In “Strategies of Influence in Medical Authorship,” Judy Z. Segal explores the rhetoric of medical authorship through the lens of three Aristotelian canons, invention, style, and delivery. After a justification of her use or rhetorical analysis for scientific discourse, Segal analyzes rhetorical strategies deployed in 35 medical journal articles selected from a corpus of 200 published between 1982 and 1992.
Under the category of invention, Segal explores the “seduction” of the reader in article introductions. She argues that the selective and strategic deployment of statistics in introductory sections serve to engage a reader and demonstrate the importance and need of the research. Similarly these statistics and use of selective citation serve to establish the gap. Segal also argues that medical researcher/ authors employ a trope of “dissociation from the patient” in order to present a more convincing claim.
In discussing the arrangement strategies of medical authorship, Segal interrogates the role of synopsis in introductions and literature reviews and identifies synopsis as a key generic feature of the medical journal article. Furthermore, she explores what she identifies as a standard progression from presenting research. She traces the moves from what is agreed upon in the research to possible objections to the presentation of the hypotheses and research findings and finally to the future implications.
Finally, Segal explores the role of style in medical authorship identifying the use of passive voice, qualifiers, interrogatives, and the avoidance of poetic language as key features. She suggests that these stylistic strategies serve to maintain a sense of scientific investigation, ethos, and objectivism.
Note: While this article was no doubt highly appropriate for Social Science and Medicine at the time of its publication, the contemporary rhetorician of science and/or biomedicine will find little in the way of new information. I recommend this article primarily for those outside the discipline. Ken Hyland (2004) and Charles Bazerman (1996) offer detailed monographs exploring similar issues in scientific and academic scholarly articles.