This 4-5 pg. rhetorical analysis and argumentative paper will synthesize skills of critical reading,
rhetorical analysis, application of authorial argument. After choosing a one of the following pieces, you’ll
assess the language and rhetorical strategies used to construct the argument and enhance the argument/
communication, considering the purpose, audience, context, tone. The goal isn’t to argue whether the piece
is successful, but how the piece is argued and intended.
Your ultimate goal is to a) help an outside audience understand the purpose/argument of the text, b)
uncover the author’s rhetorical choices, and c) evaluate for strategies/fallacies. In order for your paper to be
• Cater to an outsider audience who has not read the piece (use your skills from the Homestead essay)
• Logically structure your claims into distinct, focused paragraphs
• Provide direct evidence from the text to back up your claims, including quotes
• Maintain your credibility and authority by adopting a strong, third person voice
• Answer the following questions, not necessarily in this order:
– What is this author arguing? What is their main purpose for writing? Break down the main
claim, and consider the context: are they responding to another argument? Is this something
urgent and newsworthy, an entertainment piece, an opinion piece, an analysis of a large issue?
– Consider: What does the author assume about her audience? How does she cater to their
understanding? How does she attempt to contextualize the argument/issue?
– Using the rhetorical devices below, how is this author arguing? Consider structuring your
paragraphs the appeals in the following table. What strategies, for example, might the author
use to evoke sympathy? Any fallacies?
– “Nursing Pods at Airports: Do they offer privacy or promote shame?” Rebecca Cuneo Keenan,
The Globe and Daily Mail
– “Thailand Shuttered a Notorious Tiger Zoo, but the Problem Has Only Gotten Worse,” Richard
C. Paddock, The New York Times
– “Everyone Needs Someone Else: Why Americans of All Ages are Coming Together in
‘Intentional Communities,’” Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine
Tips for structuring
• The Intro: Familiarizes the reader with piece, explains the purpose
• First body paragraph: Argument, main claims, general types of support used
• Rest of the body paragraphs: address rhetorical choices/devices. Ideas for structuring the body:
– One rhetorical strategy per paragraph, giving a few examples of where this shows up through the
– Deep dive of a paragraph/quote, analyzing how this works/what makes it persuasive or powerful
– One main argument per paragraph, explaining rhetorical choices used to make claim
– Focus on one broad rhetorical category, like “juxtaposition,” “diction,” or “figurative language,”
and each paragraph covers a place where this is used
– “How the Architecture of Hospitals Affects Health Outcomes,” Cheryl Heller, Harvard
Business Review (Canvas)
– “Life in Alaska in the Round-the-Clock Darkness of Polar Night,” Coralie Kraft, The New
– “Why Won’t Anyone Buy the Most Famous Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas?” The New York
– “How a Prison Play Goes on Tour” The New York Times (Canvas)
– “America’s Most Invisible Community—Trailer Parks” Esther Sullivan (Ted Talk)
What to look for: – Interesting/vivid diction
– Imagery/detail/description (specifically patterns of imagery)
– Particularly powerful passages
– Words/phrases with positive/negative connotations
– Patterns of language, repetition of ideas/words
– Interesting syntax (like intentionally breaking rules of standard English for effect)
– Overall effect, tone, emotional “coloring” of a passage—joyful, angry, ironic etc?
– Writer/speaker’s attitude toward the subject, audience, themselves
– Clear bias (everything is bias, but figuring out how!)
The Classic Appeals
Remember: Do not say the author is “using ethos.” Instead, say she “establishes credibility through
her use of testimonials,” then explain how, giving examples.
Sample Paragraph Structure Topic Sentence
Introduction/Context (if necessary)
Interpretation—what is this saying?
Analysis—why did you choose this quote? How is this persuasive?
Introduction/Context (if necessary); should transition naturally and connect with Quote #1
Logos Ethos Pathos
– Figures, Numbers, Statistics
– Benefits/Reasons – Logical Reasoning
– Widely-accepted truths
– Systems/How To’s (explaining step by
step) – Details/Description
– Before and After’s
– Analogies (ways to help us understand
– Use of research
– Name dropping
– Personal experience – Authoritative,
– Titles, track record
– Coherence – Appeals to group
– Words/phrases/analogies with specific
– Focus on individual/human experience – Evoking any kind of emotion—anger,
pity, compassion, humor, frustration
– Universal Human Experience (family,
death, uncertainty, loneliness, etc) – Drawing attention to author’s experience
How do I start??
STEP 1 Reread the essay you choose closely. Find the main arguments, and take notes.
STEP 2 Skim through the essay again, looking for areas…
– that stand out
– you find to be particularly strong
– evoke a particular feeling
– use interesting language/tone
You don’t have to look for all of these! See what jumps out at you. Look at your findings. Assess
what you have—are there any similar arguments? Patterns or trends? Edit your list, grouping
ideas together based on chronology, topic, rhetorical device, etc.
STEP 3 After arranging, start to respond to your findings. Consider answering layers 1 + 3 of the analysis
1. What does this section/quote mean? What is it’s significance?
2. How is this persuasive? What kind of strategy is used? Even if it seems obvious, guide us
through your thought process.
STEP 4 Edit your thoughts to turn this into third person, academic language:
• Remove I, me, we, us, you
• Remove internal voice, like feel, believe, think, know
• Replace the above words with some visual—how can you tell what someone is feeling? What
are the actions stemming from belief/thinking/knowing?
• If using any personal examples/stories, try to make these abstract or hypothetical
• Connect the logical dots—isolate your assumptions, and try to over-explain yourself.
Articulate the obvious!
• Eliminate cluttery words. Opt for larger words/compound sentences to make your tone sound
• Take out any conditional language—might, could, maybe, etc
STEP 5 Add your OREO:
– Introduce the quote
– Provide any context (if necessary)
– Interpret into your own words — what does this mean? What is the author getting at with this
– Analyze — why did you choose this quote? What do you have to say about this idea?
Remember: If you have more than one quote in your paragraph, make sure you transition seamlessly from one
to the other!
STEP 6 Create a topic sentence for each paragraph, summarizing the idea you proved with your evidence.
If you have a hard time summarizing all the info in one paragraph, you may need to restructure!
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