Sample Writing Assignments
Curated by Amy Minervini
Assignment borrowed from: https://canvas.santarosa.edu/courses/15110/pages/rhetorical-analysis-essay-prompt
Write a 4-page rhetorical analysis (analysis of the argument) of the assigned text. You will need to complete two different tasks: (1) summarize the text’s argument and (2) explain how the text’s argument is put together.
In the summary section, you will need to first introduce the text you will be analyzing. Then you will summarize what the text argues, noting the central claims and key evidence.
The analysis section of the paper should take up the majority of the 4 pages. Here you are trying to analyze and explain how the argument was put together (which rhetorical strategies it uses). How are those strategies meant to impact the reader? In other words, how do the strategies attempt to influence the reader’s thoughts and feelings? How do the strategies relate to and support the overall argument?
You will need a thesis that identifies the argumentative strategies you will discuss. Here is a sample thesis: “Author X’s argument is mainly dependent on emotional appeals, and he uses detailed description and narration to support those emotional appeals.” For this thesis, you would then need to go on and explain and give examples of different emotional appeals that use description and narration from the text.
You need to decide which aspects of the argumentative strategy you want to focus on. It would be impossible for you to explain all of the argumentative features of a text in 2-3 pages, so focus on the strategies that are most interesting or obvious to you, or that you think are most important to the success of the argument. You could explain the author’s use of any one of the following rhetorical strategies and concepts we’ve discussed so far in class:
- The types of argumentative modes being used: description, narrative, comparison and contrast, definition, evaluation, and so on
- The author’s use of emotional appeals (pathos)
- How the author establishes his or her credibility (ethos)
- The how the text’s logic (logos) works (is the logic dependent upon a definition or fact? is it dependent on a cause/effect relationship? a comparison and contrast? how does the logical reasoning work?)
- How the author uses kairos
Again, rather than trying to address everything on the list above, which would be impossible, discuss what you think the text’s most important or notable rhetorical features are.
Assignment borrowed from: https://gcccd.instructure.com/courses/20188/pages/essay-1-prompt-read-carefully
We began our journey with “language” this semester with a couple short articles about Growth Mindset and a writing assignment targeting core academic literacy skills. College-level reading and writing can be intimidating for students because it is seen as difficult, an exclusive club to which not many people are invited. However, I would argue that once students understand the “moves,” or common practices, in academic writing, they can be successful scholars.
With this assignment, we introduce the foundational idea that academic writing is a “conversation” between scholars. In other words, intellectual writing is almost always produced in response to other texts, and does not exist as personal responses to random topics. Writing is a social, ongoing, and conversational act.
The purpose of this assignment is to:
- Read and respond to a college-level text.
- Compose college-level writing.
- Produce an academic summary of an article.
- Respond to a topic with an original argument.
|1. Use active/critical reading strategies to produce accurate, concise summaries of college level/academic texts.
2. Synthesize researched material from multiple texts to create and support an argument in response to a prompt. Draw direct evidence from texts in support of claims and analyze how that evidence supports the claim.
3. Utilize the various phases in the writing process—prewriting, writing revision, and proofreading—to produce clear, articulate, well-supported, well-organized essays.
4. Avoid plagiarism by properly citing quoted, summarized, and paraphrased material using MLA format.
- Dweck, Carol. “Brainology.” National Association of Independent Schools.
- Hilton, Adriel. “Scholar Calls Growth Mindset a ‘Cancerous’ Idea, In Isolation.” Nov 16, 2017.
- Kohn, Alfie. “The Perils of ‘Growth Mindset’ Education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system.” 16 August 2015.
Compose an essay, between 900-1200 words in length (about 4 pages NOT counting the Works Cited page), which answers the following question:
Is the idea of growth mindset the most effective/important way to improve our education system and student success?
- Your essay must include your argument about growth mindset. You can argue that growth mindset is the most important factor in improving student success (taking Dweck’s side) or you can argue that there are other factors that are more important than growth mindset (taking from either Hilton or Kohn). That means you need a thesis that states your answer to the above question and topic sentences that give reasons for your answer. You also need support for your argument in the form of cited material and personal experience.
- Your thesis may look something like this:
- “The idea of growth mindset is the most important aspect of improving our education system because….(3 reasons you think so). OR
- “The idea of growth mindset is not the most important aspect of improving our education system because we need to consider….. (think of what you find more important, probably from the Hilton and Kohn articles).
- You are required to cite both personal experience and the texts we discussed. When citing the texts, make sure to follow the
- Your body paragraphs should be formatted as PIEIE paragraphs. Your P should be a topic sentence (reason) in your own words, your I should be personal examples or quotes from the articles and your E should be explanations/analysis that connect back to the thesis.
- NOTE: Since you are citing the article, and possibly your own sources, don’t forget your Works Cited page.
- Your thesis may look something like this:
Assignments borrowed from: https://www.voorhees.k12.nj.us/cms/lib/NJ01000237/Centricity/Domain/2766/WW-V—Novel-Packet.pdf and Copyrighted by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston
Choose your own issue for your literary analysis of a novel, or use one of the following prompts:
Think of a novel in which the main character’s profession is integral to the story. What is the author trying to tell you about the character through the character’s profession? How would the story change if you put the character in another, very different profession? Write a literary analysis explaining what the character’s work says about him or her. Present your analysis to a group of career-minded students.
Select a novel that centers around events at a school. Write a literary analysis explaining how the setting affects the tone and the point of view of the story. Share your analysis with fellow students.
Select a character such as Huck Finn, Reverend Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter, or another character from a novel you know. List in chronological order the actions of the character. What do the actions reveal about the character? Do the character’s actions fit together, or do they contradict each other? Write an analysis of the character; be sure to include paraphrases or quotations from the text to support your analysis. Present your findings to a group of students interested in psychology.
Physicists think of time as a fourth dimension, coloring how we perceive the world around us. Similarly, the way time is manipulated in novels affects our perceptions of the present moment of the story. Think of a novel in which time is manipulated: Scenes may be rushed or elongated (for example, an entire novel that takes place over the course of a few hours or a battle scene that seems to flash by in mere moments), or the writer may use flashbacks to take us back in time. Write a literary analysis about how time is manipulated in a novel. Present your findings to a group of students interested in science.
Most novels are set in specific places and historical periods that are central to the theme of the novel—for example, The Red Badge of Courage, The Grapes of Wrath, and countless others. Select a novel that is set in a historical period familiar to you. Identify the important historical details that the writer includes to bring the novel to life, and write a literary analysis explaining how those details relate to the theme. Present your analysis to group of students interested in history.
Assignment borrowed from: https://phpmysql.howardcc.edu/Instructors/ENGL121/2017/08/visual-analysis-assignment-idea-jeff-moore/
In this essay, you will choose a movie poster to analyze rhetorically, arguing for at least two of the rhetorical strategies outlined in the rhetorical triangle (ethos, logos, and pathos) used in the poster, and at least two additional visual rhetorical strategies. Put another way, you will be using two of the rhetorical strategies to discuss at least three visual elements from the poster of your choice. While you are free to choose a movie poster you feel would be interesting to discuss, you’ll also want to be certain that there is enough content to write about, and that you can identify at least two rhetorical features within it. For example, the movie poster from Titanic, seen below, can be said to rely heavily on pathos, but there are other rhetorical strategies at play (this is followed by an example of how to cite a movie poster on your Works Cited page):
Titanic. Directed by James Cameron, performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Twentieth Century Fox, 1997.
Keeping the Titanic poster in mind, think about what this assignment is asking you to do. In addition to describing the rhetorical forces at play in your poster, you will have to choose at least two other specific criteria you believe contribute and connect to the specific rhetorical strategies. For example, in the movie poster for Titanic, you can talk about the use of color and how it demonstrates the pathos in the image, or how the lettering in the word Titanic resembles steel, and what this says about ethos. In creating this essay, you will want to make sure to:
- Describe in detail the way your image uses at least three visual elements (fonts, colors, framing, etc. – we will be discussing these in more detail in class, so don’t worry if these are unfamiliar concepts to you right now).
- Choose at least two of the three rhetorical strategies (ethos, logos, pathos) you believe are vital to your interpretation of the image: What does the image mean to you? What visual elements back up this claim? How information is this image trying to communicate to you?
- Support your argument with concrete details from the image, explaining them to specifically point out features of the image that are vital to your interpretation.
- Properly cite your image, and include it in your document (you can either copy the image at the end of your Works Cited page, or provide a link to the image).
What do you mean by “Visual Elements”?
A visual element is any way the movie poster engages with you in a way that you can see. Look at your image more than once. Notice what catches your eye both immediately and after some time spent gazing. What stands out to you, and why? Here are some examples:
- Camera Angle
When writing your essay, it may help to think of yourself as being in my shoes. Imagine you are trying to explain this image to a room full of people. How would you get them to see the image the same way you do? Your essay should make the point that, without analyzing these details, readers won’t know exactly what choices were made to make the image “work” rhetorically. You will be pointing out the connection between rhetorical elements and visual elements.
Questions to help you plan/think about your draft:
- Who is the intended audience for the image?
- What does the image mean to me personally?
- What other interpretations of the image could arise?
- What does my audience know about the context of the image, or other images it refers to or relies on?
- What are some visual elements used in it?
Intro: Situate your reader to movie poster analysis; introduce the chosen movie and accompanying poster. Briefly describe what the poster looks like and its visual/rhetorical appeal. (Please note: I DO NOT WANT A PLOT SUMMARY! In theory, your audience – and you, for that matter – does not need to see the movie in order to understand how the movie poster functions as a rhetorical text, so the details of the movie are not needed here).
Thesis: Including at least two rhetorical elements and three visual elements. Here is an example of what an effective thesis statement for this kind of essay looks like:
“The Titanic movie poster from 1997 uses pathos and logos through the use of color, facial expressions/body language, and lettering made to resemble riveted steel to make a statement about elicit love among social classes in the early 1900s.”
3-4 Body Paragraphs: Each of these paragraphs should contain at least one visual criteria connected to at least one rhetorical criteria to help present your own analysis of the movie poster. If I’m talking about the use of pathos and facial expression/body language, I might talk about how the placement of the actors’ faces contributes to a sense of both longing and separation. Maybe I will talk about the strength of love, symbolized by the riveted steel lettering in Titanic, or that the actual ship is used to provide a sense of authenticity. These are the kinds of issues you can explore in your body paragraphs.
Conclusion – Reinforce your “reading” of the image –How do specific visual elements connect with specific rhetorical elements to communicate with the target audience? How is the historical context represented through the poster and what does that mean for your analysis? Are the visual/rhetorical appeals effective for the target audience?
Assignment borrowed from: http://earl-brooks.com/assignment-1-rhetorical-analysis-of-a-filmdocumentary
Purpose: A rhetorical analysis examines and explains how an author attempts to influence an audience. That is, rhetorical analyses use specific evidence from the text to establish a generalization (thesis) about the text’s rhetoric (in short, how it persuades its audience by employing the rhetorical appeals, using good reasons, constituting a fitting response, and using the available means to reach an audience). As you plan and draft your analysis, think of a specific publication that your analysis could be featured in—but in any event, have in mind a particular way of reaching your audience as you write.
Directions: Find a documentary/film that you deem to be interesting and that features issues related to the economy, poverty, gender and income distribution, class, or any other issue that you believe relates to American or global economic issues and policies in an important way. By “interesting,” I mean that the film in question should have some sophistication about it: it should be tantalizing and potentially effective at reaching its audience. (There is no point in analyzing the obvious; pick something that makes an interesting argument that viewers might be resistant to.) No two students can choose the same film. Your analysis should not simply paraphrase or summarize the film. Assume you are writing for an audience that has already seen the film. Your purpose is to provide a way of understanding how the film persuades its audience. There are a number of ways to approach writing this essay, however I recommend that you watch the whole film and then choose a scene (or a few) that you feel captures the most important aspects of the film. Remember, due to the length restrictions of the paper, you don’t have time to discuss everything so must be strategically selective about which parts you choose to write about. No matter what you choose, you will have to have your choice approved along with your proposal for this essay. So….
Step 1. Choose a film. You will submit your top four choices (ranked) in a proposal where you will briefly describe your working thesis and how you might approach analyzing the film. I will then either approve your proposal or provide you with recommendations to improve it.
Step 2. Introduce the film and identify its basic claim/thesis.
Step 3. Then write an analysis that will help your readers understand how the film works to persuade its audience. Consider what type of argument it presents and how it goes about creating that argument (Rhetorical theory!!) How does the film utilize music, set design, camera angles, etc. as tools to further develop a claim/thesis.
Step 4. Arrange the body of your paper so that the readers move through it in an orderly way.
Step 5. Throughout the body of your paper, use specific examples from your chosen film to support your claims.
Step 6. Conclude by making a judgment about the film’s rhetorical effectiveness.
Invention: These questions may help you as you plan and draft your analysis: 1. Describe the circumstance – the historical situation, the issues at stake, the purpose of the argument – that make this memorable. 2. Who is the target/intended audience? 3. Pathos: What emotion does this argument generate? How does that emotion work to persuade you? 4. Ethos: Does the writer have the authority to write on the subject? Are all claims qualified reasonably? Is evidence presented in full, not tailored to his/her own agenda? Are objections acknowledged? Are sources documented? 5. Logos: What credible evidence is used to support this argument?
These questions are not meant to provide an outline for the paper; rather, they simply help you to think about the rhetorical aspects of the film.
Length: A well-developed rhetorical analysis will be between five and six, doubled-spaced pages.
Cause and Effect
Assignment borrowed from: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-fmcc-englishcomp-1/chapter/cause-and-effect-essay-writing-prompt/
Choose one of the following questions, and answer it in an essay developed by analyzing causes or effects. The question you decide on should concern a topic you care about so that the examples are a means of communicating an idea; not an end in themselves.
PEOPLE AND THEIR BEHAVIOR
- Why do people root for the underdog?
- How does a person’s alcohol or drug dependency affect others in his or her family?
ART AND ENTERTAINMENT
- Why do teenagers like rock music?
- Why is a particular television show so popular?
- Why is a college education important?
- Why do marriages between teenagers fail more often than marriages between people in other age groups?
- The best courses are the difficult ones.
- Students at schools with enforced dress codes behave better than students at schools without such codes.
POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES
- Drug and alcohol addiction does not happen just to “bad” people.
MEDIA AND CULTURE
- The Internet divides people instead of connecting them.
- Good art can be ugly.
- A craze or fad reveals something about the culture it arises in.
- The best rock musicians treat social and political issues in their songs.
RULES FOR LIVING
- Lying may be justified by the circumstances.
- Friends are people you can’t always trust.
Writing Your Cause and Effect Essay
Remember that “story starters” are everywhere. Think about it—status updates on social media websites can be a good place to start. You may have already started a “note”on Facebook, and now is your chance to develop that idea into a full narrative. If you keep a journal or diary, a simple event may unfold into a narrative. Simply said, your stories may be closer than you think!
When drafting your essay:
- Develop an enticing title.
- Use the introduction to pull the reader into your thesis with a singular experience.
- Develop an essay developed by analyzing causes or effects or the prompt
- Decide on something you care about so that the narration is a means of communicating an idea
- Avoid addressing the assignment directly. (Don’t write “I am going to write about the causes and effects of ____…” – this takes the fun out of reading the work!)
- Think of things said at the moment your perspective on the topic became clear. Perhaps use a quote, or an interesting part of the experience that will grab the reader.
- Let the story reflect your own voice. Is your voice serious? Humorous? Matter-of-fact?
- Organize the essay in a way that may capture the reader, but don’t string the reader along too much with “next, next, next.”
- To avoid just telling what happens, make sure you take time to show significant details and reflect on why topic – and your experience with it – is significant.
Develop a draft of 4 typed, double-spaced pages, using MLA formatting
By Abby Wolford, licensed CC BY NC 4.0
Due Dates: (include your own)
Length: 5-7 pages, plus an MLA Works Cited page
Write an analysis of the evolution and presentation of a news story over time and around the globe. You may either track one story as it was reported around the globe within the same 24-hour period, or you may track the way a story evolved over the course of approximately a week. Use online news resources to track and evaluate how a fairly current story has been reported by five different media outlets, at least one of which is from outside the United States. Your thesis should assert a claim about the quality and consistency or inconsistency of the coverage.
- You must use at least five articles/stories covering the same story as it evolves over a week or as it is presented within the first 24 hours of the event’s occurrence. All of the articles must have been published in the last 12 months.
- At least one of your articles must be from a source outside the U.S., written in English. (To find English language newspapers from around the globe, go to Arts and Letters Daily (www.aldaily.com) and click on Newspapers on the upper lefthand column.
- One of the five texts you evaluate may be a television news broadcast or a radio news broadcast.
- One of the five texts you evaluate may be an opinion piece/commentary. Focus your analysis for this type of article primarily on how the opinion piece presents facts within the context of expressing an opinion or making an argument.
- The articles must be written in English and readily accessible via either the Internet or a library database.
Media Analysis Evaluation Sheet
- author’s discussion is sophisticated, carefully detailed, and well organized
- thorough thesis carefully reflects the assignment
- inclusive topic sentences and cohesive body paragraphs
- minimal sentence, grammatical, or syntax errors
- sources are incorporated in a sophisticated way to strengthen the author’s argument
- sources are cited correctly within the paper
- Works Cited page is done correctly
- author’s discussion is clear and detailed
- adequate thesis reflects the assignment
- generally sound body paragraphs and focused topic sentences
- some sentence, grammatical, or syntax errors
- sources are incorporated correctly for the most part and are used to strengthen the author’s argument
- sources are cited with a few errors
- Works Cited page has a few errors but is overall in the correct format
- author’s discussion is sometimes unclear
- thesis is misplaced or only minimally reflects the assignment
- topic sentences are too general and support is sometimes nearly off topic
- sources are not incorporated in a way that strengthens the author’s argument
- repetitive sentence, grammatical, or syntax errors
- sources are cited in the paper but incorrectly
- Works Cited page has many errors and the writer needs to spend some time with MLA
69 or below (F):
- essay is not the minimum page length
- author’s discussion is unclear or there is not a discussion
- thesis is not evident or does not reflect the assignment
- topic sentences are too general and support is often off topic
- repetitive sentence, grammatical, or syntax errors
- sources are not used at all
- the sources are not cited at all or are cited with so many errors that it is hard to figure out where the information came from
- no Works Cited page or the writer has made minimal effort in doing a Works Cited page to go along with the essay
- extensive problems with basic writing conventions
“Media Analysis” by Abby Wolford, College of Western Idaho, is licensed CC 4.0 BY NC SA.