Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Rhetoric and Professional Communication

First Advisor

Charles Kostelnick


Although much scholarship in the field of Technical Communication assents to the value of listening, little scholarship in the field actually studies it. Similarly, although the field accepts listening as a rhetorical act, no studies address how one might recognize or teach the external indicators of listening.

Krista Ratcliffe posits that rhetorical listening is so powerful that it can create a space for conversations that would not otherwise happen. I further her claim by asserting that the power is not in the listening itself, but in the demonstration of it, in a way recognizable to the interlocutor.

I investigated the use of rhetorical listening in a workplace where communication failure can result in death: The United States Marines. Known for being fast, loud, and lethal, the Marines are the last population to be associated with listening, yet my study indicated that the Marines’ work is more successful when they listen in a way which is consistent with rhetorical listening theory. I observed Marines who work in a Military Information Support Operations (MISO) unit. My study sought to understand what communication theories could account for the work the Marines were doing when they succeeded in creating a meaning-transaction with their interlocutors in this rhetorical space. I used diversified data gathering methods, using questionnaires, interviews, and participant observation to capture words, body language, and physical movement within a space.

My findings indicate that the theory of rhetorical listening partially explains how the Marines communicate, however, alone, it is not a sufficient descriptor of their actions, because it does not address physical indicators. Therefore, I introduce the term “Rhetorical Listening Behaviors” as a concept that sufficiently accounts for the ways the MISO Marines employ communication theory. My study has implications for professional communicators in any field, because it associates certain theories with indicators that can be learned and practiced, increasing the communicator’s effectiveness in any workplace.

Copyright Owner

Angie Mallory



File Format


File Size

177 pages