This the prompt
1. Carefully read the essay you are supposed to respond to. Read actively—take notes, highlight, argue with the
text, note what it reminds you of, or other essays that might support or refute it.
2. Your job is NOT to agree or disagree with the essay per see. Your job is to determine if the essay is “well
argued.” There are a number of things to look at that we will be covering in class. Use what you know now (& if
you’re ambitious, look in to some of these ideas before we get to them) to analyze the essay.
3. Use outside sources to support your arguments about the essay. Each essay should have a few outside sources
(1 for a 1-2 page paper, at least 2 for a 4 page paper, more for a longer one). An acceptable paper will use all its
outside sources in the text (not just list them in the Works Cited page). A very good paper will use each several
times. The original essay is also a source & should be in your works cited page.
4. Lengths I give for papers do not include the Works Cited.
5. Use your sources to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the argument you are analyzing, not the
arguments themselves. So…not “The original essay says X is wrong, but this essay says it’s right,” but “The original
essay had few facts supporting its case, but this essay, by so-and-so, uses dozens of facts in the first two pages to
build an argument that is very difficult to dispute.”
6. You may analyze the essays a number of ways. Here are a few of the most effective:
• Compare to other essays on the same topic by others. Sometimes you can find articles that
respond directly to yours, other times you will have to find pieces which are simply on the same
topic. Who is more logical? Who uses more or better evidence? Who is more fair? Who is more
• Look, in depth, at the appeals (rational/emotional/ethical) that the author uses to make their
arguments. Are they fair, honest, persuasive?
• Look at the logic used in the essay. Does the author use any logical fallacies? How do you know
it’s a fallacy?
• Look at the evidence the author uses. Does it come from reputable sources? Is it current? Does
it say what they say it says? Is it plentiful enough?
• Does the author anticipate opposition? When they bring up objections that they will argue
against, are they “real” objections (that an actual human would make?) or are they “straw
men”—designed to make their opponents look foolish, and not meaningfully critical or realistic?
• Does the author make any unfair arguments: attacks on his opponents personal lives, name
calling, slander, etc?