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The Rhetorical précis is a structured four to six-sentence paragraph designed to help you break down a reading to its essential components.
1. Name of author, (optional—a phrase describing the author), genre and title of work, date in parentheses, a descriptive verb such as “assert,” “argue,” “imply,” “suggest,” “claim,” etc., and a “that” clause containing the essay’s main assertion or thesis statement
2. An explanation of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis, usually in chronological order
3. A statement of the author’s apparent purpose, followed by an “in order” phrase
4. A description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience.
Francis L. French, professor of political science at Boston University, in her essay,
“The Cost of Public Prisons” (2001), argues in favor of making the prison system run by private corporations, claiming that they should no longer be run by the government. She supports this proposal by giving statistical evidence for her first supporting argument (that private corporations can run prisons more cheaply), and anecdotal evidence for her second supporting argument (that government-run prisons do not provide prisoners with useful skills). Her purpose is to inform readers about the current prison situation in order to convince them to support legislation in favor of privately-run prisons. She establishes a formal relationship with her audience, who she apparently expects to have some knowledge of the topic already, judging from her use of advanced vocabulary related to the topic.
The second paragraph is a personal/academic reflection—not a precis, but bridging the critical text(s) with literature and the everyday world. In the second paragraph write four to six sentences evaluating how the critical text connects with the assigned literature and how it aligns with your experience in life.