Answer the following questions to help you begin your analysis of rhetorical context. The questions focus on the Reader, Essay, Audience, Limitations, and Motivation for the piece of writing. These questions should also help you think of others to extend your analysis.
Can you define the probable readers in terms of age, gender, occupation, education, position of power? What values do target readers share with the writer? What range of positions on the issue might target readers hold before reading?
What features of the text seem most crucial to understand--the claim, the arrangement of arguments, the supporting evidence, the appeals, the style? What features of the essay make it a more convincing or persuasive argument? What parts of the text are most difficult to read? Why? What parts are most appealing? Why?
What do you know about this author? What specific qualifications does the author present to build credibility with the target audience? What appeals to the author's character do you see in the essay? In what ways does the author identify with the readers? Does this level of audience connection help the essay? How?
Given what you can discern about target readers, what limitations does that audience impose on the writer? How do the author's background knowledge or experience limit the argument? How do the author's character or values limit the argument? How does the larger context (its history or its social, political, and economic context) of the argument constrain the writer?
What seems to have prompted the writer to present this argument? What, if any, is the writer's history of work on this topic? What event might have prompted the writer? What value(s) might have sparked this essay?