Summary and Rhetorical Analysis of a Professional Columnist

Purpose: For this project, you will combine your critical reading/summary skills and your ability to analyze rhetorical appeals. While this project will be written as a complete essay, the body of the essay will include two major sections: Summary and Analysis of Rhetorical Appeals. While your explicit purposes here are primarily informational, do not ignore the implicit need to develop your own persuasive persona by properly using the summary formulas and the rhetorical terms introduced in class, and to provide a closing reflection on the use of rhetorical appeals in argument.


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Source: Select a current column (from the last two years) from a professional columnist from The New York Times on any topic you choose. You will both summarize this column and analyze the author’s use of rhetorical appeals in it. [If you used a column (and not an editorial) on your first essay, you can NOT use the same essay/column nor the same columnist. Take the opportunity to read and study a new author.]


Research Tips: Browse about the columnist pages from The New York Times. Also contact a research librarian for help locating appropriate columns or for background research on the authors or kairos of the column selected.


Audience: As with most academic writing, assume your audience is as intelligent and informed as you, but assume that they have not done the close reading and analysis that you have and they disagree with you.


For the summaries, assume your audience wants quick, easy access to the argument espoused by the columnist. Your reader wants neither the details of the argument nor your opinion about the topic. Your reader expects the familiarity found in the summary template.


For the rhetorical analysis, your audience wants your explanation of the specific and detailed rhetorical choices the author made and the evidence from the text that led you to that analysis. For example, if you find your author relies on emotional appeals, especially fear, you must include the exact words or quotes from the text that led you to this conclusion.


Format for Summary: The summary paragraph must use the summary template we’ve been working on in class. Therefore, the summary paragraph will be as few as four but no more than seven sentences long. Be sure to check the summary reminders and examples used on the first essay this semester when preparing your summary.


Format for Rhetorical Analysis: Use the specific details and examples from the current column as evidence to support your analysis of each appeal. Ultimately your analysis will explain where you find evidence of each appeal.


1. Logos: How is the author using verifiable evidence to support the claims made? Where and how are the authors using facts, statistics, or expert opinion to appeal to the reader’s sense of reason or logic?


2. Ethos: How is the author gaining your trust on this topic? What information is the author including to let the readers know that they are knowledgeable, fair, trustworthy, and of good will? If you think they have your best interest in mind, what information did they include that led you to that conclusion? What details about their education or experience did they provide that lets you know you can trust their evidence and that they are the best source for this information? By what authority are they claiming the floor on this topic?


3. Pathos: How is the author trying to make you feel a certain way? How is the author appealing to the audience’s emotions in response to the needs and values of the target demographic? How are they using emotive language, connotation, euphemisms, charged words, details, names, numbers, and examples to appeal emotions, needs, and values?


Guiding Question for your Conclusion: Take advantage to reflect on the larger implications of your analysis as it relates to your work as a writer. What insights might you gain from the way a professional writer uses rhetorical appeals that might influence your own argument style and use of rhetorical appeals?


Organization and Length: Keep the overall organization of this essay simple by following the recommended pattern. The finished essay will be approximately 4-5 pages typed, plus a Works Cited page.




Approximate Length in MLA 8e




½ page or more




½ page


Analysis of three appeals


2-3 pages or more




½ page or more


Works Cited


separate page


Format: MLA 8e with proper design, in-text, and end-of-text (Works Cited) formatting. My preferences per MLA 8 instructor variants:

Use Times New Roman 12 pt font

Do not include html address for Works Cited entries (MLA, p. 48)


Evaluation Criteria:



The successful project will include an introduction, summary, analysis of the use of rhetorical strategies for the current column, and a conclusion.

The summary will conform to the summary template introduced in class.

The subject of every sentence in the summary will be the source author’s last name.

The analysis of rhetorical appeals will incorporate jargon from this class to show building mastery of rhetorical analysis.

All claims made in the analysis will be supported with evidence (quotes) from the text.

Building on the analysis, the successful essay concludes with some insight or reflection on the use of appeals in argumentative writing.



The analysis will be logically organized and exhibit attention to the reader through the use of paragraphs with topic sentences and transitions between both sections as well as ideas and sections of the argument.

All quoted material will be properly introduced, provided and explained using the Quotation Sandwich.



The essay will develop a fair, thoughtful, and reasonable persona.

The essay will demonstrate growing stylistic awareness



The essay will be free of hindering grammar or proofreading errors.

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