Rhetorical Analysis


The cost of a college education is an issue that is currently debated by society: parents who pay for their children’s education, college administrators who struggle with managing rising costs, and students themselves who must balance the cost of a college education with the value that such an education brings to their lives. The question is “Should college be free?” or “Should college education be partially or completely subsidized by state and federal government?”

Donald Gutierrez, a university English professor, has written an essay, “Attending College Must Be Free Again (For the Country’s Own Sake),” which addresses the issue of a free public college education. He maintains that college should be free for all qualifying students. How does he argue his position? How persuasive is his argument? How does Professor Gutierrez argue his claim? What rhetorical strategies does he use? Is he effective in making his argument?


Write a 4 to 6-page paper (1700 -1800 words – plus a Works Cited page) in formal, academic language and MLA format (Times New Roman 12-point font, one inch margins on all sides, MLA heading and running head, and a Works Cited page) in which you analyze the rhetoric of Gutierrez’s essay and analyze his claim of policy. (See more detailed instructions below.)

Grading Factors:

· Write a précis – summarize the argument of the essay, including main idea

· Brainstorm the topic and engage in a robust discussion of the subject

· Introduce the essay with a personal narrative, including description and narration skills, that relates to the thesis of the subject of the rhetorical analysis

· Analyze the rhetoric of the essay

· Critical thinking skills

· Writing skills, including pre-writing activities

· Quality and relevance of sources

· MLA format – see handout for a sample of correct MLA format

Rhetorical Analysis Rubric Outline

Précis of the article: “College Should Be Free Again” by Donald Gutierrez

(see “Instructions for Writing a Précis” below) – due 02/05/20

· In a single sentence give the following:

· Name of the author, title of the work, date in parentheses (optional)

· A verb that accurately describes how the author makes the statement (such as “asserts,” “argues,” “believes,” “compares,” “describes,” “finds,” “implies,” “questions,” “suggests,” etc.)

· A that clause which introduces the thesis statement of the work.

· In a series of independent clauses (no more than two or three sentences) explain how the author develops and supports the thesis statement. (main points of the article)

· In a single coherent sentence state the author’s purpose, followed by an “in order” phrase.

· In a single coherent sentence describe the intended audience (probably a general, well-educated audience) and the relationship that the author establishes with the audience.

Rhetorical Analysis of the article: “College Should Be Free Again”

I. Introduction

a. Write a short (3 – 5 sentence) personal narrative that engages the reader and makes evident your purpose or bias in this topic. (Show how college costs affect you personally, and other students.)

b. Introduce the topic of the analysis. (The question of whether or not college should be free.)

c. Consider an effective “hook” to engage the reader in this topic. (Refer to text book for effective “hooks” for college essays.)

d. State the thesis of the argument in defending the claim, preferably a divided thesis. (This is the main point of your claim of policy—the position to be defended in the body of the essay.)

II. Rhetorical Analysis (note: a, b, and c below form the rhetorical triangle—see page 6 of the text)

a. Topic sentence—what is the issue? What is the main point or thesis of the article?

b. Give the context? Author’s background and bias?

c. Describe the targeted audience.

d. Include the précis of the article.

e. Summary of argument’s appeals (see pages 7 to 10 of the text):




f. Examine the counter-argument presented in the article

g. Is the article effective?

III. Claim of Policy (see pages 31 to 35 in the text)

a. Introduce your own position regarding the question of whether college should be free. Relate your position to the position taken in the Gutierrez article.

b. Make your own claim of policy regarding the question of whether college should be free. Write your position in a divided thesis. (Perhaps a restatement of the thesis statement in the first paragraph of the essay.)

c. Support your thesis statement with evidence consisting of reasons, anecdotes, examples, facts, statistics, expert testimony and your personal observations.

IV. Conclusion – DO NOT just repeat the thesis statement. Say something new.

Steps and textbook support:

1. Read the essay, “Attending College Must Be Free Again” thoroughly. (see Ch 2)

2. Write a précis of the essay, “Attending College Must Be Free Again.” (see Ch 4 and handout on précis).

3. Use pre-writing strategies to write an analysis of the article. (class lecture)

4. Include an attractive “hook” to engage the reader in your argument. (pages 156-158)

5. Include a brief narrative on how this question impacts your life or the life of a typical college student. (class lecture)

6. Analyze the rhetoric of the argument presented in the essay. (see Ch 1)

7. React to the essay with a brief personal statement.

8. State your own claim of policy for the issue in a (divided) thesis statement. (see page 121 and 122)

9. Support your claim with evidence and supports. (see Ch 5).

10. Conclude the essay with a “So What” or call for action. (see page 159)

Instructions for writing a précis.

A rhetorical précis is a highly specialized, specific type of summary. It differs from the more general summary in that emphasis is placed upon providing the rhetorical aspects of the work under consideration. Like the summary, the goal is to provide in clear, precise language, the main points of a piece. Essential information within the rhetorical précis includes the writer’s name, the genre and name of the piece, the way in which this information is delivered, the main point, how the point is developed, and the relationship between the writer and audience. This information is presented in four very specific sentences as outlined below.

Sentence 1. Provides the name of the author, the genre (essay, novel, etc.) and title of the work with the date (in parentheses), a concise appropriate verb (claims, posits, argues) followed by a “that” phrase in which the thesis of the work is stated (either paraphrased or quoted).

Sentence 2. Provides an explanation of how the author goes about supporting his/her thesis. (Remember that brevity is important—you will not restate the details from the work, but explain the rhetorical method used by the writer to develop these supports.

Sentence 3. States the purpose of the piece (which may reflect the thesis, but should also include the writer’s motive—why is she/he writing this piece?) This is accomplished with an “in order to” phrase.

Sentence 4. Explains the author’s intended audience and how the author positions him or herself with that audience.


Francis L. French (professor of political science at Boston University), in her essay, “The Cost of Public Prisons” (2001), argues in favor of making the prison system run by private corporations, claiming that they should no longer be run by the government. She supports this proposal by giving statistical evidence for her first supporting argument (that private corporations can run prisons more cheaply), and anecdotal evidence for her second supporting argument (that government-run prisons do not provide prisoners with useful skills). Her purpose is to inform readers about the current prison situation in order to convince them to support legislation in favor of privately-run prisons. She establishes a formal relationship with her audience, who she apparently expects to have some knowledge of the topic already, judging from her use of advanced vocabulary related to the topic.

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