Assignment: Rhetorical Analysis
(minimum of 600-700 words)
Your analysis is to show how a text fulfills its purpose for a particular audience. Because this purpose is fairly open-ended, you’ll probably want to focus your analysis on certain kinds of elements the author uses to achieve his or her purpose.
To assist your readers in understanding your analysis, be sure to
- include a clear thesis statement and forecasting statements to guide the readers
- explain the context (historical background, original audience, etc.) and its connection to the essay
- analyze how the author’s specific writing choices help fulfill the author’s purpose
- use quotes or paraphrase portions of the essay. If you write about the “example in the second paragraph,” the readers will not understand the reference.
Planning and Drafting
The following sequence of steps is designed to help you plan and organize your ideas before you write. Because not all writers plan their writing in the same way, you may want to modify the sequence to suit your own way of planning an essay. All of the points in the sequence, however, will help you produce an effective communication, so all points should be considered at some stage in your planning and writing.
- Select a text from the choices your instructor gives you.
- Select a strategy—content, organization, expression—that you wish to analyze in the text.
Review the text and questions on the handout, deciding which questions apply to the text
Steps 1 through 3 should allow you to focus your analysis and formulate a thesis statement.
Review the essay. Write out what you think are the text’s purpose, audience, and context.
The following questions should help you generate this information.
- Context: Where and when did the essay originally appear? What historical background is important to defining this context? What does the background tell us about reader expectations and reading conventions?
- Purpose: What does the writer want the readers to be able to do, think, feel, or decide after reading the text? What does the text enable readers to do while reading—compare facts, apply information, implement an action, etc.?
- Audience: Who are the intended readers? What does the text imply about readers’
knowledge or feelings about the subject? What sort of relationship does the writer establish with the readers?
- Review the text and the appropriate questions on the handout. Use these guiding questions to help you generate ideas for your analysis.
Think about connections between the strategies you find in the text and the text’s purpose and audience.
Steps 4 through 6 should enable you to generate the content for your analysis. Point 6 in particular should help you avoid simply summarizing the essay.
At this point you may want to attempt a rough draft or free writing. If you like to work from a detailed outline, go on to step 7.
Review what you know about your instructor as the audience for your analysis. Determine how each characteristic of your instructor will affect decisions you will need to make in your analysis. For example, what does the instructor’s preference for overt guidance tell you about your placement of the thesis statement?
Step 7 should help you decide the detail, words, sentences, and organization you want to use in your own writing. Although Step 7 will be useful to you before writing, it will also help you later as you revise and polish your analysis.
The rhetorical analysis should
- focus on one of the strategies used by the writer: e.g., content, organization, expression (or some more defined area within one of these categories)
- analyze rather than summarize the essay (again, assume your reader has already read the essay)
- contain a well-supported thesis
- contain paragraphs that enable readers to follow your ideas
- have few, if any, errors in correctness