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.

Revision strategies for Essay 1 final draft

October 7, 2018

Here are some revision strategies for your final draft:

Highlight your thesis statement. Does your thesis clearly indicate the generalization about Luma that your examples support?

If not, revise your thesis so that it fits with your examples.

Does the organization of your essay line up with your thesis statement?

If not, revise either your thesis or your body paragraphs so your organization is logical and clear.

Reread your examples in your body paragraphs.

Is each one representative and specific of the quality you are discussing in that paragraph?

If not, cut the examples that don’t connect with your thesis. Brainstorm/reread the book to find more representative examples.

Include more details (quotations, summaries, paraphrases from the book).

Underline the topic sentence of each body paragraph.

Does each paragraph have a topic sentence? Does each topic sentence clearly make a point that the examples in that paragraph illustrate?

If not, add a topic sentence to clearly indicate the point the examples illustrates.

Reread your introduction and conclusion. Is each effective?

If not, revise your intros and conclusions so they clearly connect back to your thesis statement.

Revise your introduction so you introduce the reader to the book, the author, and the topic of the essay.

Revise your conclusion so you remind your reader of your thesis statement and bring your essay to a close.

Check your essay for spelling, grammar, clarity and punctuation errors.

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)

Writing effective introductions and conclusions

September 23, 2018

Remember, for Essay 1, your introduction should include a thesis statement that expresses the generalization about Luma’s character that your examples support.

But how do you begin your essay? Here are some common kinds of introductions that “hook” the reader. (These introductions are helpful strategies for all the essays you will write in this class, not just Essay 1.)

• Open with a quotation

A good, short quotation can hook your reader. It must, however, lead naturally into your main idea, and not be there just for effect.

If you start with a quotation, make sure you tell the reader who the speaker is and where the action takes place before you begin quoting.

• Give an example or tell a story

Opening an essay with a brief story or example often draws readers in. Is there a telling example from Luma’s background?

• Start with a surprising fact or idea

Surprises captures people’s attention. The more unexpected or surprising something is, the more likely your reader will be hooked.

• Offer a strong opinion or position

The stronger the opinion, the more likely is that your readers will pay attention. Make your point clear in your introduction.

• Ask a question

A question needs an answer, so if you start your introduction with a question, your readers will expect to read on to get the answer.

Conclusions: Remember: Don’t conclude with your final example.

After your main points have been made by your body paragraphs, use your concluding paragraph to drive your main idea home one final time.

Make sure you conclusion has the same energy as the rest of your essay.

Basics of a good conclusion:

Refers back to the thesis statement, and

sums up what has been covered in the essay and reminds readers of your thesis.

Review: Keep this word in mind as you draft your first draft to make sure you include all the elements of an illustration essay: TEST

Thesis statement unifies your essay

Evidence supports your essay’s thesis statement

Summary statement (conclusion) reinforces your essay’s main idea

Transitions that move your reader from one example to the next.

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.


Essay 1 – Illustration: Explaining with examples

September 13, 2018

Writers have a variety of options for developing ideas within a paragraph and within an essay (narration, comparison and contrast, process, etc.)

One of these patterns is illustration (also called exemplification).

What do we mean when we say that a movie is boring?

Or a particular law is unjust?

To clarify general statements like these, we use exemplification – that is, we give examples to illustrate a general idea.

2 mins. Hand out Essay 1 assignment


The introduction of an illustration essay should include a clear thesis statement that identifies the essay’s main idea – the idea the examples will support.

The body paragraphs should present evidence – fully developed examples that support the thesis.

Each body paragraph should be introduced by a topic sentence that identifies the example or group of related examples that the paragraph will discuss.

The conclusion of an illustration essay should include a summary statement that reinforces the essay’s thesis.

An illustration essay should use appropriate transitional words and phrases to connect examples within paragraphs and between paragraphs.


An illustration paragraph should have a topic sentence that states that paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should present evidence – in the form of examples from the book – that supports and clarifies the general statement made in the topic sentence.

Examples should be arranged in logical order – for example, from least to most important or from general to specific.

You might be asking yourself: How many examples do I need to include?

The number of examples you will need depends on your topic sentence.

An illustration paragraph should end with a summary statement that reinforces the paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should include transitions – that introduce the examples and connect them one to another and to the topic sentence.

These transitions help readers follow your discussion by indicating how your examples are related and how each example supports the topic sentence.

also in addition moreover
finally one example another example
The first … The second …
for example
for instance


Blue: Topic sentence
Orange: Evidence
Red: Transitions
Purple: Summary statement

When countries change their names, it is often for political reasons. Sometimes a new government decides to change the country’s name to separate itself from an earlier government. For example, Burma became Myanmar when a military government took over in 1989. Cambodia has had several name changes as well. After a coup in 1970, it was called the Khmer Republic. Then, in 1975, under communist rule, it became Kampuchea. Gaining independence from another nation is another reason for a country to change its name. For instance, in 1957, after gaining independence from Great Britain, the Gold Coast became Ghana. Another name change occurred when the French Sudan became Mali. After gaining independence from France in 1960, it decide to reject its colonial past. Finally, Zimbabwe gave up its former British name, Rhodesia, several years after winning independence. These name changes can be confusing, but they reveal the changing political climate of the countries in which they occur.

(Grammar note: When you write an illustration paragraph, make sure to use a comma after the introductory transitional word or phrase that introduces an example.)


At this stage, brainstorm a list of qualities of Luma’s personality and character.

What are the most important aspects of her personality?

What does she value the most? What is the strongest part of her character? Weakest?

Jot these down on notebook paper or on your computer. Once you have a bunch of qualities, circle the ones that are most important or most revealing about who she is as a person. Then you can draft a working thesis statement.

List of Revision Symbols

September 7, 2018

Below is a list of revision symbols that I use when I give feedback to your essay drafts. I use these symbols as shorthand. (If you have a question about one of my comments, ask me and I’ll explain.)

A check mark next to a sentence or a paragraph means “Good” or “Excellent”

add   Add word

agr   Agreement

awk  Awkward

cap  capitalize

cs  comma splice

dm  dangling modifier

ds   double space

-ed  -ed ending

frag  fragment

fs  fused sentence

ital   italics

lc   lower case

^    insert  (comma, period, semi-colon, etc.)

;    semi-colon

:    colon

” ”  quotation marks

?   Confusing or awkward

¶  New paragraph

pn agr  pronoun agreement

run-on (or ro)   run-on

ref  pronoun reference

sv agr  subject-verb agreement

tense  verb tense/tense shift

//   faulty parallelism

X   cut

#  insert space

[ ]  brackets

( )  parentheses







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.

Discussion Questions for the Introduction and Chapter One

August 28, 2018


In the opening pages of the Introduction, the author relates the reactions of two different groups of boys to low flying planes over the soccer field. What do you think the author wants to communicate with this?

What do we learn about the refugees from the Introduction?

What do we learn about the town of Clarkston?

On page 6, the author gives information about his connection to the Fugees and his project in writing the book. Why do you think he waits so long? What would the effect have been had he begun the book with this part and omitted the description of the soccer game?

From reading the Introduction, what do we learn about the author’s character and values? Which passages can be used as evidence to illustrate specific character traits and/or values?

What evidence from the Introduction suggests that the author is a credible reporter?

How does the example of Zubaid, the “tiny defender from Afghanistan” (7), function in the Introduction? What does it help the author do?

When the author says, “I saw a great deal of soccer over the next few months, but the most moving moments for me—and the most instructive and insightful—came not on the sidelines but over hot cups of sugary tea, over meals of stewed cassava or beans and rice, or platters of steaming Afghan mantu, on the sofas and floors of the apartments of refugees in Clarkston” (8), what is he revealing about himself, his values, and the kind of person he is?

On page 8, St. John compares soccer to basketball, football and baseball. What are the differences between these games, according to the author? And how does St. John use soccer as a “useful framework” for trying to understand this group of refugees?

When the author uses the metaphor of a lifeboat to describe Clarkston, referring to it as a “modest little boat that the locals thought they had claimed for themselves” (10), what is he suggesting? How does he want readers to understand this metaphor?


What do we learn about Luma’s family in the first pages of Chapter One?

How is the example of Luma making her cousins and sister run while she trailed behind in a car an example of, as St. John calls it, “tough love in action” (17)? What did it teach and how?

How does what we learn about Luma’s developing coaching philosophy foreshadow one of the main themes of the book? (1st full paragraph on page 20.)

What is Luma’s experience at Smith College, the women’s school in Northampton, MA.?

What competing pressures does Luma start to grapple with as she starts to grow older and begins coaching the junior varsity girls soccer team at the American Community School?

What American qualities and/or characteristics of life is Luma attracted to even though staying in America means making a serious break with her family?

What do readers learn about Warren St. John’s professional work ethic when he says, “Brown — who soon moved to Damascus, and later to Israel with her husband and family — lost touch over the years with her star player, but she kept Luma’s [baseball] glove from one move to the next …. ‘The webbing has rotted and come out,’ Brown told me from Israel, where I tracked her down by phone” (23).

Why was Luma “shaken up” when a handyman, who sought to impress her, showed her a robe and hood once worn by his grandfather” (24)?

Why were Luma’s friends afraid that she, “a Muslim woman from Jordan, wouldn’t fit in down in Dixie” (24)?

What is the purpose of this chapter? What does it help the author achieve with his readers?

Sample MLA Essay

August 28, 2018

Below is a link to a PDF of a sample MLA essay in proper format.

Sample MLA Essay Format_MLA 8th Ed.