Rhetorical Analysis Essay
In this unit, we will focus our studies on argument; how arguments are made,
supported, taken apart, and evaluated. Many of the readings will be argumentative pieces
to practice in-class and through assignments how to evaluate an argument and its rhetoric.
The assigned essay for this unit will be an analysis of the rhetoric of a given— the writers,
means of communication, overall effectiveness of an argument.
In order to complete this analysis, you will take the following steps:
STEP 1: Find a debate you’re interested in from the page of “Readings to Pick from”.
Review them in the section, getting a feel for the different arguments and the main issues in
the debates. Read through at least a few to understand them better.
STEP 2: Select one you’re interested in analyzing from the handout of Selected Essays.
A good source will be long enough to analyze (you must be able to write at least 5 pages on
it), be credible overall but with flaws, and consider alternative views to its own. Don’t
simply choose based on your agreement with the source because you will not be writing
about your opinion. It may be easier to analyze an article you do not like. Do not just choose
the shortest one.
STEP 3: Once you choose a piece, determine the author’s goal and target audience. Is
the author trying to address people who believe the opposite (are on the other wide of the
debate) or to encourage his/her own supporters? Evaluate the piece’s effectiveness
according to its ability to reach its audience, not you. In order to do so, observe where the
piece was originally published (at the top of the article). For example, the readerships of
TMZ and The Wall Street Journal aren’t necessarily looking for the same thing—and may
differ in age, interests, etc.
STEP 3: Create a chart about the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of the argument the
author is making by assessing the piece using criteria from your book, our discussions,
and the sample doubting and believing chart below. The chart should cover main ideas
about what the writing does well and where it fails. The chart is not comprehensive, but
should provide ideas:
Impressive use of logic
Problematic use of logic and/or several
Several of the author’s strategies (such as
use of emotional appeal or comparecontrast) are persuasive and compelling.
Some aspects of the approach are
problematic (its use of pathos, for example,
feels manipulative). Flaws in the writing
style work against the argument.
The design of the essay complements the
argument and/or the style of the writing
The design/writing style could be
improved. For example, it uses too much
sarcasm or too casual of language for its
The ethos helps the author make his/her
case. (For example, the author has
impressive credentials/the site/journal is
reliable, the research is up to date, etc.)
Some aspects of its credibility are
problematic, such as bias.
The statistics or studies are representative,
come from reliable sources, and can be
verified elsewhere (i.e., in the other sources
in the casebook, in credible online sources,
The statistics/studies used aren’t
representative/seem flawed. They don’t
match the information on credible sites.
All points are well supported with evidence, There isn’t enough backing for some of the
and quotes are from reliable authorities.
points in the argument.
The author takes the other side’s
arguments and values into consideration,
and even admits that they have points.
There is not enough consideration for the
other side’s points/they are unfairly
Reliable sources/quotes are used.
Biased sources/quotes are used.
It reaches out to its audience.
It risks alienating rather than persuading
Analogies, anecdotes, and comparisons are
used effectively to reach the audience.
Analogies, anecdotes, and/or comparisons
don’t quite work.
It seems to include all the content it should.
It is missing content (issues, concerns,
points) it should include.
Your own version of this chart is due to Canvas on March 6th.
STEP 4: Write a thesis by analyzing the effectiveness of the author’s argument. How
effective are the source’s approach and style in backing up the argument? In your thesis
statement, explain whether the source succeeds, fails, or somewhat succeeds in reaching its
target audience—and why. You may also decide that the piece succeeds with some
audiences, but fails with others.
STEP 5: Find at least one other article/outside source to evaluate the argument’s
effectiveness. This extra source/s will help you (a) explain what your author is responding
to, (b) explore what he/she has left out, (c) compare his/her approach to how another
handled the same debate, (d) further evaluate the author’s background/ credibility, and/or
(e) explore the context of the argument further, etc.
You can find outside sources with the aid of the UNH Library website: library.unh.edu.
Benjamin Peck is the First-Year Experience Librarian and can help you get acquainted with
the resources available. The library also has online chat support with librarians if you need
help finding sources: https://www.library.unh.edu/research-support/ask-a-librarian
STEP 5: Write the paper. Organize your essay using one or several of the following
• Discussing the essay chronologically (rarely works, so hesitate to take this
• Addressing first the strengths of the essay, and then the weaknesses
• Dividing the piece into sections; such as the quality of the source, the
structure, etc., or by ethos, pathos, and logos. Within each section, address
the strengths and weaknesses.
• Addressing first how the piece succeeds in reaching one audience, and then
discussing how it fails to reach another
• Using some combination of the above approaches
• Taking another approach
Throughout the essay, you’ll want to:
• Identify what strategies are being used
• Show that you understand the issue being addressed, but remain objective
• Paraphrase and/or quote examples from the text that illustrate those
strategies at work
▪ No more than one quoted sentence per paragraph
• Evaluate the success of each strategy in reaching the target audience
STEP 6: Format the paper. Standard MLA format should be used: 12 pt. font, doublespaced, no extra spaces between paragraphs, page number and last name in the corner, etc.
• 5-8 pages in length
• Works Cited page with completed citations for your additional source(s) on a
separate page (not included in the page requirement)
• Complete Peer Review online
Important Due Dates
Doubting/Believing Chart— March 6th
Initial thesis— March 9th
First draft for Conferences— March 11th
Post draft to Canvas— March 11th 11:59 pm.
Peer Review Activities on Canvas— March 18th 11:59 pm.
Final draft— March 23rd 3:10 pm
The author presented the essay logically.
No statistics were presented to support
The author is a credible writer. She is
currently the senior editor for Opinion at NY
Times. She is also the Europe editor for
Foreign Policy, an online newsletter.
The article lacks anecdotes and/or stories that
will support the author’s argument.
The article possesses a very light tone. The
choice of words was exceptional and very
attractive. The author injected some humor in
Too much emphasis on personal experiences.
This makes the discussion look biased.
Contents of the article stems from personal
experiences and relationships. It makes it
easier to appeal to the emotions of the
The article was heavy with emotions. The title
can be offensive because it poses an idea that a
decision not to become a vegetarian is nonnegotiable.
The content is striking, thought-provoking,
The author was able to present a good balance No other sources were cited except for M.
of opinion. Because of this, arguments were
Pollan’s 2006 article.
both persuasive and contentious. It is also
surprising that she was able to present very
well the side of the argument that she does not
The article was able to clearly describe the
tension that brings the topic on the table. She
shares the tension by mentioning that this
happens to other people too.
It is a good short-read.
Very impressive platform: New York Times
The article was successful in reaching out to
its audience. As of this writing, there are
1,544 comments under the article.
Good title. The manner by which the article
name was written (in print and online) is
No ethos claims were made.
ENG 401A Rhetorical Analysis Rubric
Significant (12+) errors in
MLA format. Sources do
not include citations.
Significant effort needs to
be made to adjust page
layout and citations.
Several (8-12) errors in
MLA format. In-text
citations are attempted,
but lacking information. All
sources do include
citations in the works
Some (4-8) errors in MLA
format. In-text citations
are used for each source
correctly and all sources
include citations in the
works cited. Errors are
showing an understanding
of MLA format.
Very few (1-3) errors in
MLA format, including the
Works Cited page, in-text
citations, and page layout.
Content & Focus
The essay does not use the
rhetorical triangle in its
analysis. Large parts of the
article/video are not
analyzed. The author gives
his or her opinion on the
topic of the article/ video.
The essay summarizes the
article/ video often.
The essay mentions the
rhetorical triangle, but it is
not an important part of
the analysis. Major pieces
are missing in the analysis.
The author subtly his/her
opinion on the topic of the
article/video. The essay
includes some summaries
of the article/video.
The essay sometimes uses
the rhetorical triangle to
analysis the article/video.
Most of the article/video is
analyzed. The author’s
opinion on the topic could
be easily guessed. Very
little summary is included.
Essay actively uses the
rhetorical triangle in their
analysis, is objective,
thorough, and focusses on
the article or video instead
of the issue. The author
avoids summarizing when
The author provides little
information about the
rhetorical context. The
author does not consider
the essay’s audience and
explains concepts either
too much or too little. The
audience of the
article/video is addressed
once in the essay.
The author provides some
information about the
rhetorical context using
his/her knowledge or a
source. The author is
somewhat aware of the
essay’s audience, but may
use confusing terms or
inappropriate tone. The
audience of the
article/video is briefly
addressed in the essay.
The author uses his/her
knowledge or additional
sources to help readers
understand the rhetorical
context. The author
chooses appropriate tone
and word choice for their
audience, and has written
about the role of audience
in the essay.
The paper has some jumps
between topics, which
causes some confusion.
Topic sentences are
but mostly unused. There
are transitions between
main points, but not all
introduction includes very
little information about the
video/article topic. A
person could accurately
guess what the thesis is,
but the thesis may be too
broad, not easily argued
against, or include bias
about the issue from the
Ideas are organized well
through most of the paper,
although there may be
repetitive ideas or jumps.
Topic sentences are used,
but may be too simple or
broad. Transitions are
attempted between all
paragraphs, but may need
improvements to be
smoother. The thesis is
easy to find and not biased,
but may not be specific to
the paper or easily argued
Ideas are organized in a
logical, clear sequence
throughout the essay with
between concepts and
introduction includes basic
information about the
video/article topic. The
thesis is easy to find, clear,
arguable, and limited to
Contextualization, The author does not
describe the rhetorical
context of the
article/video. The author
does not write about the
potential or excluded
audiences of the
The paper has major jumps
between topics and the
organization makes the
ideas hard to understand.
Topic sentences are not
related to the paragraph.
Transitions and may not be
used. The introduction
does not include basic
information about the
video/article topic. The
thesis is not clear, a simple
fact, a question, too
simple/broad, or contains
an opinion about the topic
and not the video/article.
Use of Sources
The author has not used an At least one source is used
outside source to help with in the paper, but it only
supports the author’s
initial analysis. No new
information is added, and
the rhetorical context may
not be addressed because
of this. The source could be
removed without affecting
At least one source has
been used to help develop
analysis, but it stands out
and does not quite fit into
the central ideas of the
paper. It provides some
information about the
rhetorical context, but
there may be confusing or
missing information, still.
At least one outside source
has been used to help
develop the analysis
beyond what the author
could initially write. This
source not only supports
the author’s initial
thoughts, but adds new
information and insight by
providing another point of
view or context. The
author’s overall analysis
does not depend on this
Language errors cause
significant confusion for
Several errors are
consistently made in the
paper, but they rarely
cause confusion for the
reader. Sentences are
mostly varied, although
some structures are
Sentences are varied in
length. There are limited
spelling and grammar
errors and they do not
cause a confusion for the
Language Use &
Scattered errors in spelling
and grammar cause
confusion for the reader,
although most of the paper
Sentence are repetitive in
structure and simple.
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