History of Rhetoric Bacon to Present English 548 Homepage

ARISTOTLE'S COMMON TOPICS OF INVENTION (Adapted)

1. DEFINITION: How do I (or others) define X?
"What do I mean by X? By X, I mean..."
"Let me give you an example of an X. ..."
"Some believe that X is ..., but actually it is ..."
"X is from a [Latin] word which literally means ..."
"X used to mean ..., but today it usually means ..."
"For people in ..., X means ..."
"A synonym for X is ..."
"X, which is really simply ...,
"Webster's New Collegiate defines X as ..." !!DULL!!

A. Genus: What group of things does X seem to belong to?
"X is essentially ..."
"X belongs to ..."
"X is one of a group of ..."
"X is a kind of ..."

B. Division: What parts can X be divided into? How is X different from other members of the class?
"X is made up of n parts, a, b, and c."
"X is different from Y because it ..."

2. COMPARISON:

A. Similarity: What is X similar to? Why?
"X is like ... because..."
"When we think of X we think of ..., because ..."
"X reminds me of ..., in that it ..."

B. Difference: What is X different from? How is it different? Why?
"Unlike most ..., X is ..., because it ..."
"While Y is ..., X is ..."
"On one hand, Y is ...; on the other hand X is ..."

C. Degree: To what extent does X differ from Y?
"X is [hotter, faster, friendlier, etc.] than Y because ..."
"X is [superior/inferior to, more/less useful than etc.] Y..."
"X is [the biggest, most beautiful, lest efficient, etc.] ..."

3. RELATIONSHIP:

A. Cause and Effect: What Causes X? What are the effects of X?
"X is ... because ..."
"X is ...; consequently, ..."

B. Antecedent and Consequence: What should precede (or follow) X?
"If ... happens, then X should happen."
"If ... happened, then X must have happened."

C. Contraries: What is the complete opposite of X?
"... is the opposite of X."
"On one hand, ...; on the other hand..."

D. Contradiction: Is there something which cannot be (or be true)
"If X is ..., then Y cannot be ..."
"Either X is ...or Y is ..."

4. CIRCUMSTANCE:

A. Possible and Impossible: Is X possible? Is X impossible?
"If it's possible to do [some example], it's possible to do X"
"If we did ..., then surely we can do X."

B. Past Fact and Future Fact: Because Y happened, X will happen.
Because Y happened, X must have happened.
"If ... happened, X will happen.
"If ... happened, then X must have happened.

5. TESTIMONY: What have others said about X? (These require research)

A. Authority: What does an expert (or experts) on X say about X?
"According to [name], a leading authority on X,..."[Document!]
"Scientists who study X generally agree that ..."[Document!]

B. Testimonial: What does a respected (or popular) person say about X?
"[name], star of [TV show], eats X every morning."
"My dad is the best dad in the world and he says X is ..."

C. Statistics: What has been counted or measured about X?
"Four out of five mothers agree that X is ..."
"X declined three percent in June, which signals ..."

D. Maxims: What old saying applies to X?
"A stitch in time is worth three in the bush."
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him put on a bathing suit."

E. Law: What laws, regulations, or rules apply to X?
"Federal statutes say that X is ..."
"The first commandment says that X is ..."

F. Precedent and Example: Are there similar cases or examples of X?
"In May of 19 a similar event occurred..."
"For example, ..."
[Examples may be hypothetical--made up--or actual (either from your own experience or the experience of others.)]