Rhetorical Analysis Activity

For this activity, you will perform a rhetorical analysis of an article on a scientific or technical topic.

Of course, you may or may not be familiar with the article or the periodical that it appears in, you may or may not have any clue what the article is about, and you may or may not even be able to understand it. The point of this activity is to try to try to figure out how the article works with its intended audience. This means making a number of reasonable assumptions—assumptions that are backed up by evidence from the text itself, or from additional research—and distancing yourself from your own personal reaction to the piece so that you can concentrate on the likely reaction of the intended audience.

Here are some questions to guide your analysis:

  1. What is the rhetorical triangle for the article? Specifically:
    1. What can you tell us about the audience? Who is this article meant for? Who will read it? It may help for you to characterize an "average" reader. What are they interested it? Who are they demographically? What do they like or dislike? What do they want from the article?
    2. What can you tell us about the rhetor? What are the rhetor's motivations?
    3. What can you tell us about the purpose of the piece? This includes not only the most immediate "thesis" or major point of the article, but also other, ancillary goals that the rhetor may have.
    4. What can you tell us about the context of the article? That is, can you identify any appeals to kairos (timeliness) or to prepon (appropriateness)?
    5. What can you tell us about the forum, that is, the periodical that the article appears in? Is there a specific style to the forum? Given what you have analyzed about the article so far, an you explain why the style is the way it is?
  2. Can you identify specific appeals in the article? These appeals can be anywhere: in the writing, in the visuals, in the layout or production of the article, etc. Specifically:
    1. Where are the ethos appeals? How does the rhetor seek to establish their credibility or character? Are there any specific or repeated strategies that you can identify?
    2. Where are the appeals to logos? How is logos manifested in the structure or ordering of the article?
    3. Can you identify any pathos appeals? Unlike logos appeals, these can be hard to find in scientific and technical literature.
  3. Is the article successful or not? More importantly, how do you know?