Oklahoma State University, ENGL 1113: Composition I–Textual Analysis

Below appears an authoritative version of the guidelines for the Textual Analysis (TxtAn), superseding any previously published information regarding the assignment.


The First-Year Composition Program at Oklahoma State University describes the TxtAn as enabling students “To be able to describe and define the rhetorical moves a writer/composer selects in a given text; to identify the contexts and patterns informing a given text; to offer an interpretation of a text’s rhetorical moves in order to analyze its significance.”

The program stipulates for the TxtAn that “The student will write a 4-5 page rhetorical analysis of a text. The analysis will be thesis-driven and include a close ‘reading’ of the object of analysis in order to meet program outcomes. The essay will follow MLA conventions for font, page numbering, margins and title.”

Sections of the course taught by Prof. Elliott will need to complete a number of individual tasks to negotiate the assignment successfully :

Information about each follows, along with a copy of the grading rubric and notes.

Select and Read a Suitable Subject for Analysis

The TxtAn should focus on a single piece of writing; for this exercise, select an article from the Opinion section of the New York Times (either in print or online), including pieces by regular columnists, editorials, op-ed and Opinionator pieces, pieces from the Sunday review, pieces from Taking Note, and Topics pieces, but excluding videos, editorial cartoons, and letters to the editor.

Note that students desiring to treat other texts may petition the instructor in that regard; decisions regarding alternative texts will be made on a case-by-case basis, but analyses of texts not from the Opinion section of the New York Times and not approved by the instructor are subject to summary failure.

The article must be recent; its publication date may not be earlier than 28 September 2015. You are strongly encouraged to discuss your selection with the instructor to ensure that you are treating a text of sufficient heft and content to bear sustained analysis.

Note that the Eval will work with the same subject as the TxtAn. Be sure to select a subject with several weeks of use in mind.

After selecting an appropriate article, read it at least twice. The first reading should be a simple read-through, getting a sense of the article and its contents. The second and many subsequent readings (as needed) should explicitly look for rhetorical features and devices of the text, its context, and its paratext. Making notes about those features and devices is strongly encouraged.

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Compose the TxtAn PV

After conducting the preliminary work to read, understand, and assess the article, draft an initial version of the TxtAn. Thinking of it as an investigation of what the text is doing and how it is doing so may be of help in the composition.

In composing the initial version of the TxtAn, a fair bit of prewriting will be helpful. Having answers to the following questions will not ensure a good paper in itself, but it will be markedly difficult to write a good TxtAn without having such answers:

  • What is the context of the article? That is, among what is it situated? To what overall purpose (to entertain, to inform, to persuade) is the context directed? What information in the context indicates the direction?
  • To what overall purpose (to entertain, to inform, to persuade) is the article directed? What in the text and its paratext indicates the overall purpose?
  • To what specific purpose is the article directed? What in the text, context, and paratext indicates the direction?
  • To what overall audience are the context and text directed? What information in each indicates the direction? What information in the paratext indicates the direction?
  • How much and what kinds of pathos are present in the text, context, and paratext? What effect are they likely to have?
  • How much and what kinds of ethos are present in the text, context, and paratext? What effect are they likely to have?
  • How much and what kinds of logos are present in the text, context, and paratext? What effect are they likely to have?
  • Ultimately, does the article succeed at fulfilling its purpose for its presumed audience?

The list above is not and cannot be comprehensive. That is, other questions may also need to be asked and answered to help develop a version of the TxtAn. The last one, however, should lead to the thesis of the TxtAn, one assessing the effectiveness of the article at fulfilling its purpose for its audience. The TxtAn as a whole will support that thesis.

The TxtAn will benefit from an introduction that identifies and summarizes in a few sentences the article being analyzed before stating a thesis and providing an essay map. The paragraphs that follow—which should support the thesis, based on the answers to the above and similar questions—will benefit from being placed in either emphatic or topical order and having graceful, appropriate transitions between them. (A paragraph detailing counterargument to the thesis may also do well to be included early among them.) As with earlier papers, a conclusion suggesting what readers can do with the thesis—since the TxtAn should justify that thesis sufficiently to allow it to be used—is a good way to end.

It is not strictly necessary that the draft be the full required length of the TxtAn FV (four to five full pages, formatted appropriately, equivalent to some 1,400 to 1,750 words); it is assumed that the work is in progress. That said, a more complete draft is more desirable than a less complete one, largely in that it eases the later work that must be done and offers more opportunity for concrete improvement to the writing that is done. Please note also that the text composed in the draft may well need to change; keep in mind that it cannot get better without changing, and that all writing can be improved.

Please type the draft, either initially or as a later stage of composition, prior to class time on 12 October 2015. Please bring a typed and printed copy of that draft to class as the TxtAn PV on that day; class that day will concern itself with peer review, with students reading and commenting on one another’s papers. (Guidelines for how to do so will be provided.) This will allow students 1) access to other readers to help ensure comprehensibility of their narratives and 2) practice in reading and assessing written work, which they may then apply to their own writing moving forward.

A holistic minor assignment grade will be taken from the presence or absence of your TxtAn PV in class that day; the instructor will call for student drafts while peer review is in session during class that day. A reasonably complete or complete draft for the TxtAn PV will receive an A. One mostly in place but still lacking one or two major components will receive a B. One perhaps half-done will receive a C. One that lacks several major components will receive a D. One that is barely sketched-out will receive an F. Papers that are directed away from the thrust of the assignment will receive a lowered grade, as well. Students who arrive in class without drafts will receive a zero for the minor assignment grade, as will those who fail to attend class that day (excepting those covered under class attendance policies expressed in the syllabus and detailed during class discussions).

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Writing Center during the process of composing the TxtAn PV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Revise the TxtAn PV into the TxtAn RV

Following peer review of the TxtAn PV, you are strongly encouraged to revise your draft in light of the comments made by your peer reviewer/s. Work from global issues—such as strengthening the thesis and support for it—to more local issues—such as how best to transition between each major part, how to transition from paragraph to paragraph and sentence to sentence, and how best to phrase for concision and emphasis. Only after all of that is done should there be any thought of checking and amending as appropriate the surface-level features of formatting, spelling, punctuation, and the like.

The draft that results from that process of revision, the TxtAn RV, should still have an introduction that identifies and summarizes in a few sentences the article being analyzed before stating a thesis and providing an essay map; paragraphs supporting the thesis (possibly including a counterpoint) in either emphatic or topical order and having graceful, appropriate transitions between them; and a conclusion suggesting what readers can do with the thesis, since the TxtAn should justify that thesis sufficiently to allow it to be used. It does need to be at the full length of the assignment (four to five full pages, formatted appropriately, equivalent to some 1,400 to 1,750 words); even though it is still a work in progress, it should be nearing completion. It may still need to change, however, as all writing can be improved.

It is to the end of improving it yet further that the TxtAn RV is to be submitted to the instructor via D2L before the beginning of class time on 21 October 2015. It needs to be a .doc, .docx, or .rtf document, so that comments may be appended to it. A version of the form that will be returned to students along with the reviewed TxtAn RV appears below; assessment standards are outlined more thoroughly thereupon. A minor assignment grade will be taken therefrom. Ideally, the grade and comments will serve to motivate further improvement in advance of the final submission detailed below.

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Writing Center during the process of developing the TxtAn RV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Revise the TxtAn RV into the TxtAn FV

Once the TxtAn RV is returned—which will be via email through the D2L classlist—you are strongly encouraged to revise it in light of the comments made on it by the instructor. As with revising the TxtAn PV into the TxtAn RV, work from global issues— such as strengthening the thesis and support for it—to more local issues—such as how best to transition between each major part, how to transition from paragraph to paragraph and sentence to sentence, and how best to phrase for concision and emphasis. Only after all of that is done should there be any thought of checking and amending as appropriate the surface-level features of formatting, spelling, punctuation, and the like.

The draft that results from that process of revision, the TxtAn FV, should still have an introduction that identifies and summarizes in a few sentences the article being analyzed before stating a thesis and providing an essay map; paragraphs supporting the thesis (possibly including a counterpoint) in either emphatic or topical order and having graceful, appropriate transitions between them; and a conclusion suggesting what readers can do with the thesis, since the TxtAn should justify that thesis sufficiently to allow it to be used. It does need to be at the full length of the assignment (four to five full pages, formatted appropriately, equivalent to some 1,400 to 1,750 words), since it is the final submission of the TxtAn project. While all writing can be improved, there comes a point at which the task of developing a piece of writing must be set aside in favor of other concerns; the TxtAn FV is that point for the TxtAn project.

It is in the interests of providing feedback with which to develop other writing that the TxtAn FV is to be submitted to the instructor via D2L before the beginning of class time on 30 October 2015. It needs to be a .doc, .docx, or .rtf document, so that comments may be appended to it. A version of the form that will be returned to students along with the reviewed TxtAn FV appears below; assessment standards are outlined more thoroughly thereupon. A major assignment grade worth 20% of the total course grade will be taken therefrom.

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Writing Center during the process of developing the TxtAn FV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Grading Rubric

Please find a copy of the grading rubric that will be applied to the TxtAn RV and the TxtAn FV here. Grading of the TxtAn PV is detailed above.

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Notes

As the assignment is in a more formal genre than earlier papers in the course, more formal usage is expected; strive for a semiformal register, rather than the informal or casual usage allowed in the LitNarr and Profile. This means, among others, that formal citation, including in-text and end-of-text components, is expected even if only one source is deployed in the TxtAn. (The TxtAn requires no recourse to outside sources in itself; it can be written entirely from the chosen article and the thoroughly-explained interpretations of it by the student.) Failure to provide it may be investigated as an academic integrity violation.

Aside from the examples of such pieces and similar pieces provided in the Norton, many examples of the kind of work to be done for the TxtAn project can be found in any number of rhetorical studies. Examples can also be found through the instructor’s website:

Review of them is encouraged, as having models to follow tends to make work easier to do.

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Geoffrey B. Elliott
20 October 2015

Edited for improved phrasing.

19 thoughts on “Oklahoma State University, ENGL 1113: Composition I–Textual Analysis

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