Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


M Ann Brady


Wendy K Z Anderson


Undergraduate education has a historical tradition of preparing students to meet the problem-solving challenges they will encounter in work, civic, and personal contexts. This thesis research was conducted to study the role of rhetoric in engineering problem solving and decision making and to pose pedagogical strategies for preparing undergraduate students for workplace problem solving. Exploratory interviews with engineering managers as well as the heuristic analyses of engineering A3 project planning reports suggest that Aristotelian rhetorical principles are critical to the engineer's success: Engineers must ascertain the rhetorical situation surrounding engineering problems; apply and adapt invention heuristics to conduct inquiry; draw from their investigation to find innovative solutions; and influence decision making by navigating workplace decision-making systems and audiences using rhetorically constructed discourse.

To prepare undergraduates for workplace problem solving, university educators are challenged to help undergraduates understand the exigence and realize the kairotic potential inherent in rhetorical problem solving. This thesis offers pedagogical strategies that focus on mentoring learning communities in problem-posing experiences that are situated in many disciplinary, work, and civic contexts. Undergraduates build a flexible rhetorical technê for problem solving as they navigate the nuances of relevant problem-solving systems through the lens of rhetorical practice.