Rhetorical Analysis of an Op-Ed Article
Overview: You have learned the basics of rhetorical analysis; now you will practice those skills by writing an analysis of an argument.
- Audience: classmates and instructor
- Criteria: clarity and persuasiveness of your interpretation, thoroughness of your discussion, organization, command of language, editing and format.
- Length/format: 3 pages, typed in MLA format
Due Dates: Topic Proposal Outline Body Paragraph Rough draft/peer review Final Draft
10/3 10/10 10/17 10/24—10/28 10/31
- Choose an Op-Ed article from the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and/or The Washington Post or from the list below and read it thoughtfully. (You might want to read a few before deciding on the one that interests you the most.)
- Write a brief topic proposal: On a half-sheet of paper write down the name of the argument you will analyze, plus your name. Also briefly tell me why you are choosing that one. 10/3
- Create an outline of your proposed paper. Due 10/10
- Draft a full analysis on how effective the author’s argument is by thinking specifically about how the author makes their argument. What appeals to the reader do they rely on? What types of evidence do they use? What’s the tone? Style? Use of metaphor? Descriptive language? Your essay should possess a thesis that addresses the efficacy of the author’s argument.
- Consider the advice you get on the rough draft, seek more advice from me if you want, and revise the rough draft. Rough draft due 10/24, peer review due 10/28
- Submit a final draft due on 10/31
Content and Organization: Normally I will urge you to develop your essay’s content and organization based on what will work for the particular audience, topic, and context, but this assignment has pretty specific requirements, which I’ve spelled out below.
- Required Content: You’ll identify the audience, forum, and context of the argument you are analyzing and explain how the strategies used by the writer are operating.
- Optional content: If you want to analyze some additional features of the argument’s strategies, you could also (briefly) discuss stylistic elements, that is, qualities like the word choice, sentence patterns, metaphors and symbolism.
- Organization: Draft an essay that includes the following sections.
- Who seems to be the intended audience and how can you tell?
- What is the original forum (when and where was the argument published)?
- What is the context for the argument (issues in the contemporary world that relate to the argument)? This might deserve its own short paragraph, depending on how closely the argument is tied to its kairos (a Greek term used to mean, essentially, how the when and the where of the argument are related to the why, as in “Why should this audience care about this topic in the here and now?”
- Thesis on the strategies used to push forward the speaker’s purpose
The Body of your paper should have three sections (though there might be more than one paragraph per section), one section for each strategy. Consult your ethos, pathos, and logos handout for strategies that drive those appeals and describe how they would likely operate on the audience.
Example from Working in the Shadows: For his logical appeal, Gabriel Thompson brings in specific evidence of working conditions in the factory that he observed while he worked there himself, such as the vending machine stocked with pain-killers and testimonies from other workers about the physical pain they suffer on the job, to support his claim that this is a terrible place to work. This evidence is likely to be effective with this audience because he is writing for people who have probably never set foot in a factory, so they would be inclined to be both surprised by these details and impressed by the fact that Thompson was able to do this extremely difficult work himself, even for a short time.
Conclusion: This should be short, just a sentence or two to make an overall comment on the writer’s strategies. Here you can briefly state whether you think it was an effective argument or not and why.
- You will find that a lot of being “right” here depends on how you frame your examples. The passage above could be easily adjusted to make a comment on Thompson’s ethos appeal (because he gains credibility by risking his own body to get the story) or his emotional appeal (since many of his descriptions of the workers’ suffering are likely to affect the readers’ emotions). Just be sure you choose examples for each kind of appeal and explain them appropriately.
- Resist the impulse to respond to the argument. That’s a different kind of assignment. The goal here is to show you understand how to analyze an argument’s rhetorical strategies in its context.
Arguments you can use:
- “In Praise of the Maligned Sweatshop” by Nicholas Kristoff (Op-ed piece, NY Times)
- Angelina Jolie on the Syrians and Iraqis Who Can’t Go Home (Op-ed piece, NY Times)·
- My Freshman Year: Worldliness and World View [PDF] (excerpt from a book)
- “To Really Save the Planet, Stop Going Green” by Mike Tidwell (Op-ed piece, The Washington Post)
- “The Population Debate Gets Personal” by Courtney E. Martin (Op-ed piece, NYT)
- “Why young people are key to tackling climate change” (Op-ed in American Prospect)
- Young people and climate change in Nigeria (Op-ed on a website for young people in Nigeria)
- Why White People Need Blackface (0p-ed for the NY Times)
- “Why Business Leaders Should Trumpet the Arts” by Ritch Eich (Op-ed for The Pacific Coast Business Times)
- “Fuel Creativity in the Classroom With Divergent Thinking” by Stacey Goodman (posted on Edutopia.co, a website for those involved in K-12 teaching)
- “When Humility and Audacity Go Hand in Hand” by Adam Bryant. (Interview with a CEO about leadership)