Rhetorical Analysis



In the Rhetorical Analysis, you were able to study another person’s argument, learning about the strategies of argument—consideration of rhetorical situation, rhetorical appeals, logical structure, and style—from the inside out.

Now it’s your turn to “put in your oar.”  Keeping in mind the readings and the theme of this course, you will prepare an original essay in which you enter the Burkean “parlor” of ongoing conversation on some contingent issue relating in some way to the course theme of The American Dream and Pop Culture.  You will aim for synthesis (see Kantz). 

As you write your essay, you will need to consider the rhetorical situation into which you are writing and make careful rhetorical choices about how to build your argument using solid reasoning (including research-based backing and grounds), rhetorical appeals, narrative, and style. 


·         7-10 pages (Following MLA format!)

·         You must use at least 6 quality sources in your essay.  You need some sources which support your point of view, and some which offer points against which you can argue; some may do both.  Especially no Wiki type sources, About.com, procon.org, or the like.     

·         You MUST use proper MLA citation style!

·         Source material should be integrated smoothly and used to forward a purpose. 

·         Do not distance yourself from the essay.  We need to hear your voice! (Using 1st person is definitely acceptable.)

·         Be careful of organization within paragraphs and within the body of the essay—strive for smooth and effective transitions.  An engaging introduction, strong thesis statement, and effective conclusion (separate from any main points) are all a MUST!

·         Make careful rhetorical choices not only about what to say,
but also how to say it

·         Think about your audience

·         Think about what appeals and tactics are most helpful in reaching that audience

·         Remember to try to build your ethos in a manner appropriate to your rhetorical situation (usually by an appropriate and trustworthy tone)

·         Remember that argument does not occur in a vacuum—respond to and build your argument in relation to what others have said/are saying

·         Plant naysayers

·         Particularly in revision, make rhetorical choices about your writing style

·         Think creatively, think critically, and have a little fun with it!


Try to be creative in choosing your topic.  The problem with “tired” or “overdone” issues—such as abortion, the death penalty, gun control, steroid use, etc.—is that it is difficult to find a unique, interesting angle from which to approach the argument.  As such, it also becomes difficult to build a strong argument.  It is very easy to just fall back on the arguments and expect the reader to fill in the gaps because “everyone knows that _______.”



Before settling on a topic, be sure you can answer “YES” to the following questions: 

1. Will this topic allow you to meaningfully engage with a contingent issue and permit you to contribute new insights?

2.  Do you think you can develop a long, sustained paper from your issue?

3. Does it represent an argument with two or more clear positions?

4.  Do you think you can find enough evidence to support it?

5. Is the paper limited enough to provide in-depth detail?

6. Does the topic INTEREST you?

7. Is this topic timely/relevant?

When you research, don’t just search for quotes to plug into your essay.   Read a variety of sources before you decide on a thesis, Remember to actively “read sources as arguments,” making sure to“examine [your] sources as you read them for discrepent facts, conflicts, or other interesting matieral” (Kantz).  Ask yourself, “what is the goal of this rhetor?”  How are they using “facts” to reach that goal? Be sure to take notes, evaluate your sources, and look for a unique angle on the topic.  Don’t just regurgitate source information and structure–this is a synthesis task! (Kantz).


This essay will be graded holistically according to the Argument Rubric (online).

As always, plagiarism will result in a zero on the assignment, and possibly disciplinary action (see course outline).


The first draft is a Writing Blog Entry.  See “Writing Blog Entry 3 Instructions.”

The second draft is a preliminary outline of your essay and is due at the time of your conference in hard copy.  The outline should give your thesis, your main points, and your supporting details.  An example will be given in class and posted to the website closer to the date of conferences.

Be prepared to discuss your outline and ask questions.  Also bring any portions that you have drafted in paragraph form (optional). 

The outline is not graded, but if you come to the conference
without a complete, typed, printed outline, you will not receive full points for the conference (25 participation/homework points).

The final draft is due by the end of the day Tues, 12/17 (finals week).  We do NOT meet in the classroom during finals week.



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