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Part Two: Rhetorical Analysis of Academic Writing

Due: Wednesday, July 22

For this part of the unit, you will begin your research into the key discourses of your field by way of
a broad rhetorical analysis of the primary publication mode of scholarly research and writing: the
Peer-Reviewed Academic Journal. You will identify 5 leading journals in your field. You will then
compose a comparative rhetorical analysis of this representative sample of journals within your
field to assess the commonalities and differences between language, audience, style, tone,
structure, purpose or vision, and content in order to determine how these elements help to
structure communities of shared discourse and knowledge-making. Your guiding research
question should be a version of what follows:
What are the professional, academic, intellectual, political, and/or ideological norms that help
shape your discourse community? In what ways do these journals (as micro-textual examples
of the discursive modes of knowledge-making and knowledge sharing of this community) either
reflect, promote, or challenge such norms?
Rather than offering summaries of each journal, you will need to engage in scholarly analysis. In
other words, your goal will be to identify and present a critical relationship between the journals,
using the individual articles as micro-examples of the broader discursive field. In order to effectively
situate your audience to this relationship, you will propose an argument that defines that relationship
based on the elements listed above. You will guide your audience through an analysis of these
journals as textual modes and representations of your scholarly discourse community. You do not
have time to read through these articles in any great detail. However, by way of more distant reading
(skimming), you should be able to quickly and easily glean the primary focus and contributions of

the various pieces published such that you can refer to specific articles/reviews/reports in brief as
examples of larger claims you are making about the journal(s).
The comparative discussion should be followed by a rhetorical analysis of ONE of the five journals:
how is this journal exemplary? What is the work it is trying to do? How are conversations occuring?
What values does it seem to hold?
Lastly, a final section will look at an article within this journal, and continue the rhetorical analysis
on a more micro-level: what do you notice about this particular article? How is it framed, argued?
What is its methodology? How is it written (in regard to vocabularly, jargon, sentence structure,
references and footnotes)? How does its argument unfold?

The final paper should be between 1200-1500 words in length.

You will be assessed based on the clarity of your argument and the logic of your examples and
evidence to support this argument. You will also be expected to move beyond surface level
observations to critically situated analysis by way of detailed explication. Your analysis should move
from the macro (the five journals) to the micro (one particular article within a journal). This
means you will need to move from a comparative report of the journals to a careful, close reading of
the materials published within it, including the article.

A rhetorical analysis should consider the following:

The cultural objects purpose: what is the journals stated mission (as well as whats implied
by the contributed pieces)? That is, what is the journal arguing about scholarly discourse in this

field? What is each journal trying to analyze, persuade, argue, evaluate, inform, instruct, etc?
Rather than simply summarizing, rhetorical analysis attempts to speak back or connect to
broader discursive formations, purposes, and norms. In this case, a rhetorical analysis of the
journal looks at the broader norms of discourse, practice, and thought within the field and
situates the journal in critical relation to these norms: asking, how does the journal
reflect/represent these norms? How does it operate outside or challenge these norms?

The cultural objects intended audience: consider simply, whos in and whos out of the
discursive field as delimited by the journal? Consider the use of specialized language (i.e., who
is the intended audience and what knowledge might we assume they have? Are they likely
novices, experts, in academia, in the industry, etc.)

The creator(s) of the cultural object: is there, for instance, variation in authorial persona
and room for individualized voices, or is the overall tone consistent within and across the

The tone of the cultural object: all will have a scholarly tone, but does the formality shift
across articles? Across journals? Offer specific evidence to support what helps you identify tone.

The aesthetic of the cultural object: consider how the look and design of the journal (layout,
use of graphics, columns, use of headings/headers/etc.) contributes to or detracts from
readability and knowledge production and distribution? Why are these aesthetic elements
preferred or valued? Why do you think these decisions were made? Who made them and what
ideals/values/practices influenced such decision making processes? To put this another way,
would there by another way of aesthetically presenting the content of the site, particularly
thinking about it being delivered in a digital vs. analog format?

By the end of the assignment you should feel comfortable accessing peer-reviewed journals and have
a good understanding of the available databases that scholars in your field use. More importantly, you
should begin to identify some major topics of interest within your field and understand how these
topics are being introduced, debated, discussed. You should have a strong understanding of the means
by which people within your academic discourse community communicate, so that you may begin (in
Unit 3) to add your own voice to the conversation. Recommended: begin a running bibliography that
you can add to your website.