Article 1: Primary Sources with Rhetorical Analysis

English 101, Project 1

by Ryan Edel — Posted 9/3/2020

Introduction

In this assignment, you’ll write a rhetorical analysis of your primary sources. If the rhetorical analysis feels confusing or challenging, that’s actually a good sign — it means that you’re learning. Here, you’ll discuss how the text functions for writers and audiences. Tell us what the texts say, how they say it, and how that messages fits within the context of the situation.

If you prefer video or graphics, here's the assignment with video and Google Slides. And all the same information is also written below, in case you prefer text.

Assignment Components

This assignment has three parts:

  1. Introduce your topic and the sources you've found (about 50 words)

  2. Rhetorical Analysis of each source (about 200 words total)

  3. Discussion of how these apply to your topic (about 50 words total)

Note: It's always okay to write longer than the word count. Sometimes it's easier to write more words than it is to edit everything down to something shorter. The most important thing is that you provide all the information required for the assignment.

Part 1: Introduce Your Topic

Tell us what you're writing about. Here's a good place to bring in a personal connection, or maybe mention how your topic relates to society. Then briefly mention which sources you're using. Here's an example. Note that my examples are shorter than your assignment — this is just to give you an idea of the type of writing I'm looking for:

For my example article, I'm looking at how restaurant advertisements affect our choices of where to eat. Since the coronavirus lockdown has kept me at home a lot, I find myself longing to visit some of my favorite restaurants. This gets even harder when I see ads for restaurants — they're designed to lure customers in to order food. For my example article, I'm looking at the blog post for an imagined restaurant that I made up and a billboard for the McDonald's on Main Street, and I'm going to compare how these two advertisements affect my restaurant preferences.

Part 2a: Analysis of Each Source

First, address the following key points from the rhetorical triangle for each source:

  • Author: Who wrote it?

  • Purpose: Why was it written?

  • Audience: Who was it written for?

As you consider these, make sure you go into detail. I don’t want “a restaurant owner wrote about his favorite food.” Instead, go into detail, like this:

The author of this blog post is Rudolph Howard, the founder of Rudolph’s Pancake House. Here, he explains that his favorite types of omelets have exotic cheeses, and I believe the purpose of the post is to entice restaurant patrons in Bloomington-Normal to come try the new feta cheese omelet on their updated menu. To better reach this audience, he also posted a link on the restaurant Facebook page, which has 11 fans. I feel kinda bad for him, though — he doesn’t have many fans, and the post has no likes so far. And the blog post was boring, too — he didn’t say why the omelet is tasty, just that "you should try it. I recommend it. Especially with marshmallows on top." In fact, reading that made me want to never visit his restaurant, and I think he should reconsider whether his target audience would willingly consume eggs and marshmallows from the same plate.

Note that opinions are okay! You can use "I" and give your honest thoughts about your sources.

Part 2b: Rhetorical Modes

Next, you’re going to look at how your primary sources uses the rhetorical modes of persuasion (ethos, pathos, logos) to communicate, and how these fit with the genre and genre conventions.

Here’s an example:

In this McDonald’s billboard posted on Main Street, they feature an image of a Big Mac. This hamburger it huge — it fills the entire billboard, and it’s printed in very bright colors on a red background so you can see the burger on the billboard from half a mile away. For the genre of billboards, this fits the convention of using very large, very visible images that can be quickly seen and understood by distracted drivers. Next to the picture, they include the word HUNGRY? in bold, bright letters. In fact, just thinking about it makes me hungry, like I should stop writing this lesson plan and go to McDonald’s right now.

Part 3: Discussion of Sources and Your Topic

Discussion takes your analysis a step further. Here, you want to show how your articles fit together, and what they can teach us about your topic.

  • Think of this as the "so what" of your topic. Tell us why these sources are important.

  • Address Multiple Perspectives. I don't want to simply hear "this is the way it is." Instead, tell us "some believe this, others believe that, and I believe this."

Here's an example — note the comparison between Rudolph's and McDonald's and the two perspectives regarding the value of blog posts. And again, note that my example is shorter than what you're required to write:

In comparing the blog post from Rudolph's Pancake House and the billboard from McDonald's, I find that my own food preferences tend to be reinforced. I'm not a huge fan of marshmallows myself, and the idea of marshmallows on eggs is just disgusting. On the other hand, the problem might be one of branding. Instead of sharing a blog post, Rudolph's could have shared images of his food, as McDonald's does — if the restaurant had visually appealing photos of the marshmallow omelet, maybe I'd be more likely to try one. Instead of focusing on a weird ingredient combination, he could have shown the marshmallow omelet as a kind of yummy s'mores alternative. And this, I think, indicates the challenge faced by many new restaurant owners. No matter how delicious the food may be, a restaurant's success is determined by how many customers actually stop by to try the food, and this requires advertising that will entice new customers. Unlike McDonald's, my made-up restaurant wouldn't have word of mouth or a an established reputation to draw new customers. On the other hand, I'm not exactly the most sophisticated restaurant customer. I tend to eat wherever it's cheapest. For those who understand food, a blog post with an in-depth description of the food may be more important than a simple image of the food.

As always, please let me know of questions!

Dr. Edel