EM SC 240N
Energy and Sustainability in Contemporary Culture

Lesson 5: Rhetorical Analysis


PLEASE NOTE that this course has not been updated for the Fall 2018 semester. The content may change prior to the beginning of the semester.


We are now going to switch gears a little bit and investigate rhetorical strategies in the so-called rhetorical triangle - ethos, pathos, and logos. Rhetorical strategies are methods used to persuade an audience. They were outlined over 2,000 years ago in ancient Greece, but they remain valid and powerful today. They can be used in all forms of communication, including speech, writing, video, and imagery. They are used in every field of inquiry and study, including energy and sustainability. Understanding these strategies can be an important aspect of critical analysis, because skilled communicators are very good at using them to persuade an audience that their assertions are valid. Rhetorical strategies are also important to understand if you are to be an effective communicator. We then investigate greenwashing, which is an attempt by companies to convince audiences that the company acts more sustainably than it actually does. Finally, you will be introduced to the three types of lies, and an emerging field of study and application called "Behavioral Economics." Behavioral Economics is a branch of economics that seeks to understand why people act in ways that don't fit into the standard, neoclassical model of economics. Neoclassical Economics is the type of economics that most economists, policy-makers, and academics use, and is almost certainly the one that you learned in Economics class. Buckle up - this should be interesting!

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • define rhetoric, ethos, pathos, and logos;
  • analyze claims made in speech, writing, and imagery through the lens of the rhetorical triangle;
  • create rhetorical statements to enhance the persuasiveness of claims made in writing;
  • define greenwashing;
  • list ways that consumers can overcome greenwashing;
  • identify the greenwashing content of advertising claims;
  • define lies of commission, lies of omission, and character lies;
  • define the term homo economicus; and
  • analyze principles of Behavioral Economics.

Required Reading/Viewing

In addition to the written lesson, you should also read/view the resources listed here. Links are also provided throughout the lesson.

What is due this week?

Please note that the quiz can only be taken once. You have unlimited time to complete it prior to the deadline, and can save your progress and pick up where you left off at a later time. See the Assignments and Grading section of the syllabus for tips on how to do this. Once you submit the quiz, you cannot change answers. All saved answers will automatically be submitted at the deadline if you have not submitted them.

Requirement Item Location Submission Location
Lesson 5 Quiz See quiz content on Canvas. Canvas - Modules tab > Lesson 5
Lesson 5 Journal Entry See Journal Entry content on Canvas. Canvas - Modules tab > Lesson 5


If you have any general course questions, please post them to our HAVE A QUESTION? discussion forum located under the Discussions tab in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum regularly to respond as appropriate. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses and comments if you are able to help out a classmate. If you have a question but would like to remain anonymous to the other students, e-mail me through Canvas.

If you have something related to the material that you'd like to share, feel free to post to the Coffee Shop forum, also under the Discussions tab in Canvas.