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Basic Rhetorical Analysis

Basic Rhetorical Analysis
Technical communication is meant to be used and not just read. Good technical communication
communicates information to an audience who will act on that information in a variety of ways: in
making hiring decisions, in following technical procedures, in developing research plans, and more.
In this assignment, you will evaluate the accessibility, usability, and relevance of a piece of
technical communication—that is, you will analyze whether the document effectively communicates the
necessary information to its audience and where it fails to do so. In this way, the assignment will
start with the evaluation skills you applied in Assignment #1 to help you to continue exploring the
basic elements of technical communication.

Analyzing Technical Communication Practices
Your analysis should demonstrate that you understand the basic principles of technical
communication discussed in the first chapter of the textbook. The process you will follow in this
assignment is relatively straightforward. I will provide you with analysis points (included at the
end of this assignment sheet). You will study a document and then determine how well it relies (or
doesn’t) on effective technical communication practices. You will then present your analysis in a
memo to me.

There are three steps to this assignment:

(1) Choose a piece of technical communication to analyze. I have provided you with three
documents from which to choose: an application, a booklet, and a guide. Citizens use the
application to apply for home energy assistance; science teachers and students use the booklet to
design environmental projects; employers use the guide to create a workplace first aid program.
These documents are representative of technical communication. Please choose one of these three
documents provided for your analysis.

(2) Evaluate your chosen document for usability. This will involve reading the document
carefully, paying attention to the features that enable use. (In other words, how did the author
structure the document so that readers could access and use the information effectively and
efficiently?) Again, I provide specific points of analysis below.

(3) Write a memo to me that organizes your rhetorical analysis in both a logical and convincing
way. (I am your audience.) Follow the memo format described in the Handbook (pp. 346-348).
a. Be concrete in your analysis. That is, use examples from the document as you make your key
b. Be sure to analyze and not just describe the document. In the first assignment, the focus
was on the formal elements of the document. This assignment will require you to go a step further
and to evaluate—and pass judgment on—both content and design.
c. Be sure your analysis is well organized.

While I have no set requirement for length of your submission, a comprehensive analysis should be
roughly 2 single-spaced pages (about 1000 words). Therefore, you must be as concise as possible.
However, don’t mistake brevity for superficiality. I’m looking for a high-quality analysis that
shows you can look at both the content and the form of a technical document with a critical eye.
Analysis Points

– Accessibility – can users get to the information and understand it.
o Accuracy – has no mistakes or errors
o Clarity – avoids ambiguity
o Completeness – includes all necessary information
o Concreteness – uses concrete examples and language
o Organization – follows sequences that make sense for the situation
o Visual effectiveness – uses page layout (or screen design), color, and other graphical
elements effectively
– Usability – the efficiency level of the information, would users be able to perform the
task or retrieve the information they need as quickly and easily as possible?
– Relevance – is there a maintained focus on a specific audience?

Use these characteristics to organize your analysis. Be sure that your analysis addresses each of
these three areas.
Evaluation Criteria

I will evaluate the analyses according to these criteria:

– Completeness: The analysis addresses all of the text’s characteristics of technical
– Organization: The analysis is well organized. It has a clear structure supported by
– Support: The analysis is concrete in that it uses examples from the document to support
major points.
– Interpretation: The analysis interprets, analyzes, passes judgment—it does not just
– Style: The analysis is well written. Topic sentences are clear.
– AND: The analysis demonstrates that you have learned about the basic elements of technical

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