Unit One Overview: Rhetorical Analysis Assignment

Unit One Overview: Rhetorical Analysis Assignment
Ed Lessor

Choose one of the four “Final Option Artifacts” to work with for this assignment.

In Part One (one page 10%) explain the rhetorical context of the argument under discussion. What is the exigence for the argument? Who is responsible for the writing/design of this argument? What are their values and beliefs? Does this argument artifact originate from a single author, or from collaboration? To whom is the argument presented? What are their expectations? What are their purposes for experiencing this argument? Where was this object presented? What do you know about the style, politics or purpose of the site that published/presented the artifact? When was the artifact created? What bearing might this have on the reception of the argument for this particular issue? What was the purpose for this argument? What response does it call for? Use these questions to generate ideas for your discussion, but do not try to answer all of them. Choose the questions that you feel are most pertinent for the argument artifact that you are working with and organize this section as a discussion about how these terms impact your understanding of the article; avoid merely listing context information without discussion.

Notes: By the time we are ready to begin drafting this assignment we have read the critical reading chapter of Aims, “The Rhetorical Situation,” by Bitzer, and an analysis of a rhetorical situation by Swift. I expect my students to have a fairly clear grasp of what constitutes the rhetorical context, but also an understanding of how it impacts a reading of the essay. The student should do a bit of outside research—enough to show that they get the politics of the piece and the background of the writer at a minimum, and should be able to discuss the information in a meaningful way.

In Part Two (one to two pages 10%) summarize the argument. Make certain to include the main and key claims of the argument, qualifications and exceptions to the main and key claims, the reasons supporting the main and key claims, and the overall organization of the essay. Include the most significant pieces of evidence, and any refutations that you feel are important in understanding the argument. Be certain to be exact when using quotations, to use author tags when describing the ideas of the writer, and to paraphrase key sections of the text. If you are working with a multimodal argument artifact you will be responsible for describing the argument in a manner that accounts for both content and design elements. Your overriding goal here will be to give your reader a clear sense of what the argument is attempting to convey to the receiver.

Notes: We use the Toulmin format here. The student should be able to identity these basic components of the essay, but also synthesize the information in a manner that follows the argument rather than working through the text in the order that it is presented. They are expected to remain objective and to keep a firm hand on the attribution of the ideas to the author of the essay.

In Part Three (four pages 80%) evaluate the argument. Make and support several claims about the ideas or effectiveness of the argument. Do not merely explain whether you agree or disagree with the author, but evaluate the various parts of the argument and comment on how well the author makes his or her points.

You may respond to the content, subtext, or effectiveness of the logic/design of the argument according to your judgment. Be certain to support your claims with strong coherent reasons. Support your reasons with evidence drawn from personal experience, other arguments that you are familiar with from this unit and textual/design analysis from the argument that you are responding to.

Notes: This component is the heart of the assignment. We have practiced Toulmin analysis, interpretive claims, and content claims. Students are expected to make articulate claims, support these with relevant and compelling reasons, and support the reasons with convincing and sufficient evidence. Stronger papers are expected to include some analysis.

The final paper should be six to seven pages, typed, double spaced. Use page numbers as citations for direct quotes.

Criteria for Evaluation: Summary Response Essay

In an “A” range paper the writer will do strong work in each of the following areas:


The writer will demonstrate a deep understanding of the rhetorical context of the essay by providing key information about the author, the audience, the site of publication, the time in which the piece was published, or, the purpose for publication.

The writer will discuss how the included information impacts a reading of the essay.


The writer will produce a summary of the essay that is accurate and objective.

The writer will identify the claims, sub claims, and reasons of the argument.

The writer will identify qualifiers and exceptions to the main claim.

The writer will identify key evidence for the claims.

The writer will identify refutations that the author of the essay includes in the argument.

The writer will employ author tags and give credit to the author throughout the summary.


The writer will make several compelling claims about the essay.

The writer will support each claim with relevant and engaging reasons.

The writer will support each reason with relevant and sufficient evidence.

The writer’s overall response to the essay will be clear.


The final draft of the essay will conform to an academic writing style suitable for a college writing course.

The essay will be well organized and easy to follow.

In a “B” range paper the writer will do strong work in three of these categories, but will be less effective in one area, or somewhat less effective in two areas.

In a “C” range paper the writer will fulfill the basic requirements for the assignment, but will be less effective in two areas.

In a “D” range paper the writer will fulfill some of the requirements for the assignment, but will be quite deficient in one or two areas.

In an “F” range paper the writer will not fulfill the requirements for the assignment.