Rhetorical analysis exercise

  1. Paraphrase the argument. Identify the main points of the argument and translate them into your own words. Your paraphrase should be fair and charitable; that is, if the author read your paraphrase, he or she would agree with everything you say.
  2. Examine the context of the argument. What are the circumstances that led the author to make this argument? Where and when is the argument published (if you are reading a reprint, be sure to consider the original publication circumstances)? What outside issues are relevant to the argument and its time and publication place? List any question you have about the argument’s context, as well as anything you already know.
  3. Examine the author and his or her credibility. How does the author establish his or her credibility within the argument itself? What kinds of credibility or authority does the author bring to the argument? What questions do you have about the author, his or her stake in the argument, and his or her qualifications or background?
  4. Determine the argument’s audience. Consider both the audience of the specific argument, and of the publication more broadly. Who are the readers of the publication? What are their interests and values? What questions do you have about the readers and their interests?
    • Who is the audience for the argument itself?
    • Who does the author appeal to? How?
    • What kind of relationship does the author establish with the audience? Formal? Informal? Close? Distanced?
  5. Examine the argument’s logic. What are the premises? What are the conclusions? What steps does the author use to move from premises to conclusions?
  6. Examine the way the argument appeals to emotions or values. Which values or emotions does the argument reference? How does it make these appeals? What audience or audiences are these appeals aimed at?
  7. Examine the evidence the argument uses. Is the evidence qualitative or quantitative? Does the author use anecdotes, and if so, how? Is the evidence credible? Would some audiences find it more credible than others?