Read the article or chapter fairly quickly, underlining important passages, jotting notes and questions in the margins. As you read, divide the article into sections by drawing lines across the page. Number the sections and label the function of each one. Typical components or functions in a scholarly argument include:
- Hook: how does the author begin?
- Exposition: How does the article establish its core idea factually (who, what, where when)? What kind of groundwork is prepared for the thesis?
- Critical conversation or debate (“they say”): what other arguments is the author responding to?
- Thesis (“I say”): the core idea analytically (why, how)
- Self-disclosure: discussion of author’s own background and interests
- Definitions of key terms.
- Theoretical foundations: what theories is the author building on?
- Historical and/or Biographical context.
- Transitions: Pay attention to sub-headers, transitions, and topic sentences used to create “meta-commentary” that guides readers through the argument.
- Evidence: What kind of evidence is introduced, where, and how?
- Analysis: What kind of analysis is offered, where, and how?
- Quotations, Paraphrase, Summary: How does the author incorporate other critics and scholars? What kind of framing devices are used?
- Conclusion: How does the author bring the argument to a conclusion?
When you have finished, write a double-spaced, typed report (max. 2 pages). Write in complete sentences, but don’t worry about style. Your report follow this outline form:
I. Citation for the article or chapter in MLA Style.
II. Identify the thesis of the article or chapter, aka WHAT is its central argument.
A. Quote the thesis and cite the page number(s) in parentheses. The thesis may not be one sentence; it may be elaborated in several sentences, sometimes in different parts of the essay.
B. Restate the thesis in your own words.
III. Analyze and describe HOW the argument is organized.
Write a few paragraphs describing each section and its purpose within the larger argument. You do not need to find all the components in the above list, but rather use them to guide your analysis of the structure of the argument.
Note: You may find it helpful to depart from paragraph form and try “sketch noting“: using words & simple cartoon drawings to encapsulate the structural relationships between the core ideas and parts of the argument. See the example below of a sketch-noted SSR.
IV. List three rhetorical strategies you would like to apply to your own essays.
By rhetorical strategies, I mean specific ways of writing or structuring an argument. This list may include a single word or phrase, a good transition, or a way of setting up an argument. Give specific examples—even copy the exact wording.
V. (Optional) List any rhetorical moves you do not want to imitate.
If you don’t like something, learn how NOT to do it. Identify what turned you off and explain why.