3 Page Paper, Argument analysis

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Length: 3-5 pages

For our first essay, you will be analyzing a written text, an article. You will need to locate an article that presents an argument and perform an analysis on the article. Here are the steps you’ll follow:

1. Locate an article that makes an argument (contains a claim).

The article you use must be an argument or analysis. By that, I mean that if, for instance, you choose an article analyzing an ad, it cannot simply summarize or describe the ad and then give it a grade. Instead, it needs to present an argument, take the ad apart into smaller pieces (design, audience, colors, layout, etc.) and discuss how those smaller pieces affect the whole ad. You can find good articles at www.Slate.com.  You may, of course, use an article from another source, but please be certain that the article is analytical in nature. You must choose a written text for this assignment.

2. Begin your Textual Analysis paper with a very brief summary of the article—one small paragraph will be sufficient. This summary will probably be presented (as background) immediately before your thesis.  However, if you would prefer to provide a more general introduction paragraph (general background) and then a short summary paragraph (with a thesis), this is fine. In this summary, include the title of the article and the author.

3. Move then to the Argument Analysis. This should take up a number of paragraphs. You may analyze an argument in several ways.

  • The argument. Evaluate or comment on the merits of the claim. Does the claim make sense? Is it clear? (If you can’t find a claim either it’s a summary or a very poorly written argument.) Is it logical? Does the rest of the article prove the claim, or is the statement left unsubstantiated?
  • The evidence. Evaluate or comment on the merits of the evidence. Is there sufficient evidence to support the claim? Is the evidence relevant to the claim? Is the evidence credible?

4.  Provide a Rhetorical Context Analysis. This should take up at least a paragraph, however one paragraph is often not enough to discuss all of the elements. In other words, you might consider more than one paragraph for this section.

After you’ve read the Rhetorical Context Analysis document, select the Rhetorical Context (RC) elements that you’ll be using  in your RC analysis and answer the questions provided to you. Essentially, RC analysis is the evaluation of those factors outside of the text: the author, the writing situation, the audience, the style, the purpose, etc.

5. Your essay should follow good essay structure with an introduction, an argumentative thesis, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your essay should include a Works Cited page which includes the article you are reviewing and NOTHING ELSE!  In other words, you should not use more than one source in this paper. The Works Cited citation should be in MLA.  No, this page does not count toward your page total!

6. Warning:  I am a stickler for organization!  The intent of each paragraph should be very clear.  In other words, create strong topic sentences that refer back to the argument.  Stick to one topic per paragraph and provide enough support for each topic.

Also the link for the Rhetorical Context Analysis document probably will not work but here is what is on the link….

Rhetorical Context Analysis

Introduction to Rhetorical Context
Rhetorical context, or the writing situation, is a key point of analysis. The more you understand about the circumstances surrounding the composition of a piece, yours or otherwise, the better you will understand the writing itself. To this end, we will first examine the rhetorical context of the articles we read for this unit and the next, and later in the semester, you’ll be asked to analyze the writing situation for your research paper. It’s important that you grasp this concept clearly so that you can maximize its usefulness throughout the semester. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions regarding this issue.
The textbook Aims of Argument (3rd edition) discusses rhetorical context noting that a piece of writing/an argument “becomes an action, aimed at affecting a particular audience in a particular place and time” (12). The components of this statement, when broken down, deal primarily with four elements of the writing process and product: author, audience, purpose, subject. Here are some questions which can assist you in further analyzing the rhetorical context of a work. You may want to use any or all of the prompts below to analyze the writing situation, although you may find some redundancies between the REALM approach (farther below) and the 6 questions below.

  • When was the argument written?
  • What prompted the writing of this argument?
  • Who is the author? What do you know about his/her occupation and personal background? What can you infer about his/her political leanings?
  • Where did the article appear? Does this tell you anything about the author or the audience she/he was trying to reach?
  • For whom do you think the author is writing? How did you infer this audience?
  • What purpose was the author trying to achieve? What did she/he hope to accomplish through the act of making this argument?

Another way to approach rhetorical context is to use the rhetorical elements outlined by Lloyd Bitzer in “The Rhetorical Situation” (Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1968), five of which are most likely to give readers insight into an argument essay and its context:

  • The motivation for the argument. Bitzer calls this the exigence or the real-life spark that caused the writer to begin writing. When we consider argument texts, the motivation for writing is often a particular confrontation with someone who holds an opposing position or an insight into a problem that could be solved. Sometimes a writer’s motivation is based on his or her values: the writer sees an event and feels strongly that such occurrences should not happen or should not work out the way this particular event did. Such a spark or motivation spurs the writer to begin thinking and eventually writing out the logic that supports a position in a controversy.
  • The reader. Whom is the writer writing to? Given the motivation for the argument, the writer might directly target someone with the power to change a policy or enact a law. Or the writer might decide that mobilizing public sentiment can help change a circumstance the writer views as unfair or wrong-headed. The most effective arguments are tailored specifically to their readers, so this element is a key part of “The Rhetorical Situation” or a rhetorical analysis.
  • The author. The writer is the next element to look at in a rhetorical analysis. A writer can adopt a particular mask to present to readers, emphasizing their common humanity or specialized education. In many rhetorical situations, the author will try to highlight the traits she shares with her readers. In other instances, the author may write as an outsider who has a better perspective on a problem or situation. Just how the author presents her character and knowledge, as well as how the author connects with the audience, are key elements in understanding the overall effectiveness of many arguments.
  • The limitations. Because writers must accommodate readers’ background knowledge and their attitudes toward the focus of the argument, that set of limitations is most obvious as a component of rhetorical analysis. But writers are also limited by their own knowledge, by their perspectives on a topic, by their values, by their emotional connection to a topic. These, too, are key limitations. Finally, because this type of rhetorical analysis focuses on the motivation for an argument, the historical, political, economic, and social contexts for the motivating event also pose some limitations on what a writer can and cannot argue for. These limitations, or constraints as Bitzer labels them, are important to recognize as shaping forces of an overall argument.
  • The essay. The text itself is perhaps the most obvious piece of the rhetorical context to look closely at. Each argument has its own shape based on the specific claim, organization, argument strategies, types of evidence, and style. Each of these sub-points can repay careful analysis to see how they contribute to the effectiveness of an overall argument.

The easiest way to remember these five major components of rhetorical analysis is with the acronym REALM=reader, essay, author, limitations, motivation. You will almost certainly take up the elements in a different order (just as they were explained above in a different order), but the acronym will help you remember the five key perspectives to look at when dissecting an argument.

You can also use this set of questions to help you begin your rhetorical analysis. As you answer these questions and re-read arguments carefully, other questions will certainly occur to you. Be sure to follow those leads as well to complete a thorough rhetorical analysis.

  • R – Can you define the probable readers in terms of age, gender, occupation, education, position of power? What values do target readers share with the writer? What range of positions might target readers hold before reading?
  • E – What features of the text seem most crucial to understand–the claim, the arrangement of arguments, the supporting evidence, the appeals, the style? What features of the essay make it a more convincing or persuasive argument? What parts of the text are most difficult to read? Why? What parts are most appealing? Why?
  • A – What do you know about this author? What specific qualifications does the author present to build credibility with the target audience? What appeals to the author’s character do you see in the essay? In what ways does the author identify with the readers? Does this level of audience connection help the essay? How?
  • L – Given what you can discern about target readers, what limitations does that audience impose on the writer? How do the author’s background knowledge and experience limit the argument? How do the author’s character or values limit the argument? How does the larger context (its history or its social, political, and economic context) of the argument constrain the writer?
  • M – What seems to have prompted the writer to present this argument? What, if any, is the writer’s history of work on this topic? What event might have prompted the writer? What value(s) might have sparked this essay?


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