21 Checklists for Identifying & Analyzing Genres

Are you looking at a particular composition and wondering what genre it is? Keep the following questions in mind:

✔  The Rhetorical Situation

  • Purpose. Is the author telling a story? Is the author reporting information? Is the author persuading? Is the writer telling a story, reporting, writing creatively, and persuading all at the same time? Don’t worry. Sometimes purposes for writing/composing–and the genres we use–overlap.
  • Audience. Who seems to be the author’s primary audience? Secondary audience? How do you know? Why do you think someone would read (view, listen to, examine, etc.) the text? How does the author capture and sustain audience attention?
  • Rhetorical appeals. How does the author use the rhetorical appeals–ethos, pathos, and logos–to reach the intended audience? How does the author convey credibility? What kinds of evidence does the author offer to support the point of the piece?
  • Modes & Media. What choices has the author made about mode? If multiple modes are used, how do they interact with each other? For example, if the piece includes both visuals and writing, is meaning conveyed by both the visuals and the writing, or does one mode convey more meaning than the other? What choices has the writer made about media? How do the writer’s choices about modes and media reflect his or her purposes and audiences?

✔  The Genre’s Conventions

  • Elements of the genre. What do you know about this genre already? What are some of the typical features of this genre? How is the content organized? How does the author use words, images, or other media to convey a purpose and reach an audience?
  • Style. What is the author’s tone? How would you describe the language of the piece? How much detail does the author use?
  • Design. What does the composition look (sound, feel, smell, etc.) like? How do words and visuals and other media work together in the genre, physically? How would you describe the format of the composition? Would the format change if the mode were changed? For example, if a newspaper editorial moves from a print medium to an online medium, what changes occur in the genre?
  • Sources. What sources does the author draw on for research? How do you know? How does the author incorporate and give credit to sources? Is there documentation? Hyperlinking?

Checklist for Analyzing Genres

✔  The Rhetorical Situation

  • Purpose. What seems to be the author’s purpose? How is that purpose made clear? How is that purpose achieved?
  • Audience. Who seems to be the targeted audience for the piece? How is that made clear? How are vocabulary, examples and details, organization, and other elements geared toward the targeted reader?
  • Rhetorical appeals. How does the author use rhetorical appeals to connect with the audience?
  • Modes & media. How does the author’s choice of mode and medium affect my level of engagement with the piece? For example, if the piece is a video, does the background music keep me interested or distract me?

✔  The Genre’s Conventions

  • Elements of the genre. How does the author use the elements of the genre to guide me through the piece? Is this effective?
  • Style. How do the word choices, sentence structures, use of literary devices (like metaphor), and other stylistic techniques used by the author get me engaged in the piece?
  • Design. How has the author used design elements, such as color, images, and font, to emphasize the purpose and main point?
  • Sources. What kinds of sources does the author refer to? How are these sources cited? How does the author make it clear when source material has been consulted?

Content taken from The Bedford Book of Genres: A Guide & Reader (Amy Braziller / Elizabeth Kleinfeld)


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Essentials for ENGL-121 Copyright © 2016 by David Buck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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