Rhetorical Analysis Education

Rhetorical analysis (3 pages) – 15%
In your second major assignment for the semester, you will analyze a single public document related to the educational institution you visited for your observation: a brochure, website, or other document by or about your site. The document should have at least 500 words of text (3-4 good paragraphs) for you to examine, as you’ll be focusing in particular on the text. You will analyze the “rhetorical” choices the author (or authoring agency) is making in the source, exploring why the author(s) chose the specific words and images in the source, why they chose its color scheme, why they chose a particular mode of distribution (pamphlet, website, flyer etc.), what information they make, through arrangement, most visible in the text, what emotional appeals they make on their audience, etc. You will support a theme or thesis about the text’s choices with details from the text itself.

Timeline
• Copy of the public document you plan to analyze due October 1
• First draft due in our conference October 11
• Revised draft due October 15

Outcomes for Rhetorical Analysis
• Identify how the purpose of text is achieved through the choices a writer makes
• Evaluate the degree to which the argumentative choices a writer makes are effective and ethical
• Determine the effects of point of view on an author’s interpretation/argument
• Organize prose giving priority to more important ideas
• Demonstrate effective logical reasoning in written prose
• Incorporate paraphrases and quotations smoothly and honestly into writing

Some pointers and questions to keep in mind:
• Read and annotate any written text in the document.
• Closely examine visual elements (images, colors, layout, fonts, etc.). Use the handout on analyzing visual texts for help.
• Determine the document’s purpose (implicit or explicit). Is it making an argument? Trying to persuade someone of something? Trying to sell something? Simply informing its audience on a topic?
• Determine the audience. Who does the document target? How can you tell?
• Who is the author or producer? Why might it matter? Is any bias present or possible? Is the author/producer knowledgeable and reliable?
• How current is the document and its information? When was it published (or last updated/ revised)?
• How complete and accurate is the information? Is anything missing?
• Examine the tone, purpose, organization/structure, point of view, and context of the document’s text. What do these choices add?
• Examine the text’s appeals to emotion, logic, and credibility.
• Evaluate any claims made in the document. Are they fair? Is there any faulty reasoning in these claims?
• How are images, design, links, and other media incorporated? Are they appropriate? Do they match what the text communicates, or do they contradict it?
• What features of design (color scheme, variations of font style and size, placement on the page, formal or playful lettering) seem to stand out? Do the design elements add to the function/ purpose of the document, or are they merely decorative?
• What is the overall message of the document? What does it attempt to do? Is it successful?

More thoughts about specific elements

1. The words
HINT: The written text will be the most important part of the document to analyze
• How much written text is present? To what effect?
• What do the words say? Do they agree with the image or contradict it in some way?
• What kind of diction, tone, language is present in the written text?
• What do the words imply? What do they add to the message of the document?

2. Images
• What kind of images are present? Photographs? Cartoons/ drawings? A combination?
• What’s the image of? Is there a story being told? What and why?
• If people are present, how large is/are the body/ies? What part of the body is dominant in the picture? Is the figure shown interacting with others, or alone? What kind facial expression is present? What emotion does the facial expression suggest? What is the subject wearing? What does the subject’s clothing imply about him/her?

3. How is the document organized?
• Is the image more important than the words, or vice versa? In what proportion do words and images appear? Where are the words in relation to the image(s)?
• Is there one central image, one section where your eye goes first? Are there other surrounding images/background or just one?
• Does the document employ different levels of clarity/ focus? Are there parts that are blurred or less noticeable?
• What kinds of links are present (if it’s a website)? Do they link inward or outward or both? Are the links thorough, or are certain things missing? Do they raise any questions?
• What does this organization contribute to the meaning/purpose of the document?

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