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These are just student examples of how to write rhetorical analysis. Do not use I, me, or you in a paper, nor put a quote in isolation.

Example #1 (Paper)






It is extremely difficult to peer up into the heavens on a dark, clear night and not wonder if there are others, somewhere up there, wondering the same thing. The expanse is overwhelming, even before scientists spout their estimates and approximations. The grain-of-sand analogies don’t seem to say any more than we already know. It’s big. It’s real big. And each pinpoint of light seems to have the same answer for our questioning eyes: Maybe.

If you just felt a rush of wonder, a breath of intellectual curiosity, then you just fell victim to an emotional literary technique. Though my intent was not to persuade you to any one point of view on extra-terrestrial life, I was trying to capture your attention as an audience. My attempt was not overly zealous because that would have worked against me. I tried to calculate it so as to engage your imagination without insulting your intelligence. It is a stratagem that is commonly used by those members of a profession based on logic whose target audience has a relatively high level of expected knowledge.

Is there life somewhere else in the Universe? We don’t really know. The truth is, we won’t know until we’ve either found life, or we’ve searched every star in vain. Recent technological and strategical advancements have helped our attempt to answer this ultimate question. Though the resulting optimism may precede itself, it is, nonetheless, refreshing. An April 1996 article entitled “Searching For Life On Other Planets,” published by Scientific American, suggests that we will very likely have answers in the next decade. Making such a speculation without immediately losing all credibility is a feat that this article and its authors accomplish remarkably well.

Every text, no matter what the field or subject, must persuade its reader in some form or another. Even small articles, written solely with the intent to inform, must persuade the reader that what they have written is true. Professors Roger Angel and Neville Woolf utilize logical appeal, or logos, during the majority of “Searching for Life on Other Planets” to obtain this end. That is to say, they created the article using systematic documentation and well-known example. By doing so they have targeted their intended audience directly in the trachea.

The article begins with a hint of emotional appeal relating the history of the question “are we alone in the universe?” However, even this initial sprinkle of emotion is well supported by reference to scientific discovery. The article immediately leaps to its thesis in the next paragraph. It reports that in the next decade humankind “could build the equipment needed to locate planets with life-forms like the primitive ones on Earth.” Now read that statement again. It doesn’t seem too objectionable of a prediction, or even out of the ordinary, does it? Now let me reword it slightly: humankind will locate other, life-inhabited planets within the next decade. When restated more simply and more directly, the statement seems audacious and risky.

It is exactly this kind of initial reaction that the authors wanted to avoid. They make the prediction by wording it to lack directness, and support it by focusing on how, where, and with what. This keeps the thesis very understated. Depending on your personal beliefs, what they are inferring could even be amazing or outrageous. By avoiding a direct statement the authors avoid direct disagreement. The article establishes not only that we will have the technology for the search, but also that there is life on other planets. To give an idea of the profundity of such a prediction, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin has been quoted in regards to discovering extra-terrestrial life as saying that it “would change everything – no human endeavor or thought would be unchanged by that discovery.” By remaining informative, yet indirect, the authors make a somewhat risky guiding statement but avoid inciting the reading mind to question its validity.

The paragraphs that follow amount to a well-done overview of facts and findings that relate to our scientific search for extra-terrestrial life. Great detail is used once the step-by-step overview reaches the most current techniques in searching for other planets. It is no secret that it spends more effort in this region because that is what the audience for this article really wants to hear: What is being attempted or going be attempted soon. The answer to that question is what the scientific community always craves. By appeasing that particular focal point of curiosity the article captures its audience even more and, as a result, supports its initial supposition.

What becomes very curious about this article is the way in which the authors appeal to the reader ethically. They establish an ethical rapport without ever actually stating their qualifications or involving their identities with the article in anyway. The rapport is simply based on the information reported and the way it’s brought forth. They extend a wide array of facts and findings and historical dates and familiar names all related to the intended subject. Not stating their identities within this barrage effectively builds their ethical appeal without offering an opportunity for it to be questioned. By the end of the second paragraph the reader is persuaded that whoever the author is, he or she is well educated and up to date on the subject and is trying to help the reader become the same way. This strategy helps support the underlying intent of the article by disengaging the otherwise natural opposing questions that people have when being given new information. Bringing forth an unnecessarily wide base of related information effectively improves the strength of the underlying message.

From a persuasive standpoint it initially seems strange that the authors only suggest the concept that there might not be other life in the universe at all. An author can lose quite a bit of his or her ethical appeal by not paying the opposing viewpoint with enough respect. By only slightly suggesting this concept they risk losing a great deal of their ethical appeal because they have not respected the opposing viewpoint. In this case however, it was worth the risk and probably helped their cause. There are two reasons for this. One reason is that the members of the target audience (those who read Scientific American) either believe that there is extra-terrestrial life or at least approve of the effort being expended to search for it. The more crucial reason that the authors would leave out the opposing concept is quite simple. They don’t want it being considered. There are people who, because of religious or philosophical reasons, do not believe that extra-terrestrial life exists. To those people, the human endeavor of searching for extra-terrestrial life is a futile waste of time and money. The authors try to avoid this controversy because giving it focus can only hurt their intent. They stand too much to lose, as researching astronomers, to have the possibility that their work is useless brought to the forefront of discussion. Instead, they focus discussion on the progress that has been made and the problems for which they have already devised solutions. This effectively supports the idea, yet again, that we are getting closer to finding extra-terrestrial life on other planets.

What exactly was the purpose of this article, “Searching for Life on Other Planets”? Well, although we have discussed the persuasive benefits of ethical and logical appeal, some of the purpose of this article probably was to actually inform the reader. By itself, that is a very noble thing. The more the general scientific community is aware of what is going on the stronger it becomes. However, there is another aspect to that. Some of the purpose of the article was probably just to get published at all. After all, in the scientific community it enhances one’s status and resources when one is published, and the more often one is published. It is not to suggest that this essay is for or against any aspect or topic related to the “Searching for Life on Other Planets.” It is only that I am acknowledging the subtleties, the motivation underlying the good deed. Experience seems to suggest that no person or organization is completely altruistic in intent. And that is okay. For they, like you and like me, still peer up into the heavens on a dark, clear night and wonder if there are others, somewhere up there, wondering the same thing.

Example #2 (Paragraph)

The author opens the first paragraph with a question, "What's the right way to protect children from violence?" He appeals to those who are against video game violence and lets them know that he wants safety for our youth with the use of good reasons. He gains trust from this audience by showing he wants things for the better. His definition of children includes those who have a sense of right and wrong but are still easily influenced. He believes that video games aren't harming children; it's some other factor that is the reason why video games are harming very young kids, such as lack of parent guidance and discipline. Velez talks about this later on in his editorial. He then uses pathos to appeal to the feelings of concerned parents, and those who are in favor of the Washington law, as he states, “This is the fourth time that politicians have tried to pass laws regulating violent content in video games.” This audience sees how helpless and unsuccessful the government is when it comes to passing these types of laws. This audience feels sorry for the government, they sort of look down at them shame. Those who are in favor of the Washington law may begin to think that people who can’t make up their minds organize our country. They may start to question the proposed law and wonder if it too, will fail. Velez quotes Mary Lou Dickerson, who explains what the state legislator actually thinks about video games in response to a lawsuit. "The lawsuit filed today against Washington's ban on sales or rentals of cop-killing games to children comes as no surprise. Certain elements of the video-game industry clearly want the right to sell any game, no matter how brutal, racist or sick, to any child, no matter how young." Velez rebuts this argument by initially stating it’s in violation of Freedom of Speech rights. “Politicians are actually trying to ban violent video games which are a pastime that many adult Americans enjoy.” By adult, Velez states that he means, “Those people who are 18 or older.” He persuades this audience to take action by standing up against the law. Velez remarks, “Taking away an individuals right to have fun and enjoy video games can be argued as a violation.” The author is addressing adult gamers when he states this because they have the ability to stand up against such laws.

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