The information in this handout is based on Allyn and Bacon

Rhetorical AnalysisNote: This document should only be used as a reference and should not replace assignment guidelines.UVU Writing Center • Library 208 • ph: 801-863-8936 • Updated August 2013
Web: www.uvu.edu/owl • Facebook: UVUWritingCenter • Twitter: @uvuwritingctrThe information in this handout is based on Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing (Ed. John Ramage, John
Bean, and June Johnson, Brief 5th ed., 2009, pp. 16-56), and From Inquiry to Academic Writing (Stuart
Greene and April Lidinsky, 2008, pp. 47-64).
Since rhetorical analysis and summary/strong response are similar genres with essentially the same
goals, this handout can be useful for both types of assignments. However, this handout is only a guide
and should not replace individual instructor’s guidelines.PreparationA rhetorical analysis analyzes how an author argues rather than what an author argues. It focuses on
what we call the “rhetorical” features of a text—the author’s situation, purpose for writing, intended
audience, kinds of claims, and types of evidence—to show how the argument tries to persuade the
reader.
You will want to read the text you plan to analyze both “with the grain” and “against the grain.” In
reading “with the grain,” you “believe” everything the author tells you without question. In reading
“against the grain,” you pose challenges to the author’s claims and techniques. Read your text a few
times, making note of the following features and marking examples.
This handout will use examples based on Jane Tompkins’s article “’Indians’: Textualism, Morality, and
the Problem of History” (Critical Inquiry 13.1 (1986): 101-119).“With the Grain”You will want to construct a short summary of the author’s main argument to orient the reader in points
you will make in your analysis. This summary should simply and neutrally present the author’s main
points and will generally appear early in your final paper.
EXAMPLE: In her article “Indians,” Jane Tompkins tries to locate the “truth” of the Puritan-Native
American encounter in North America by comparing various historical accounts,
ultimately concluding that though history is determined by the worldview of the person
writing the account, moral relativism is not an acceptable stance toward serious
historical events. Structuring her essay as a personal narrative, Tompkins lays out her
research process for the reader, summarizing and analyzing each academic source as
she encounters it. Her essay leads the reader through academic analyses of history from
the 1960s and 1970s that alternately criticize and sympathize with the Native Americans
and primary texts by colonists in various positions of power in relation to the Native
Americans. The essay ultimately concludes with a call for academics to seek out
competing accounts of history and to piece together a story of what happened
“according to what seems reasonable and plausible” (118).Rhetorical AnalysisNote: This document should only be used as a reference and should not replace assignment guidelines.UVU Writing Center • Library 208 • ph: 801-863-8936 • Updated August 2013
Web: www.uvu.edu/owl • Facebook: UVUWritingCenter • Twitter: @uvuwritingctr“Against the Grain”Make note of the following features, including examples from the text.Angle of visionHow does the author control what the reader sees? In other words, where does the author use words
with certain connotations or create a certain tone or style? How does the author reveal her point of
view?
EXAMPLES: Tompkins attempts to make her research process look objective: she shows the reader
how she systematically consults a wide range of historical accounts, from primary
sources written by colonists to analyses by histor…

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