Assignment Showcase: Rhetorical Analysis and Wikipedia (Paula Patch)

Oct 08 2008

Assignment Showcase: Rhetorical Analysis and Wikipedia (Paula Patch)

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Rhetorical Analysis and Wikipedia


Assess the reliability—the accuracy, credibility, and usefulness as a research source—of information included in a Wikipedia article. Write a formal essay in which you argue for or against the reliability of the article, making sure to tailor the argument to a particular audience (see below)


  1. Select and locate a Wikipedia article related to a subject covered in class this semester: writing, technology, current event, Wikipedia, etc. Determine your selection by carefully considering what information you would like to find out about one of these subjects.
  1. Conduct your analysis of the article to determine (a) if it is reliable and (b) to what extent (i.e., how reliable or unreliable it is).  Take care to make this an honest assessment based on the information available; that is, do not try to make the information fit a preconceived notion you have about Wikipedia.

Annotate the article using the following plan and criteria:

  1. Read all of the information on the main (“article”) page.
    1. What information about the topic is included? What information is missing? What information seems unnecessary?
    2. How is the information organized? Is this an effective way of organizing the information? Why not?
    3. Does the entry include references?
      1. i.      Where does most of the information come from (books, other Wikipedia entries, popular articles, scholarly articles, etc.)?
      2. ii.      Click on one of the references (choose one that interests you): Does the link work? Is the reference reliable (does it provide accurate, expert information)?
    4. Does the entry include hyperlinks to other Wikipedia articles?
      1. i.      If so, click on one of these (choose one that interests you): Does the link work? Does it take you to a “good” article?
      2. ii.      Assess the linked article based on the same criteria you are using on the main article.
    5. Are there any errors on this page: grammar, spelling, content, or otherwise? If so, make note of some of the worst errors. How do these errors affect the trustworthiness of the author(s) or information?
    6. Has the entry been “flagged” in any way (for being incomplete, biased, unreferenced, etc.)? This flag may appear on the main page or on the “discussion” page. How does this “flag” affect the article?
  2. Read the information on the “history” page.
    1. Who wrote the article? Do any of the history listings include usernames? If so, what information is available about the user? Do you trust this information?
  3. Read all of the information on the “discussion” page.
    1. What are people discussing? Is it related to content? If so, is it about the actual content (what to include and where) or is it about the subject (opinions about the topic)? Is the discussion related to organization? What are some of the comments?
    2. Is there anything controversial about the entry?
    3. Is there anything stated on this page that makes you question the reliability of the entry?

Assignment requirement: You must submit your annotated article by class time on Wed., Oct. 31.

  1. Determine your audience. Based on our discussion of your experiences with Wikipedia and, now, your analysis of the article’s reliability, decide who would benefit most from your new knowledge. Some ideas include student writers, college professors, high school teachers, the authors of the assigned texts about Wikipedia.
  1. Write the essay. Based on your analysis, decide if the entry is reliable or not and to what extent. This will be your argument, which you will present as your thesis.

Reflection includes questions specific to Wikipedia

  • What assumptions did you have about Wikipedia prior to beginning this assignment? Did these assumptions change? Why or why not?
  • How and why did you choose the particular audience you address in your essay? How well do you think you met the needs of this audience?
  • What did you learn about Wikipedia and other source material? How can you use this information in future situations, both inside and outside class, and both in ENG 110 and in other classes?
  • What did you learn about writing? How can you use this in future assignments, both in ENG 110 and in other classes?

Critical Analysis and Argument: Wikipedia

Does Not Meet Expectations Meets Minimal Expectations Exceeds Expectations
Summarizes information contained in the article

Includes relevant information about context for the article and/or purpose for the essay


Indicates a clear position on the topic

Acknowledges complexity of analysis by including a discussion of the extent to which the article meets or does not meet the evaluation criteria

Refrains from a simple good/bad evaluation

Claims, Reasoning, and Evidence

Analysis used to explain/support thesis.

Uses textual evidence from Wikipedia article to support discussion of analysis.

Uses evidence from assigned reading to support analysis of Wikipedia article.


Argument focuses on one audience and for a specific purpose.

Argument is appropriate and effective for intended audience.


Discusses the implications of the essay findings.

Style and Organization
Paragraphs and sentences organized effectively and coherently—the reader can follow your thinking. Sentences are clear and correct. Vocabulary is precise and appropriate. Tone is formal and academic.

Research Document (10% of course grade)

Rough draft due Wednesday, May 7; Final draft due Friday, May 16 by 2:30 p.m.

In a twist on the traditional research essay or research paper (there is a difference), the final component of the research project will be a public document:

  • A letter to the editor
  • A business letter
  • A memo
  • A speech
  • A blog post
  • A Facebook group
  • A presentation: could present to class
  • A newspaper or magazine article
  • An audio file
  • A brochure or pamphlet
  • A Web page

The benefit of creating a public document (as opposed to a purely academic argument) is that it makes your writing real and relevant—and, perhaps, creative. The genre you choose will reflect your unique personality or accommodate a unique perspective or topic (something most research essays don’t or can’t allow for). Crafting a public document also requires you to use many of the rhetorical skills you have practiced all semester: understanding the rhetorical situation and making decisions about when, why, and how to employ rhetorical devices.

Points of interest

  • All of these genres are argumentative, just in different ways. You must make an argument. Do not simply inform.
  • All of these types of documents are, generally, brief. The goal is to craft a solid argument, including supporting evidence, not to write a lengthy report.
  • All of these require support (evidence from sources) and documentation—but require different techniques and conventions to do so.


  • Determine the best genre for your topic and argument:
  • Determine the conventions required for each genre (Prof. Patch will provide guidelines for each during the weeks leading up to the assignment).
  • Write an argument in your selected genre.

Assignment conventions

The document must

  • Include a minimum of 3 sources. There is no length requirement.
  • Adhere to the documentation conventions of your selected genre.
    • According to…
    • Hyperlinks
  • Be submitted by uploading it to the Research Document Assignment page on Blackboard.

Research Document assignment’s relationship to course objectives and experiences

This assignment will help you develop a more sophisticated writing process, including invention, drafting, revising, and editing; an awareness of writing expectations and conventions of public discourse; experience synthesizing source material, and writing to public audiences.

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