Project 1: Technical and Professional Rhetorical Analysis

Worth 20% of your final grade

Important Dates

  • Jan 31: Submit the document from your field for approval (counts as part of the in-class writing for that day)
  • Feb 7: Draft due for peer review (draft and providing feedback counts as the in-class writing for that day)
  • Feb 17: Due date for Project #1 (no in-class writing for that day)
  • Feb 24: Deadline for Project #1 (the last day you can submit your work)

The Project Assignment

A rhetorical analysis is designed to train you to look closely, carefully, and critically at how and why texts (memos, reports, letters, proposals, instructions, pamphlets, etc.) are created in order to determine the overall effectiveness of a text in terms of fulfilling a purpose. These skills are essential training for you as professional and technical writers because they enable you to see a text in a variety of ways, evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, usefulness, credibility, and effectiveness of a document. An understanding of rhetorical strategies also allows you to make conscious choices in your own technical and professional communication.

Your task is to select a piece of technical or professional writing/communication that is common in your field and analyze its rhetorical situation, including its effectiveness. You will report on your findings in a short essay. I encourage you to consult a professional in your future field in order to discover what texts are commonly produced.

Step 1: Select a document from your field
Select a technical/professional document that is commonly produced in your profession. It can be a memo, professional website, report, letter, proposal, instructions, pamphlet, procedures, specification, safety guidelines, etc. It should be at least a page in length. If it is a lengthy document, you can choose to focus on a portion of it. (And it cannot be a document that I have written.)

You need a digital copy of the document to submit, so scan the document if necessary. Upload the document to your Google Drive. You’ll give me a link to this document with your in-class writing on January 31 for approval, and you’ll turn it in with your analysis memo.

Step 2: Analyze the document
Perform a rhetorical analysis of the document based on the characteristics of technical communication explained in Markel, pp. 6–11. Specifically, Markel explains that technical communication:

  • Addresses particular readers.
  • Helps readers solve problems.
  • Reflects an organization’s goals and culture.
  • Is produced collaboratively.
  • Uses design to increase readability.
  • Consists of words or graphics or both.

Markel Figures 1.1 (p. 9), 1.2 (page 10), and 1.3 (page 11) demonstrate starting points for the analysis of three documents. Look for similar details from the document you choose. As you analyze the document, also pay attention to how well the document meets the eight measures of excellence which Markel identifies (pp. 11–13):

  • Honesty: Is the document honest and truthful? Does it avoid misleading the reader?
  • Clarity: Does the document “convey a single meaning the reader can easily understand”?
  • Accuracy: Is the information in the document accurate? Is it objective and unbiased? Does the document include all the relevant facts?
  • Comprehensiveness: Does the document give readers everything they need to “follow the discussion and carry out any required tasks”?
  • Accessibility: Does the document enable readers to quickly and easily find the information it contains? Is it well-organized?
  • Conciseness: Is the document clear, concise, and specific? Is it easy to read? Does it use “you-attitude”?
  • Professional appearance: Does the document look neat and professional? Does it give readers a positive first impression?
  • Correctness: Is the document free of careless errors? Does it follow conventions of documentation, grammar, punctuation, spelling, mechanics, and usage accurately and consistently?

Step 3: Write your analysis memo

Write a memo to me that analyzes the document you have chosen. To some degree you must cover all of the aspects listed above in Step 2. Your memo should be an integrated, clearly explained analysis and not just a list of details or answers to questions. Conclude your analysis memo with your evaluation of the document’s overall effectiveness and excellence.


  • Format your analysis as a memo, using the info from Markel, p. 223, and pp. 230–232.
  • Use specific details to demonstrate your points (show, don’t tell).
  • Focus on analysis (color commentary, not play-by-play).
  • Make sure that you pay attention to the characteristics of technical communication and eight measures of excellence in your own writing.


  • Length: About 2–3 single-spaced pages (Avoid any tricks with formatting. Don’t pad it out with BS.)
  • Documentation: Use either MLA, IEEE, APA, or another specific professional format. If you don’t know how to do this, use Markel, Appendix A.
  • Format: Choose an effective design elements for your memo. Use the information in Markel, Chapter 7 to guide your document design decisions.

Step 4: Complete the project reflection
In addition to your analysis memo, you will write a short (about 1 page) informal memo that explains the choices you made with regard to content, organization, and design. Among other topics, you may want to answer the following questions:

  • Why did you choose to organize the information the way you did as opposed to some other possible organization?
  • Why did you choose to include the content you did?
  • What was left out, and why?
  • Why is the design effective?
  • Why are the visuals effective?

Write this memo to me as your instructor, using specific details from your analysis to explain your choices to help me better understand the context in which you see your document being used. This memo gives me the chance to tell me anything you want me to know about your project before I read it. You can write this memo in class on the due date, Feb 17.

Step 5: Submit all documents
When you are finished with the project, follow the process explained in the blog post for the due date to submit your work.

Examples for Discussion

Additional Resources from the Purdue OWL

If you’re unfamiliar with the ideas of rhetorical analysis, these pages from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue can give you some basic background information:

You can also find help with various technical writing topics at the OWL website.

Grading Criteria

  • Deliverables: Does the project document include all 3 parts (the reflection memo, your rhetorical analysis memo, and the document from your field)? Does the project show effort?
  • Content:
    • Does the analysis memo address all six of the characteristics of technical communication?
    • Does it provide a full analysis of the document with specific details that demonstrate the points?
    • Does the analysis memo discuss how the strategies support the purpose of the text given the audience?
    • Does the analysis memo accurately evaluate the document with Markel’s eight measures of excellence?
    • Does the reflection memo show effort and provide useful, clear information?
  • Excellence: Does the analysis memo itself meet Markel’s eight measures of excellence?


This assignment was adapted from Kristin Arola’s Engl 402: Summer 2011: Project 1: Rhetorical Analysis, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.