Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

PWR 2HL: Developing and Communicating Your Expertise: The Rhetoric of Excellence

Main content start


Fall 2021: Not offered

Winter 2022: Not offered

Spring 2022: Not offered

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Expertise is generally defined as extensive knowledge or skill in a particular domain that has been acquired through practical experience, training, or study. Traditionally, we recognize experts based on factors such as years of experience, demonstrated knowledge, credentials, peer-nominations, and achievements. Research on expertise development, however, has revealed that in some domains, such as wine-tasting and stock trading, so-called experts do not always perform better than novices. What then, does it mean to be an expert? What makes an expert reliable, helpful, convincing or effective with an audience? Considering these questions can help students become rhetorically sensitive as they develop their own areas of expertise-- better equipped to contribute to their fields, and share their knowledge in a way that connects with lay audiences.

In this course, we will examine the rhetorical strategies experts use to present their knowledge clearly and effectively, particularly to non-expert audiences. We will watch videos of experts explaining their craft to novices, such as musician Wynton Marsalis and Bill Nye The Science Guy. Students will have the opportunity to explore the research literature on expertise development in their chosen field of study, such as medicine, computer science, the arts, sports, technology, mathematics, etc., and identify the ways in which expertise is a rhetorical construct that reflects the culture, values and traditions of a field.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 minute live oral presentation; written text of 600-1200 words) For this assignment, you will propose a specific research agenda connected to the course theme, and share your proposal with the class. Example projects include conducting a case study of a Stanford professor’s success in his/her field; examining the role of talent, grit and social encouragement in the expertise development of a scientist or a celebrity chef; or exploring the impact of online platforms, like YouTube, or Wikipedia, on traditional conceptions of expertise.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) The main goal of this assignment is to sharpen your research- based writing skills, discover and synthesize ideas, evidence, and arguments from multiple texts as you formulate your own conclusions on your chosen research topic. Activities to support you throughout the writing process will include one-to-one writing conferences, peer review of drafts, and sessions with writing tutors in the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking.

Delivery of Research

(10 minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) For this assignment, you will have the opportunity to practice the communication techniques used by experts as you prepare a talk on your research topic for the class. Activities for this assignment include drafting and scripting your message, rehearsing, receiving feedback, revising and re-delivering your presentation.

Research Reflection

(3-5 minute live oral presentation or written text of 600-900 words) This assignment is an opportunity for you to reflect on challenges encountered when working on the writing and oral assignments, and what you learned about the development, characteristics, and practice of experts that will inform your thinking and approach to writing and speaking in your own field.