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Formal Essay #1:

Persuasive Strategies: Rhetorical Analysis & Response

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Context and Goals:

The first step in understanding argument is close analysis of the rhetorical strategies employed in persuasive discourse. This first assignment asks you to critically and strategically read a persuasive editorial with rhetorical principles and devices in mind. Ultimately, your goals for writing are:

  • to analyzewhat Tyler Bonin’s “The Challenge of Teaching War to Today’s Students” reveals about its rhetorical context (the relationships it builds between the author’s purpose, exigence, persona, and audience)
  • to illuminatehow the persuasive message functions, paying particular attention to its logical (logos), ethical (ethos), and emotional appeals (methods).
  • to respond persuasivelyand directly to the editorial, formulating an argument in support or in opposition to Bonin’s case.


  • Part one:Conduct a rhetorical analysis of Bonin’s editorial, providing an overview of his central claims and support strategies, his attempts at building an effective ethos or persona, and the features that make his work appropriate or focused on a specific audience and exigence (writing situation).
    • This portion of your work should be 1-2 pageslong, and should include the following:
      • A thesisthat provides an evaluation of the most effective/ineffective rhetorical decisions he makes, given the subject matter and exigence.
      • Direct references to Bonin’s workthat illustrate both: 1). where he uses particular effective/ineffective rhetorical appeals, and 2). how he uses them in support of his central claim or aim.
      • Support for your evaluationof the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of his approach.
      • Indicate specific points of agreement, disagreement, and questioning in response to his work by referring directly to his text
      • Establish a credible, appropriate persona that highlights shared values, common ground, and/or civil disagreement.
  • Part two: Write a direct 1-2-pageresponse to Bonin, providing a college student’s perspective on the logic, effectiveness, and truth of his claims. While we’ll discuss what a response might look like (in terms of conventions, formality, etc.) in class, your work should:


    • Please note that you are not merely informing the audience about what you see at work in Bonin’s editorial (summary): you are analyzing and evaluating the strategies employed by Bonin. Thus, your thesis should be more than “Author X uses logical and ethical methods to support her claim….” Instead, it should provide a clear, focused message about the successes or failures of Bonin’s column.
    • Your work should support your analysis and response with brief, direct references to the source text. In short essays like this one, please note that paraphrase and brief references to the source are more appropriate than lengthy quotes.
    • Aim to integrate your source material effectively, providing both attribution, discussion, and citation (using paragraph references rather than page references, since this is a short selection) to provide illustration in your analysis and support for your response.
    • Provide a complete source reference (using either APA or MLA format) on the final page or your essay.

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