rhetorical analysis essay

For your Discourse Community Analysis, you conducted an analysis of the rhetorical appeals you mastered as part of a discourse community. For this paper, you will turn your attention outward, analyzing the rhetorical appeals of a writer and evaluating the effectiveness of those appeals in terms of Shorthorn readers. Your audience will be the Shorthorn opinion editor.

The purpose of rhetorical analysis is to understand how texts work to sway readers. As part of your initiation into an academic discourse community, you will need to learn the discourse conventions of your major field of study (e.g., common topics, distinctive vocabulary, field-specific values, backgrounds of participants, etc.) and understand how those conventions work to influence people in the field. The primary way you will learn these conventions is by immersing yourself in the field’s textual conversations and thinking critically about the way written language functions to establish, communicate, and disseminate field-specific knowledge.

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The purpose of this paper, then, is to give you practice reading the work of a writer engaged in a textual conversation you’re not yet familiar with, analyzing the rhetorical moves that writer makes, and considering how those rhetorical moves will be received by readers. My hope is that this assignment will teach you a method of reading and thinking that you can then apply to all texts—academic and otherwise—you encounter.


In rhetorical studies, invention refers to the systematic search for ideas that can be shaped into an effective composition. (The term “prewriting” is sometimes used to refer to the concept of invention.) This section of the assignment, then, is designed to help you generate the required content for your Rhetorical Analysis. Please note that the following steps are not intended to serve as an outline for your paper. Rather, these steps will help you produce the “raw materials” that you will then refine into a well-organized analysis, and these steps are likely to produce more material than you can actually use in the draft you submit to readers.

Your editor will need to know the author’s central claim. In order to make the most accurate

identification of the central claim, consult the “Identifying Central Claims Worksheet” at the end of this assignment.

Your editor also needs to know what reasons the author is providing to support his/her central claim. In order to identify the author’s supporting reasons, imagine that you could ask the writer in person:

“Why do you believe that [central claim]?” Based on the information in the article, how do you think the writer would answer? Would the writer reply with just one reason, or would there be many? If there would be many, what would they be?

Please note that inventional steps 3-6 will generate the majority of content for your Rhetorical Analysis because this is where you analyze and evaluate the article’s effectiveness with Shorthorn readers. To produce such an analysis/evaluation, draw on your knowledge of the UTA community (e.g., well-educated, intellectually curious, ethnically and politically diverse, etc.). Use empathy and imagination to put yourself in the shoes of readers and make judgments about how they will respond to various rhetorical appeals and why they will respond in the way you predict.

Do not worry about whether your predictions of reader response are entirely accurate. You will not be assessed on whether your predictions are “right” but on how well you justify your predictions. In other words, you will be assessed on the reasonableness and depth of your descriptions of how readers will respond and why they will respond in the way you describe.

Your editor will want to know whether the author provides evidence for his/her reasons and whether that evidence will prove convincing to Shorthorn readers. Ask yourself the following questions:

Will Shorthorn readers believe the author’s reasons are true automatically? (If so, then there’s no reason for the writer to provide evidence.) If not, does the writer provide evidence to support his/her reasons? If so, is this evidence sufficient to convince Shorthorn readers that the author’s reasons are true?

Your editor will want to know whether the author addresses potential opponents. Ask yourself the following questions:

Does the author anticipate objections to parts of his/her argument? If so, does the author represent opponents fairly or set up straw men? Does the author concede certain points to opponents? Does the author provide a convincing reply to opponents?

The previous four inventional steps will help you analyze and evaluate the writer’s logos appeals, but your editor will also want to know about the author’s ethos appeals. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do the author’s credentials make his/her claims more credible? Does the author seem knowledgeable and well-informed on the topic? Does the author consider alternate viewpoints and treat opponents with respect? Does the author seem to have the audience’s best interests at heart? Does the author draw on values he/she shares with the audience?

Your editor will also be interested in the author’s pathos appeals. Ask yourself the following questions:

Does the author evoke emotions in UTA readers that are likely to help his/her case? Does the author evoke sensations in UTA readers that will make the writing seem vivid? Does the author draw on values possessed by the UTA community?

Once you’ve completed the previous six inventional steps, you should have a clear sense of how the article will be received by Shorthorn readers. Now you’re ready to determine whether you will recommend the article for publication and why.

The opinion editor is not overly concerned with whether readers will be convinced by the author’s argument. Rather, the editor wants articles that readers will find interesting and thought-provoking. Ask yourself the following questions:

Is the article sufficiently nuanced, complex, and well-argued to engage UTA readers? Is the topic of the article relevant to the UTA community? Will UTA readers learn anything from the article? Is the article’s argument controversial enough to elicit a range of responses from UTA readers?

Based on your answers to these questions, develop a claim for or against publication and provide reasons for your decision. You will then support this thesis throughout the course of your analysis, as you break down the article and explain how it will be received by Shorthorn readers.

You yourself must also make effective ethos appeals so that you come across to your editor as a person of good character, good sense, and good will. To make effective ethos appeals, make sure you:

know what you’re talking about. Make sure you read the article deeply and thoroughly, and provide sufficient evidence to support your claim for or against publication.

show regard for your editor. Try to come across as approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive.

are careful and meticulous in your writing, not sloppy or disorganized.

Finally, make pathos appeals to your editor by connecting with her/his emotions, values, and imagination. To make effective pathos appeals, make sure you:

• draw on the lessons of Ch. 9 in They Say/I Say in order to mix standard written English with “the kinds of expressions and turns of phrase that you use every day when texting or conversing with family and friends” (121). You should adopt a slightly more formal style than in your first paper because now you’re practicing a type of professional writing.

evoke emotions (sympathy, outrage, anger, delight, awe, horror, etc.) in your editor that make your paper more moving.

evoke sensations (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling) in your editor that make your writing vivid and help her/him experience things imaginatively.

appeal to values (freedom, justice, tolerance, fairness, equality, etc.) that your editor and you share.


In rhetorical studies, arrangement refers to the selection of content generated during the inventional stage and the organization of that content into an effective composition.

To begin your paper, follow the advice offered in Ch. 1 of They Say/I Say: “To give your writing the most important thing of all—namely, a point—a writer needs to indicate clearly not only what his or her thesis is, but also what larger conversation that thesis is responding to” (20). In this case, the conversation you’re responding to is simply the one initiated by your editor’s request. Indicate at the beginning of your paper—before you state your thesis—that you’re writing in response to that request.

Once you’ve acknowledged the “they say” and followed it with your “I say” (i.e., your thesis), continue by adhering to the advice in Ch. 7 of They Say/I Say: “Regardless of how interesting a topic may be to you as a writer, readers always need to know what is at stake in a text and why they should care. . . . Rather than assume that audiences will know why their claims matter, all writers need to answer the ‘so what?’ and ‘who cares?’ questions up front” (92-93). Even though you’re writing at your editor’s request, you can still make your analysis more significant by explaining why it is important for The Shorthorn to publish—or not to publish—the article you’re analyzing. Feel free to use the templates in Ch. 7 of They Say/I Say.

After you’ve completed these introductory moves, the arrangement of your analysis is up to you. You should include material from each step in the inventional stage, but your selection and organization of that material should follow your own judgment as to what will prove most effective with your editor.


In rhetorical studies, style refers to the appropriate language for the occasion, subject matter, and audience.

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