Composition and Rhetoric

This section is limited to works that emphasize composition at the postsecondary level and to reference sources in historical rhetoric of value in composition research or literary criticism.

Research Methods


Kirsch, Gesa, and Patricia A. Sullivan, eds. Methods and Methodology in Composition Research. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1992. 354 pp. PE1404.M47 808′.042′072.

An introduction to the theory and techniques of research in composition, with individual chapters on historical, feminist, linguistic, socioethnographic, case study, ethnographic, cognitive, teacher-research, experimental, pluralistic, and collaborative approaches. Contributors generally address epistemological assumptions, practical matters, and ideological issues, illustrating their discussions with examples from their own research. Indexed by persons, titles, and subjects. Blending theory and practice, the collection offers researchers a solid introduction to both traditional and new approaches. Review: Mary Minock, Rhetoric Society Quarterly 22.3 (1992): 70–73.

Complemented by Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition, ed. Alexis E. Ramsey, Wendy B. Sharer, Barbara L’Eplattenier, and Lisa S. Mastrangelo (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2010; 317 pp.), with essays on locating archives, searching for letters, and finding primary works on the Internet.

More general overviews of research methods in composition can be found in Lillian Bridwell-Bowles, “Research in Composition: Issues and Methods,” An Introduction to Composition Studies, ed. Erika Lindemann and Gary Tate (New York: Oxford UP, 1991), 94–117, and David Bartholomae, “Composition,” pp. 103–25 in Nicholls, Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures (A25); both offer an overview of objects of inquiry, types of research, major methodological approaches, and issues that need to be addressed.

See also

Olson and Taylor, Publishing in Rhetoric and Composition (U6381).

Guides to Reference Works


Scott, Patrick, and Bruce Castner. ““Reference Sources for Composition Research: A Practical Survey”.” College English 45.8 (1983): 756–68. PE1.C6 820′.7′1173.

Scott, Patrick. ““Bibliographical Resources and Problems”.” An Introduction to Composition Studies. Ed. Erika Lindemann and Gary Tate. New York: Oxford UP, 1991. 72–93. PE1404.I57 808′.042′07.

Evaluative surveys of reference sources essential to research in historical rhetoric and composition. In both, the detailed evaluations are accompanied by valuable advice on research procedures and searching serial bibliographies. Until someone produces the much-needed detailed guide to research methods and reference sources in composition, “Reference Sources” and “Bibliographical Resources” offer the best introduction.

In describing the obstacles hindering bibliographic control of composition research and the need for systematic coverage, Scott, “Bibliographical Problems in Research on Composition,” College Composition and Communication 37.2 (1986): 167–77, provides valuable, if implicit, guidance on techniques for identifying scholarship.

Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age. Ed. Theresa Enos. New York: Garland, 1996. 803 pp. Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 1389. PN172.E53 808′.003.

An encyclopedia of persons, concepts, terms, methodologies, historical periods, and applications associated, in American higher education, with the history and practice of rhetoric and composition. Many of the 467 signed entries are written by established scholars and most conclude with a selective bibliography. Although lacking any explanation of how topics were selected, Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition offers the best guide to rhetoric and composition as understood and practiced in the United States. Review: Gerard A. Hauser, Quarterly Journal of Speech 83.2 (1997): 243–46.


Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik. Ed. Gerd Ueding. 11 vols. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1992– . PF3410.H5 808.003. <>. (Scheduled for completion in 2014.)

A dictionary of rhetorical terms and concepts from classical antiquity to the present. The signed essays—many of them quite extensive—include an etymology and equivalents in languages other than German, a definition, a historical overview (with several entries subdivided by period), and, when appropriate, uses in specific disciplines or geographic areas; most conclude with a bibliography and liberal cross-references. Vol. 10 includes addenda to the preceding volumes. For an outline of the work and its editorial principles, see Ueding, “Das Historische Wörterbuch der Rhetorik,” Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte 37 (1994): 7–20. Impressive in its breadth and the quality of its contributors, Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik is the best dictionary of rhetorical terminology. Review: (vol. 1) Brian Vickers, Rhetorica 13.3 (1995): 345–58.

Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. Thomas O. Sloane (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001; 837 pp.), offers the best short guide to elements of rhetoric, schema, related subjects, strategies and principles, and the history of the subject. The approximately 200 signed entries (ranging from about 100 to 16,000 words) emphasize depth over breadth, favor the traditional aspects of the discipline over the new and unconventional, and conclude with a selective bibliography (that frequently offers evaluative comments). Review: Glen McClish, Rhetoric Society Quarterly 32.4 (2002): 117–20.

Bernard Dupriez, A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A–Z, trans. and adapt. Albert W. Halsall (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1991; 545 pp.), offers a fuller guide to rhetorical terms, classical through contemporary, that draws from linguistics, prosody, rhetoric, and philology. A typical entry consists of a definition and citations to important studies, followed by one or more sections devoted to examples, definitions proposed by others, synonyms, antonyms, analogous terms, and remarks (e.g., on usage, characteristics, or explanations by others; many entries include several separate remarks, each accompanied by examples). Concludes with a bibliography. Indexed by terms and persons. The full (but occasionally idiosyncratic) discussions, extensive use and range of examples, and liberal cross-references make this one of the best guides to rhetorical devices.

Students needing less extensive discussions will find Richard A. Lanham, A Hand-list of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1991; 205 pp.), a useful handlist of basic rhetorical terms, most of them classical but extending through the mid-seventeenth century (A Hypertext Handlist of Rhetorical Terms for Macintosh Computers [1997] is obsolete). In the alphabetical list, a typical entry indicates pronunciation, offers a brief definition or cross-reference to a synonymous term, summarizes differing interpretations when necessary, and sometimes cites an example. Following the alphabetical list are sections that outline the divisions of rhetoric and classify the terms by type. Clear, brief explanations make Lanham a useful desktop companion for the interpretation of rhetorical terminology.

Guides to Scholarship

Surveys of Research


Gaillet, Lynée Lewis, ed. The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric: A Twenty-First Century Guide. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2010. 258 pp. PN183.P7 016.808.

Surveys of scholarship (principally since the late 1980s) accompanied by selective bibliographies on rhetoric, classical to contemporary. The earlier edition (Winifred Bryan Horner, ed., The Present State of Scholarship in Historical and Contemporary Rhetoric, rev. ed. [Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1990; 260 pp.]), which remains valuable for its survey of earlier scholarship, emphasized British and American traditions; the new edition is more global and interdisciplinary, centers less on academic rhetoric, and offers more attention to composition studies. Essays focus on periods—classical, Middle Ages, Renaissance, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and twentieth century. Although varying in organization, essays typically survey primary works (noting editions and translations), bibliographies, and important scholarship; provide an overview of major concerns in the period; suggest areas for research; and conclude with a selective bibliography. Three indexes: authors; rhetors; themes. Addressed specifically to the literature scholar, Gaillet is a valuable introductory survey of the most important primary works and scholarship. It should, however, be supplemented with Horner, Historical Rhetoric (U5600).


Research on Composition: Multiple Perspectives on Two Decades of Change. Ed. Peter Smagorinsky. New York: Teachers Coll. P, 2006. 308 pp. Lang. and Literacy Ser. PE1404.S596 808′.042′071.

Surveys of scholarship from 1984 through 2003 designed to continue the coverage by Hillocks and Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, and Schoer (see below). Individual essays assess the state of scholarship on, theoretical bases of, and research methods for preschool through elementary writing, middle and high school composition, postsecondary-level writing, teacher research in writing classrooms, second-language composition and teaching, rhetoric, family and community literacies, writing in the professions, and historical studies of composition. Each concludes with what is intended to be a complete bibliography of published research during the two decades. Boasting contributions by leading scholars of their respective topics, Research on Composition is an essential first source for anyone working in the field.

Earlier scholarship is surveyed in the following:

  • Braddock, Richard, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer. Research in Written Composition. Champaign: NCTE, 1963. 142 pp. (Covers the early twentieth century through 1962.)

  • Hillocks, George, Jr. Research on Written Composition: New Directions for Teaching. Urbana: Natl. Conf. on Research in English, 1986. 369 pp. (Surveys empirical studies from 1963 through c. 1982 and concludes with an extensive bibliography.)

  • McClelland, Ben W., and Timothy R. Donovan, eds. Perspectives on Research and Scholarship in Composition. New York: MLA, 1985. 266 pp. (Coverage extends through c. 1984.)

  • Moran and Lunsford, Research in Composition and Rhetoric (U5575).

  • Tate, Teaching Composition (U5580).


Moran, Michael G., and Ronald F. Lunsford, eds. Research in Composition and Rhetoric: A Bibliographic Sourcebook. Westport: Greenwood, 1984. 506 pp. Z5818.E5 R47 [PE1404] 016.808′042′07.

Selective surveys of scholarship (through c. 1982) designed to complement the first edition of Tate, Teaching Composition (U5580). The 16 essays cover the writing process; psychology of composition; writing blocks, anxiety, and apprehension; philosophy and rhetoric; literature, literary theory, and the teaching of composition; reading and writing; research methods; grading and evaluation; preparing assignments; basic writing; the sentence; the role of spelling in composition for older students; vocabulary development; punctuation; usage; and the paragraph. The chapters vary in organization, depth, and rigor of evaluation; some suggest topics for further research. Appendixes evaluate textbooks and usage manuals. Two indexes: authors; subjects. Along with Tate (which is less thorough and accessible), this is an important overview of early research in rhetoric and composition. Reviews: Kenneth Dowst, Rhetoric Review 4.2 (1986): 239–43; Richard Fulkerson, Teaching English in the Two-Year College 13.1 (1986): 51–57; Nancy Shapiro, Literary Research 11.1 (1986): 71–73.


Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Twelve Bibliographical Essays. Rev. and enl. ed. Fort Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1987. 434 pp. PE1404.T39 808′.042′07.

A collection of selective surveys of scholarship (through c. 1985) on rhetoric and composition that revises Teaching Composition: Ten Bibliographical Essays (1976; 304 pp.). Chapters by leading scholars examine rhetorical invention; structure and form in nonnarrative prose; approaches to the study of style; aims, modes, and forms of discourse; tests of writing ability; basic writing; language varieties and composition; literacy, linguistics, and rhetoric; literary theory and composition; the study of rhetoric and literature; writing across the curriculum; and computers and composition. The essays vary considerably in organization, rigor of assessment, and scope, with some authors merely updating rather than revising their original contributions. Three indexes: persons; subjects; titles. Because of the difficulty in determining which essay treats a particular topic, users should generally approach the work through the subject index. As Tate points out in his preface, both this work and Moran and Lunsford, Research in Composition (U5575), “are unsystematic and incomplete,” yet both are important overviews of early research in rhetoric and composition. In general, Moran and Lunsford is more effectively organized and thorough than Tate. Review: Chris Anderson, Rhetoric Review 6.2 (1988): 220–24.

Although the essays in A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, ed. Tate, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick (New York: Oxford UP, 2001; 256 pp.), focus on pedagogy, each concludes with a selective bibliography that supplements coverage of parts of Tate and of Moran and Lunsford.

See also

Greenblatt and Gunn, Redrawing the Boundaries (M1383).

Serial Bibliographies


ComPile: An Inventory of Publications in Writing Studies, including Post-secondary Composition, Rhetoric, Technical Writing, ESL, and Discourse Analysis: 1939– . Comp. Dylan Dryer and Rich Haswell. Haswell and Blalock, 2004–12. 29 Jan. 2013. <>. Updated regularly.

A database of books, articles, and essays from collections, published in English about composition and rhetoric and related fields between 1939 and the present. In Advanced Search, the 104,073 records (as of January 2013) can be searched by keyword in boxes for Author, Title, Date, Book (that is, publisher as well as editor[s] and title of an edited collection of essays), Journal, Pages, Search Term (which maps to a record field of index terms; it does not search the preceding fields), and Annotation; filling in more than one box automatically triggers the Boolean and. Quick Search is limited to a keyword search of one of the preceding fields. Because of the search engine’s processing of punctuation, use of special symbols, treatment of multiple words and names of authors within one search box, and automatic wildcarding of the beginning and end of a keyword (e.g., searching direct in the Title box will return records with directions, directive, indirect, etc., in the title field), users must be certain to read the Search Tips page. Although it would benefit from a less idiosyncratic search interface, ComPile offers the best access to the scholarship on composition and rhetoric after 1939. Review: Donna J. Gunter, Charleston Advisor 8.1 (2006): 21–23 (

For publications dated 2000 and after, MLAIB (G335) is an important complement to ComPile.

Although less thorough in its coverage, CCCC Bibliography of Composition and Rhetoric, 1984–1999, ed. Todd Taylor (, does index video and audio recordings and electronic resources, and it offers brief abstracts (though some information is supplied by publishers rather than contributors’ personal examinations). The ability to search by keyword remedies the utterly inadequate subject indexing of the printed CCCC Bibliography of Composition and Rhetoric, [1984–95] (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1987–99; former title: Longman Bibliography of Composition and Rhetoric, [1984–86] [1987–88]); however, the search interface was not functioning on three separate occasions in June 2011 or on 12 September 2012 or 22 January 2013.

Some additional publications are listed in the following:

  • ““Current Bibliography from American Book Publishing Record ”” (title varies) in most issues of Rhetoric Society Quarterly 3.3–24.1–2 (1973–94), a minimally classified list of books copied from American Book Publishing Record (Q4110).

  • “Selected Bibliography of Scholarship on Composition and Rhetoric, [1973–78, 1986–87],” College Composition and Communication 26–30, 38–39 (1975–79, 1987–88), a highly selective annotated bibliography on composition and rhetoric at the postsecondary level.


““Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English, [1966– ]”.” Research in the Teaching of English 1 (1967)– . (As of 45.2 [2010] the bibliography is available only as a PDF file accessible through the online version of the journal.) PE1066.R47 420.07.

A highly selective bibliography of research on all aspects of the teaching of English; installments once appeared in the May and November issues, but beginning in vol. 38 (2004) only the November issue includes the bibliography. The taxonomy has changed considerably over the years (most notably with vols. 18 [1984], 26.2 [1992], 31.2 [1997], 38.2 [2003], and 44.2 [2009]); entries are currently organized in divisions for digital or technology tools; discourse or cultural analysis; literacy; literary response, literature, or narrative; media literacy or use; professional development or teacher education related to teaching English; reading; second-language literacy; and writing. These titles, however, as well as the scope of the bibliography, are prone to change without notice or explanation. Beginning with 38.2 (2003), the annotated entries in each division are followed by an unannotated list headed Other Related Research. Since 45.2 (2010), annotated entries include keyword tags to facilitate searching; see the introduction to the first PDF-only version for an explanation of the tags. Until 26.2 (1992), many of the descriptive annotations are too brief to offer an adequate sense of content. Although coverage of books and articles is not especially thorough (in some issues most entries come from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses [H465], and there is no explanation of the criteria governing selection) and classification seems haphazard at times, this was, for many years, the only serial bibliography that systematically covered research in composition.


ERIC [Education Resources Information Center]. U.S. Department of Education. Inst. of Educ. Sciences, US Dept. of Educ., n.d. 22 Jan. 2013. <>. Updated weekly.

An information network established in 1966 to index, abstract, and disseminate research in education, ERIC is now a digital library of journal articles and reviews, books, dissertations, and unpublished material such as conference papers, curriculum guides, and research reports. The citations and abstracts in the ERIC database are available in printed form as the following:

  • CIJE: Current Index to Journals in Education (CIJE). Phoenix: Oryx, 1969–2001. Monthly, with semiannual cumulations; available on CD-ROM as CIJE on Disk. An index to education and related journals (currently about 980). Organized by subject area, then in order of processing, entries consist of ERIC document number, bibliographical citation, a list of descriptors (based on the current edition of Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors) and identifiers (terms not in the Thesaurus) used to create the subject index, and an abstract. Three indexes in each issue and cumulation (subjects; authors; journal contents); cumulative index: CIJE: Current Index to Journals in Education: Cumulated Author Index, 1969–1984 (1985; 2,218 pp.).

  • Resources in Education (RIE). Washington: GPO, 1967–2002. Monthly, with annual cumulation. (Former title: Office of Education Research Reports, [1956–65], 1967.) An index to books, dissertations, theses, audiovisual materials, computer programs, and a variety of unpublished materials such as conference papers, research reports, and curriculum guides—in short, material on education not indexed in CIJE. Organized like CIJE, entries include ERIC document number, bibliographical information, type of document, subject descriptors and identifiers, and abstract. Four indexes: subject; author; institution; and document type. Because ERIC abstracts virtually all the unpublished materials submitted, RIE includes far too many substandard papers, reports, guides, and the like. Many documents (but not journal articles) can be downloaded as PDF files from the ERIC database; in addition, several libraries maintain a collection of all ERIC documents reproduced in microfiche.

Because of their lack of organization, the print versions of CIJE and RIE—if one has to consult ERIC in this form—must be approached through their thorough subject indexes, which should be consulted with the current edition of Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors in hand. Much more effective and efficient is an electronic search of the ERIC database: access is free through the ERIC Web site, and many libraries offer access through one or more of the major Internet providers, including FirstSearch (E225a), EBSCO (I512), Ovid (, and ProQuest (I519).

The ERIC database is of interest to language and literature scholars for its indexing of works on composition and rhetoric—and occasionally on literature in journals not covered by the standard serial bibliographies and indexes in section G.

Although less extensive in coverage, Education Index (New York: Wilson, 1929– ; 10/yr., with annual and larger cumulations); Education Full Text (; updated daily; includes Education Abstracts; also accessible through OmniFile Full Text Mega Edition [I512]); and Education Index Retrospective: 1929–1983 ( offer author and subject indexing of publications before 1966 and are much more accessible than CIJE and RIE for post-1966 works. See entry I512 for an evaluation of the EBSCO search interface. Education is also covered in International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (I519).

See also

MLAIB (G335): Literary Forms/Rhetoric section in the General part, Stylistics/Rhetoric (as well as the Stylistics/Rhetoric section in individual language divisions) in the Linguistics part since 1981, and the Rhetoric and Composition division in pt. 4 since 2000. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “Composition,” “Rhetoric,” or “Rhetorical” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Other Bibliographies

Although the Conference on College Composition and Communication planned a bibliography that would cover 1900 through 1973, the project has been abandoned. However, the result of the search of one decade is available as Nancy Jones, ed., Bibliography of Composition, 1940–1949 (Rhetoric Society Quarterly, special issue 2 (1987): 1–75; Rhetoric Society Quarterly Bibliogs. in the Teaching of Composition 1), an author list and subject classification of 612 works in the theory, practice, and teaching of composition.


Horner, Winifred Bryan, ed. Historical Rhetoric: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Sources in English. Boston: Hall, 1980. 294 pp. Reference Pub. in Lit. Z7004.R5 H57 [PN187] 016.808.

A highly selective bibliography of primary works and scholarship (through c. 1978) important to the study of rhetoric through the nineteenth century. Although encompassing some classical and European writers, Horner emphasizes English-language works on English and American literature. The entries are listed in five separately compiled divisions (classical, Middle Ages, Renaissance, eighteenth century, and nineteenth century), each with separate lists of primary and secondary works preceded by an introductory overview and statement of scope and limitations. The divisions vary considerably in their coverage (especially of foreign language scholarship) and in the quality of their descriptive annotations. Indexed by persons, primary works, and subjects (but there are omissions and inaccuracies). Addressed to the novice, Historical Rhetoric is a convenient source for identifying the major primary works and studies, but it must be supplemented with Gaillet, Present State of Scholarship (U5565). Review: Victor J. Vitanza, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 6.1 (1982): 25–28.


Guides to Primary Works


Anson, Chris M., and Bruce R. Maylath. ““Searching for Journals: A Brief Guide and 100 Sample Species”.” Teacher as Writer: Entering the Professional Conversation. Ed. Karin L. Dahl. Urbana: NCTE, 1992. 150–87. PN147.T328 808′.02′024372.

A title list of 100 journals devoted to the study and teaching of composition. A typical entry includes title, auspices or organization responsible for publication, frequency, audience and circulation, areas of emphasis, subscription price, address for submissions, subscription address, degree of interest in publishing articles on writing and literacy, ratio of articles on writing and literacy to total number of articles published during the past five years, and advice from the editor on submitting manuscripts. For information on editorial policies and submission requirements, researchers should check a recent issue. The inclusion of major as well as regional periodicals makes this useful to those wanting to identify journals specializing in a particular area or searching for an appropriate place to submit an article.

For an evaluative survey of major periodicals, see Robert J. Connors, “Journals in Composition Studies,” College English 46.4 (1986): 348–65.