ll start with oral commentary.

Your assignment for this week is to choose a contemporary and controversial topic about which there exists both written and video commentary. The topic can be in the realms of news, entertainment, sports, politics, science or any other approved subject area.

Once you have chosen a topic, begin searching for commentary, both oral and written, that can be included in a blog entry. Preliminary sources can include all of the normal information sources but in order to find an oral presentation, you’ll need to search audio and video sources (e.x., YouTube, network sources).

For next week, find two opposing oral presentations (i.e., videos, max time: 5 minutes each). Embed each into your blog. Embed also a couple photos and/or graphics related to your subject matter.

Next week, we will do oral presentations: you will present your topic verbally, show your opposing commentaries (and the photos associated with them) and answer these questions about each commentary:

1. What is the authority of the commentary?

2. What type of argument is attempted (definition, evaluative, other)?

3. What evidence is cited? Is the evidence convincing? Valid? Verifiable?

4. Where do the two viewpoints conflict? How and why?

5. Which do you judge to be the most convincing? Why?


Watch these two opposing viewpoints and answer the above questions:

This blog essay will rely on everything except narrative text: video, photo, audio and minimal bullet points.

You should use all of the techniques we’ve developed so far for our objective and subjective essays to make your oral presentation as effective as possible.

For next week, April 27th:

1. Have your two commentaries embedded on your blog in a new blog entry entitled “Oral Composition.” By the end of class today, you should have your topic selected and preliminary work done collecting supporting material.

2. In class next week, present your two videos and the answers to the five questions.


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