Definition Analysis Essay

Anna Mills, Instructor

English 1C

Your task is to write a complete analysis of the excerpt from Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature. Your essay should summarize his argument and discuss all the strategies he uses to convince us.  As this is an evaluative analysis, you should finish with an assessment of the effectiveness of these strategies.  To what extent does the excerpt convince you that the definition of nature he articulates no longer applies to our world today?

Elements of the essay:

  • Exigence: What is the situation that drives McKibben to write?  What is his purpose in relation to this situation?
  • Logos:  What exactly is McKibben claiming?  What are his reasons and warrants?  Your essay should summarize his definition argument and then go on to discuss any problems you see with his logic and common critiques others have made of his logic.
  • Kinds of Support: What kinds of support does McKibben use for his definition?  Rhetoric advises you to look for examples, definitions, and comparisons.   How convincing is the support he chooses to include?
  • Audience: What can you infer about the audience McKibben wants to reach?  How does this affect his strategies? 
  • Ethos: How does McKibben attempt to establish his credibility and gain our trust?  To what extent does he succeed?
  • Pathos: How does McKibben attempt to affect the reader’s emotions?  How effective are his strategies in this regard?


  • An introduction and focused thesis
  • Focused paragraphs that draw on ample references to the text for support. The topics listed above may be discussed in any order and not necessarily in separate paragraphs.  You choose the structure that most smoothly leads the reader through your ideas. You may find that a point related to audience is very similar to one you want to make about ethos: in that case, you should combine them into one paragraph.
  • A conclusion that discusses that assesses McKibben’s argument.
  • Your analysis should show an understanding of the criteria for successful argument as developed in the Rhetoric chapters we’ve read so far.
  • 1,500 words (approximately 6-8 pages)
  • MLA format, including a Works Cited page
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Last updated: 02/09/2010