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Rhetorical Context Analysis Assignment 1 (Modified from Coan)

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Analyze context for an article we've read for the class or an article of your choice from a publication appropriate for this course (see Course Description in your syllabus). If you would like to choose your own article but don't know where to begin looking, try going to the Writing Center's Index, Electronic Journals at CSU. Some of these journals will work for this assignment; others may be too discipline-specific. If nothing else, they may spark or feed an interest which you can pursue in other publications (the library's databases can help you continue your search).

In other courses, you may have learned that an analysis of context should be devoid of your opinion. I do not believe any analysis to be entirely objective; in fact, some of the worst analyses occur when the analyst fails to acknowledge his or her own biases. So: This paper will not pretend to be objective. You may analyze "plus" or "minus," praise or blame (or neutral, though that's not nearly as fun). The core of your essay should be the way author/bias, audience(s), and purpose(s) and the language/organization which spring from them (structure, tone, register, diction, style, evidence) affect meaning in the article you choose. That is, you should assume that no content exists in a vacuum, without context. DO be sure to stick to the article in question; your analysis should not go far beyond its boundaries.

HELPFUL QUESTIONS (some more or less so, depending on your article--cover only those which apply to your argument)

  1. On what is the author taking a position? (A matter of policy? Competing methodologies? The correct interpretation of information, facts, a text?)
  2. How does the author begin the argument, and what does that tell you about what's to come? (Anecdote? Explanation of differing opinions? Research findings?)
  3. When references are used, which ones receive the most attention? The least?
  4. Are sources ever referred to without reference or explanations? Where?
  5. What type of proof, if any, is used to defend a conclusion or main idea in the text?
  6. Is one type of proof used more often than another or to the exclusion of all others? Is there a hierarchy of proof?
  7. To what, if any, type of analysis is the proof subject?
  8. What parts of the discussion receive more space than others?
  9. Is the author "present" in the text through the use of personal pronouns or self-reference?
  10. Can you tell what the author thinks about the topic, or is the presentation mostly objective? What does the attempt at objectivity tell you about the author and his/her attitude toward the topic and reader?
  11. What gains the most emphasis: Author's ideas; "facts"; previous research, discussion, or belief?
  12. In what order is information presented, and why is it presented in this order?
  13. Where is the author's position (if any) made clear?
  14. What does the author seem to expect the reader to do based on his or her argument?
  15. What audience is the author imagining for this text? Is the author a member of this audience?
  16. What devices does the author use to lure, cajole, inform, convince this audience?
  17. How effective is this effort, and how limited to the imagined audience?