English / rhetorical analysis essay

Purpose and objectives

·      Analyze a rhetorical situation and how the author effectively (or not) makes rhetorical appeals in their argument

·      Articulate and develop a critical and analytical perspective in writing

·      Develop strategies for critically engaging information and develop it in writing as evidence for arguments

The Specifics

·      In a nutshell: Summarize. Analyze. Critique. Support. Conclude.

·      Must be 3-4 pages, double spaced

·      Times New Roman, 12 pt font

·      Hook and Title

·      No in-text citation or Works Cited page needed for this assignment (see note below on research)

For this assignment, you will be given the choice of analyzing the rhetorical situation, use of rhetorical appeals, and visual elements in either a textual or visual argument. You may select one of the essays in the Practical Argument text (Part 6, Debates, Casebooks and Classic Arguments starting on page 646) OR a visual argument of your choosing. If you are going to write your essay on a visual argument, you must print it out and attach to your paper (if it’s a video clip, please provide the link in the essay).

Using the strategies discussed in class and your readings, you will analyze the argument and both summarize and assess the rhetorical strategies used. Your thesis must specifically state whether you think the author presented an effective argument based upon the strategies used, intended audience and contextual factors.


Address the following:

·      The basics – set the argument up for us by providing the author, genre/publication, title, and when was it written

·      Audience – who is the target audience? Are there preconceptions or common ground established? What is the author’s overall tone?

·      Purpose – why is the author writing this argument? What is their thesis?

·      Context – what are the historical, social, political factors that influence the argument?

·      How and where does the author employ the three rhetorical means of persuasion of ethos, logos and pathos?

·      Discuss the use or absence of evidence and stylistic techniques (110-112)

·      Does the text move you/challenge you/get you to think?

If you are using a visual argument, be sure to address the following:

·      Comprehension Clues on page 84 of Practical Argument text

·      Basic principles of design: font, color, spatial elements, use of people (think back to the group work we did in class)

·      What is the relationship between words and pictures in your visual? Are there any words in the visual? Or any words needed or does the visual stand on its own?

Getting Started

·      Find your article/visual

·      Read it over. Read it again.

o   Jot down the thesis, audience, context, tone, genre

o   Formulate your own assessment of the effectiveness of the argument

o   Turn that into your working thesis statement


·      Don’t try to do it all. Find three things to focus on and elaborate. This isn’t intended to be a complete accounting of the entire argument, just what you feel is most critical and where you think you will have the most to say in a well-written and supported essay.

·      You must develop a clear thesis statement. Do not simply restate or reword the author’s original thesis (your purpose is different than the original author’s purpose). In addition to stating your stance, your thesis should provide the reader (me) with a clear direction of where you’re heading and what you’ll be demonstrating and arguing.

·      A word on research: in order to address some of the rhetorical elements, you may have to go outside of the original text to find the appropriate information (e.g. you may need to do a little research to find the author’s background, the general understanding of a particular publication, what was happening in the world, at the time the essay was written, etc.), if these things are relevant to your thesis (and they likely will be).

·      Supporting evidence and analysis: Most of your paper will be devoted to the supporting evidence for your thesis statement. This includes (brief) direct quotes, paraphrasing/summary and your own assessment. For each point you want to make in your analysis, provide examples to support your claims. For example, if you find a place in the text where the author is using pathos to appeal to the reader’s emotions, you should quote the place in the text where this appeal takes place (if you’re going to argue that the author’s use of pathos was particularly effective, include the part where they talk about poor little puppies that need homes). Using examples to support your claims will help your reader understand why you are making the claim you are making.

·      DO NOT MAKE THIS A SUMMARY OF THE AUTHOR’S ARGUMENT. I want to read YOUR assessment and analysis. Also, paraphrase and be succinct (no lengthy block quotes).

·      “What about MY opinion on the topic?”A rhetorical analysis is much less about your emotional response to an issue addressed by the author, and more about your reaction to the process by which the author effectively achieves (or not) his/her intention. This essay is not about whether or not you ultimately “like” or “dislike” what the author has stated. It is about whether the author was successful in conveying their side (and persuading you).

·      Put a nice little bow on your paper with a solid conclusion at the end. Reiterate and reinforce your thesis statement. Your conclusion could include an important point or rhetorical method that is missing from the argument and/or a suggestion for how to utilize it to enhance the argument.


For peer review, be sure to bring TWO copies of your printed work on the due date.


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