Paper #1 Writing a Rhetorical Analysis
Length: 3-5 pages (does not include cover sheet)
Reflection Piece (Developing a Theory of Writing): 2-3 pages (see assignment below)
During this first unit we have spent time carefully reading, then analyzing a variety of arguments in terms of their
rhetorical strategies. By now, it should be clear that when you are asked to do a “rhetorical analysis” of a text, you are
being asked to apply your critical reading skills to break down the “whole” of the text into the sum of its “parts.” You try
to determine what the writer is trying to achieve, and what writing strategies he/she is using to try to achieve it.
Reading critically means more than just being moved, affected, informed, influenced, and persuaded by a piece of
writing. Reading critically also means analyzing and understanding how the work has achieved its effect. For the first
paper in this class you will write a 3-5 page rhetorical analysis of one of the essays listed at the end of this sheet. PDFs
of all essays are available on the course WordPress site.
It’s important to consider how your opinion plays into this paper. You are making an argument with this analysis, and
the argument answers this question: Is the writer successful as a rhetorician in this essay? Why or why not? Are you able
to identify moments where compassion and rhetoric align? Your thesis statement should make a specific assertion about
the success of the essay (“it was successful” is not at all specific…). The body of your paper should be packed full with
evidence (observations about specific strategies) and discussion about how/why the strategies work in the given
Your paper should:
• demonstrate a clear understanding of the intentions of the essay
• be well-organized and clearly presented
• have a strong thesis statement that appears early in your paper (remember, you are making an argument in this
• analyze and make connections between the concepts of genre, audience, and rhetorical situation.
• show an understanding of how the rhetorical situation affected the essay
• identify various rhetorical strategies in the essay
• address the effect of the strategies on the finished essay
• be gracefully and smoothly written – free of grammatical and spelling errors
*Your paper should not simply walk paragraph by paragraph through the essay.*
In order to be eligible for full credit, the following should be stapled* together neatly when you turn it on 2/25/16:
• prewriting or annotated copy of the essay
• first draft with workshop notes
• a workshop worksheet
• a clean, revised draft
• rhetorical story
• a cover sheet (on top) with a short reflection that considers some/any of the following:
o your overall experience in the unit, your understanding of rhetorical analysis, your writing
Choose one of the Following Essays to Analyze
Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Brent Staples “Just Walk on By”
Danielle Ofri “Merced”
Richard Rodriguez “Achievement of Desire”
Malcolm X “Learning to Read”
Amy Tan “Mother Tongue”
Mary Louise Pratt “Arts of the Contact Zone”
David Foster Wallace “Consider the Lobster”
Reflection Piece: Developing a Theory of Writing Assignment
(2-3 pages) *due with your paper*
The opportunity to reflect and begin developing a theory of writing is a critical assignment within WRIT 201 as it offers
me insight into your writing process. Of further import, developing a theory of writing provides students with a
rhetorical foundation, which over time encourages the transfer of knowledge about writing and writing practices across
the curriculum and disciplines. Each major assignment in WRIT 201 has a writing task and a reflection task.
I begin my response to your essay by responding to your reflection and theory of writing; I won’t grade your primary
essay without it.
1) Describe this writing task. What was being asked of you by this assignment? What was your purpose in
composing? Who was your audience and what was their interest in the situation?
2) Describe yourself as a writer involved in this writing task. What was your stance? What was your motivation in
choosing this topic? What strengths did you bring to the writing situation? What were your challenges?
3) Describe the strategies you used to accomplish this writing task. Please describe one or two specific moves you
made with your thinking, research, or writing. What decision did you make? What were your alternatives? What
effects do you think your decision had on the finished essay?
In this paper I will be looking for the following:
– thoughtful detail about the project process
– solid organization
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