Select one national goal and visit your state department of education website (see www.nasbe.org; click on “Links” and then on ”State Education Agencies”). How does your state education agency address….
Define the characteristics of a rhetorical analysis.
Focusing Your LearningLesson Objectives
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define the characteristics of a rhetorical analysis.
- Examine sample rhetorical analysis essays.
- Demonstrate the use of the writing process to develop a rhetorical analysis essay.
This lesson maps to the following course competencies:
- Write for specific rhetorical contexts, including circumstance, purpose, topic, audience and writer, as well as the writing’s ethical, political, and cultural implications.
- Organize writing to support a central idea through unity, coherence, and logical development appropriate to a specific writing context.
- Use appropriate conventions in writing, including consistent voice, tone, diction, grammar, and mechanics.
- Find, evaluate, select, and synthesize both online and print sources that examine a topic from multiple perspectives.
- Integrate sources through summarizing, paraphrasing, and quotation from sources to develop and support one’s own ideas.
- Identify, select, and use an appropriate documentation style to maintain academic integrity.
Select the following link to access the Lesson Five StudyBlue resources. For those who prefer working in hardcopy, here is a copy of the triple-entry vocabulary journalPDF for Lesson 5.
The following words are defined in your readings and in the lesson below. Use your StudyBlue account or your vocabulary journal to keep track of these words in each lesson. You will have the opportunity to practice these terms in a game in the Summarizing Your Learning portion of the lesson.
|Rhetorical Analysis||Critical Inquiry||context|
A rhetorical analysis is a form of argument that involves both critical thinking and research. You will be asked to use your knowledge of audience appeals (ethos, pathos and logos), as well as your understanding of fallacies and the rhetorical situation in writing this essay. If you feel you need to review any of these, please review Lessons 2, 3, and 4 before writing.
This lesson will step you through the stages of completing a rhetorical analysis.
What is a Rhetorical Analysis?
A rhetorical analysis requires you to apply your critical reading skills in order to break down a text. The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to articulate HOW the author writes by discussing the strategies the author uses to achieve his or her goal or purpose of writing his or her piece. This will include strategies used to attract the audience (like the rhetorical situation) as well as the classical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos). Along the way, stay critical-your thesis will encapsulate your judgment of the piece, and you will need evidence to point toward the success or failure of the item you’re analyzing.
The good news is that you’ve already been through two similar exercises.
- In Lesson 2 when you were asked to fill out the chart about a media object, you conducted a rhetorical analysis, only the pieces for analysis were provided for you in the chart.
- In Lesson 3, when you were asked to annotate a visual using VoiceThread, you also conducted a mini-rhetorical analysis using a guiding set of questions.
For your essay, you will be asked to formulate your own questions in response to a text. “Rhetorical Appeals” covers strategies on how to pose productive questions and conduct a textual analysis.
While you will be able to choose your own focus, there will be a couple of basic parameters.
- First, your essay will need to include one outside source in addition to the text itself.
- Second, whatever you write about should ideally relate to the subject you plan to delve into. You might want to browse the upcoming units to help inspire you.
- Third, make sure to keep things clean-publication is part of the writing process, so any item you analyze should be publishable and researchable.
At this point, stop and read Bok’s “Protecting Freedom of Expression at Harvard” and the sample summary/analysis of Bok’s articleWORD if you have not already done so. These essays represent an original article (Bok’s) and a student analysis of its main ideas. Also note how the summary in the sample differs from the analysis.
As you read, take notice–the student’s summary is quite different from the analysis. Mistaking summary for analysis is a common mistake on this essay, but summarizing the article can be an excellent pre-writing activity. Notice how the student focuses on word choice. As such, he pulls select quotes from Bok’s article for further analysis and comments on those areas where Bok’s article is lacking. Notice how he supports his critiques. It is not enough to state that Bok’s article is weak because of his choice of words; instead, he states the effect of that omission (“Bok’s tone sounds almost apologetic and thus ruins the major warrant of his claim.”).
After you read the student’s response to Bok’s ideas, consider one of the other samples linked under “Readings, Resources, and Assignments.” Both of these have been published on the Internet by writing teachers because they were excellent assignments. Can you see the strengths of the sample you choose?
After you have read these samples, you should go back and review the comments made on your earlier assignments. If any weaknesses in your analysis were discussed, make sure you understand them before proceeding. If so, this would be a great time to pause and send your instructor an email!
Writing a Rhetorical Analysis
The first step is to find something you’d like to write about.
Appropriate topics might include:
- a verbal, written, or visual argument that evokes a personal reaction in you. This might be something you’ve read in another class, something you saw on the news, or something you came across the Internet.
- a current event or subject that you want to learn more about
- a text that you feel has been misread or misinterpreted
Once you have your object of analysis and have done some research to help find evidence, you will want to focus your efforts:
- READ your text carefully, and at least a couple of times to ensure that you fully understand what you have read. Can you see the author’s thesis?
- Next, start to analyze the features of the text you’re analyzing. Keep the following questions in mind as you read:
- Who is the author? Does s/he have credibility to discuss the topic? Is there apparent bias? Is an institution sponsoring him/her, and if so, what does that institution represent?
- What is the thesis, and what is the overall argument the author presents?
- What did the author choose to study? Why?
- What is the writer’s purpose? To inform? To persuade? To criticize?
- Who is the author’s intended audience? Does s/he appeal to a resistant audience? A Neutral audience? Or is s/he “preaching to the choir?”
- What appeal(s) are applied (ethos, pathos, logos, or a combination)?
- How does the writer arrange his or her ideas? Does the author use inductive or deductive reasoning in structuring the argument?
- Did you note any fallacies as you read? Is so, which ones?
- How does the writer use diction? (Word choice, arrangement, accuracy, is it formal, informal? Technical versus slang?)
- Does the writer use dialogue? Quotations? Statistics? Why?
- What have others said about this text? Some databases like Opposing Viewpoints will automatically share related articles. If you find an article online, you can search for more information (for example, the student with an interest in video games might search Video Game Violence Reactions).
Please note: If your essay just answers these questions, it will not get a good grade! These questions are designed to be a guide for note taking! Not every question will apply to every analysis, and you may find other appropriate questions to ask that are specific to your selection.
Focusing Your Essay
Now that you have your subject of analysis (your text), have done some background research, and have analyzed your text, it’s time to write your thesis. Here’s the trick: It does not matter whether you agree or disagree with the message in your text… your thesis should focus on its strategy.
- Focus on rhetorical features: “The article titled ‘Video Games Violence is Overblown’ initially attracts an audience through its use of logos, but when the facts turn to editorial ranting, the argument degrades to a mess of fallacies including ad hominem attacks against video game producers that render the overall argument ineffective.”
- Focus on interaction of elements: “The ad makes impressive use of visual appeals to pathos by rallying the audience to come together using a sympathetic image, by creating a strong tagline that is easy to remember, by crafting inspiring verbiage, and by providing resources to take further action.”
- Focus on audience: “While some would argue that a segment found on Fox News’ YouTube channel would show bias against Democrats, this particular segment does an impressive job of reaching out to a resistant audience by stating statistics (including statistics that make the Republican side look bad), using impartial language, and avoiding headlines or imagery that could be seen as ‘attacking’ the opposing view.”
This can be a tricky step, so make sure to save time to draft and revise accordingly to make sure your thesis matches what you truly wish to argue.
See if you can determine which of the following statements focus on rhetorical features and which do not. To see the right answer, click the word Answer.
- The author designs a visual argument rooted in ethos to argue that the internet should be more highly regulated to prevent instances of cyber bullying. Answer
- The internet provides many conveniences for its users. Answer
- By combining frightening music with an impressive series of facts, the youTube video’s main idea is that standardized testing will most likely continue to be a tool for college admissions, and that this is cause for worry. Answer
- I agree with the blogger who writes that schools have used standardized testing to mold their curriculum, and are merely “teaching to the tests.” Answer
- The AIDS epidemic has been increasing in underdeveloped nations, but is a cartoony map that is animated with equally cartoonish characters the best way to illustrate the concept? That question underlies the recent web design change by the Center for Disease Control. Answer
- The text argues that teaching abstinence is the best method to prevent the spread of HIV. Answer
- Can mandating carpooling be a viable solution for reducing traffic? It’s a compelling question, answered by Ad Busters magazine in a multimedia campaign that foregoes polite rhetoric by using a kind of “iun your face” pathos that some viewers might find too forceful. Answer
- Carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road. This is why it’s important to have as many pro-carpooling texts as possible to attract all different types of audiences.Answer
Organizing the Essay
After identifying your thesis, look back at the notes you took on your text. Try to arrange the key ideas in a logical way, following the support structure in your thesis. You may find that some of the observations you noticed at first are less important. It is ok to toss things aside to keep focused.
A sample outline might look like this:
- Introduction (lays the foundation for readers who might not be familiar with what you’re analyzing)
- Summarize the text being critiqued
- Discuss the author and their background (if appropriate)
- Present your thesis
- Body paragraphs (dig into the rhetorical features present in the text)
- Discuss issues related to the audience and the appeals
- Discuss specific elements that relate back to the points about the audience
- Discuss what others have said about the text
- MLA Formatted Works Cited Page
The shape of the essay will evolve depending on the text you select. Thinking back to the sample essays, each took a different path to meet the goal, but they all had certain elements in common. See the list for guidelines:
- Make sure to logically transition between ideas.
- Stay on topic and let your thesis be your guide.
- Each paragraph should have a strong topic sentence to ease transition between elements.
- Avoid summary in favor of clear, specific examples.
- Make sure to cite all sources in MLA format.
- Don’t hurt your own ethos as a writer… Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Annotated Student Sample
At this point stop and read “The CDC and The Zombie Apocalypse.” After you have finished the article, read the student sample and analysis of the article: The CDC and The Zombie ApocalypsePDF. This is an actual paper submitted by a former ENG102 student and includes annotations that focus on the essay’s strengths. This paper earned an A grade. Pay close attention to the way the student uses the concepts and vocabulary from the previous lessons, as well as how she focuses on HOW the text functions.
To review the best practices involved in writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay, and to test your skills in a virtual peer review, please see the following activity.
Some additional tips to remember:
- Review MLA Citation Style Guide (how you’ll publish your work).
- Remember to give your paper a good title that reflects the content being discussed.
- If you’re using an image or media, see MLA Works Cited: Other Common Sources for citation instructions.
- This paper will be uploaded to TurnItIn.com
Here is a checklistPDF to help with your revision or to guide a tutoring session.
Assessing Your Learning
Review the lesson several times before proceeding to the assessments below.
Important information: Before you begin your assignments, please review and follow the procedures below in the completion of ALL writing assignments.
Lesson 5 Assignment
Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Compose your rhetorical analysis essay using the directions listed in the Instruction section of this lesson. Your essay needs to meet the following requirements:
- You should not include more than one in-text citation per paragraph, and the conclusion should contain no citations. In addition, only one short quote and one long quote are allowed per essay.
- The essay should be 4-5 pages (not counting the cover sheet) in MLA style.
- You will be required to cite at least two sources for this essay (the text you’re analyzing and at least one source to support your analysis).
- Your essay must follow MLA formatting guidelines, including in-text citations and a Works Cited page.
- Your essay is worth 100 points and will be scored based on this rubricPDF.
In order to receive credit for your work, you must submit this assignment in two ways:
- Submit it to Turnitin.com (follow the directions provided in the course announcements for specific account set-up information).
- To submit the assignment for grading, you will attach your file within the assignment submission window at the following link: Lesson 5: Rhetorical Analysis Essay.
If you need help attaching your file to the submission window, refer to Attaching Files to Assignments in RioLearn.
Summarizing Your Learning
As you worked on your analysis, think about the ideas regarding your topic that intrigued you. What did you learn that you never knew before? Do you think you will stick with the same concept for the next papers?
Also note that analysis will come into play on the next papers, so be sure to read your instructor’s comments carefully and ask questions if any issues are noted that could jeopardize your success in the future lessons. Your instructor is here to help!
Determine how much you know about the vocabulary discussed in this lesson by playing these games.