Archive for the ‘Lecture Notes’ Category

Essay 2: Rhetorical Analysis

October 22, 2018

The Essay 2 assignment connects to these Student Learning Outcomes listed on your syllabus:

• Analyze and evaluate information to assess the validity and usefulness of an argument

• Argue a point and support it (in writing) using evidence from an outside source

Listen and speak (actively) by questioning, clarifying and supporting one’s ideas and the ideas of others.

The purpose of a rhetorical analysis is not to summarize a piece of writing (as you did in the first assignment), but to

explore how the rhetoric in a piece of writing works;

explore how ideas are presented and argued;

and analyze how the strategies works (or does not work) to help the writer achieve his or her purpose.

First, think about the Rhetorical Situation:

The rhetorical situation consists of the following elements, all of which you should think about as you write your analysis:

The writer
The writer’s purpose
The writer’s audience
The topic

Second, to analyze a writer’s rhetoric, you need to investigate how the writer composed the writing to achieve his or her goal.

And this type of analysis is your assignment for Essay 2.

The Means of Persuasion: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

Writers use three means of persuasion – logos, pathos, and ethos – to appeal to readers.

These terms can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, where he identified these three primary modes of persuasion.

Effective arguments combine two or more of these appeals. The most effective arguments, like Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” for example, uses all three.

Logos – The Appeal to Logic

The logical appeal is the most widely used appeal in arguments. The logical writer relies on evidence provided for claims and on sound reasoning.

If you analyze the appeal to logic, one aspect is how the piece of writing is organized and how logical and reasonable that organization is in its attempt to persuade or move or inform.

Here are some examples of logos that you might find when reading texts of various media:

Statistics: When a writer uses data or statistics within a text, you can assume that he or she is trying to appeal to the logic and reason of the reader.

Causal statements: When you read an “if-then” statement, with credible supporting evidence, the writer is likely trying to appeal to your reason.

Another way of thinking about logos: Think of logos as evidence that doesn’t appeal to your emotions.

Pathos – The Appeal to Emotion

Emotional appeals can be highly effective when used in conjunction with logical appeals.

Aristotle knew that an appeal to the emotions could be very persuasive because it adds a human dimension to an argument.

By appealing to an audience’s sympathies and by helping them to identify with the subject being discussed, emotional appeals can turn abstract concepts into concrete examples that can compel people to take action.

Used honestly and with restraint, emotional appeals arouse the “better self” of the reader by eliciting sympathy, civic pride or feelings based on shared values or beliefs.

Ethos – The Appeal to Authority

Ethical appeals establish the credibility of the writer.

The word ethos comes from the Greek word ethos, meaning nature or disposition; the word was also used to talk about the power of music to influence the listener.

For Aristotle, ethos describes the moral character of the writer or speaker.

Audiences don’t trust a writer who states opinions as fact, distorts evidence, or makes claims that can’t be supported. They trust a writer who is honest, knowledgeable, and fair.

So when you analyze how a writer appeals to ethos, you are explaining how the author establishes his or her credibility and authority in the minds of readers.

A word of caution when writing about the appeal to ethos:

Don’t confuse a writer’s use of the appeal to ethos by how characters behave in the book; if you discussed how Stevenson points out that a judge or a witness acts in an unethical or corrupt way in the book – that would be a description of how a person in the book acts, not an analysis of Stevenson appealing to ethos.

Remember: This essay assignment is asking you how the author – Stevenson – uses the appeal to ethos to establish his credibility.

Midterm Exam

October 4, 2018

The Midterm Exam will take place on Wednesday, 10/17.

The format of the Midterm is open book, so remember to bring you copy on the day of the exam.

Use a Green Book (a composition book) to write your answer. Please use black or blue ink.

You will have the full class period (85 minutes) to write your answer.

I am providing the questions to you beforehand so you can think and prepare for your written response.

What makes writing in-class essays like the Midterm and the Final difficult comes from the fact that most first draft writing is disorganized and unfocused – you are responding to a question that you’ve haven’t seen before.

That’s why I’m giving you the questions in advance, so you can develop a focused thesis and plan your answer. So I’ve designed the Midterm Exam to build the writing process into the exam itself.

The purpose of this essay exam test is

to test your comprehension of the reading required for this class;


to evaluate your ability to generate ideas, sentences and conclusions in response to that reading.

A good Midterm Exam essay exam will be:

focused with a thesis statement
organized around a sequence of connected assertions
developed by use of examples and evidence

So now that I’ve given you possible questions, let’s talk about how to plan and organize an essay response:

Here are some strategies for this essay response:

As you write down notes for your 3X5 cards:

1) Analyze the question by underlining cue or key word(s) to determine exactly what the question asks
2) Rephrase the question into a topic sentence/thesis statement
3) Outline the main points you plan to cover in your essay
4) Use a logical pattern of organization and a strong topic sentence for each paragraph
5) Support generalizations with specifics/evidence
6) Beware of going off topic – respond to the prompt (see number 1)

Tips for drafting Essay 1: Illustration

September 23, 2018

Illustration is writing that uses examples to support a point or a generalization.

Basics of a good illustration essay:

• It has a point.

• It gives specific examples that show, explain, or prove that point.

• It gives details to support the examples.

• It uses enough examples to get the point across to the reader.

The point: Luma’s personality/character.

Specific examples: taken from the book to show/explain her character.

In illustration, the main idea is the message you want your readers to receive and understand.

The topic sentence in your body paragraphs connect back to your main idea (thesis).

Topic + Main idea = topic sentence

Aspect/quality Luma’s personality/character

Think critically as you write your first draft. Ask yourself:

Does your introduction include a thesis statement that clearly states your essay’s main idea?

Do you have enough evidence – fully developed examples – to support your thesis?

Is each of your examples clearly related to your main idea (thesis)?

If your paragraph feels “thin,” can you find new examples to build it up?

Does your conclusion include a summary statement that reinforces your essay’s thesis?

Do you include transitions that move readers from one example to the next?

Below are some common issues I saw in student thesis statements and outlines:

• Thesis statement is too vague. Don’t be afraid of being specific in your thesis statement about Luma’s personality and character.

Name the qualities that are the most important in describing who Luma is as a person.

Many of you are using a “forecasting” thesis statement, which is great, because this is the type of essay that calls out for a forecasting thesis statement, where you name the qualities/aspects of Luma’s personality that you will be discussing in your essay.

What is a “forecasting thesis”?

A forecasting statement introduces the reader to the points in your thesis, reducing each point to one or two words.

Choose the major ones that will help your reader understand your topic (Luma’s personality and character).

I would suggest placing a forecasting statement at the end of the introduction. That placement allows you to make the transition naturally from the introduction to the first major point.

Make sure that your essay’s organization lines up with the qualities you name in your forecasting thesis statement.

And because a forecasting thesis statement is listing three our four qualities, you have to make sure that those items are parallel in grammatical structure.

If I have written “faulty parallelism” next to your thesis statement – this is what I mean:

Parallelism is a stylistic device of placing equal ideas in equivalent grammatical constructions. When these ideas are not grammatically parallel, then you have a faulty parallelism.

Use the same grammatical form for all items in a series or a list – all nouns, all gerunds, all prepositional phrases, and so on.

Faulty: Please leave your name, your number, and you should also leave a message.

Parallel: Please leave your name, your number, and your message.

Faulty: Making the team was one thing, but it was very difficult to stay on it.

Parallel: Making the team was one thing, but staying on it was another.

• Think about your essay’s organization.

I’d recommend using a least- to most-important example structure.

Is there a quality in Luma’s character that is dominant or the most important? Save that for the last part of your essay.

Some of your place that most important quality in the first or second body paragraph. I’d move it to your final example.

• Quoting dialogue from the book:

Remember to place spoken dialogue from the book that you are quoting in single quotation marks.

Student sentence:

For Luma, her financial situation changes quickly, as she explains in Chapter One: “‘I went from being able to walk into any restaurant and store in the United States and buy whatever I wanted, to having nothing’” (23).

Remember to use in-text citations not only when you are quoting directly from the book, but when you summarize or paraphrase ideas or examples from the book.

• Remember to use present tense to discuss actions and thoughts presented in the book (In Chapter One, St. John describes Luma’s childhood …)

Use past tense when when writing about events that take place in the past (Luma fell out of favor with her father when …), but when you discuss the points raised in the book, use present tense.


Understanding paragraph structure

September 6, 2018

I’ll hand out your first essay assignment next week.

As a preview for that assignment, let’s review strategies of writing paragraphs for the essays in this class.

I looked over your student info sheets, and many of you wrote that you want to strengthen your essay writing skills (including help in essay format, punctuation, and grammar).

You want help in organizing your ideas and structuring your essays

Because paragraphs are central to almost every kind of writing, learning how to write one is an important skill in becoming an effective writer of essays.

Just as an essay is a group of paragraphs unified by a single main idea (the thesis), a paragraph is a group of sentences that is unified by a single main idea (the topic sentence).

The thesis statement tells the reader what the rest of the essay is about.

The thesis for Essay 1 (an illustration essay) will be a generalization about Luma’s personality and character that you want to explain to your reader.

We’ll talk about brainstorming for that assignment. Your goal will be to figure out what you think Luma’s main characteristics are or what drives her in terms of your personality.

Once you have enough material to write about, then you can draft a thesis statement and the main ideas in your body paragraphs that develop that thesis.

Here’s a sample thesis statement for that assignment:

Luma Mufleh is a self-sufficient, self-motivated person, with a desire to have a life she can truly call her own.

This thesis tells the reader that the rest of the essay will illustrate this general claim.

The topic sentence is different from your thesis statement. The topic sentence shows only what the paragraph it is attached to is about.

Thesis: Luma Mufleh is a self-sufficient, self-motivated person, with a desire to have a life she can truly call her own.

These are the main ideas of the body paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: Self-sufficient

Paragraph 2: Self-motivated

Paragraph 3: A desire for a life of her own

All of these aspects of Luma need to be discussed further, and they all explain the thesis statement.

Each of these three ideas can become topic sentences. For each idea, there will be a paragraph that explains it.

Change each of these main ideas into a complete sentence, and you’ve drafted a good topic sentence.

Example: One of the strongest aspects of Luma’s character is her self-sufficiency in any situation.

The rest of the sentences in that paragraph will explain this topic sentence.

An effective topic sentence has three characteristics:

1. A topic sentence is a complete sentence.

There’s a difference between a topic and a topic sentence. The topic is what the paragraph is about; a topic sentence, however, is a complete sentence that includes a subject and a verb and express a complete thought.

Topic: Luma’s self-sufficiency

Topic sentence: One of the strongest aspects of Luma’s character is her self-sufficiency in any situation.

2. A topic sentence is more than just an announcement of what you plan to write about.

In this paragraph, I will explain my ideas about Luma’s self-sufficiency.

A topic sentence makes a point about the topic that the paragraph discusses.

3. A topic sentence presents an idea that can be discussed in a single paragraph.

If your topic sentence is too broad, you won’t be able to discuss in just one paragraph. If it’s too narrow, you won’t be able to say much about it.

Topic sentence too broad: Luma’s experience living in America reflects the issues encountered by immigrants after 9/11.

Remember: There is only one thesis statement.

But there is one topic sentence for each body paragraph you write.



The topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph, and the rest of the sentences in the paragraph provide evidence (examples and details) to support the main idea.

So when you write your body paragraphs, always check for these elements:


The sentences in a paragraph are linked by transitions, words and phrases (such as also and for example) that show how ideas are related.

At the end of the paragraph, a summary statement reinforces the main idea.

Note: Your topic sentence should focus on only one main idea. Two main ideas can split and weaken the focus of your writing.

Effective paragraphs are unified: in a unified paragraph, all of the sentences directly support the topic sentence.

Including details that are not relevant to the topic sentence makes your paragraph unclear and distracts your reader from the point you are making.

At this point, you might being asking:

How long should a paragraph be? A well-developed paragraph is usually about 8 to 10 sentences long.

Topic Sentence (1)
Evidence – Examples and Details (5-6)
Summary statement (1)

By the way: the first sentence of a paragraph is always indented, starting about half an inch from the left-hand margin. (And every sentence begins with a capital letter.)

Drafting Tip: Once you have brainstormed ideas and formulated a thesis statement, write complete, focused topic sentences in your outlining stage.

Use those topic sentences to develop support and examples and details. Those topic sentences will also keep your essay on track.

St. John uses topic sentences and unified paragraphs through his book.

In Chapter One (“Luma”), for example, he writes about Luma’s family background, describing how they were a “wealthy, Westernized family in Amman, Jordan” (15). And on page 17 is this passage:

The Al-Muflehs were intent on raising their children with their same cosmopolitan values. They sent Luma to the American Community School in Amman, a school for the children of American expatriates, mostly diplomats and businessmen, and elite Jordanians, including the children of King Hussein and Queen Noor. Luma learned to speak English without an accent – she now speaks like a midwesterner – and met kids from the United States and Europe, as well as the children of diplomats from all over the world.

The Al-Muflehs were intent on raising their children with their same cosmopolitan values. (TOPIC SENTENCE ).

They sent Luma to the American Community School in Amman, a school for the children of American expatriates, mostly diplomats and businessmen, and elite Jordanians, including the children of King Hussein and Queen Noor. (EVIDENCE – EXAMPLE AND DETAIL).

Luma learned to speak English without an accent – she now speaks like a midwesterner – and met kids from the United States and Europe, as well as the children of diplomats from all over the world.

Assignment 1: Writing a Summary

August 28, 2018

Here are some strategies for comprehending and summarizing the book’s introduction:

1) Look over the introduction for the main idea. At this stage, avoid concentrating on details.

2) Make an outline of the introduction in your mind or on paper. What’s the logic of his organization?

3) Pay attention to topic sentences. The topic sentence is the general statement that controls the details and examples in the paragraph.

4) Don’t overlook signposts (words and phrases like but, however, nevertheless, yet, for example, the first reason, etc.). This is the author signaling to you that he’s providing support or shifting to a new point.

5) Look up unfamiliar words! Use a dictionary – if a word you don’t understanding seems important to the passage – look it up before going on.

6) If you use a highlighter to mark main points, use it sparingly. Focus on only the main points of the article, so you can use those highlighted sentences for your own summary.

This is called annotating a text – where you mark it up in various ways to increase your comprehension of the text (if you own the book!).

More useful than highlighting is marginal notes and underlining. You can go crazy with highlighting to the point that it’s no longer useful.

But if you underline a sentence or a phrase and then write a note in the margin of that paragraph, you will remember what that point the author was making.

As you annotate, you can also make notes of questions you still have after reading the text. These questions can be the basis for class discussion.

Basic Guidelines:

Start your summary with the title and the author’s full name. You should include the source title as well.


“In his Introduction to his book Outcasts United, Warren St. John explains that ___________”

“Warren St. John, in the Introduction to his book Outcasts United, describes ________”

After you have introduced the basic information about the book, the content of your summary should begin by providing the reader with the main idea or overall purpose of the text.

Ask yourself:

Why did St. John write the Introduction? What is the author’s purpose in writing the intro?

What is the main idea he wants to get across to the reader in the Introduction?

Use your own words throughout most of your summary.

Be sure to place any exact words or phrases from your text in quotation marks.

Limit your use of quotations in the summary to the author’s words or expressions that cannot be condensed or stated in your own way.

Your summary should contain only the main points of the text and avoid mentioning minor details.

Remember that a summary does not include your own opinion of the text on the issue. Save your opinion/thesis for essay writing. In a summary, you are just summarizing up what someone else has written, not writing your own opinion.

After naming the author in the opening sentence of your summary, use the author’s last name along with the words “the author” throughout the summary to remind the reader that the ideas belong to the author. Use signal phrases such as:

According to St. John
St. John also states
The author adds
The author points out that
The author asserts that