RHETORICAL ANALYSIS of BIAS
For our second essay (750-900 words), we will be writing a rhetorical analysis, which will evaluate the bias in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and possibly a second source if you choose to compare his book to another. We will discuss potential sources in class, but it would be preferable to use an outside source you’re considering down the line for another of our papers.
First of all, for those who have not written this type of essay before, a rhetorical analysis does not look at the content of the writing, but rather looks at techniques of and influences on the writing. In other words, you will not be summarizing the text, but analyzing the writer’s use of text. In our case, we are going to specifically look at bias, which we all have when it comes to our writing.
Bias is not necessarily a bad thing, although too much bias can compromise a source or significant bias can impact the positive attributes of the writing. Ultimately, you should decide whether the source(s) are dependable or not or if they have limitations as a potential source. Essentially, this assignment is to teach you how to read, understand and evaluate effective sources.
We need to establish criteria to understand and evaluate the source’s bias, starting with who authored the writing. We all have unique experiences and education that affects how we see and interpret the world, and, in turn, write about the world. If the article has a corporate author, what do we know about this group? Wikipedia is a good place to start doing a background check on your source.
Other things to consider. Who published the article, and what do we know about the URL if it is a website? Does this site only accept biased articles from one political view? Is this a source that vets articles or features articles that must go through a peer-reviewed process, like an academic journal? Was the article written for a particular audience that assumes a particular bias and expects its itching ears to be tickled? For instance, when I write for Pointing Dog Journal, the editor and audience assume I like dogs and particularly pointing dogs. Those, by way, are not biases that diminish the source.
You should discuss the language used. What does word choice suggest about the writer? For instance, Pollan uses the terms agribusiness, agriculture and farming. What is the difference? You can also look at the sources used by the author, and are these, in turn, unreliable and so they compromise the text?
In the introduction, introduce the authors and the texts. You can develop a short summary of each piece and maybe include a short history of the piece and perhaps a biography of the authors.
The body paragraphs should discuss one of the elements listed above. You will have to use specific examples from the text in your discussions. For example, if you’re analyzing the sources in the work, you will need to cite specific examples and explain why these are effective or not. If you’re doing a background check of the source, how might this affect the way the author writes?
The conclusion should wrap the essay up and include your overall thoughts about the source(s), especially whether or not you think you have a reliable source. Would you use this as a source in a paper, and in what situations? In other words, is the bIas acceptable or is it a deal breaker?
You will need to cite your sources, including in-text citations where necessary, and a works cite page. This essay (15% of your final grade) is due March 1.