Are there any fallacies or other weaknesses in the argument? How do they affect the reader’s response to the work? What kinds of assumption are at work? Are these fair? What are the particular strengths of the argument?
Does the writer make effective use of concession, refutation, and/or counter-argument?
Matters of style. Which of the following do you find most important to the discourse and why: diction (formal, colloquial, slang, etc.); tone; figurative language, symbolism, allusion, irony; humor; number and length of paragraphs; length and style of sentences; rhythm and repetition.
Revisit the conversation you opened in the introduction. You can speak of the argument’s strong and weak points as well—just remember that you are not here to agree or disagree with the author. You are here to show how the argument works, to show what the writer is trying to accomplish and identify those tools or tactics he or she uses to achieve that goal.
1. Unify your commentary with a comprehensive but specific statement—your thesis. “When we look at House’s essay, we see many ridiculous things” is not a thesis.
2. Develop your paper to demonstrate your thesis. Because interpretations always have a subjective component to them, your ability to express and develop an idea rather than whether your idea is “right” will determine your grade. This ability to develop involves recognizing and dealing with counter-evidence. Before committing to a thesis, look for counter-evidence and, if necessary, modify your thesis.
3. Always remember to back up your assertions with specific passages or words from the text. Don’t merely say, “Snerd’s voice is strident and he uses abusive language to make his point.” Rather, use quotations, point out specific moments in the work to support your points: “In paragraph 95, for instance, Snerd compares the president’s head to a feather duster . . .” You must prove your own claims about the text through the text. Do not write a paper without using quotations. (And see note at the end.)
4. Avoid repetition: gather all your commentary on a particular point at one place in the paper, and choose the place where this point can be made most effectively in developing your essay. Devote a paragraph to one strategy you’ve identified.
5. You don’t need to consider every single angle mentioned above to write a successful analysis. In some cases, you can treat a certain category in a sentence or less: “Throughout the essay, Wigglebottom tries to show us the debasement of culture by . . .” Nor do you need to write a whole paragraph to answer some of the questions; do, however, avoid writing one sentence per item and then stringing these together. Such a procedure does not an essay make.
6. The first time you refer to an author, give his/her full name and credentials. After that, the last name will suffice. (Do not, ever, refer to an author by first name only—unless the author uses a pseudonym or has or goes by one name only, like Cher, Madonna, or Thing.)
7. Use the literary present. That is, acknowledge that what is happening inside a book (or a movie, an essay, etc.) is always going on: “In his essay, Inkblot discusses . . .and concludes that . . .”
Note: The following examples show the difference between summary and analysis:
Summary: Jones says global warming has negative effects and we should care about our world’s future.
Analysis: Jones provides multiple negative effects of global warming and punctuates his sentences with exclamation marks; thus he uses quantitative descriptions and punctuation to create a sense of urgency in his readers to care about the planet’s status regarding global warming.
Summary: Green has a lot of formal language throughout his essay and hardly any informal words.
Analysis: Green employs formal language throughout his essay. For example, he argues unequal funding in public schools creates “a horrific imbalance between affluent communities and those that re impoverished” (27). In using formal academic writing, he establishes himself as a credible and authoritative author.
In your introduction, you can say something in gerneral about the topic. In any case, you must state the title, the author, and the place of publication. You must summarize the argument. Then tell us which rhetorical strategies you will analyze. This is what the argument is. Then: This is how he makes it. The “how” is what you spend your paper explaining.
In her essay, “Let’s Put Pornography Back in the Closet,” which appeared in the New York Times on October 31, 1983, Susan Brownmiller, feminist and author of Against Our Will, relies on appeals to character and to authority to persuade her target audience of 1st amendment absolutists that the public display of pornography creates a harmful environment . . .(or whatever).
(Since the target audience determines the writer’s approach, you have to describe the target audience at or near the beginning of your analysis. Whether you do so in the first few sentences is up to you.)
First body paragraph
Topic Sentence (using my example: appeals to character)
Textual evidence for analytical discussion (in paragraph one Brownmiller quotes this person, in paragraph two, this person, in paragraph nine this person, etc. Why?)
• Explanation, discussion (two or three sentences at least).
Second body paragraph
Topic Sentence (using my example: appeals to authority)
Textual evidence for analytical discussion
• Explanation and discussion
and so on.
Things to avoid:
Do not say that writers make people think about things. A target audience will be interested. People who are not of the target audience are beside the point.
Do not say that writers wake people up. A target audience will be interested. Narcolepsy is something else.
Do not say that words paint pictures. Explain the effects of diction or imagery on the target audience. Expalin why the writer uses such terms or images. Explain why they come where and when they do.
Do not find fault with a newspaper column for not being a dissertation, or a speech, or a book. That is, do not criticize a text for not being what it was never intended to be. The urge to find fault will most likely distort your analysis and thus your grade.
Do not say that the writer is biassed and leave it at that. If partiality in some way obscures the issue for the target audience, explain. To say that the writer of an opinion piece is opinionated is to state the obvious.
Do not waste your time paraphrasing a text. Paraphrase is not analysis.
Your analysis must be at least 750 words, or 2 qnd ½ pages of analysis. Block quotes and the like (long quotes, that is) do not count. You must follow MLA guidelines. You must use in-text citation. Use in-text citation. Do not include a title page.