Rhetoric & Composition I: Autumn Quarter 2013 Rotating Header Image

Rhetorical Analysis

Genre: Rhetorical Analysis in an Academic Essay format
Audience: Educated, curious readers
Length: 750-1000 words
BackgroundSt. Martin’s e-Handbook

  • “Analyzing Arguments” (Part 2.8)
  • “Integrating Sources into Your Writing” (3.13)
  • “A student’s rhetorical analysis of an argument” (2.8g)
  • Oxford English Dictionary

Due Dates:

  • Weeks Two and Three: Rhetorical précis (5)
  • Tuesday 10/1: Preview
  • Thursday 10/3: First Draft
  • Thursday 10/10: Final Draft

We’ve been practicing a method known as a rhetorical précis: a highly structured summary that explicates what a writer is arguing, how she does it, why she does it, and for what intended audience. Your first major writing assignment in this class is a rhetorical analysis, which draws on those skills in an extended format. A rhetorical analysis is an argument for a probable interpretation of a text, based on its rhetorical strategies and features.

In our case, your challenge is to analyze any persuasive piece from the Sunday, 9/29 Sunday Review section of the New York Times. If you identify another persuasive essay elsewhere in the Sunday paper — and they do appear in the Sunday Magazine, the Style section, Business, etc. — feel free to run it by me as an alternative.

Support your points with references to rhetorical appeals, drawing on direct quotes, references to tone, and other rhetorical features found in the text. 

Once you have read, re-read, and taken notes on the article for analysis, write your first draft. This is a checklist for revising and editing, but your analysis need not be written in this order:

  • Introduce the general and specific issues in such a way that generates some curiosity in your reader
  • Summarize the writer’s main points–what is the argument? 
  • Illustrate how the writer makes those points, with examples and direct quotes
  • Why does she make this argument? What’s her purpose or agenda in this article? Why now? What’s going on in the world that makes the article timely and necessary? (This is the rhetorical concept of exigency.)
  • Discuss the intended audience and what kind of relationship the writer establishes – or does not establish — with that audience. What strategic and rhetorical choices does the writer make that seem particularly keyed to the intended audience?
  • Conclude your analysis by helping your reader get past the “so what?” question: are there any interesting connections between the article you are analyzing and the concepts we’ve been discussing in class? Does the article add to a larger conversation?