Textual Analysis Essay

Length: 1500 words
Format:double-spacing, 1-inch margins, 12-point font
20 points

This paper assignment requires you to examine the arguments and presentation by one of the three authors from this unit (Peter Canby, Van Jones, and David Owen). Your assignment is not to agree or disagree with the author of the article you choose; your task is to evaluate the arguments, evidence, style, and authority presented.

Therefore, your thesis statement, or the main idea of your paper, will focus on the author's success in communicating his ideas: is he persuasive? A successful analysis will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the article. You are permitted to do additional research (always citing other sources), but only in the service of evaluating this piece, not in arguing over NAFTA, urban greening and criminal justice, or the role of technology.

Follow these basic steps for planning your text analysis:

  1. Print out, read and re-read the article, making comments and questions in the margins and on a separate page as you go. Look up any vocabulary you don't understand.
  2. Summarize the article briefly in your own words, including the author's main point or thesis. What questions is he trying to answer? This is helpful information in your essay's introduction.
  3. Examine the different types of evidence used by your chosen author: first-hand experience? interviews? studies and facts that can be verified? anecdotes or stories? visual aids? emotional appeals? reasoning based on what is known? Take note of especially effective or ineffective examples. As you develop your draft, address whether the article's arguments are sound, and whether the assertions and assumptions drawn from them are logical and clear.
  4. Your analysis should also evaluate the author's writing style and presentation. How is the article organized? Is the content presented in an order that makes sense to you as a reader? Is the writing objective and well-crafted? Quote any sentences that stand out or are representative stylistically. You can address the article's style as you evaluate its arguments, or you can discuss it separately.
  5. Check out the links in Unit 2 to read more about writing textual analyses: one from the Utah Valley State College Writing Center, and the other linked to the Social Science Computing Co-op at UW-Madison.
  6. Use the Rubric below to understand how you will be evaluated on the content and presentation of your analysis.

Text Analysis Grading Rubric

18-20 pts=A
16-17 pts=B
14-15 pts=C
12-13 pts=D
0-11 pts=F

Title & Introduction

Engaging, descriptive title. Introduction clearly addresses the main ideas of the article and whether it succeeded in conveying them. Functional title. Introduction includes a description of the article that may be vague or under-developed later. Title is unoriginal or not obviously relevant. Introduction contains no overarching sense of the article or a misunderstanding. Title is cliché or irrelevant. Introduction is vague, unclear, or under-developed. Title is absent. Introduction does not reveal the writer read or understood the article. Paper is not turned in, or is turned in late.


Paragraphs all support the main idea, flow in a logical order, and are linked by topic sentences or other transitions. Multiple paragraphs per page guide readers from one example to the next.

Most paragraphs appear to support the main idea although they may not always be linked with clear transitions. Paragraphs may merge together several examples or ideas that should be developed separately. Some paragraphs lack any connection to the intro. and may not flow in any logical order. Transitions are spotty. Entire paper may be stuffed into a 5-paragraph format. Introduction and/or conclusion missing; paragraphs ordered illogically, may be irrelevant. Few or no transitions. Introduction and/or conclusion missing; paragraphs ordered illogically, irrelevant or repetitive. Transitions not apparent.

Examples, Details

Every body paragraph refers to at least one example from the article. Any other sources are cited. Most paragraphs include a relevant example or descriptive details from the article. Any additional sources are poorly cited. A few examples from the article are raised in the paper; some may not be clearly relevant. Outside quotes are brought in but not cited and possibly not relevant. Examples from the article are not clearly relevant or sufficient. Examples from outside the article are dubious or irrelevant. Few or no relevant examples or details are furnished from the article or any other source.

Grammar & Punctuation

A few typos (1-3 per page). Some errors are present, but do not distract from the essay. A pattern of errors may appear, or scattered errors are apparent in most paragraphs. More than one pattern of errors is present; mistakes are pervasive and cloud some parts of the essay. Errors are pervasive and the entire essay is difficult to understand.


Conclusion reviews main messages or questions in the article and highlights your evaluation of its arguments and style. Conclusion may sum up the point of the article but not evaluate it, or vice-versa. Conclusion fails to provide clarity on the article or how its message was communicated. Conclusion ends abruptly or introduces a new angle or topic not already raised. Conclusion is nonexistent.

Length & overall development

Thesis fully developed. 1500+ (relevant, non-repetitive) words. Thesis supported in most body paragraphs. 1350-1500 (relevant, non-repetitive) words. Support for thesis not clear in most body paragraphs. 1200-1350 words. Thesis missing or 1050-1200 words. Under 1050 words.