ASSIGNMENT GOALS For this assignment, you will write an essay that evaluates the effectiveness of an argument by examining the choices the author has made in order to convince a general reader. Examining a written argument gives you practice in three main areas: 1) Reading closely and carefully; 2) Learning to detect the strategies used to “sell” you on an idea, thus giving you a better vantage point from which to judge the motives behind and credibility of various texts; and 3) Learning various strategies of argumentation to integrate into your own writing in order to make your own writing more persuasive. A rhetorical analysis essay requires that you decide whether or not the argumentative techniques used in an essay effectively convince readers. Your opinion on the topic is irrelevant in a rhetorical analysis, but your opinion about the quality of the of the author’s argument is very important in a rhetorical analysis. PREPARING TO WRITE Analysis of an argument begins with a close and careful reading of the text. Use your notes on the different terms of rhetorical strategies, and consult a dictionary or other resources to help you with any of the words you do not understand. As you read, underline or highlight different words or sentences and write the terms for the rhetorical devices next to each. For example, if the author of text you are working with says, “I have been to the mountaintop,” you might underline that sentence and write “allusion to Bible” next to it. After you have annotated thoroughly, you can then begin to think about how you will organize your analysis. CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE Assume that your readers have not read the essay to which you are responding. All quotations must be accurate and introduced with a signal phrase. (Consult the Bedford Handbook to remind yourself of the rules.) Even though you will be inserting your own personal evaluation of the author’s persuasiveness, do not use any first-person pronouns (I, me, my, mine, myself). No second-person pronouns (you, your, yours, yourself, us, we) should appear in your essay either (unless they are in a quote you are using). ORGANIZATING YOUR ESSAY As always, your essay should have a title, an introduction with a thesis statement, at least three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. It may be best to organize your supporting paragraphs chronologically, showing your readers which information and strategies come first, second, third, and so on. If you choose to organize your analysis chronologically, be aware that you may still need to discuss features, such as tone, that manifest throughout the essay. Other essays may call for you to group examples of the different strategies and organize the groups from most to least convincing (or vice versa). However you organize the analysis, it must be logical and your reader must be able to follow along (without having read the essay you are analyzing). TITLE Give your essay an original title that speaks to the content of what you have written. It is a good idea to have a title that will explain the purpose (to show how an author succeeds or fails at persuading) and the context (which author/text are you addressing) of your writing. For example, if you were analyzing an essay by Milton Friedman, you might title your essay “Milton Friedman’s Convincing Logic.” Some students choose to “play” with the title of the essay to which they are responding. For example, if the article to which you were responding were called “It’s Time to Lower the Drinking Age,” then the title of your rhetorical analysis essay might be “It’s Time to Raise the Rhetoric.” INTRODUCTION Your introduction should begin with a brief summary of the article that incorporates the full name of the author and the full title of the article in quotation marks. After you explain in one or two sentences what the author’s main point is, transition into a general discussion of his or her rhetoric. Include any historical and social context that may give the reader background to the writer and their ideology. Then give your thesis statement in which you a) describe at least three rhetorical strategies the author uses and decide whether or not the author is ultimately successful in persuading his or her readers. Here is one example introduction using an essay by sociologist Barry Glassner: In “Narrative Techniques of Fear Mongering,” Barry Glassner argues that news organizations and politicians manipulate the fears of average Americans for their own benefit. When people are afraid, Glassner points out, they are more likely to continue to consume the products put before them and to vote in certain ways. In his efforts to bring this matter to the attention of his readers, the author uses a variety of rhetorical techniques. Glassner is persuasive because of his concerned ethos, his meticulous logos, and his use of authority to provide expert opinions on the subject. Here is another example introduction, this one using Milton Friedman’s essay: In “Prohibition and Drugs,” Milton Friedman argues for the legalization of all drugs. He claims that most of the problems surrounding drug use stem from the fact that drugs are illegal. In order to make his case, Friedman employs several rhetorical strategies. Because he makes allusions to history, stirs up pathos in the reader, and most of all, applies a solid logic, Friedman succeeds in persuading a general reader that legalizing drugs would benefit society. The author’s name should appear quite often in your paper (as you can see from these examples) because you are examining and evaluating the writing choices that he or she has made. SUPPORTING PARAGRAPHS Begin your detailed analysis of the author’s rhetoric in your second paragraph. Focus on one rhetorical strategy per paragraph after your introduction. For each strategy that you examine from the essay, you must develop a paragraph that includes the following information: ✓ For your topic sentence, name the rhetorical technique that the author has used. ✓ Quote the word, phrase or passage (or give a quality paraphrase of longer information) that exemplifies the author’s use of that strategy. Introduce your quotation or paraphrase with a signal phrase. (According to Smith, “Blah blah blah.” or Smith states, “Blah blah blah.” etc.) ✓ Explain how an average reader would react to the writer’s use of that word, phrase, passage or technique. ✓ Explain whether the decision to use that strategy in that way helps or hurts the author’s overall argument, and whether or not average readers would be convinced. This helps to connect your analysis to your thesis. For example, here is a paragraph analyzing an allusion in a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 3rd, 1968: Dr. King employs the rhetorical technique of allusion in his speech. When he says, “I have been to the mountaintop,” King is demonstrating his keen audience awareness by alluding to the story of Moses in the Bible. In that story, God tells Moses that he will not make it to the Promised Land but that he can go to the top of the mountain with God and at least see it. Similarly, as a leader of the Civil Rights movement, King fears that he personally will not see the day when all are treated equally, but he feels that God has at least shown it to him, that it is within reach. This allusion is a great message of hope to his audience, who (as King knows) are familiar with the Bible. His audience is persuaded by this allusion because they make the connection to their own lives and are inspired to continue the struggle for freedom and equality. Here is another example of a body paragraph, this one analyzing Rick Reilly’s use of authority: Reilly relies on authority to make his case against cheerleading. Cheerleading, he claims, is dangerous. In order to convince readers that this is true, Reilly states, “The University of North Carolina found that cheerleading is responsible for nearly half the high school and college injuries that lead to paralysis or death.” Using a study conducted by a reputable research university such as UNC (which is also well-known for its athletic program) gives readers confidence that the statistical evidence provided is reliable. As a result, readers would be more likely to believe his claims that cheerleading is unsafe. Reilly’s use of an external, academic authority helps make his overall argument more factual and therefore more convincing. Continue your analysis by focusing one at a time on the most salient features you have identified in the essay. You must identify and analyze at least three different rhetorical techniques that the author uses, though you may have more than one example of each technique. CONCLUSION For your conclusion, you should briefly remind your readers of everything you have discussed in your essay so far and firmly restate (that is, completely reword) your thesis statement. REVISION As always, proofread your essay carefully. Take a look at your previous assignments to see what structural and grammatical areas needed improvement, and look for those same problem areas in your final draft. Use the checklist on the next page to make sure you are on the right track. A SUCCESSFUL RHETORICAL ANALYSIS ESSAY: ✓ Follows the instructions of the assignment ✓ Introduces the author and article and gives a brief summary of the main point ✓ Has a thesis statement that decides whether or not the author is ultimately successful in persuading readers—and explains why or why not ✓ Organizes the essay logically ✓ Thoroughly develops the analysis of each example by: • Accurately distinguishing and identifying the various rhetorical features • Accurately quoting the word, phrase, or passage (or paraphrasing longer examples) • Introducing all quotations and paraphrases with signal phases • Explaining how each technique effects the readers • Explaining whether or not the technique helps or hurts the overall argument ✓ Concludes succinctly ✓ Avoids adding opinion or commentary about the topic of the article ✓ Is written in formal academic English ✓ Follows MLA-style formatting and citation guidelines
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