WRT 120: Effective Writing I

Sections 5 and 80

Fall 2005

Informal Writing Assignment

Due: Friday, September 30, 2005


Analyzing an Argument



Using either the “Research Navigator” Prentice Hall provides (through either Bb or prenhall.com) or Ebscohost’s “Newspaper Source” (via the library’s index page), find an opinion piece (editorial) to analyze).  Read the article carefully using the strategies provided in Chapters 2 and 3 of The Call to Write.


Analyze the argument by completing items 1-10 below (some answers may require a sentence; others may demand a paragraph).  Submit your answers as an RTF file via Exchange.


  1. Summarize the argument.  What is the main claim?
  2. Specify what is at issue in the argument and identify the type of issue—substantiation, evaluation, policy (remember that an argument may combine issues).
  3. Describe the context of issues.  Is the argument part of an ongoing debate, discussion, or controversy?  What positions have people taken in the past?
  4. What is the call to write?  Why is the writer addressing the issue and taking a position at this particular time?  How does the writer identify the significance of the issues involved?
  5. Describe the intended audience or audiences and explain how the argument seeks to influence them (to take action, support or oppose a policy, reconsider an established fact or belief, make a value judgment).  What kind of relationship is the writer trying to establish with the audience(s)?  Is his purpose stated explicitly or implicitly?
  6. Analyze the rhetorical stance.  What are the writer’s strategies?  How does the writer integrate ethos, pathos, and logos?
  7. How does the writer use language?  What is the writer’s tone?  What does his word choice show about his assumptions about his audience(s)?  Does he use specialized terms or slang?  Are there memorable figures of speech?  Does the writer stereotype?
  8. Analyze the parts of the argument—claims, evidence, enabling assumptions, backing, differing views, qualifiers—and how the writer puts them together.  Is there enough evidence?  What assumptions does the writer make about the connections between his/her claims and the evidence?
  9. Examine any strategies used to negotiate differences.
  10. Evaluate the overall effectiveness of the argument.  Keep in mind that the goal of argument is to clarify reasonable differences as well as to convince others.