Essay #2 – Fake News: Rhetorical Analysis of the Media

Background and Purpose

In the past two years, fake news has become a major controversy around the world, especially in the United States. These conversations about fake news have raised fundamental questions about how we define facts, how we use information to support our arguments and form our worldviews, and ultimately how we determine what is true.

For this paper, we’ll step back and look at fake news as part of a broader spectrum of news credibility. This paper’s primary purpose is to further develop the critical thinking and information literacy skills helpful for evaluating the credibility and analyzing the other rhetoric elements of news sources. Another purpose is to reflect on the broader significance and relevance of news and credibility in the scientific world today.

Your essay should be 4-5 typed, double spaced pages, and will analyze a selected news article’s rhetoric. Focus on evaluating the source’s credibility (ethos), but also consider analyzing the article’s logic (logos) and emotional appeals (pathos). MLA format is required for this assignment.  You must cite at least 2 reliable sources to support your argument. Remember that for a source to appear in your Works Cited page, it must appear and be cited in your essay

Task and Audience

Select one online news article (must relate to science or technology) that fails the  CRAAP test  and exemplifies one or more of  Zimdars’ classifications(e.g. fake news, junk science, satire, and so on).

Contextualize the article and its classification in your introduction, and discuss the significance and/or relevance of both in your conclusion.

Use textual evidence from your article and at  least two  secondary sources from the class readings, your own research through the UAF Library, and/or the Internet.

Write your paper to an academic audience with a diverse range of political perspectives.

Tools for Evaluating Credibility and Analyzing Rhetoric

Use whichever of the provided resources and concepts that help you develop the most effective rhetorical analysis of your article:

-  “Zimdars’ Classifications':  for classifying the type of news
-  “CRAAP Test':  for evaluating the credibility of online sources
-  “Ten Questions for Fake News Detection':  for identifying red flags about the credibility of sources
-  “Recognizing Logical Fallacies':  for identifying logical fallacies and avoiding them in your own writing
-  “Classical Rhetoric: Logos, Ethos, Pathos': for evaluating rhetoric in general

Questions for Rhetorical Analysis

Use the following questions to help you get started rhetorically analyzing your article:

  • How would you classify the article in relation to Zimdars’ classifications? Why?
  • Who wrote the article? What is its purpose? Who is its intended audience?
  • What problems do you see with the article’s credibility (ethos)? Why does it fail the CRAAP test?
  • What appeals to emotion (pathos) or logical fallacies (logos) does the article use? How do these affect the article’s credibility?

Tips and Resources

  •  Focus on rhetorical analysis.  Here is a clear synopsis of rhetorical analysis from the Texas A&M University’s Writing Center:  Rhetoric is the study of how writers and speakers use words to influence an audience. A rhetorical analysis is an essay that breaks a work of non-fiction into parts and then explains how the parts work together to create a certain effect–whether to persuade, entertain or inform. . . . A rhetorical analysis should explore the rhetorician’s goals, the techniques (or tools) used, examples of those techniques, and the effectiveness of those techniques. When writing a rhetorical analysis, you are NOT saying whether or not you agree with the argument. Instead, you’re discussing how the rhetorician makes that argument and whether or not the approach used is successful.
  •  Craft a three-level thesis statement.  Try using the following questions to help you develop a working thesis statement.1. Conclusion: How would you evaluate the source’s credibility and classify it using to Zimdars’ list?2. Premises: What is problematic about the source’s rhetoric (ethos, logos, pathos)?3. Significance: Why is this article–and articles like it with the same classification–important and/or relevant to you, your audience, and/or our world in general?
  •  Move beyond the five-paragraph essay structure.  Don’t be boxed in by the five-paragraph essay structure, with its three parallel points in the thesis statement. You do not need to choose three reasons or elements of rhetoric to focus on in the body paragraphs: you may want to focus on more or fewer but in more depth, or you may want to show more complex relationships between your ideas. We’ll also experiment with developing two-paragraph introductions and conclusions, which can also help break the five-paragraph essay mold.
  •  Develop and organize your paragraphs around your points of rhetorical analysis.  Use the provided resources and the concepts we’ve covered in the course readings to help determine the topics for your paragraphs. Avoid organizing your paper with one paragraph on ethos, one on logos, and one on pathos, since some rhetorical elements may require more in-depth analysis than the others. For example, you may need to devote several paragraphs to exploring different aspects of the article’s ethos, or you may want to explore several logical fallacies and/or emotional appeals over multiple paragraphs.
  •  Develop an effective title, introduction, and conclusion.  Use the strategies we have covered in the course readings to craft these components of your paper, all of which can help engage your audience and make your argument stand out. Consider developing a two-paragraph introduction and/or conclusion to help you further contextualize and discuss the topic for your audience.
  •  Include a works cited page and MLA in-text citations.  This paper will need to include both a works cited page and in-text citations as necessary (also known as parenthetical citations). These elements should follow MLA guidelines. See the “MLA Works Cited' and “MLA In-text Citations' resources on on the course website for more information.
  •  Edit your sentences for clarity and concision.  Avoid unnecessary repetition and wordiness, unclear language, and ineffective use of the passive voice. As you work toward finalizing your paper, closely examine each sentence for clarity, concision, and focus. See the “Sentence Clarity and Concision' resource on the course website for further tips.

For those of you who'd   like to look at a sample essay, here's one from last semester that got an A+!  Graded-Paper-2-Herrmann