Division of Rhetoric


The College is committed to writing as an instrument of learning, evaluation, and expression in all aspects of the curriculum. It therefore offers instruction in rhetoric to first-year students to develop their abilities as writers and thinkers in the context of the demands placed on them at a research university.

Rhetoric courses focus on the skills needed to write successful essays throughout the college curriculum. The courses show students how the process of reading and writing is itself a mode of thinking deeply and clearly about any subject. Faculty instruct students in a variety of widely applicable strategies for interpreting texts, generating ideas, and drafting and revising essays, with attention both to grammatical correctness and stylistic refinement. Students learn how to evaluate and respond to scholarly arguments, develop an effective thesis, organize and substantiate an argument, and conduct research in a large university library. In addition, faculty strive to inculcate a sensitivity to the power of language and the rhetoric we encounter daily in words and images.

Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the Rhetoric curriculum will be able to demonstrate:

  1. Critical Thinking and Reading: To demonstrate strong critical thinking skills in writing and speaking, and to become a careful critical reader of academic texts, showing the ability to consider relationships between form and content and to analyze a writer’s tone, sentence structure, paragraphing, use of outside sources, etc.
  2. Writing Process: To compose audience-driven papers that are organized, coherent, and stylistically sophisticated; to develop successful and flexible invention, planning, drafting, revision and editing strategies.
  3. Argument and Rhetorical Awareness: To become a clear and cogent writer of arguments that assert a position and enter an academic conversation, summarizing views held by others and positioning one’s own view (fairly and accurately) in relation to others; to use evidence and reasoning effectively to make a persuasive argument.
  4. Clarity, Comprehensibility, Mechanics: To observe conventions of standard written English to compose clear sentences and coherent paragraphs; to observe conventions of a range of academic disciplines and writing tasks (including organization, presentation, formatting, mechanics and stylistic choices).
  5. Research and Documentation: To conduct research using the university’s library resources; to locate, evaluate, organize, and integrate research material collected from both print and electronic sources, including library databases; to distinguish between academic and non-academic sources; to use bibliographies and footnotes to track down additional sources; to document sources fully using appropriate citation.
  6. Oral/Signed Communication: To craft and deliver responsible, considered, and well-structured oral and/or signed arguments using media and modes of expression appropriate to the situation; to demonstrate an understanding that oral/signed communication is generally interactive, and students should be able to attend and respond thoughtfully to others; to speak/sign effectively in situations ranging from the formal to the extemporaneous and interact comfortably with diverse audiences.
  7. Digital/Multimedia Expression: To craft and deliver responsible, considered, and well-structured arguments using media and modes of expression appropriate to the situation; to demonstrate an understanding of the capabilities of various communication technologies and be able to use these technologies ethically and effectively; to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of visual communication, such as principles governing design, time-based and interactive media, and the audio-visual representation of qualitative and quantitative data.


All students entering as freshmen in Fall 2018 and after will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the CGS program, and in some cases, through co-curricular activities. College of General Studies students will ordinarily, through coursework in rhetoric, satisfy some BU Hub requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by other College of General Studies courses as well as by selecting from a wide range of available courses within and outside the major or, in some cases, co-curricular experiences.

To fulfill the CGS Rhetoric requirement, students must complete the following two courses freshman year:

  • September Program
    • CGS RH 101 English Composition: Argument & Critical Thinking (4 cr): satisfies the BU Hub First-Year Writing Seminar requirement
    • CGS RH 102 English Composition & Research (4 cr): satisfies the BU Hub Writing, Research, and Inquiry requirement
  • January Program
    • CGS RH 103 Rhetorical Practices from the Ancient World to Enlightenment (4 cr): satisfies the BU Hub Writing, Research, and Inquiry requirement
    • CGS RH 104 Rhetorical Practices from the Industrial Revolution through the Digital Revolution (4 cr): satisfies the BU Hub First-Year Writing Seminar requirement