COMS 321 Term Paper: Rhetorically Analyze a Text

COMS 321 Term Paper:  Rhetorically Analyze a Text

Assignment: Rhetorically Analyze a text: In this essay you will analyze a rhetorical artifact related to one of the two primary controversies we’ve studied in this class: sexuality and incarceration. An “artifact” is a text that circulates in popular culture, such as a TV show, news article, YouTube video, movie trailer, music video, blog, meme, or advertisement.

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Forms of Analysis: This assignment invites you to use:

  1. Your analytical tools: analyzing gender binaries, the construction of racial difference, performativity, the gaze
  2. Your conceptual tools: using theoretical concepts to analyze your artifact

You’ll use these tools to rhetorically analyze your artifact by doing:

  1. A close reading of the text
  2. A conceptual analysis of the text

Organization: Follow the format below as you organize your paper.



  1. Introduction: orient reader to your argument [1-2 paragraphs].
    • First introduce your artifact: introduce your text and explain the controversy it represents to establish its significance.
    • State your thesis: What is your main argument? Your thesis should build an argument based on your reading of your text that connects with key issues of the course (i.e. power, identity, intersectionality, gender performativity, masculinity, femininity, etc). Your thesis should be SPECIFIC.
    • Preview main points
  2. Description and significance: describe and establish significance of your text [1-2 paragraphs].
    • Simply describe your text in detail. Assume your reader hasn’t seen it, so spend describing the text you are analyzing. Give the reader sensorial details that help your reader ‘picture’ the text. Remember to focus on a SPECIFIC SCENE so you’re not trying to cover too much. Consider evoking multiple senses (smell, touch, taste, sight, sound).
    • Tell us why your text matters. It should connect to a larger cultural issue or controversy.
  3. Rhetorically analyze your text: Conduct a close reading of the text [1-2 paragraphs]
    • Share your close observation of the imagery and language in the text. Unpack the meanings that lay beneath those representations. Pay attention to rhetor’s use of Ethos (credibility or character); Pathos (appealing to their emotions); Logos (use of logic or reason); consider the gaze the text invites (white, male, oppositional)
    • Provide evidence and examples from your text to support your arguments. Here you should refer back to your description, taking specific elements and offering a close reading of the images and language of the text.
    • Your analysis should attend to POWER, especially with regard to race, class, gender, sexuality. Who has power in this text? Who is disempowered? Who is included and excluded? How are these power dynamics represented or erased?
  4. Concept: Incorporate a concept from class readings, lectures, and/or videos. These might include concepts such as passing, realness, gender performativity, mass incarceration, intersectionality, masculinity, whiteness. [1-2 paragraphs].
    • Define the concept: Use at least ONE sentence/quote from a reading or video and interpret the concept in your own words. Cite the reading using MLA format.
    • Establish its significance by connecting concept to the larger theory and/or cultural controversy.
    • Apply the concept to your critical reading of the text. What does your analysis reveal about the concept? How does the concept illuminate your analysis of the scene?
  5. Conclusion: close your essay connecting to opening claims in introduction [1-3 paragraphs].
    • Summarize your main arguments and draw connections.
    • Give reader new insights into your text and concept.
    • Give reader new insights into the controversy surrounding your artifact.


  • Your paper should be 3-4 pages double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman. Use MLA for citations. Your paper should be uploaded as a doc or Word.docx
  • Your paper should be organized: it should INCLUDE HEADINGS FOR EACH SECTION; be easy follow your line of thinking. Read your paper out loud. Have at least one peer read your paper and give feedback prior to turning it in.
  • Use good argumentation skills: support your claims with evidence from your text and provide good reasoning for your arguments. Cite two or more authors in the paper and include the cites in an attached bibliography.

Rubric: these are the criteria by which your paper will be evaluated

Text: Does the author describe their text in adequate detail? Do they justify it as a compelling/significant object of study?

Concept: Does author utilize concepts from class to analyze the text? Does author clearly define the text? Does analysis bring new light to our understanding of key course concepts?

Analysis: Does the author use evidence and/or examples from text to support claims? Do the ideas build on each other in a logical manner?

Organization: Does paper include headings? Do ideas and arguments build on one another in a well-organized manner? Does the author frame arguments and use transitions between sections?

Depth/creativity (clarity, complexity, voice): Is there a coherent thesis statement and strong conclusions? Are ideas and analysis sufficiently complex? Do we “hear” the author’s voice?

Grammar: Does author use appropriate grammar, language, and spelling? Are sources properly cited?