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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples

Published on August 28, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay  that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience.

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Table of contents

Key concepts in rhetoric, analyzing the text, introducing your rhetorical analysis, the body: doing the analysis, concluding a rhetorical analysis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about rhetorical analysis.

Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and writing, is a subject that trains you to look at texts, arguments and speeches in terms of how they are designed to persuade the audience. This section introduces a few of the key concepts of this field.

Appeals: Logos, ethos, pathos

Appeals are how the author convinces their audience. Three central appeals are discussed in rhetoric, established by the philosopher Aristotle and sometimes called the rhetorical triangle: logos, ethos, and pathos.

Logos , or the logical appeal, refers to the use of reasoned argument to persuade. This is the dominant approach in academic writing , where arguments are built up using reasoning and evidence.

Ethos , or the ethical appeal, involves the author presenting themselves as an authority on their subject. For example, someone making a moral argument might highlight their own morally admirable behavior; someone speaking about a technical subject might present themselves as an expert by mentioning their qualifications.

Pathos , or the pathetic appeal, evokes the audience’s emotions. This might involve speaking in a passionate way, employing vivid imagery, or trying to provoke anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response in the audience.

These three appeals are all treated as integral parts of rhetoric, and a given author may combine all three of them to convince their audience.

Text and context

In rhetoric, a text is not necessarily a piece of writing (though it may be this). A text is whatever piece of communication you are analyzing. This could be, for example, a speech, an advertisement, or a satirical image.

In these cases, your analysis would focus on more than just language—you might look at visual or sonic elements of the text too.

The context is everything surrounding the text: Who is the author (or speaker, designer, etc.)? Who is their (intended or actual) audience? When and where was the text produced, and for what purpose?

Looking at the context can help to inform your rhetorical analysis. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has universal power, but the context of the civil rights movement is an important part of understanding why.

Claims, supports, and warrants

A piece of rhetoric is always making some sort of argument, whether it’s a very clearly defined and logical one (e.g. in a philosophy essay) or one that the reader has to infer (e.g. in a satirical article). These arguments are built up with claims, supports, and warrants.

A claim is the fact or idea the author wants to convince the reader of. An argument might center on a single claim, or be built up out of many. Claims are usually explicitly stated, but they may also just be implied in some kinds of text.

The author uses supports to back up each claim they make. These might range from hard evidence to emotional appeals—anything that is used to convince the reader to accept a claim.

The warrant is the logic or assumption that connects a support with a claim. Outside of quite formal argumentation, the warrant is often unstated—the author assumes their audience will understand the connection without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the implicit warrant in these cases.

For example, look at the following statement:

We can see a claim and a support here, but the warrant is implicit. Here, the warrant is the assumption that more likeable candidates would have inspired greater turnout. We might be more or less convinced by the argument depending on whether we think this is a fair assumption.

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Rhetorical analysis isn’t a matter of choosing concepts in advance and applying them to a text. Instead, it starts with looking at the text in detail and asking the appropriate questions about how it works:

  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • Do they focus closely on their key claims, or do they discuss various topics?
  • What tone do they take—angry or sympathetic? Personal or authoritative? Formal or informal?
  • Who seems to be the intended audience? Is this audience likely to be successfully reached and convinced?
  • What kinds of evidence are presented?

By asking these questions, you’ll discover the various rhetorical devices the text uses. Don’t feel that you have to cram in every rhetorical term you know—focus on those that are most important to the text.

The following sections show how to write the different parts of a rhetorical analysis.

Like all essays, a rhetorical analysis begins with an introduction . The introduction tells readers what text you’ll be discussing, provides relevant background information, and presents your thesis statement .

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how an introduction works.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of oratory in American history. Delivered in 1963 to thousands of civil rights activists outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech has come to symbolize the spirit of the civil rights movement and even to function as a major part of the American national myth. This rhetorical analysis argues that King’s assumption of the prophetic voice, amplified by the historic size of his audience, creates a powerful sense of ethos that has retained its inspirational power over the years.

The body of your rhetorical analysis is where you’ll tackle the text directly. It’s often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay.

Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.

Hover over the example to explore how a typical body paragraph is constructed.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

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how to write a rhetorical analysis on an article

The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis wraps up the essay by restating the main argument and showing how it has been developed by your analysis. It may also try to link the text, and your analysis of it, with broader concerns.

Explore the example below to get a sense of the conclusion.

It is clear from this analysis that the effectiveness of King’s rhetoric stems less from the pathetic appeal of his utopian “dream” than it does from the ethos he carefully constructs to give force to his statements. By framing contemporary upheavals as part of a prophecy whose fulfillment will result in the better future he imagines, King ensures not only the effectiveness of his words in the moment but their continuing resonance today. Even if we have not yet achieved King’s dream, we cannot deny the role his words played in setting us on the path toward it.

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The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

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How to write a rhetorical analysis

Rhetorical analysis illustration

What is a rhetorical analysis?

What are the key concepts of a rhetorical analysis, rhetorical situation, claims, supports, and warrants.

  • Step 1: Plan and prepare
  • Step 2: Write your introduction
  • Step 3: Write the body
  • Step 4: Write your conclusion

Frequently Asked Questions about rhetorical analysis

Related articles.

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion and aims to study writers’ or speakers' techniques to inform, persuade, or motivate their audience. Thus, a rhetorical analysis aims to explore the goals and motivations of an author, the techniques they’ve used to reach their audience, and how successful these techniques were.

This will generally involve analyzing a specific text and considering the following aspects to connect the rhetorical situation to the text:

  • Does the author successfully support the thesis or claims made in the text? Here, you’ll analyze whether the author holds to their argument consistently throughout the text or whether they wander off-topic at some point.
  • Does the author use evidence effectively considering the text’s intended audience? Here, you’ll consider the evidence used by the author to support their claims and whether the evidence resonates with the intended audience.
  • What rhetorical strategies the author uses to achieve their goals. Here, you’ll consider the word choices by the author and whether these word choices align with their agenda for the text.
  • The tone of the piece. Here, you’ll consider the tone used by the author in writing the piece by looking at specific words and aspects that set the tone.
  • Whether the author is objective or trying to convince the audience of a particular viewpoint. When it comes to objectivity, you’ll consider whether the author is objective or holds a particular viewpoint they want to convince the audience of. If they are, you’ll also consider whether their persuasion interferes with how the text is read and understood.
  • Does the author correctly identify the intended audience? It’s important to consider whether the author correctly writes the text for the intended audience and what assumptions the author makes about the audience.
  • Does the text make sense? Here, you’ll consider whether the author effectively reasons, based on the evidence, to arrive at the text’s conclusion.
  • Does the author try to appeal to the audience’s emotions? You’ll need to consider whether the author uses any words, ideas, or techniques to appeal to the audience’s emotions.
  • Can the author be believed? Finally, you’ll consider whether the audience will accept the arguments and ideas of the author and why.

Summing up, unlike summaries that focus on what an author said, a rhetorical analysis focuses on how it’s said, and it doesn’t rely on an analysis of whether the author was right or wrong but rather how they made their case to arrive at their conclusions.

Although rhetorical analysis is most used by academics as part of scholarly work, it can be used to analyze any text including speeches, novels, television shows or films, advertisements, or cartoons.

Now that we’ve seen what rhetorical analysis is, let’s consider some of its key concepts .

Any rhetorical analysis starts with the rhetorical situation which identifies the relationships between the different elements of the text. These elements include the audience, author or writer, the author’s purpose, the delivery method or medium, and the content:

  • Audience: The audience is simply the readers of a specific piece of text or content or printed material. For speeches or other mediums like film and video, the audience would be the listeners or viewers. Depending on the specific piece of text or the author’s perception, the audience might be real, imagined, or invoked. With a real audience, the author writes to the people actually reading or listening to the content while, for an imaginary audience, the author writes to an audience they imagine would read the content. Similarly, for an invoked audience, the author writes explicitly to a specific audience.
  • Author or writer: The author or writer, also commonly referred to as the rhetor in the context of rhetorical analysis, is the person or the group of persons who authored the text or content.
  • The author’s purpose: The author’s purpose is the author’s reason for communicating to the audience. In other words, the author’s purpose encompasses what the author expects or intends to achieve with the text or content.
  • Alphabetic text includes essays, editorials, articles, speeches, and other written pieces.
  • Imaging includes website and magazine advertisements, TV commercials, and the like.
  • Audio includes speeches, website advertisements, radio or tv commercials, or podcasts.
  • Context: The context of the text or content considers the time, place, and circumstances surrounding the delivery of the text to its audience. With respect to context, it might often also be helpful to analyze the text in a different context to determine its impact on a different audience and in different circumstances.

An author will use claims, supports, and warrants to build the case around their argument, irrespective of whether the argument is logical and clearly defined or needs to be inferred by the audience:

  • Claim: The claim is the main idea or opinion of an argument that the author must prove to the intended audience. In other words, the claim is the fact or facts the author wants to convince the audience of. Claims are usually explicitly stated but can, depending on the specific piece of content or text, be implied from the content. Although these claims could be anything and an argument may be based on a single or several claims, the key is that these claims should be debatable.
  • Support: The supports are used by the author to back up the claims they make in their argument. These supports can include anything from fact-based, objective evidence to subjective emotional appeals and personal experiences used by the author to convince the audience of a specific claim. Either way, the stronger and more reliable the supports, the more likely the audience will be to accept the claim.
  • Warrant: The warrants are the logic and assumptions that connect the supports to the claims. In other words, they’re the assumptions that make the initial claim possible. The warrant is often unstated, and the author assumes that the audience will be able to understand the connection between the claims and supports. In turn, this is based on the author’s assumption that they share a set of values and beliefs with the audience that will make them understand the connection mentioned above. Conversely, if the audience doesn’t share these beliefs and values with the author, the argument will not be that effective.

Appeals are used by authors to convince their audience and, as such, are an integral part of the rhetoric and are often referred to as the rhetorical triangle. As a result, an author may combine all three appeals to convince their audience:

  • Ethos: Ethos represents the authority or credibility of the author. To be successful, the author needs to convince the audience of their authority or credibility through the language and delivery techniques they use. This will, for example, be the case where an author writing on a technical subject positions themselves as an expert or authority by referring to their qualifications or experience.
  • Logos: Logos refers to the reasoned argument the author uses to persuade their audience. In other words, it refers to the reasons or evidence the author proffers in substantiation of their claims and can include facts, statistics, and other forms of evidence. For this reason, logos is also the dominant approach in academic writing where authors present and build up arguments using reasoning and evidence.
  • Pathos: Through pathos, also referred to as the pathetic appeal, the author attempts to evoke the audience’s emotions through the use of, for instance, passionate language, vivid imagery, anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response.

To write a rhetorical analysis, you need to follow the steps below:

With a rhetorical analysis, you don’t choose concepts in advance and apply them to a specific text or piece of content. Rather, you’ll have to analyze the text to identify the separate components and plan and prepare your analysis accordingly.

Here, it might be helpful to use the SOAPSTone technique to identify the components of the work. SOAPSTone is a common acronym in analysis and represents the:

  • Speaker . Here, you’ll identify the author or the narrator delivering the content to the audience.
  • Occasion . With the occasion, you’ll identify when and where the story takes place and what the surrounding context is.
  • Audience . Here, you’ll identify who the audience or intended audience is.
  • Purpose . With the purpose, you’ll need to identify the reason behind the text or what the author wants to achieve with their writing.
  • Subject . You’ll also need to identify the subject matter or topic of the text.
  • Tone . The tone identifies the author’s feelings towards the subject matter or topic.

Apart from gathering the information and analyzing the components mentioned above, you’ll also need to examine the appeals the author uses in writing the text and attempting to persuade the audience of their argument. Moreover, you’ll need to identify elements like word choice, word order, repetition, analogies, and imagery the writer uses to get a reaction from the audience.

Once you’ve gathered the information and examined the appeals and strategies used by the author as mentioned above, you’ll need to answer some questions relating to the information you’ve collected from the text. The answers to these questions will help you determine the reasons for the choices the author made and how well these choices support the overall argument.

Here, some of the questions you’ll ask include:

  • What was the author’s intention?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What is the author’s argument?
  • What strategies does the author use to build their argument and why do they use those strategies?
  • What appeals the author uses to convince and persuade the audience?
  • What effect the text has on the audience?

Keep in mind that these are just some of the questions you’ll ask, and depending on the specific text, there might be others.

Once you’ve done your preparation, you can start writing the rhetorical analysis. It will start off with an introduction which is a clear and concise paragraph that shows you understand the purpose of the text and gives more information about the author and the relevance of the text.

The introduction also summarizes the text and the main ideas you’ll discuss in your analysis. Most importantly, however, is your thesis statement . This statement should be one sentence at the end of the introduction that summarizes your argument and tempts your audience to read on and find out more about it.

After your introduction, you can proceed with the body of your analysis. Here, you’ll write at least three paragraphs that explain the strategies and techniques used by the author to convince and persuade the audience, the reasons why the writer used this approach, and why it’s either successful or unsuccessful.

You can structure the body of your analysis in several ways. For example, you can deal with every strategy the author uses in a new paragraph, but you can also structure the body around the specific appeals the author used or chronologically.

No matter how you structure the body and your paragraphs, it’s important to remember that you support each one of your arguments with facts, data, examples, or quotes and that, at the end of every paragraph, you tie the topic back to your original thesis.

Finally, you’ll write the conclusion of your rhetorical analysis. Here, you’ll repeat your thesis statement and summarize the points you’ve made in the body of your analysis. Ultimately, the goal of the conclusion is to pull the points of your analysis together so you should be careful to not raise any new issues in your conclusion.

After you’ve finished your conclusion, you’ll end your analysis with a powerful concluding statement of why your argument matters and an invitation to conduct more research if needed.

A rhetorical analysis aims to explore the goals and motivations of an author, the techniques they’ve used to reach their audience, and how successful these techniques were. Although rhetorical analysis is most used by academics as part of scholarly work, it can be used to analyze any text including speeches, novels, television shows or films, advertisements, or cartoons.

The steps to write a rhetorical analysis include:

Your rhetorical analysis introduction is a clear and concise paragraph that shows you understand the purpose of the text and gives more information about the author and the relevance of the text. The introduction also summarizes the text and the main ideas you’ll discuss in your analysis.

Ethos represents the authority or credibility of the author. To be successful, the author needs to convince the audience of their authority or credibility through the language and delivery techniques they use. This will, for example, be the case where an author writing on a technical subject positions themselves as an expert or authority by referring to their qualifications or experience.

Appeals are used by authors to convince their audience and, as such, are an integral part of the rhetoric and are often referred to as the rhetorical triangle. The 3 types of appeals are ethos, logos, and pathos.

how to write a rhetorical analysis on an article

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What Is a Rhetorical Analysis and How to Write a Great One

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Do you have to write a rhetorical analysis essay? Fear not! We’re here to explain exactly what rhetorical analysis means, how you should structure your essay, and give you some essential “dos and don’ts.”

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

How do you write a rhetorical analysis, what are the three rhetorical strategies, what are the five rhetorical situations, how to plan a rhetorical analysis essay, creating a rhetorical analysis essay, examples of great rhetorical analysis essays, final thoughts.

A rhetorical analysis essay studies how writers and speakers have used words to influence their audience. Think less about the words the author has used and more about the techniques they employ, their goals, and the effect this has on the audience.

Image showing definitions

In your analysis essay, you break a piece of text (including cartoons, adverts, and speeches) into sections and explain how each part works to persuade, inform, or entertain. You’ll explore the effectiveness of the techniques used, how the argument has been constructed, and give examples from the text.

A strong rhetorical analysis evaluates a text rather than just describes the techniques used. You don’t include whether you personally agree or disagree with the argument.

Structure a rhetorical analysis in the same way as most other types of academic essays . You’ll have an introduction to present your thesis, a main body where you analyze the text, which then leads to a conclusion.

Think about how the writer (also known as a rhetor) considers the situation that frames their communication:

  • Topic: the overall purpose of the rhetoric
  • Audience: this includes primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences
  • Purpose: there are often more than one to consider
  • Context and culture: the wider situation within which the rhetoric is placed

Back in the 4th century BC, Aristotle was talking about how language can be used as a means of persuasion. He described three principal forms —Ethos, Logos, and Pathos—often referred to as the Rhetorical Triangle . These persuasive techniques are still used today.

Image showing rhetorical strategies

Rhetorical Strategy 1: Ethos

Are you more likely to buy a car from an established company that’s been an important part of your community for 50 years, or someone new who just started their business?

Reputation matters. Ethos explores how the character, disposition, and fundamental values of the author create appeal, along with their expertise and knowledge in the subject area.

Aristotle breaks ethos down into three further categories:

  • Phronesis: skills and practical wisdom
  • Arete: virtue
  • Eunoia: goodwill towards the audience

Ethos-driven speeches and text rely on the reputation of the author. In your analysis, you can look at how the writer establishes ethos through both direct and indirect means.

Rhetorical Strategy 2: Pathos

Pathos-driven rhetoric hooks into our emotions. You’ll often see it used in advertisements, particularly by charities wanting you to donate money towards an appeal.

Common use of pathos includes:

  • Vivid description so the reader can imagine themselves in the situation
  • Personal stories to create feelings of empathy
  • Emotional vocabulary that evokes a response

By using pathos to make the audience feel a particular emotion, the author can persuade them that the argument they’re making is compelling.

Rhetorical Strategy 3: Logos

Logos uses logic or reason. It’s commonly used in academic writing when arguments are created using evidence and reasoning rather than an emotional response. It’s constructed in a step-by-step approach that builds methodically to create a powerful effect upon the reader.

Rhetoric can use any one of these three techniques, but effective arguments often appeal to all three elements.

The rhetorical situation explains the circumstances behind and around a piece of rhetoric. It helps you think about why a text exists, its purpose, and how it’s carried out.

Image showing 5 rhetorical situations

The rhetorical situations are:

  • 1) Purpose: Why is this being written? (It could be trying to inform, persuade, instruct, or entertain.)
  • 2) Audience: Which groups or individuals will read and take action (or have done so in the past)?
  • 3) Genre: What type of writing is this?
  • 4) Stance: What is the tone of the text? What position are they taking?
  • 5) Media/Visuals: What means of communication are used?

Understanding and analyzing the rhetorical situation is essential for building a strong essay. Also think about any rhetoric restraints on the text, such as beliefs, attitudes, and traditions that could affect the author's decisions.

Before leaping into your essay, it’s worth taking time to explore the text at a deeper level and considering the rhetorical situations we looked at before. Throw away your assumptions and use these simple questions to help you unpick how and why the text is having an effect on the audience.

Image showing what to consider when planning a rhetorical essay

1: What is the Rhetorical Situation?

  • Why is there a need or opportunity for persuasion?
  • How do words and references help you identify the time and location?
  • What are the rhetoric restraints?
  • What historical occasions would lead to this text being created?

2: Who is the Author?

  • How do they position themselves as an expert worth listening to?
  • What is their ethos?
  • Do they have a reputation that gives them authority?
  • What is their intention?
  • What values or customs do they have?

3: Who is it Written For?

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How is this appealing to this particular audience?
  • Who are the possible secondary and tertiary audiences?

4: What is the Central Idea?

  • Can you summarize the key point of this rhetoric?
  • What arguments are used?
  • How has it developed a line of reasoning?

5: How is it Structured?

  • What structure is used?
  • How is the content arranged within the structure?

6: What Form is Used?

  • Does this follow a specific literary genre?
  • What type of style and tone is used, and why is this?
  • Does the form used complement the content?
  • What effect could this form have on the audience?

7: Is the Rhetoric Effective?

  • Does the content fulfil the author’s intentions?
  • Does the message effectively fit the audience, location, and time period?

Once you’ve fully explored the text, you’ll have a better understanding of the impact it’s having on the audience and feel more confident about writing your essay outline.

A great essay starts with an interesting topic. Choose carefully so you’re personally invested in the subject and familiar with it rather than just following trending topics. There are lots of great ideas on this blog post by My Perfect Words if you need some inspiration. Take some time to do background research to ensure your topic offers good analysis opportunities.

Image showing considerations for a rhetorical analysis topic

Remember to check the information given to you by your professor so you follow their preferred style guidelines. This outline example gives you a general idea of a format to follow, but there will likely be specific requests about layout and content in your course handbook. It’s always worth asking your institution if you’re unsure.

Make notes for each section of your essay before you write. This makes it easy for you to write a well-structured text that flows naturally to a conclusion. You will develop each note into a paragraph. Look at this example by College Essay for useful ideas about the structure.

Image showing how to structure an essay

1: Introduction

This is a short, informative section that shows you understand the purpose of the text. It tempts the reader to find out more by mentioning what will come in the main body of your essay.

  • Name the author of the text and the title of their work followed by the date in parentheses
  • Use a verb to describe what the author does, e.g. “implies,” “asserts,” or “claims”
  • Briefly summarize the text in your own words
  • Mention the persuasive techniques used by the rhetor and its effect

Create a thesis statement to come at the end of your introduction.

After your introduction, move on to your critical analysis. This is the principal part of your essay.

  • Explain the methods used by the author to inform, entertain, and/or persuade the audience using Aristotle's rhetorical triangle
  • Use quotations to prove the statements you make
  • Explain why the writer used this approach and how successful it is
  • Consider how it makes the audience feel and react

Make each strategy a new paragraph rather than cramming them together, and always use proper citations. Check back to your course handbook if you’re unsure which citation style is preferred.

3: Conclusion

Your conclusion should summarize the points you’ve made in the main body of your essay. While you will draw the points together, this is not the place to introduce new information you’ve not previously mentioned.

Use your last sentence to share a powerful concluding statement that talks about the impact the text has on the audience(s) and wider society. How have its strategies helped to shape history?

Before You Submit

Poor spelling and grammatical errors ruin a great essay. Use ProWritingAid to check through your finished essay before you submit. It will pick up all the minor errors you’ve missed and help you give your essay a final polish. Look at this useful ProWritingAid webinar for further ideas to help you significantly improve your essays. Sign up for a free trial today and start editing your essays!

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You’ll find countless examples of rhetorical analysis online, but they range widely in quality. Your institution may have example essays they can share with you to show you exactly what they’re looking for.

The following links should give you a good starting point if you’re looking for ideas:

Pearson Canada has a range of good examples. Look at how embedded quotations are used to prove the points being made. The end questions help you unpick how successful each essay is.

Excelsior College has an excellent sample essay complete with useful comments highlighting the techniques used.

Brighton Online has a selection of interesting essays to look at. In this specific example, consider how wider reading has deepened the exploration of the text.

Image showing tips when reading a sample essay

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay can seem daunting, but spending significant time deeply analyzing the text before you write will make it far more achievable and result in a better-quality essay overall.

It can take some time to write a good essay. Aim to complete it well before the deadline so you don’t feel rushed. Use ProWritingAid’s comprehensive checks to find any errors and make changes to improve readability. Then you’ll be ready to submit your finished essay, knowing it’s as good as you can possibly make it.

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8.10: Rhetorical Analysis

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Learning Objectives

  • Describe rhetorical analysis
  • Analyze an argument using rhetorical analysis

Sometimes, the best way to learn how to write a good argument is to start by analyzing other arguments. When you do this, you get to see what works, what doesn’t, what strategies another author uses, what structures seem to work well and why, and more.

When we understand the decisions other writers make and why, it helps us make more informed decisions as writers. We can move from being the “accidental” writer, where we might do well but are not sure why, to being a “purposeful” writer, where we have an awareness of the impact our writing has on our audience at all levels.

The Importance of Rhetoric

Rhetoric is the art of effective and persuasive communication that is appropriate to a given situation. Although a thorough understanding of effective oral, written, and visual communication can take years of study, the foundation of such communication begins with rhetoric. With this foundation, even if you are just starting out, you can become a more powerful, more flexible writer. Rhetoric is key to being able to write effectively and persuasively in a variety of situations.

Every time you write or speak, you’re faced with a different rhetorical situation. Each rhetorical situation requires thoughtful consideration on your part if you want to be as effective and impactful as possible. Often, a successful essay or presentation is one that manages to persuade an audience to understand a question or issue in a particular way, or to respond to a question or issue by taking a particular action. Urging one’s reader to think or act in response to an important question or issue is one way of addressing the “so what?” element of analysis.

Many times, when students are given a writing assignment, they have an urge to skim the assignment instructions and then just start writing as soon as the ideas pop into their minds. But writing rhetorically and with intention requires that you thoroughly investigate your writing assignment (or rhetorical situation) before you begin to write the actual paper.

Thinking about concepts like purpose, audience, and voice will help you make good decisions as you begin your research and writing process.

Rhetorical Analysis

Take a look at the following definition of rhetorical analysis:

Rhetorical analysis shows how the words, phrases, images, gestures, performances, texts, films, etc. that people use to communicate work, how well they work, and how the artifacts, as discourse, inform and instruct, entertain and arouse, and convince and persuade the audience; as such, discourse includes the possibility of morally improving the reader, the viewer, and the listener. [1]

Basically, when you conduct a rhetorical analysis, you’re examining the way authors (or speakers) communicate their message. This means you can conduct a rhetorical analysis of any act of communication. Naturally, this makes rhetorical analysis one of the most common types of analysis you will perform at the college level.

Read the following short article by Richard Stallman about “open” educational resources (which, incidentally, you are using right now), and think about how Stallman makes his argument (not what he is arguing).

Online Education Is Using a Flawed Creative Commons License

By Richard Stallman

September 2012

Prominent universities are using a nonfree license for their digital educational works. That is bad already, but even worse, the license they are using has a serious inherent problem.

When a work is made for doing a practical job, the users must have control over the job, so they need to have control over the work. This applies to software, and to educational works too. For the users to have this control, they need certain freedoms (see gnu.org ), and we say the work is “free” (or “libre,” to emphasize we are not talking about price). For works that might be useful in commercial contexts, the requisite freedom includes commercial use, redistribution and modification.

Creative Commons publishes six principal licenses. Two are free/libre licenses: the Sharealike license CC-BY-SA is a free/libre license with copyleft , and the Attribution license (CC-BY) is a free/libre license without copyleft. The other four are nonfree, either because they don’t allow modification (ND, Noderivs) or because they don’t allow commercial use (NC, Noncommercial).

In my view, nonfree licenses that permit sharing are OK for works of art/entertainment, or that present some party’s viewpoint (such as this article itself). Those works aren’t meant for doing a practical job, so the argument about the users’ control does not apply. Thus, I do not object if they are published with the CC-BY-NC-ND license, which allows only noncommercial redistribution of exact copies.

Use of this license for a work does not mean that you can’t possibly publish that work commercially or with modifications. The license doesn’t give permission for that, but you could ask the copyright holder for permission, perhaps offering a quid pro quo, and you might get it. It isn’t automatic, but it isn’t impossible.

However, two of the nonfree CC licenses lead to the creation of works that can’t in practice be published commercially, because there is no feasible way to ask for permission. These are CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA, the two CC licenses that permit modification but not commercial use.

The problem arises because, with the internet, people can easily (and lawfully) pile one noncommercial modification on another. Over decades this will result in works with contributions from hundreds or even thousands of people.

What happens if you would like to use one of those works commercially? How could you get permission? You’d have to ask all the substantial copyright holders. Some of them might have contributed years before and be impossible to find. Some might have contributed decades before, and might well be dead, but their copyrights won’t have died with them. You’d have to find and ask their heirs, supposing it is possible to identify those. In general, it will be impossible to clear copyright on the works that these licenses invite people to make.

This is a form of the well-known “orphan works” problem, except exponentially worse; when combining works that had many contributors, the resulting work can be orphaned many times over before it is born.

To eliminate this problem would require a mechanism that involves asking someone for permission (otherwise the NC condition turns into a nullity), but doesn’t require asking all the contributors for permission. It is easy to imagine such mechanisms; the hard part is to convince the community that one such mechanisms is fair and reach a consensus to accept it.

I hope that can be done, but the CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA licenses, as they are today, should be avoided.

Unfortunately, one of them is used quite a lot. CC-BY-NC-SA, which allows noncommercial publication of modified versions under the same license, has become the fashion for online educational works. MIT’s “Open Courseware” got it stared, and many other schools followed MIT down the wrong path. Whereas in software “open source” means “probably free, but I don’t dare talk about it so you’ll have to check for yourself,” in many online education projects “open” means “nonfree for sure”.

Even if the problem with CC-BY-NC-SA and CC-BY-NC is fixed, they still won’t be the right way to release educational works meant for doing practical jobs. The users of these works, teachers and students, must have control over the works, and that requires making them free. I urge Creative Commons to state that works meant for practical jobs, including educational resources and reference works as well as software, should be released under free/libre licenses only.

Educators, and all those who wish to contribute to on-line educational works: please do not to let your work be made non-free. Offer your assistance and text to educational works that carry free/libre licenses, preferably copyleft licenses so that all versions of the work must respect teachers’ and students’ freedom. Then invite educational activities to use and redistribute these works on that freedom-respecting basis, if they will. Together we can make education a domain of freedom.

A copyleft license has the advantage that modified versions must be free also. That means either CC-BY-SA or the GNU Free Documentation License, or a dual license offering the two of them as options.

Copyright 2012 Richard Stallman Released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noderivs 3.0 license.

https://assessments.lumenlearning.co...sessments/5608

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

As a part of thinking rhetorically about an argument, your professor may ask you to write a formal or informal rhetorical analysis essay. Rhetorical analysis is about “digging in” and exploring the strategies and writing style of a particular piece. Rhetorical analysis can be tricky because, chances are, you haven’t done a lot of rhetorical analysis in the past.

To add to this trickiness, you can write a rhetorical analysis of any piece of information, not just an essay. You may be asked to write a rhetorical analysis of an ad, an image, or a commercial.

When you analyze a work rhetorically, you explore the following concepts in a piece:

  • Style or Tone
  • Ethos – an appeal to ethical considerations. Is the author credible and knowledgeable? Are the actions or understandings that they are calling for ethical?
  • Pathos – an appeal to emotions. Is the author trying to evoke strong feelings for or against something?
  • Logos – an appeal to rational, logical understanding. Is the author using facts and “hard” research to present a case? Is the argument coherent and cohesive?
  • Note that these three rhetorical modes are closely interrelated. Consider that a strong logical appeal will often convince us that a writer is ethical and diligent in his analysis, whereas an emotional appeal that seems manipulative or a weak substitute for a substantive argument may undermine a writer’s ethos, that is, his credibility.

In a rhetorical analysis, you will think about the decisions that author has made regarding the supporting appeals, the styple, tone, purpose, and audience, considering whether these decisions are effective or ineffective.

https://assessments.lumenlearning.co...essments/20273

Part of understanding the rhetorical context of a situation includes understanding an author’s intent. This video walks you through the process of thinking critically about why, how, and to whom the author is speaking.

When analyzing an author’s intent, you will consider their point of view, their purpose in writing, the audience, and their tone. Taking all of this into consideration is part of understanding the broader context in which a person is writing.

https://lumenlearning.h5p.com/content/1290922675810696988/embed

You can view the transcript for “Evaluating an Author’s Intent” here (opens in new window) .

Sample Rhetorical Analysis

Here you can see a sample rhetorical analysis with some notes to help you better understand your goals when writing a formal rhetorical analysis.

rhetoric : the art of effective and persuasive communication that is appropriate to a given situation

ethos : a rhetorical appeal to ethical considerations, whether regarding the author or the topic at hand

pathos : a rhetorical appeal to emotion

logos : a rhetorical appeal to logic, often utilizing facts and figures in a strong organizational structure

  • https://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetorical_criticism ↵

Contributors and Attributions

  • Rhetorical Analysis. Authored by : Andrew Davis. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Thinking Rhetorically. Provided by : Excelsior College Online Writing Lab. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/argument-and-critical-thinking/argument-analysis/argument-analysis-sample-rhetorical-analysis/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Evaluating an Author's Intent. Provided by : Excelsior Online Reading Lab. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/orc/what-to-do-after-reading/analyzing/evaluating-an-authors-intent/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Assignment Analysis. Provided by : Excelsior OWL. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/research/assignment-analysis/ . License : CC BY: Attribution

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Howe Center for Writing Excellence

Rhetorical analysis.

A rhetorical analysis considers all elements of the rhetorical situation--the audience, purpose, medium, and context--within which a communication was generated and delivered in order to make an argument about that communication. A strong rhetorical analysis will not only describe and analyze the text, but will also evaluate it; that evaluation represents your argument.

  • Description: What does this text look like? Where did you find the text? Who sponsored it? What are the rhetorical appeals? (i.e. calm music in the background of a commercial establishes pathos) When was it written?
  • Analysis: Why does the author incorporate these rhetorical appeals? (For example, why does the author incorporate calm music? What is the point of the pathos?) How would the reception of this text change if it were written today, as opposed to twenty years ago? What is left out of this text and why? Should there be more logos in the ad? Why?
  • Evaluation: Is the text effective? Is the text ethical? What might you change about this text to make it more persuasive?

Rhetoric Defined

  • Classically, "the art of persuasion".
  • “About using language purposefully, in order to get something done in the world" (“What is Rhetoric").
  • “Something that allows you to formulate ethical reading strategies [...] but also to invent your own responses to the world" (“What is Rhetoric").

Keywords and Concepts

Following are some basic terms and concepts (far from inclusive) that you should consider and use in a rhetorical analysis.

Rhetorical Situation

The rhetorical situation identifies the relationship among the elements of any communication--audience, author (rhetor), purpose, medium, context, and content.

Spectator, listeners, and/or readers of a performance, a speech, a reading, or printed material. Depending on the author’s/writer’s perception, an audience may be real (actually listening or reading), invoked (those to whom the writer explicitly writes) or imagined(those who the writer believes will read/hear her work) (Dept. of English)

Author/Rhetor/Speaker/Writer

The person or group of people who composed the text.

Purpose of the Author

The reason for communicating; the expected or intended outcome. 

The delivery method, which varies by type of text:

  • Alphabetic Text (for example, written speech, newspaper editorial, essay, passage out of a novel, poetry)
  • Images (for example, TV commercials, advertisements in magazines or on websites)
  • Sound (for example, radio or TV commercials, a website advertisement, speeches)
  • Multimodal texts (YouTube videos, performances, digital stories)

The time, place, public conversations surrounding the text during its original generation and delivery; the text may also be analyzed within a different context such as how an historical text would be received by its audience today.

The main idea, thesis, opinion, or belief of an argument that the author must prove. The claim should be debatable and answer the question, "What’s the point?"

The statements given to back up the claim. These can take the form of facts, data, personal experience, expert opinion, evidence from other texts or sources, emotional appeals, or other means. The more reliable and comprehensive the support, the more likely the audience is to accept the claim.

The connection, often unstated and assumed, between the claim and the supporting reason(s), or support. The warrant is the assumption that makes the claim seem plausible. More specifically, warrants are the beliefs, values, inferences and/or experiences that the writers/speakers assume they share with the audience. If the audience doesn’t share the writers'/speakers' assumptions within the text, the argument will not be effective.

Rhetorical Triangle

The elements of the rhetorical situation interact with and influence one another. In learning to write an analysis, it is thus helpful to think about the relationship among these elements within the rhetorical triangle. By doing this, writers will be able to better understand how the elements of each text come together (often overlap) to make an argument or persuade an audience.

The authority or credibility of the author. Can refer to any of the following: the actual character of the speaker/writer, the character of the writer as it is presented in a text, or as a series of ground rules/customs, which are negotiated between speaker, audience, and specific traditions or locations. The speaker must convince the audience of their credibility through the language they use and through the delivery, or embodied performance, of their speech.

Did you analyze ethos enough in your essay?

  • Have you looked at what experiences or claims to authority qualify this author to speak or write?
  • Have you considered the credibility and moral character of the writer/speaker?
  • Have you considered the design or appearance of the text you are analyzing? Does it look professional? What can you say about the author based on the appearance of the text alone?

Emotional appeals to the audience to evoke feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow. The speaker may also want the audience to feel anger, fear, courage, love, happiness, sadness, etc.

Have you analyzed pathos enough in your essay?

  • Have you considered how the author appeals to the emotions of the reader/viewer?◦How does the author establish a bond with his audience?
  • How might the author change his strategy if he was trying to establish a bond with a different audience?
  • Have you considered your own personal reaction to the background music of this advertisement?
  • What kinds of feelings do the colors that the author uses provoke?
  • What other images in the text provoke an emotional response? Why would the author include these images?

In classical rhetoric, logos is the means of persuasion by demonstration of the truth, real or apparent, the reasons or supporting information used to support a claim, the use of logic or reason to make an argument. Logos can include citing facts and statistics, historical events, and other forms of fact based evidence.

Do you analyze logos enough in your essay?

  • How does the author back up his argument in this text? Does he incorporate facts, statistics, or numbers?
  • Have you considered how logical the author’s argument is?
  • Are the claims this author is making realistic?
  • Does the author consider alternative arguments?

The right time to speak or write; advantageous, exact, or critical time; a window of time during which action is most effective. (Ex. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a dream speech was delivered at the right moment in history—in the heat of civil rights debates.)

Literally, stasis is “a stand" or a “resting place" in an argument where opponents agree on what the issue is but disagree on what to do about it. The skilled rhetor is able to move the argument away from stasis. (Ex. Rhetor A asserts that abortion is murder. Rhetor B asserts that abortion is not murder. This is the point of stasis. The argument cannot rest here indefinitely. One of these rhetors must get the argument beyond the issue of murder.)

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Rhetorical Analysis

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Almost every text makes an argument. Rhetorical analysis is the process of evaluating elements of a text and determining how those elements impact the success or failure of that argument. Often rhetorical analyses address written arguments, but visual, oral, or other kinds of “texts” can also be analyzed. 

Rhetorical Features—What to Analyze

Asking the right questions about how a text is constructed will help you determine the focus of your rhetorical analysis. A good rhetorical analysis does not try to address every element of a text; discuss just those aspects with the greatest [positive or negative] impact on the text’s effectiveness. 

The Rhetorical Situation

Remember that no text exists in a vacuum. The rhetorical situation of a text refers to the context in which it is written and read, the audience to whom it is directed, and the purpose of the writer. 

The Rhetorical Appeals

A writer makes many strategic decisions when attempting to persuade an audience. Considering the following rhetorical appeals will help you understand some of these strategies and their effect on an argument. Generally, writers should incorporate a variety of different rhetorical appeals rather than relying on only one kind. 

Ethos (appeal to the writer’s credibility)

  • What is the writer’s purpose (to argue, explain, teach, defend, call to action, etc.)?
  • Do you trust the writer? Why?
  • Is the writer an authority on the subject? What credentials does the writer have?
  • Does the writer address other viewpoints?
  • How does the writer’s word choice or tone affect how you view the writer?

Pathos (appeal to emotion or to an audience’s values or beliefs)

  • Who is the target audience for the argument?
  • How is the writer trying to make the audience feel (i.e., sad, happy, angry, guilty)?
  • Is the writer making any assumptions about the background, knowledge, values, etc. of the audience?

Logos (appeal to logic)

  • Is the writer’s evidence relevant to the purpose of the argument? Is the evidence current (if applicable)? Does the writer use a variety of sources to support the argument?
  • What kind of evidence is used (i.e., expert testimony, statistics, proven facts)?
  • Do the writer’s points build logically upon each other?
  • Where in the text is the main argument stated? How does that placement affect the success of the argument?
  • Does the writer’s thesis make that purpose clear?

Kairos (appeal to timeliness)

  • When was the argument originally presented?
  • Where was the argument originally presented?
  • What circumstances may have motivated the argument?
  • Does the particular time or situation in which this text is written make it more compelling or persuasive?
  • What would an audience at this particular time understand about this argument?

Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

No matter the kind of text you are analyzing, remember that the text’s subject matter is never the focus of a rhetorical analysis. The most common error writers make when writing rhetorical analyses is to address the topic or opinion expressed by an author instead of focusing on how that author constructs an argument.

You must read and study a text critically in order to distinguish its rhetorical elements and strategies from its content or message. By identifying and understanding how audiences are persuaded, you become more proficient at constructing your own arguments and in resisting faulty arguments made by others.

A thesis for a rhetorical analysis does not address the content of the writer’s argument. Instead, the thesis should be a statement about specific rhetorical strategies the writer uses and whether or not they make a convincing argument.

Incorrect: Smith’s editorial promotes the establishment of more green space in the Atlanta area through the planting of more trees along major roads.

This statement is summarizing the meaning and purpose of Smith’s writing rather than making an argument about how – and how effectively – Smith presents and defends his position.

Correct: Through the use of vivid description and testimony from affected citizens, Smith makes a powerful argument for establishing more green space in the Atlanta area.

Correct: Although Smith’s editorial includes vivid descriptions of the destruction of green space in the Atlanta area, his argument will not convince his readers because his claim is not backed up with factual evidence.

These statements are both focused on how Smith argues, and both make a claim about the effectiveness of his argument that can be defended throughout the paper with examples from Smith’s text.

Introduction

The introduction should name the author and the title of the work you are analyzing. Providing any relevant background information about the text and state your thesis (see above). Resist the urge to delve into the topic of the text and stay focused on the rhetorical strategies being used.

Summary of argument

Include a short summary of the argument you are analyzing so readers not familiar with the text can understand your claims and have context for the examples you provide.

The body of your essay discusses and evaluates the rhetorical strategies (elements of the rhetorical situation and rhetorical appeals – see above) that make the argument effective or not. Be certain to provide specific examples from the text for each strategy you discuss and focus on those strategies that are most important to the text you are analyzing. Your essay should follow a logical organization plan that your reader can easily follow.

Go beyond restating your thesis; comment on the effect or significance of the entire essay. Make a statement about how important rhetorical strategies are in determining the effectiveness of an argument or text.

Analyzing Visual Arguments

The same rhetorical elements and appeals used to analyze written texts also apply to visual arguments. Additionally, analyzing a visual text requires an understanding of how design elements work together to create certain persuasive effects (or not). Consider how elements such as image selection, color, use of space, graphics, layout, or typeface influence an audience’s reaction to the argument that the visual was designed to convey.

This material was developed by the KSU Writing Center and is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License . All materials created by the KSU Writing Center are free to use and can be adopted, remixed, and shared at will as long as the materials are attributed. Please keep this information on materials you adapt or adopt for attribution purposes. 

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  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 1 Unit Introduction

Introduction

  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Develop a rhetorical analysis through multiple drafts.
  • Identify and analyze rhetorical strategies in a rhetorical analysis.
  • Demonstrate flexible strategies for generating ideas, drafting, reviewing, collaborating, revising, rewriting, and editing.
  • Give and act on productive feedback for works in progress.

The ability to think critically about rhetoric is a skill you will use in many of your classes, in your work, and in your life to gain insight from the way a text is written and organized. You will often be asked to explain or to express an opinion about what someone else has communicated and how that person has done so, especially if you take an active interest in politics and government. Like Eliana Evans in the previous section, you will develop similar analyses of written works to help others understand how a writer or speaker may be trying to reach them.

Summary of Assignment: Rhetorical Analysis

The assignment is to write a rhetorical analysis of a piece of persuasive writing. It can be an editorial, a movie or book review, an essay, a chapter in a book, or a letter to the editor. For your rhetorical analysis, you will need to consider the rhetorical situation—subject, author, purpose, context, audience, and culture—and the strategies the author uses in creating the argument. Back up all your claims with evidence from the text. In preparing your analysis, consider these questions:

  • What is the subject? Be sure to distinguish what the piece is about.
  • Who is the writer, and what do you know about them? Be sure you know whether the writer is considered objective or has a particular agenda.
  • Who are the readers? What do you know or what can you find out about them as the particular audience to be addressed at this moment?
  • What is the purpose or aim of this work? What does the author hope to achieve?
  • What are the time/space/place considerations and influences of the writer? What can you know about the writer and the full context in which they are writing?
  • What specific techniques has the writer used to make their points? Are these techniques successful, unsuccessful, or questionable?

For this assignment, read the following opinion piece by Octavio Peterson, printed in his local newspaper. You may choose it as the text you will analyze, continuing the analysis on your own, or you may refer to it as a sample as you work on another text of your choosing. Your instructor may suggest presidential or other political speeches, which make good subjects for rhetorical analysis.

When you have read the piece by Peterson advocating for the need to continue teaching foreign languages in schools, reflect carefully on the impact the letter has had on you. You are not expected to agree or disagree with it. Instead, focus on the rhetoric—the way Peterson uses language to make his point and convince you of the validity of his argument.

Another Lens. Consider presenting your rhetorical analysis in a multimodal format. Use a blogging site or platform such as WordPress or Tumblr to explore the blogging genre, which includes video clips, images, hyperlinks, and other media to further your discussion. Because this genre is less formal than written text, your tone can be conversational. However, you still will be required to provide the same kind of analysis that you would in a traditional essay. The same materials will be at your disposal for making appeals to persuade your readers. Rhetorical analysis in a blog may be a new forum for the exchange of ideas that retains the basics of more formal communication. When you have completed your work, share it with a small group or the rest of the class. See Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image for more about creating a multimodal composition.

Quick Launch: Start with a Thesis Statement

After you have read this opinion piece, or another of your choice, several times and have a clear understanding of it as a piece of rhetoric, consider whether the writer has succeeded in being persuasive. You might find that in some ways they have and in others they have not. Then, with a clear understanding of your purpose—to analyze how the writer seeks to persuade—you can start framing a thesis statement : a declarative sentence that states the topic, the angle you are taking, and the aspects of the topic the rest of the paper will support.

Complete the following sentence frames as you prepare to start:

  • The subject of my rhetorical analysis is ________.
  • My goal is to ________, not necessarily to ________.
  • The writer’s main point is ________.
  • I believe the writer has succeeded (or not) because ________.
  • I believe the writer has succeeded in ________ (name the part or parts) but not in ________ (name the part or parts).
  • The writer’s strongest (or weakest) point is ________, which they present by ________.

Drafting: Text Evidence and Analysis of Effect

As you begin to draft your rhetorical analysis, remember that you are giving your opinion on the author’s use of language. For example, Peterson has made a decision about the teaching of foreign languages, something readers of the newspaper might have different views on. In other words, there is room for debate and persuasion.

The context of the situation in which Peterson finds himself may well be more complex than he discusses. In the same way, the context of the piece you choose to analyze may also be more complex. For example, perhaps Greendale is facing an economic crisis and must pare its budget for educational spending and public works. It’s also possible that elected officials have made budget cuts for education a part of their platform or that school buildings have been found obsolete for safety measures. On the other hand, maybe a foreign company will come to town only if more Spanish speakers can be found locally. These factors would play a part in a real situation, and rhetoric would reflect that. If applicable, consider such possibilities regarding the subject of your analysis. Here, however, these factors are unknown and thus do not enter into the analysis.

One effective way to begin a rhetorical analysis is by using an anecdote, as Eliana Evans has done. For a rhetorical analysis of the opinion piece, a writer might consider an anecdote about a person who was in a situation in which knowing another language was important or not important. If they begin with an anecdote, the next part of the introduction should contain the following information:

  • Author’s name and position, or other qualification to establish ethos
  • Title of work and genre
  • Author’s thesis statement or stance taken (“Peterson argues that . . .”)
  • Brief introductory explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis or stance
  • If relevant, a brief summary of context and culture

Once the context and situation for the analysis are clear, move directly to your thesis statement. In this case, your thesis statement will be your opinion of how successful the author has been in achieving the established goal through the use of rhetorical strategies. Read the sentences in Table 9.1 , and decide which would make the best thesis statement. Explain your reasoning in the right-hand column of this or a similar chart.

The introductory paragraph or paragraphs should serve to move the reader into the body of the analysis and signal what will follow.

Your next step is to start supporting your thesis statement—that is, how Octavio Peterson, or the writer of your choice, does or does not succeed in persuading readers. To accomplish this purpose, you need to look closely at the rhetorical strategies the writer uses.

First, list the rhetorical strategies you notice while reading the text, and note where they appear. Keep in mind that you do not need to include every strategy the text contains, only those essential ones that emphasize or support the central argument and those that may seem fallacious. You may add other strategies as well. The first example in Table 9.2 has been filled in.

When you have completed your list, consider how to structure your analysis. You will have to decide which of the writer’s statements are most effective. The strongest point would be a good place to begin; conversely, you could begin with the writer’s weakest point if that suits your purposes better. The most obvious organizational structure is one of the following:

  • Go through the composition paragraph by paragraph and analyze its rhetorical content, focusing on the strategies that support the writer’s thesis statement.
  • Address key rhetorical strategies individually, and show how the author has used them.

As you read the next few paragraphs, consult Table 9.3 for a visual plan of your rhetorical analysis. Your first body paragraph is the first of the analytical paragraphs. Here, too, you have options for organizing. You might begin by stating the writer’s strongest point. For example, you could emphasize that Peterson appeals to ethos by speaking personally to readers as fellow citizens and providing his credentials to establish credibility as someone trustworthy with their interests at heart.

Following this point, your next one can focus, for instance, on Peterson’s view that cutting foreign language instruction is a danger to the education of Greendale’s children. The points that follow support this argument, and you can track his rhetoric as he does so.

You may then use the second or third body paragraph, connected by a transition, to discuss Peterson’s appeal to logos. One possible transition might read, “To back up his assertion that omitting foreign languages is detrimental to education, Peterson provides examples and statistics.” Locate examples and quotes from the text as needed. You can discuss how, in citing these statistics, Peterson uses logos as a key rhetorical strategy.

In another paragraph, focus on other rhetorical elements, such as parallelism, repetition, and rhetorical questions. Moreover, be sure to indicate whether the writer acknowledges counterclaims and whether they are accepted or ultimately rejected.

The question of other factors at work in Greendale regarding finances, or similar factors in another setting, may be useful to mention here if they exist. As you continue, however, keep returning to your list of rhetorical strategies and explaining them. Even if some appear less important, they should be noted to show that you recognize how the writer is using language. You will likely have a minimum of four body paragraphs, but you may well have six or seven or even more, depending on the work you are analyzing.

In your final body paragraph, you might discuss the argument that Peterson, for example, has made by appealing to readers’ emotions. His calls for solidarity at the end of the letter provide a possible solution to his concern that the foreign language curriculum “might vanish like a puff of smoke.”

Use Table 9.3 to organize your rhetorical analysis. Be sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence and that you use transitions to flow smoothly from one idea to the next.

As you conclude your essay, your own logic in discussing the writer’s argument will make it clear whether you have found their claims convincing. Your opinion, as framed in your conclusion, may restate your thesis statement in different words, or you may choose to reveal your thesis at this point. The real function of the conclusion is to confirm your evaluation and show that you understand the use of the language and the effectiveness of the argument.

In your analysis, note that objections could be raised because Peterson, for example, speaks only for himself. You may speculate about whether the next edition of the newspaper will feature an opposing opinion piece from someone who disagrees. However, it is not necessary to provide answers to questions you raise here. Your conclusion should summarize briefly how the writer has made, or failed to make, a forceful argument that may require further debate.

For more guidance on writing a rhetorical analysis, visit the Illinois Writers Workshop website or watch this tutorial .

Peer Review: Guidelines toward Revision and the “Golden Rule”

Now that you have a working draft, your next step is to engage in peer review, an important part of the writing process. Often, others can identify things you have missed or can ask you to clarify statements that may be clear to you but not to others. For your peer review, follow these steps and make use of Table 9.4 .

  • Quickly skim through your peer’s rhetorical analysis draft once, and then ask yourself, What is the main point or argument of my peer’s work?
  • Highlight, underline, or otherwise make note of statements or instances in the paper where you think your peer has made their main point.
  • Look at the draft again, this time reading it closely.
  • Ask yourself the following questions, and comment on the peer review sheet as shown.

The Golden Rule

An important part of the peer review process is to keep in mind the familiar wisdom of the “Golden Rule”: treat others as you would have them treat you. This foundational approach to human relations extends to commenting on others’ work. Like your peers, you are in the same situation of needing opinion and guidance. Whatever you have written will seem satisfactory or better to you because you have written it and know what you mean to say.

However, your peers have the advantage of distance from the work you have written and can see it through their own eyes. Likewise, if you approach your peer’s work fairly and free of personal bias, you’re likely to be more constructive in finding parts of their writing that need revision. Most important, though, is to make suggestions tactfully and considerately, in the spirit of helping, not degrading someone’s work. You and your peers may be reluctant to share your work, but if everyone approaches the review process with these ideas in mind, everyone will benefit from the opportunity to provide and act on sincerely offered suggestions.

Revising: Staying Open to Feedback and Working with It

Once the peer review process is complete, your next step is to revise the first draft by incorporating suggestions and making changes on your own. Consider some of these potential issues when incorporating peers’ revisions and rethinking your own work.

  • Too much summarizing rather than analyzing
  • Too much informal language or an unintentional mix of casual and formal language
  • Too few, too many, or inappropriate transitions
  • Illogical or unclear sequence of information
  • Insufficient evidence to support main ideas effectively
  • Too many generalities rather than specific facts, maybe from trying to do too much in too little time

In any case, revising a draft is a necessary step to produce a final work. Rarely will even a professional writer arrive at the best point in a single draft. In other words, it’s seldom a problem if your first draft needs refocusing. However, it may become a problem if you don’t address it. The best way to shape a wandering piece of writing is to return to it, reread it, slow it down, take it apart, and build it back up again. Approach first-draft writing for what it is: a warm-up or rehearsal for a final performance.

Suggestions for Revising

When revising, be sure your thesis statement is clear and fulfills your purpose. Verify that you have abundant supporting evidence and that details are consistently on topic and relevant to your position. Just before arriving at the conclusion, be sure you have prepared a logical ending. The concluding statement should be strong and should not present any new points. Rather, it should grow out of what has already been said and return, in some degree, to the thesis statement. In the example of Octavio Peterson, his purpose was to persuade readers that teaching foreign languages in schools in Greendale should continue; therefore, the conclusion can confirm that Peterson achieved, did not achieve, or partially achieved his aim.

When revising, make sure the larger elements of the piece are as you want them to be before you revise individual sentences and make smaller changes. If you make small changes first, they might not fit well with the big picture later on.

One approach to big-picture revising is to check the organization as you move from paragraph to paragraph. You can list each paragraph and check that its content relates to the purpose and thesis statement. Each paragraph should have one main point and be self-contained in showing how the rhetorical devices used in the text strengthen (or fail to strengthen) the argument and the writer’s ability to persuade. Be sure your paragraphs flow logically from one to the other without distracting gaps or inconsistencies.

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Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, rhetorical analysis.

  • © 2023 by Joseph M. Moxley - University of South Florida , Julie Staggers - Washington State University

How can I use rhetorical analysis of texts, people, events, and situations as an interpretive method? Learn how rhetorical analysis can help you understand why people say and do what they do.

Rhetorical Analysis refers to

  • the practice of analyzing a rhetorical situation
  • a mode of reasoning that informs composing and interpretation.
  • a heuristic, an invention practice , that helps writers use to kickstart invention
  • a method of analysis used to understand and critique texts .

Rhetorical Analysis is a vital workplace, academic, and personal competency–a way of producing rhetorical knowledge

In January of 2020, the COVID-19 virus swept across the world, killing people , disrupting financial markets, and transforming the lives of billions of people. It was, by all accounts an unusual rhetorical situation, a pandemic that hadn’t occurred in over 100 years.

At the onset of the pandemic, people across the globe and the news organizations that covered them had disparate interpretations of this rhetorical situation. Fox News called it a hoax, fake news, and suggested it was no worse than the flu. President Trump speculated whether a bit of bleach might be able to cleanse the human body from the virus. Rodney Howard-Browne , a pastor in Tampa, Florida, refused to shelter in place and continued to hold services and encouraged his congregation to hold hands, explaining “This Bible school is open because we’re raising young revivalists, not pansies.” Thousands of stay-at-home protesters stormed the Michigan capitol in the U.S., brandishing guns and demanding the right to return to work.

How could so many people have such different interpretations about a situation–the emergence of COVID-19 from Wuhan, China?

The best way to understand human decision making is to analyze behavior from a rhetorical perspective. Being able to think rhetorically about situations is a required workforce competency. It is foundational to successful communication.

Below are a number of questions that are designed to engage you in rhetorical analysis. To understand how to respond to these questions, please see The Rhetorical Situation.

Instructions

Below are some brainstorming prompts to guide your efforts to rhetorically analyze a topic

Context: Occasion, Exigency, Context

  • What issue problem or need compels you to write or act at this particular time and place? 
  • Why is this issue important right now? 
  • What is at stake – and for whom?

Your notes here: 

  • From the perspective of the organization, what are the purposes of this document?  
  • From your perspective as the author , what are the purposes of this document?  
  • What is the reader’s goal in reading/using this document? 
  • What kind of information or content does the reader expect to find in this document? 
  • How will the reader use or interact with the document?

Examine your own motivation for writing and any biases, past experiences, and knowledge you bring to the writing situation. Also consider your role within the organization, as well as your position relative to your target audience.

  • How do you want to be perceived by the audience? 
  • Tone ? Diction ? Rhetorical Stance?
  • Do you need to adjust the message because of political or ethical factors? 

Consider your primary audience (the main, intended reader of the final document), secondary audiences (others who will read/review the document as it is being developed/after it has been produced), and hidden audiences (readers who are not the audience but might incidentally encounter the document and have an interest in it.) Consider primary and secondary audiences for items 1-5; focus on hidden audience in item 6.

  • Who is the primary audience?
  • Are you writing to an individual or a group? 
  • Do you know your audience personally? 
  • What is your organizational relationship to her/him/them? 
  • What assumptions can you make about this audience?
  • What type of audience is this and what are they looking for in the document?
  • Experts: enhancing their own knowledge or evaluating the validity of a project or proposal? 
  • Executives:  trying to make a decision or get up to speed? 
  • Technicians:  looking for technical detail and specifics? 
  • Non-specialists: limited expertise on the subject?
  • How much knowledge or technical expertise does the audience have on this subject?

How will readers’ levels of expertise influence your decisions about 

  • what language to use
  • how much detail to include
  • how much explanation of concepts/terms will be necessary
  • What biases or preconceptions will your audience bring to the document?
  • Is the audience enthusiastic, receptive, neutral, hostile? 
  • How will their biases/preconceptions influence readers’ reception of the document? 
  • Are they likely to be resistant to the situation in which the message is delivered or to the content of the message itself? 
  • Are they more likely to agree, disagree or be indifferent to the information in the document?
  • What cultural considerations do you need to address for this audience?
  • Will you have international readers? 
  • Readers for whom English is not a first language? 
  • Do you need to adjust the content to accommodate these readers? 
  • Language? 
  • Rhetorical strategies? 
  • Are there strong local customs or traditions that you must respect?
  • Who are the hidden audiences for this document?
  • Who else might read this document and why? 
  • What is their level of knowledge and expertise? 
  • What assumptions and preconceptions might they have?

Message and Medium

  • Given the audience and purpose, what is the most important information to communicate? What does the audience need to know?
  • Given the audience and purpose, what is the most important information to exclude? What does the audience already know, not want, or not need?

Your notes here:

  • Given audience and purpose, what tone and style are most appropriate?
  • What genre is most appropriate?  
  • What genre does the audience expect? 
  • For this genre, do you need to include or exclude specific types of information? 
  • Organize contents in particular ways? 
  • Incorporate specific design features?
  • What medium is most appropriate for this communication, and does this medium affect writing, design or distribution of the document?
  • Given the complete writing situation, what overall look is desired or most appropriate for this document?
  • How will this document be delivered to the audience?

Constraints and limitations

  • What practical or physical circumstances will affect the writing, design or distribution of this document?  
  • What environment are you writing in? 
  • What tools/technologies do you have available? 
  • How much time to do you have? 
  • What deadlines are important? 
  • What is your budget?
  • How will your own beliefs, attitudes, prejudices or habits affect writing or design?
  • How will readers’ attitudes, traditions, or circumstances influence their perception of the document? 
  • Where, how and in what circumstance will they interact with the document?
  • What environment will they be in? 
  • Will they need specific technologies to receive the document? 
  • Will they be focused on the document or distracted? 
  • Will they be limited by lack of time, space, or resources?
  • What company policies, laws, or ethical considerations affect the writing, design, or distribution of the text?
  • What relationships between individuals or groups might affect the writing, design, or distribution of the document? 
  • Does the organization’s structural hierarchy matter? How so? 
  • Are you in danger of stepping on anyone’s toes? 
  • Is there a chance that the communication might be intercepted by an unintended audience?
  • What cultural, political or other factors place constraints on this project? 

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2 Rhetorical Analysis

Elizabeth Browning

For many people, particularly those in the media, the term “rhetoric ” has a largely negative connotation.  A political commentator, for example, may say that a politician is using “empty rhetoric” or that what that politician says is “just a bunch of rhetoric.”  What the commentator means is that the politician’s words are lacking substance, that the purpose of those words is more about manipulation rather than meaningfulness.  However, this flawed definition, though quite common these days, does not offer the entire picture or full understanding of a concept that is more about clearly expressing substance and meaning rather than avoiding them.

This chapter will clarify what rhetorical analysis means and will help you identify the basic elements of rhetorical analysis through explanation and example .

1.       What is rhetorical analysis?

2.       What is rhetorical situation?

3.       What are the basic elements of rhetorical analysis?

3.1 The appeal to ethos.

3.2 The appeal the pathos.

3.3 The appeal to logos.

3.4 The appeal to kairos.

4.       Striking a balance? 

1. What is rhetorical analysis?

Simply defined, rhetoric is the art or method of communicating effectively to an audience, usually with the intention to persuade; thus, rhetorical analysis means analyzing how effectively a writer or speaker communicates her message or argument to the audience.

The ancient Greeks, namely Aristotle, developed rhetoric into an art form, which explains why much of the terminology that we use for rhetoric comes from Greek.  The three major parts of effective communication, also called the Rhetorical Triangle , are ethos , patho s, and logos , and they provide the foundation for a solid argument. As a reader and a listener, you must be able to recognize how writers and speakers depend upon these three rhetorical elements in their efforts to communicate. As a communicator yourself, you will benefit from the ability to see how others rely upon ethos, pathos, and logos so that you can apply what you learn from your observations to your own speaking and writing.

Rhetorical analysis can evaluate and analyze any type of communicator, whether that be a speaker, an artist, an advertiser, or a writer, but to simplify the language in this chapter, the term “writer” will represent the role of the communicator.

2. What is a rhetorical situation?

Essentially, understanding a rhetorical situation means understanding the context of that situation.  A rhetorical situation comprises a handful of key elements, which should be identified before attempting to analyze and evaluate the use of rhetorical appeals.  These elements consist of the communicator in the situation (such as the writer), the issue at hand (the topic or problem being addressed), the purpose for addressing the issue, the medium of delivery (e.g.–speech, written text, a commercial), and the audience being addressed.

Answering the following questions will help you identify a rhetorical situation :

  • Who is the communicator or writer?
  • What is the main argument that the writer is making?
  • To provoke, to attack, or to defend?
  • To push toward or dissuade from certain action?
  • To praise or to blame?
  • To teach, to delight, or to persuade?
  • What is the structure of the communication; how is it arranged?
  • What oral or literary genre is it?
  • What figures of speech (schemes and tropes) are used?
  • What kind of style and tone is used and for what purpose?
  • Does the form complement the content?
  • What effect could the form have, and does this aid or hinder the author’s intention?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What values does the audience hold that the author or speaker appeals to?
  • Who have been or might be secondary audiences?
  • If this is a work of fiction, what is the nature of the audience within the fiction?

Figure 2.1 A Balanced Argument

3. What are the basic elements of rhetorical analysis?

3.1 the appeal to ethos.

Literally translated, ethos means “character.”  In this case, it refers to the character of the writer or speaker, or more specifically, his credibility.  The writer needs to establish credibility so that the audience will trust him and, thus, be more willing to engage with the argument.  If a writer fails to establish a sufficient ethical appeal , then the audience will not take the writer’s argument seriously.

For example, if someone writes an article that is published in an academic journal, in a reputable newspaper or magazine, or on a credible website, those places of publication already imply a certain level of credibility.  If the article is about a scientific issue and the writer is a scientist or has certain academic or professional credentials that relate to the article’s subject, that also will lend credibility to the writer. Finally, if that writer shows that he is knowledgeable about the subject by providing clear explanations of points and by presenting information in an honest and straightforward way that also helps to establish a writer’s credibility.

When evaluating a writer’s ethical appeal , ask the following questions:

Does the writer come across as reliable?

  • Viewpoint is logically consistent throughout the text
  • Does not use hyperbolic (exaggerated) language
  • Has an even, objective tone (not malicious but also not sycophantic)
  • Does not come across as subversive or manipulative

Does the writer come across as authoritative and knowledgeable?

  • Explains concepts and ideas thoroughly
  • Addresses any counter-arguments and successfully rebuts them
  • Uses a sufficient number of relevant sources
  • Shows an understanding of sources used

What kind of credentials or experience does the writer have?

  • Look at byline or biographical info
  • Identify any personal or professional experience mentioned in the text
  • Where has this writer’s text been published?

Recognizing a Manipulative Appeal to Ethos:

In a perfect world, everyone would tell the truth, and we could depend upon the credibility of speakers and authors. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. You would expect that news reporters would be objective and tell news stories based upon the facts; however, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Brian Williams all lost their jobs for plagiarizing or fabricating part of their news stories. Janet Cooke’s Pulitzer Prize was revoked after it was discovered that she made up “Jimmy,” an eight-year old heroin addict ( Prince, 2010 ). Brian Williams was fired as anchor of the NBC Nightly News for exaggerating his role in the Iraq War.

Brian Williams

Others have become infamous for claiming academic degrees that they didn’t earn as in the case of Marilee Jones. At the time of discovery, she was Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After 28 years of employment, it was determined that she never graduated from college ( Lewin, 2007 ). However, on her website    (http://www.marileejones.com/blog/) she is still promoting herself as “a sought after speaker, consultant and author” and “one of the nation’s most experienced College Admissions Deans.”

Beyond lying about their own credentials, authors may employ a number of tricks or fallacies to lure you to their point of view. Some of the more common techniques are described in the next chapter . When you recognize these fallacies, you should question the credibility of the speaker and the legitimacy of the argument. If you use these when making your own arguments, be aware that they may undermine or even destroy your credibility.

Exercise 1: Analyzing Ethos

Choose an article from the links provided below.  Preview your chosen text, and then read through it, paying special attention to how the writer tries to establish an ethical appeal.  Once you have finished reading, use the bullet points above to guide you in analyzing how effective the writer’s appeal to ethos is.

“Why cancer is not a war, fight, or battle ” by Xeni Jordan (https://tinyurl.com/y7m7bnnm)

“Relax and Let Your Kids Indulge in TV” by Lisa Pryor (https://tinyurl.com/y88epytu)

“Why are we OK with disability drag in Hollywood?” by Danny Woodburn and Jay Ruderman (https://tinyurl.com/y964525k)

3.2 The appeal to pathos

Literally translated, pathos means “suffering.”  In this case, it refers to emotion, or more specifically, the writer’s appeal to the audience’s emotions.  When a writer establishes an effective pathetic appeal , she makes the audience care about what she is saying.  If the audience does not care about the message, then they will not engage with the argument being made.

For example, consider this: A writer is crafting a speech for a politician who is running for office, and in it, the writer raises a point about Social Security benefits.  In order to make this point more appealing to the audience so that they will feel more emotionally connected to what the politician says, the writer inserts a story about Mary, an 80-year-old widow who relies on her Social Security benefits to supplement her income.  While visiting Mary the other day, sitting at her kitchen table and eating a piece of her delicious homemade apple pie, the writer recounts how the politician held Mary’s delicate hand and promised that her benefits would be safe if he were elected.  Ideally, the writer wants the audience to feel sympathy or compassion for Mary because then they will feel more open to considering the politician’s views on Social Security (and maybe even other issues).

When evaluating a writer’s pathetic appeal , ask the following questions:

Does the writer try to engage or connect with the audience by making the subject matter relatable in some way?

  • Does the writer have an interesting writing style?
  • Does the writer use humor at any point?
  • Does the writer use narration , such as storytelling or anecdotes, to add interest or to help humanize a certain issue within the text?
  • Does the writer use descriptive or attention-grabbing details?
  • Are there hypothetical examples that help the audience to imagine themselves in certain scenarios?
  •  Does the writer use any other examples in the text that might emotionally appeal to the audience?
  • Are there any visual appeals to pathos, such as photographs or illustrations?

Recognizing a Manipulative Appeal to Pathos:

Up to a certain point, an appeal to pathos can be a legitimate part of an argument. For example, a writer or speaker may begin with an anecdote showing the effect of a law on an individual. This anecdote is a way to gain an audience’s attention for an argument in which evidence and reason are used to present a case as to why the law should or should not be repealed or amended. In such a context, engaging the emotions, values, or beliefs of the audience is a legitimate and effective tool that makes the argument stronger.

An appropriate appeal to pathos is different from trying to unfairly play upon the audience’s feelings and emotions through fallacious, misleading, or excessively emotional appeals. Such a manipulative use of pathos may alienate the audience or cause them to “tune out.” An example would be the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) commercials  (https://youtu.be/6eXfvRcllV8, transcript  here ) featuring the song “In the Arms of an Angel” and footage of abused animals. Even Sarah McLachlan, the singer and spokesperson featured in the commercials, admits that she changes the channel because they are too depressing (Brekke).

Even if an appeal to pathos is not manipulative, such an appeal should complement rather than replace reason and evidence-based argument. In addition to making use of pathos, the author must establish her credibility ( ethos ) and must supply reasons and evidence ( logos ) in support of her position. An author who essentially replaces logos and ethos with pathos alone does not present a strong argument.

Exercise 2: Analyzing Pathos

In the movie Braveheart , the Scottish military leader, William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, gives a speech to his troops just before they get ready to go into battle against the English army of King Edward I.

See clip here  (https://youtu.be/h2vW-rr9ibE, transcript here ). See clip with closed captioning here .

Step 1 : When you watch the movie clip, try to gauge the general emotional atmosphere.  Do the men seem calm or nervous? Confident or skeptical? Are they eager to go into battle, or are they ready to retreat?  Assessing the situation from the start will make it easier to answer more specific, probing rhetorical questions after watching it.

Step 2 : Consider these questions:

  • What issues does Wallace address?
  • Who is his audience?
  • How does the audience view the issues at hand?

Step 3 : Next, analyze Wallace’s use of pathos in his speech.

  • How does he try to connect with his audience emotionally?  Because this is a speech, and he’s appealing to the audience in person, consider his overall look as well as what he says.
  • How would you describe his manner or attitude?
  • Does he use any humor, and if so, to what effect?
  • How would you describe his tone?
  • Identify some examples of language that show an appeal to pathos: words, phrases, imagery, collective pronouns (we, us, our).
  • How do all of these factors help him establish a pathetic appeal?

Step 4 : Once you’ve identified the various ways that Wallace tries to establish his appeal to pathos, the final step is to evaluate the effectiveness of that appeal.

  • Do you think he has successfully established a pathetic appeal?  Why or why not?
  • What does he do well in establishing pathos?
  • What could he improve, or what could he do differently to make his pathetic appeal even stronger?

3.3 The appeal to logos

Literally translated, logos means “word.”  In this case, it refers to information, or more specifically, the writer’s appeal to logic and reason. A successful logical appeal provides clearly organized information as well as evidence to support the overall argument.  If one fails to establish a logical appeal, then the argument will lack both sense and substance.

For example, refer to the previous example of the politician’s speech writer to understand the importance of having a solid logical appeal.  What if the writer had only included the story about 80-year-old Mary without providing any statistics, data, or concrete plans for how the politician proposed to protect Social Security benefits? Without any factual evidence for the proposed plan, the audience would not have been as likely to accept his proposal, and rightly so.

When evaluating a writer’s logical appeal , ask the following questions:

Does the writer organize his information clearly?

  • Choose the link for examples of common transitions   (https://tinyurl.com/oftaj5g).
  • Ideas have a clear and purposeful order

Does the writer provide evidence to back his claims?

  • Specific examples
  • Relevant source material

Does the writer use sources and data to back his claims rather than base the argument purely on emotion or opinion?

  • Does the writer use concrete facts and figures, statistics, dates/times, specific names/titles, graphs/charts/tables?
  • Are the sources that the writer uses credible?
  • Where do the sources come from? (Who wrote/published them?)
  • When were the sources published?
  • Are the sources well-known, respected, and/or peer-reviewed (if applicable) publications?

Recognizing a Manipulative Appeal to Logos:

Pay particular attention to numbers, statistics, findings, and quotes used to support an argument. Be critical of the source and do your own investigation of the facts. Remember: What initially looks like a fact may not actually be one.  Maybe you’ve heard or read that half of all marriages in America will end in divorce. It is so often discussed that we assume it must be true. Careful research will show that the original marriage study was flawed, and divorce rates in America have steadily declined since 1985 (Peck, 1993). If there is no scientific evidence, why do we continue to believe it? Part of the reason might be that it supports the common worry of the dissolution of the American family.

Fallacies that misuse appeals to logos or attempt to manipulate the logic of an argument are discussed in the next chapter .

Exercise 3: Analyzing Logos

The debate about whether college athletes, namely male football and basketball players, should be paid salaries instead of awarded scholarships is one that regularly comes up when these players are in the throes of their respective athletic seasons, whether that’s football bowl games or March Madness.  While proponents on each side of this issue have solid reasons, you are going to look at an article that is against the idea of college athletes being paid.

Take note : Your aim in this rhetorical exercise is not to figure out where you stand on this issue; rather, your aim is to evaluate how effectively the writer establishes a logical appeal to support his position, whether you agree with him or not.

See the article here   (https://time.com/5558498/ncaa-march-madness-pay-athletes/).

Step 1 : Before reading the article, take a minute to preview the text, a critical reading skill explained in Chapter 1 .

Step 2 : Once you have a general idea of the article, read through it and pay attention to how the author organizes information and uses evidence, annotating or marking these instances when you see them.

Step 3 : After reviewing your annotations, evaluate the organization of the article as well as the amount and types of evidence that you have identified by answering the following questions:

  • Does the writer use transitions to link ideas?
  • Do ideas in the article have a clear sense of order, or do they appear scattered and unfocused?
  • Was there too little of it, was there just enough, or was there an overload of evidence?
  • Were the examples of evidence relevant to the writer’s argument?
  • Were the examples clearly explained?
  • Were sources cited or clearly referenced?
  • Were the sources credible?  How could you tell?

3.4 The Appeal to Kairos

Literally translated, Kairos means the “supreme moment.”  In this case, it refers to appropriate timing, meaning when the writer presents certain parts of her argument as well as the overall timing of the subject matter itself.  While not technically part of the Rhetorical Triangle, it is still an important principle for constructing an effective argument. If the writer fails to establish a strong Kairotic appeal , then the audience may become polarized, hostile, or may simply just lose interest.

If appropriate timing is not taken into consideration and a writer introduces a sensitive or important point too early or too late in a text, the impact of that point could be lost on the audience.  For example, if the writer’s audience is strongly opposed to her view, and she begins the argument with a forceful thesis of why she is right and the opposition is wrong, how do you think that audience might respond?

In this instance, the writer may have just lost the ability to make any further appeals to her audience in two ways: first, by polarizing them, and second, by possibly elevating what was at first merely strong opposition to what would now be hostile opposition.  A polarized or hostile audience will not be inclined to listen to the writer’s argument with an open mind or even to listen at all.  On the other hand, the writer could have established a stronger appeal to Kairos by building up to that forceful thesis, maybe by providing some neutral points such as background information or by addressing some of the opposition’s views, rather than leading with why she is right and the audience is wrong.

Additionally, if a writer covers a topic or puts forth an argument about a subject that is currently a non-issue or has no relevance for the audience, then the audience will fail to engage because whatever the writer’s message happens to be, it won’t matter to anyone.  For example, if a writer were to put forth the argument that women in the United States should have the right to vote, no one would care; that is a non-issue because women in the United States already have that right.

When evaluating a writer’s Kairotic appeal , ask the following questions:

  • Where does the writer establish her thesis of the argument in the text?  Is it near the beginning, the middle, or the end?  Is this placement of the thesis effective?  Why or why not?
  • Where in the text does the writer provide her strongest points of evidence? Does that location provide the most impact for those points?
  • Is the issue that the writer raises relevant at this time, or is it something no one really cares about anymore or needs to know about anymore?

Exercise 4: Analyzing Kairos

In this exercise, you will analyze a visual representation of the appeal to Kairos. On the 26 th of February 2015, a photo of a dress was posted to Twitter along with a question as to whether people thought it was one combination of colors versus another. Internet chaos ensued on social media because while some people saw the dress as black and blue, others saw it as white and gold. As the color debate surrounding the dress raged on, an ad agency in South Africa saw an opportunity to raise awareness about a far more serious subject: domestic abuse.

Step 1 : Read this article   (https://tinyurl.com/yctl8o5g)   from CNN about how and why the photo of the dress went viral so that you will be better informed for the next step in this exercise:

Step 2 : Watch the video   (https://youtu.be/SLv0ZRPssTI, transcript here )from CNN that explains how, in partnership with The Salvation Army, the South African marketing agency created an ad that went viral.

Step 3 : After watching the video, answer the following questions:

  • Once the photo of the dress went viral, approximately how long after did the Salvation Army’s ad appear? Look at the dates on both the article and the video to get an idea of a time frame.
  • How does the ad take advantage of the publicity surrounding the dress?
  • Would the ad’s overall effectiveness change if it had come out later than it did?
  • How late would have been too late to make an impact? Why?

4. Striking a Balance:

Figure 2.3 An Unbalanced Argument

alanced Argument graphic 2

The foundations of rhetoric are interconnected in such a way that a writer needs to establish all of the rhetorical appeals to put forth an effective argument.  If a writer lacks a pathetic appeal and only tries to establish a logical appeal, the audience will be unable to connect emotionally with the writer and, therefore, will care less about the overall argument.  Likewise, if a writer lacks a logical appeal and tries to rely solely on subjective or emotionally driven examples, then the audience will not take the writer seriously because an argument based purely on opinion and emotion cannot hold up without facts and evidence to support it.  If a writer lacks either the pathetic or logical appeal, not to mention the kairotic appeal, then the writer’s ethical appeal will suffer.  All of the appeals must be sufficiently established for a writer to communicate effectively with his audience.

For a visual example, watch  (https://tinyurl.com/yct5zryn, transcript here ) violinist Joshua Bell show how the rhetorical situation determines the effectiveness of all types of communication, even music.

Exercise 5: Rhetorical Analysis

Step 1 : Choose one of the articles linked below.

Step 2 : Preview your chosen text, and then read and annotate it.

Step 3 : Next, using the information and steps outlined in this chapter, identify the rhetorical situation in the text based off of the following components: the communicator, the issue at hand, the purpose, the medium of delivery, and the intended audience.

Step 4 : Then, identify and analyze how the writer tries to establish the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, logos, and Kairos throughout that text.

Step 5 : Finally, evaluate how effectively you think the writer establishes the rhetorical appeals, and defend your evaluation by noting specific examples that you’ve annotated.

BBC News , “ Taylor Swift Sexual Assault Case: Why is it significant ? ” (https://tinyurl.com/ybopmmdu)

NPR , “ Does Cash Aid Help the Poor–Or Encourage Laziness ? ”  (https://tinyurl.com/y8ho2fhw)

Key Takeaways

Understanding the Rhetorical Situation:

  • Identify who the communicator is.
  • Identify the issue at hand.
  • Identify the communicator’s purpose.
  • Identify the medium or method of communication.
  • Identify who the audience is.

Identifying the Rhetorical Appeals:

  • Ethos = the writer’s credibility
  • Pathos = the writer’s emotional appeal to the audience
  • Logos = the writer’s logical appeal to the audience
  • Kairos = appropriate and relevant timing of subject matter
  • In sum, effective communication is based on an understanding of the rhetorical situation and on a balance of the rhetorical appeals.

CC Licensed Content, Shared Previously

English Composition I , Lumen Learning, CC-BY 4.0.

English Composition II , Lumen Learning, CC-BY 4.0.

Image Credits

Figure 2.1 “A Balanced Argument,” Kalyca Schultz, Virginia Western Community College, CC-0.

Figure 2.2, “ Brian Williams at the 2011 Time 100 Gala ,” David Shankbone,  Wikimedia, CC-BY 3.0.

Figure 2.3 “An Unbalanced Argument,” Kalyca Schultz, Virginia Western Community College, CC-0.

Brekke, Kira. “ Sarah McLachlan: ‘I Change The Channel’ When My ASPCA Commercials Come On .” Huffington Post . 5 May 2014.

Lewin, Tamar. “ Dean at M.I.T. Resigns, Ending a 28-Year Lie .” New York Times . 27 April 2007, p. A1,

Peck, Dennis, L. “The Fifty Percent Divorce Rate: Deconstructing a Myth.” The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare . Vol. 20, no.3, 1993, pp. 135-144.

Prince, Richard. “ Janet Cooke’s Hoax Still Resonates After 30 Years .” The Root . October 2010.

Rhetorical Analysis Copyright © 2021 by Elizabeth Browning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

Last Updated: January 27, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,373,526 times.

A rhetorical analysis can be written about other texts, television shows, films, collections of artwork, or a variety of other communicative mediums that attempt to make a statement to an intended audience. In order to write a rhetorical analysis, you need to be able to determine how the creator of the original work attempts to make his or her argument. You can also include information about whether or not that argument is successful. To learn more about the right way to write a rhetorical analysis, continue reading.

Gathering Information

Step 1 Identify the SOAPSTone.

  • The speaker refers to the first and last name of the writer. If the writer has any credentials that lend to his or her authority on the matter at hand, you should also briefly consider those. Note that if the narrator is different from the writer, though, it could also refer to the narrator.
  • The occasion mostly refers to the type of text and the context under which the text was written. For instance, there is a big difference between an essay written for a scholarly conference and a letter written to an associate in the field.
  • The audience is who the text was written for. This is related to the occasion, since the occasion can include details about the audience. In the example above, the audience would be a conference of scholars versus an associate in the field.
  • The purpose refers to what the writer wants to accomplish in the text. It usually includes selling a product or point of view.
  • The subject is simply the topic the writer discusses in the text.

Step 2 Examine the appeals.

  • Ethos, or ethical appeals, rely on the writer's credibility and character in the garnering of approval. Mentions of a writer's character or qualifications usually qualify as ethos. For instance, if a family therapist with 20 years of practice writes an article on improving familial relations, mention of that experience would be using ethos. Despite their name, these appeals don't have anything to do with "ethics" as we usually think of them.
  • Logos, or logical appeals, use reason to make an argument. Most academic discourse should make heavy use of logos. A writer who supports an argument with evidence, data, and undeniable facts uses logos.
  • Pathos, or pathetic appeals, seek to evoke emotion in order to gain approval. These emotions can include anything from sympathy and anger to the desire for love. If an article about violent crime provides personal, human details about victims of violent crime, the writer is likely using pathos.

Step 3 Note style details.

  • Analogies and figurative language, including metaphors and similes, demonstrate an idea through comparison.
  • Repetition of a certain point or idea is used to make that point seem more memorable.
  • Imagery often affects pathos. The image of a starving child in a low income country can be a powerful way of evoking compassion or anger.
  • Diction refers to word choice. Emotionally-charged words have greater impact, and rhythmic word patterns can establish a theme more effectively.
  • Tone essentially means mood or attitude. A sarcastic essay is vastly different from a scientific one, but depending on the situation, either tone could be effective.
  • Addressing the opposition demonstrates that the writer is not afraid of the opposing viewpoint. It also allows the writer to strengthen his or her own argument by cutting down the opposing one. This is especially powerful when the author contrasts a strong viewpoint he or she holds with a weak viewpoint on the opposing side.

Step 4 Form an analysis.

  • Ask yourself how the rhetorical strategies of appeals and style help the author achieve his or her purpose. Determine if any of these strategies fail and hurt the author instead of helping.
  • Speculate on why the author may have chosen those rhetorical strategies for that audience and that occasion. Determine if the choice of strategies may have differed for a different audience or occasion.
  • Remember that in a rhetorical analysis, you do not need to agree with the argument being presented. Your task is to analyze how well the author uses the appeals to present her or his argument.

Writing the Introduction

Step 1 Identify your own purpose.

  • By letting the reader know that your paper is a rhetorical analysis, you let him or her know exactly what to expect. If you do not let the reader know this information beforehand, he or she may expect to read an evaluative argument instead.
  • Do not simply state, "This paper is a rhetorical analysis." Weave the information into the introduction as naturally as possible.
  • Note that this may not be necessary if you are writing a rhetorical analysis for an assignment that specifically calls for a rhetorical analysis.

Step 2 State the text being analyzed.

  • The introduction is a good place to give a quick summary of the document. Keep it quick, though. Save the majority of the details for your body paragraphs, since most of the details will be used in defending your analysis.

Step 3 Briefly mention the SOAPS.

  • You do not necessarily need to mention these details in this order. Include the details in a matter that makes sense and flows naturally within your introductory paragraph.

Step 4 Specify a thesis statement.

  • Try stating which rhetorical techniques the writer uses in order to move people toward his or her desired purpose. Analyze how well these techniques accomplish this goal.
  • Consider narrowing the focus of your essay. Choose one or two design aspects that are complex enough to spend an entire essay analyzing.
  • Think about making an original argument. If your analysis leads you to make a certain argument about the text, focus your thesis and essay around that argument and provide support for it throughout the body of your paper.
  • Try to focus on using words such as "effective" or "ineffective" when composing your thesis, rather than "good" or "bad." You want to avoid seeming like you are passing value judgments.

Writing the Body

Step 1 Organize your body paragraphs by rhetorical appeals.

  • The order of logos, ethos, and pathos is not necessarily set in stone. If you intend to focus on one more than the other two, you could briefly cover the two lesser appeals in the first two sections before elaborating on the third in greater detail toward the middle and end of the paper.
  • For logos, identify at least one major claim and evaluate the document's use of objective evidence.
  • For ethos, analyze how the writer or speaker uses his or her status as an "expert" to enhance credibility.
  • For pathos, analyze any details that alter the way that the viewer or reader may feel about the subject at hand. Also analyze any imagery used to appeal to aesthetic senses, and determine how effective these elements are.
  • Wrap things up by discussing the consequences and overall impact of these three appeals.

Step 2 Write your analysis in chronological order, instead.

  • Start from the beginning of the document and work your way through to the end. Present details about the document and your analysis of those details in the order the original document presents them in.
  • The writer of the original document likely organized the information carefully and purposefully. By addressing the document in this order, your analysis is more likely to make more coherent sense by the end of your paper.

Step 3 Provide plenty of evidence and support.

  • Evidence often include a great deal of direct quotation and paraphrasing.
  • Point to spots in which the author mentioned his or her credentials to explain ethos. Identify emotional images or words with strong emotional connotations as ways of supporting claims to pathos. Mention specific data and facts used in analysis involving logos.

Step 4 Maintain an objective tone.

  • Avoid use of the first-person words "I" and "we." Stick to the more objective third-person.

Writing the Conclusion

Step 1 Restate your thesis.

  • When restating your thesis, you should be able to quickly analyze how the original author's purpose comes together.
  • When restating your thesis, try to bring more sophistication or depth to it than you had in the beginning. What can the audience now understand about your thesis that they would not have without reading your analysis?

Step 2 Restate your main ideas.

  • Keep this information brief. You spent an entire essay supporting your thesis, so these restatements of your main ideas should only serve as summaries of your support.

Step 3 Specify if further research needs to be done.

  • Indicate what that research must entail and how it would help.
  • Also state why the subject matter is important enough to continue researching and how it has significance to the real world.

Writing Help

how to write a rhetorical analysis on an article

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Avoid the use of "In conclusion..." While many writers may be taught to end conclusion paragraphs with this phrase as they first learn to write essays, you should never include this phrase in an essay written at a higher academic level. This phrase and the information that usually follows it is empty information that only serves to clutter up your final paragraph. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Do not introduce any new information in your conclusion. Summarize the important details of the essay. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Do not argue in an analysis. Focus on the "how" they made their point, not if it's good or not. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write a rhetorical analysis on an article

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  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/establishing_arguments/rhetorical_strategies.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Writing-Speaking-Guides/Alphabetical-List-of-Guides/Academic-Writing/Analysis/Rhetorical-Analysis
  • ↑ https://courses.lumenlearning.com/englishcomp1/chapter/text-an-overview-of-the-rhetorical-modes/
  • ↑ https://schools.stlucie.k12.fl.us/lpa/files/2019/05/AP-Language-Rhetorical-Analysis-Setup-Resource.pdf
  • ↑ https://oer.pressbooks.pub/informedarguments/chapter/rhetorical-modes-of-writing/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/visual_rhetoric/analyzing_visual_documents/organizing_your_analysis.html
  • ↑ https://www.pfw.edu/offices/learning-support/documents/WriteARhetoricalAnalysis.pdf

About This Article

Megan Morgan, PhD

To write a rhetorical analysis, start by determining what the author of the work you're analyzing is trying to argue. Then, ask yourself if they succeeded in making their argument. Whether you think they did or didn't, include quotes and specific examples in your analysis to back up your opinion. When you're writing your analysis, use the third-person to appear objective as opposed to using "I" or "we." Also, make sure you include the author's name, profession, and purpose for writing the text at the beginning of your analysis to give reader's some context. To learn different ways to structure your rhetorical analysis from our English Ph.D. co-author, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Course info.

  • Jared David Berezin

Departments

  • Comparative Media Studies/Writing

As Taught In

  • History of Science and Technology
  • Academic Writing
  • Nonfiction Prose
  • Periodic Literature
  • Technical Writing

Learning Resource Types

Science writing and new media: communicating science to the public, rhetorical analysis of a news article.

Purpose: A close reader of the world looks beneath the surface of behavior and language, and explores instances of communication as rhetorical events rich with meaning. The purpose of this assignment is to analyze an online news article, and identify and discuss the writer’s rhetorical decisions and their impacts. Rather than state whether you believe the article is “good” or “bad”, or whether you liked it or not, apply a close-reading of the text. This assignment includes two main deliverables: 1) a written essay, and 2) a class discussion.

I. Written Essay (Individually Written)

Craft a coherent rhetorical analysis essay that includes the following two components:

  • Very brief summary of the article
  • Close reading of the work

For the summary portion (1), rather than describe everything in the article, very briefly share only the main points of the article. The summary should be no more than a brief paragraph. In your close reading (2)—the heart of this assignment—you should include and provide evidence for the following information:

  • Who is the author? (name, title, and credentials)
  • Where was the article published? (newspaper/magazine/website title)
  • What is the purpose and goal of the article?
  • Who is the intended audience of the article?
  • Ethos : appeals to the character/expertise of the writer and cited authorities
  • Logos : appeals based on logic, reasoning, and relevant evidence
  • Pathos : appeals to the beliefs, emotions, and values of the audience
  • Diction, figurative language, tone, organization, length
  • Does the writer use visual images in the article? If so, what is their impact?
  • What evidence (if any) does the author provide to support her/his claims?
  • Where does this evidence come from?
  • What research might the author have conducted before writing the article?
  • What information does the author not include in the article, and why?
  • Is the author biased in any way?
  • Is the article trustworthy?

II. Class Discussion (Co-Lead With a Partner)

You will lead a 10-15 minute discussion of the article with a classmate, which will require you to meet beforehand and plan your questions. After introducing the article, try and stimulate discussion among your classmates with purposeful, open-ended questions. As mentioned above, the written rhetorical analysis essay should be completed individually, and the discussion should be led jointly with your partner.

Audience: Your audience for both the essay and discussion includes your teacher and classmates: we are a community of diverse people interested in the rhetorical choices involved in science articles written for the public. Since we have not read the article as closely as you have, it is critical that you provide the reasoning for all of your analytical claims involving the article.

Be sure to support all of your analytical points with specific evidence from the article, which will help your audience comprehend and support your rhetorical analysis. Since your audience has learned about the elements of a rhetorical situation (e.g. audience, purpose, context, genre) and rhetorical appeals (e.g. ethos, logos, pathos), you do not need to define these concepts in your essay.

Format requirements: MS Word (.doc) or Adobe (.pdf) with the following:

  • 1"X1" margins
  • Size 12 Times New Roman font
  • Single-spaced text
  • 600-800 words
  • Include page numbers

Before you submit your essay, re-read your writing, preferably aloud, to detect ideas that need to be tightened and/or reorganized for clarity.

Due Date: Be sure to write down and remember your specific due date and assigned article. Upload your essay to the course website anytime before your class discussion.

MIT Open Learning

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Elements of Analysis

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This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This resource covers how to write a rhetorical analysis essay of primarily visual texts with a focus on demonstrating the author’s understanding of the rhetorical situation and design principles.

The Rhetorical Situation

Introduction

No matter what specific direction your essay takes, your points and observations will revolve around the rhetorical situation of the document you are analyzing. A rhetorical situation occurs when an author, an audience, and a context come together and a persuasive message is communicated through some medium. Therefore, your rhetorical analysis essay will consistently link its points to these elements as they pertain to the document under question. More general information about the rhetorical situation can be elsewhere on the OWL. The following sections deal with considerations unique to analyzing visual documents.

The audience is the group of people who may or may not be persuaded by the document. Analyzing the audience for a visual production may not be all too different from analyzing an audience for a solely textual work. However, unlike academic essays or short answers written on an examination, visual productions often have the potential to reach wider audiences. Additionally, unlike literature or poetry, visual documents are often more ingrained in our daily lives and encountered instead of sought.

A website might potentially have an audience of anyone with internet access; however, based on the site, there are audiences more likely to end up there than others. A pamphlet or flyer may also technically have an audience of anyone who finds it; however, their physical placements may provide clues for who the designer would most like to see them. This is often called a “target audience.” Identifying and proving the target audience may become a significant portion of your rhetorical analysis.

It’s best to think of audience analysis as seeking and speculating about the variables in people that would make them read the same images in different ways. These variables may include but are not limited to: region, race, age, ethnicity, gender, income, or religion. We are accustomed to thinking these variables affect how people read text, but they also affect how people interpret visuals.

Here are some tips and questions for thinking about the audience of visual documents (they are also tips you can use when composing your own).

  • Different audiences have different taste for certain visual styles. For example, the quick cuts and extreme angles of many programs on MTV are often associated with the tastes and tolerance of a younger audience.
  • People have drastically different reading speeds. In slide shows or videos with text, look for accommodations made for these differences.
  • Whether by using controversial or disturbing imagery, sometimes documents purposefully seek to alienate or offend certain audience groups while piquing the curiosity of others. Do you see evidence of this and why?
  • Does the document ask for or require any background familiarity with its subject matter or is it referencing a popular, visual style that certain audiences are more likely to recognize?

Visual productions have almost limitless purposes and goals. Although all parts of the rhetorical situation are linked, purpose and audience tend to be most carefully intertwined. The purpose is what someone is trying to persuade the audience to feel, think, or do. Therefore, a well produced document will take into account the expectations and personalities of its target audience. Below are four categories of purposes and example questions to get you thinking about the rhetorical use of visuals. Note : a document may cross over into multiple categories.

Informational : documents that seek to impart information or educate the audience

Examples: Brochures, Pamphlets, PowerPoint presentations

  • How does the layout of the information aid readability and understanding?
  • How do images clarify or enhance textual information? (Try imagining the same document without the visuals and ask how effective it would be).
  • What mood or feelings do the visuals add to the information? How does that mood aid the effectiveness of the information?

Inspirational : documents that primarily inspire emotion or feeling often without clearly predetermined goals or purposes

Examples: Photography, Paintings, Graffiti

  • What emotions are invoked by the document? How?
  • Can you use color symbolism to explain how the artist created a mood or feeling?
  • Has the image been framed or cropped in such a way to heighten a mood or feeling? Why?

Motivational : documents that spur direct action, attendance, or participation

Examples: Advertisements, Flyers, Proposals

  • How do images make the product look appealing or valuable?
  • How do images help create excitement or anticipation in the audience?
  • Is there text paired with the images that give the image added associations of value?

Functional : documents that aid in accomplishing tasks

Examples: Instruction Sets, Forms, Applications, Maps

  • How do pictures or illustrations clarify textual directions?
  • How does layout aim to make the form easy to use and eliminate mistakes?
  • Has size (of text or the document itself) been considered as a way to make the document user friendly and accessible?

As you may see, analyzing how a document’s purpose is rhetorically accomplished to persuade its audience can involve many factors. Search the owl for more information on some of the concepts mentioned in these questions.

  • Visual Rhetoric
  • Using Fonts with Purpose
  • Color Theory Slide Presentation
  • Designing an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

Context refers to the circumstances of the environment where a piece of communication takes place. Sometimes the author has a measure of control over this context, like within the confines of a presentation (where, of course, there will still be some factors beyond control). Other times,a document is specifically made for an audience to encounter on their own terms. Either way, context is an important part of the rhetorical situation and can easily make or break the effectiveness of a document’s message.

Below are some questions to get you thinking about the possibilities and pitfalls when analyzing the context of a visual document.

  • In a presentation setting with many people, has the document considered the size and layout of the room so that all participants have a chance of experiencing the document equally?
  • Does the document use any techniques to draw attention to itself in a potentially busy or competitive environment?
  • Linking is how websites get noticed and recognized. The sites that link to a web page or internet document can provide a context. Do the character of those links suggest anything about the document you are analyzing?
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Lindsay Ann Learning English Teacher Blog

70 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for Secondary ELA

rhetorical-analysis-essay

May 28, 2019 //  by  Lindsay Ann //   8 Comments

Sharing is caring!

Before we get to the rhetorical analysis essay prompts (a.k.a. tons of ready-to-analyze texts at your fingertips), let’s take a time-out to lay the groundwork for understanding a rhetorical analysis essay using ethos, pathos, and logos.

Rhetoric is Defined As…

Put simply, rhetoric refers to any technique an author uses to persuade an audience.

Or, the behind-the-scenes choices an author makes to give you all the feels. 

Chances are, if you consider a text or speech to be  really good , rhetorical techniques are working like a master puppeteer to pull at your heart strings, make an impact on your brain, and get you to let down your guard because you trust the author or speaker.

That’s why political figures have speech writers.

That’s why authors spend time fine-tuning their words and sentences.

Rhetoric is important.

In addition, rhetoric goes back to the ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle, the “father” of rhetoric.

rhetorical-analysis-essay-high-school

The Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Moving on, if rhetoric is the art of persuasion, then the rhetorical analysis essay analyzes how an author or speaker creates opportunity for persuasion in his/her text.

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay involves understanding of context and occasion for writing. It also involves understanding the subject matter of the speech and intended audience.

Beyond this, noticing how the author uses rhetorical appeals and rhetorical devices to impact the target audience can help you to write an in-depth rhetorical essay analysis.

The BEST Rhetoric Topics

rhetorical-analysis-essay

As a teacher, I’m always in search of engaging texts for students to analyze. In this post, I’m sharing the best speeches, advertisements, and essays  for rhetorical analysis. You’ll never run out of rhetorical analysis essay topics again!

So, you’ll definitely want to stop right now and pin this post. 

Your future English-teacher-self will thank you. 

47 Rhetoric Examples in Speeches

The following speeches work well individually, but I’ve also tried to add value by pairing texts together.

Whether you’re analyzing rhetorical appeals such as ethos, pathos, and logos or looking at rhetorical devices, these speeches will work for discussion or as the text for a rhetorical analysis essay.

rhetorical-analysis-essay

  • Gettysburg Monologue in Remember the Titans  – Pair with “ The Gettysburg Address ” by Abraham Lincoln
  • “ Full Power of Women ” by Priyanka Chopra – Pair with Emma Watson’s speech on the Power of Women
  • Speech from Finding Forrester – Pair with “ Integrity ” by Warren Buffet
  • Red’s Parole Hearing from Shawshank Redemption – Pair with the Freedom Speech from Braveheart
  • Ending Scene from The Breakfast Club – Pair with  “ The Danger of a Single Story ” by Chimamanda Ngozi Achichi
  • Authentic Swing Speech from The Legend of Bagger Vance – Pair with  “ How Winning is Done ” from  Rocky Balboa
  • Maximus’ Speech to Commodus from Gladiator – Pair with  The Revolutionary Speech  from  V for Vendetta
  • The Natural State of Mankind from Amistad – Pair with “ Our Diversity Makes Us Who We Are ” by Michelle Obama
  • Denzel Washington’s  Dillard University Commencement Speech – Pair with “ The Last Lecture ” by Randy Pausch
  • “ Like Pieces of Glass in my Head ” from The Green Mile – Pair with “ Eulogy for Beau Biden ” by Barack Obama
  • Oprah’s  2018 Golden Globes speech – Pair with  Seth Myers’ Golden Globes Monologue  and/or  Ellen says #MeToo
  • Independence Day speech – Pair with  Aragorn’s Helm’s Deep Speech  from LOTR: The Two Towers
  • Pair  “I am Human”  &  “Love Liberates” , both by Maya Angelou
  • Pink’s  VMA acceptance speech – Pair with “ If I Should Have a Daughter ” by Sarah Kay
  • Ellen’s  People’s Choice Humanitarian Award Acceptance Speech – Pair with “ Pep Talk ” by Kid President
  • Gandalf Speaks to Frodo in Moria  from  LOTR : Fellowship of the Ring – Pair with   Sam’s Speech   in LOTR: The Two Towers
  • Obama’s  Final Farewell Speech – Pair with Al Pacino’s  Any Given Sunday  speech – clean version
  • Harvard Graduation Speech by Donovan Livingston – Pair with Steve Jobs  2005 Stanford Commencement Speech
  • “ Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator ” by Tim Urban – Pair with “ Five Second Rule ” by Mel Robbins
  • Rachel Hollis “Inspire Women to be Their Best” (mild profanity)
  • My Philosophy for a Happy Life by Sam Berns
  • “ To this Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful ” by Shane Koyczan – Pair with Kid President’s “ Pep Talk to Teachers and Students “
  • “ The Power of Introverts ” by Susan Cain – Pair with “ Don’t Let Others Stop You From Living Your Own Truth “

Rhetoric in Advertising: 23 Examples

This next list holds a blend of print advertisements and commercials, perfect for introducing close reading and rhetorical analysis and for writing a rhetorical analysis essay.

Ads are short, but pack a punch. Honestly, my students love analyzing the rhetoric of advertisements a lot because they are accessible and visual.

Rhetoric Commercials & Print Advertisements

  • “ Web of Fries “
  • Duracell “ Teddy Bear ” Commercial
  • Apple 1984 Commercial Introducing the New Macintosh Computer
  • Nike “ Find Your Greatness ” Ads
  • Pepsi, Superbowl 53 Commercial: “ More than Okay ”
  • “ Get a Mac ” Commercial Compilation
  • “ Can You Hear Me Now ” Verizon Wireless
  • Apple iPhone X – “ Unlock ”
  • Kiwi “ First Steps ” Print Advertisement
  • Vauxhall’s  Backwards Cinderella
  • Lego Print Advertisement
  • Top 10 Powerful Ads of 2014

Rhetoric of the Image

  • Entourage NGO for the Homeless Print Advertisement Images
  • 33 Creative Print Ads
  • Protege Group
  • Greenpeace Print Advertisement Collection
  • “ Divorce Furniture “
  • L’Oréal Paris: “This Ad Is For Men, 1 ” L’Oréal Paris: “This Ad Is For Men, 2 ” L’Oréal Paris: “This Ad Is For Men, 3 ”
  • “ It’s Not Acceptable to Treat a Woman Like One”
  • “ 50 Creative and Effective Advertising Examples “
  • Juvenile Protective Association
  • Anti-Bullying Campaign
  • 25 Serious Ads

Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

No doubt, writing a rhetorical analysis essay is like taking apart a puzzle and putting it back together again. Teachers, help your students to understand how all of the pieces fit together in order to see the bigger picture of what the author is trying to accomplish.

First, take time to understand how a text “works” for a rhetorical analysis essay using ethos, pathos, and logos:

  • Read or listen to understand overall content. Look up unfamiliar words.
  • Mark the text for the author’s main points and sub-points.
  • descriptive
  • compare/contrast
  • cause/effect
  • argumentative
  • Take notes on SOAPS: subject, occasion, audience, purpose, speaker
  • Discuss the text(s) in Socratic Seminar .

Next, identify rhetorical appeals . 

  • Ethos: How an author demonstrates credibility and builds trust.
  • Pathos: How an author creates an emotional response.
  • Logos: How an author demonstrates expertise and knowledge.

Look for rhetorical devices & patterns in the text.

  • Rhetorical devices refer to an author’s use of diction and syntax.
  • Does the author repeat key words / phrases? What’s the impact?
  • Does the author return to the same idea or image? Why?

Finally, write a clear thesis statement & topic sentences for your rhetorical analysis essay.

  • Use your thesis statement to generate topic sentences.
  • In your body paragraphs, identify a technique, provide an example, and discuss the “right there” and “beneath the surface” meanings. How does the author’s choice impact the audience, further a message, establish a tone?
  • What’s the context for the repetition?
  • What connotations are important?
  • How is the anaphora used to move the reader to greater understanding (logos), emotional investment (pathos), and/or trust in the author’s ideas (ethos)?

Six Strategies for Teaching Rhetorical Analysis

I’ve created an awesome free guide to inspire English teachers who teach rhetoric and the rhetorical analysis essay in their classrooms. Even if you don’t teach AP lang, you can benefit from these strategies !

rhetorical-analysis-teaching-guide

Rhetorical Analysis Essay FAQ’s

How do you write a rhetorical analysis essay.

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay is like writing a literary analysis essay, except the focus is on one or more non-fiction texts and the analysis targets an author’s style or rhetorical “moves” (a.k.a. use of rhetorical appeals and/or devices). Rhetorical analysis essays usually prove a claim about the author’s message or purpose for writing. The paragraphs in a rhetorical analysis essay unpack “what” an author is doing to send this message and “how” these choices impact the audience.

What does it mean to write a rhetorical analysis?

Writing a rhetorical analysis means that you are aware, as an audience member, reader, listener, human being, of the messages you consume. As a critical consumer of others’ ideas, you ask hard questions about how these messages are shaped, why they’re being delivered in certain ways, and why this is important for you and for society.

What are the three rhetorical strategies?

The three most commonly known rhetorical strategies are known as rhetorical appeals. Ethos (ethics) refers to credibility and trustworthiness. Pathos (passion) refers to engaging an audience’s emotions. Logos (logic) refers to engaging an audience’s brain through logical organization and use of evidence and arguments.

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About Lindsay Ann

Lindsay has been teaching high school English in the burbs of Chicago for 18 years. She is passionate about helping English teachers find balance in their lives and teaching practice through practical feedback strategies and student-led learning strategies. She also geeks out about literary analysis, inquiry-based learning, and classroom technology integration. When Lindsay is not teaching, she enjoys playing with her two kids, running, and getting lost in a good book.

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Reader Interactions

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January 9, 2023 at 9:38 am

Hi Lindsay Ann, thanks so much for these great resources. Just wanted to gently point out a couple errors that you might want to fix:

#12: should be Seth Myers’ (not Seth Myer’s) #13: should be independence (not independance)

Teachers have to help each other out 🙂

Best, Nikkee

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January 9, 2023 at 5:44 pm

Thank you so much for letting me know, Nikkee!

[…] a lot of options and extensions for analyzing rhetoric in social media. Who knows, maybe your next rhetorical analysis essay assignment will be focused on rhetoric in social […]

[…] 70 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for Secondary ELA […]

[…] find that teaching rhetorical analysis and close reading skills go hand-in-hand with teaching voice in […]

[…] helps students to remember that everything comes back to the author’s purpose or message in rhetorical analysis. Author’s purpose is central to unpacking an author’s choices, including use of […]

[…] you assigning a rhetorical analysis essay? Why not try having students use rhetorical analysis sentence […]

[…] I introduced students to rhetoric. First, we journaled on this topic: Think of a time someone talked you into doing something or believing something. How did they do it? What tactics did they use? Students may share out journals. I gave students a graphic organizer with a PAPA analysis (purpose, audience, persona, argument) and picked a speech. Frankly, the speech I picked, which was Samwise Gamgee’s speech to Frodo Baggins in The Two Towers, failed spectacularly since students had no frame of reference. Note: that movie is old now. I know. It makes me sad, too. So go cautiously if you use this, but maybe pick something else. You can find a massive list here. […]

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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

Author Image

by  Antony W

September 13, 2022

guide on how to write a rhetorical analysis

If you’re looking for a guide on how to write a rhetorical analysis the right way, this article is for you.

Journalists and reporters love to throw the word 'rhetoric' around, as in 'political rhetoric' and 'empty rhetoric. The word serves their purpose quite well because its dictionary meaning is 'the art of effective persuasive writing or speaking.'

In this case, rhetorical analysis is the study of how effectively a writer or speaker communicates and how they use various techniques and tools to accomplish it.

As a student in the arts, literature, history, and other similar disciplines, you will be called to write a rhetorical analysis essay on works, mostly nonfiction publications.

This article will take you on a step-by-step journey through the exciting world of rhetorical analysis, what form your assignment should take, and how you can ensure that your own writing passes the threshold of great rhetoric.

What Is a Rhetorical Analysis

Given that rhetoric is the study of how writers use words to influence an audience, a rhetorical analysis is a detailed breakdown of how a writer achieves his goal in a written work.

Specifically, it is an essay that breaks down such a work into parts and shows each plays a part individually and in the whole to bring about the intended effect.

Even though we refer to nonfiction works, any type of communication can be subjected to this form of analysis.

A politician's speech might be weighed based on how effectively he manages to rouse his audience. A video or piece of art might be analyzed based on how the creator managed to express their intended message.

For the sake of simplicity, let us retain the word ‘writer’ to refer to the person whose work is under rhetorical scrutiny. You can remain the student, and we will limit ourselves to purely nonfiction written work.

Most rhetorical analysis essays are a few pages long of mostly unstructured work, following the flow of ideas as you (the one analyzing) sees fit.

Just as you are analyzing how another writer is effectively communicating, you are also striving to pass on your own ideas successfully.

What a rhetorical analysis is not: it is not a summary of a published work.

You are not seeking to reword the work, not summarize the message for readers. You will not put so much emphasis on what the work has to say as in how it says it.

It is not an easy task to break down a full-length book, journal, article, or other publication into its various literary devices without first having a working strategy. 

 If you would prefer to have expert writers and acclaimed academicians help you complete your rhetorical analysis assignment, get in touch with the team at Help for Assessments.

Parts of a Rhetorical Analysis

parts of rhetorical analysis

Credit: Open English SLCC

Like most other essays, a rhetorical analysis essay is made up of three parts: an introduction , body, and conclusion.

However, these will not be of much help if you have no previous experience. The logical parts of such an essay are much more useful.

1. Thesis/Claim

A rhetorical analysis essay rests on a few major arguments you make based on what your opinion regarding the work is.

Each of these arguments is part of your thesis statement and should come from your strongest claims about the work.

Your thesis statement argues the most important rhetorical features in the work. You can write one or several statements, each one expressing a major point.

Remember to make the thesis statement debatable, specific, and be ready to back it up later in the text with a lot of evidence.

You will essentially be explaining and expounding your thesis statements later in the text.

One approach is to give your whole argument upfront in the thesis statements and then explain them later in the text. This is your claim you will be talking about, not what the author claims in the text.

We can take the example of Horace Miner's article titled Body Rituals Among the Nacirema. To start with, you might summarize your argument thus:

"The article uses sociological imagination to distance the reader with what he considers an inferior culture to effectively deliver the message before he realizes that he is the subject. It also uses a didactic tone to give credibility and emphasis on his message, while infusing an objectivity that would otherwise not be present given the sensitive nature of the topic ... "

The author(s) of the text are in control of what the flow of the text is, what the reader sees, and the overall outcome of the work.

Thus, you should think about discussing the author’s motivation for writing the word, what their goal is, and what their qualifications are.

Talking about the writer establishes what is referred to as the rhetorical situation.

Answer the following questions to help you figure out what you need to mention.

  • Who is the writer?
  • What issue are they addressing?
  • What is their purpose for creating the work? Is it to raise awareness? To critique? Defend? Is it to persuade or dissuade?
  • How does the writer go about achieving this purpose? Is it satirical? Humorous?
  • What figures of speech does he use?
  • What effect does the chosen form have on the entire work?

For example, in the work Body Rituals Among the Nacirema, you might say about the author:

“Horace Miner uses cryptic language to conceal the fact that the culture he is actually talking about is the American one. He makes the reader assume moral superiority in judging what he considers an inferior culture, only to reveal in the end that the subject under scrutiny is himself. In the work, he seeks to address America’s obsession with cosmetic beauty at any cost, even their own health. He does this subtly by using … “

3. Audience

If writing is a performance, the reader is the audience you have to think about to make your communication effective.

The author had to think about who was going to read his work, who it was meant to influence, and what pressure points he would manipulate to deliver the message. 

You can talk about how the writer's strategies influence the audience and help to bring the message home. How do his techniques appeal to the reader?

As it is, look through the writer's lens and share their angle of view to effectively dissect, describe, and critique their approach.

4. Summary of The Text

In as much as the main goal is to describe and analyze how the work puts its message across, the message itself is important for the reader to understand what you are talking about.

The essay is not meant to be abstract but rather practical and with a hands-on approach.

The summary also gives the context of the work. Use your own words to tell what you believe to be the main message of the work, taking care to remain as brief as possible.

Break the message into parts and tell what each part is conveying.

In this section, you should also use descriptive words like metaphor, analogy, common ground, metonymy, euphemism, foreshadowing, among other literary devices.

You will likely have learned these already in class, and this is a chance to prove to your instructor that you were listening.

Taking Miner’s example again, you might have a few statements such as:

The author uses common ground to place himself and the author or a superior level, thus creating engagement to help the reader identify with his message, before finally revealing that he was, in fact, analyzing himself.

This is where you back up your claims/thesis statements with arguments and facts from the text. This is done through emotional appeals, quoting or paraphrasing the text, evidence from other sources and texts, among others.

The goal is to make the appeal as solid and credible as possible.

One of the most important forms of support comes in three forms of claims called pathos, ethos, and logos.

We shall take a deeper look at each and what they entail, but for now, remember that support for the statements takes a structured form.

This support comes in the body of the essay. You will be writing it in paragraphs beginning with a strong topic sentence , then followed by a few explanatory or expository sentences.

Each paragraph will be describing one form of stylistic choice used in the text. The entire support section should flow logically and the arguments link into each other.

A rhetorical analysis isn’t usually long, a few pages at most. Most instructors will have you write about five pages or so.

As such, there is no need for sub-sections in the body. The support sets the stage for the final part; the warrant.

A  warrant in rhetoric writing is the connection between the claim and the arguments made in the text.

It is usually an assumed kind of support or belief, inference, experience, or value that ties the writer to the assumption they share with the audience.

If this belief were wrong, the entire argument would be wrong and out of place.

In our example text, Miner assumes that other Americans share the same superiority complex with him and will thus assume an elevated state, a moral pedestal, as they read the article.

If this were a wrong assumption, his techniques would daily dramatically.

The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The Rhetorical Triangle

The support in a rhetorical analysis essay is dynamic and each part relies on the others to stand.

The three major parts mentioned: ethos, pathos, and logos, form a kind of rhetorical triangle where this relationship is apparent.

A final look at these three devices, also called claims, will help you craft an A-grade essay.

Ethos refers to the author’s authority or credibility as established in the essay.

Thus, an ethical appeal uses the writer’s own credibility, expertise, knowledge, or other position of higher regard compared to his audience to give importance to the work.

This position of importance can be achieved in different ways.

Some authors prefer to negotiate with the audience beforehand, others set forth their credibility with convincing arguments, while others prefer to set up a different persona in the text to assume this authoritarian position to invoke ethos.

  • What can you say about the author based on the text only?
  • How does the author establish credibility in the text?
  • What qualifies the author to write with authority on the subject?

Pathos, as in the word pathetic, refers to an emotional appeal to the audience’s feelings.

Here, the writer would be looking to evoke pity, angler, sympathy, tenderness, sorrow, or any other emotion to elicit a reaction or achieve a goal.

Advertisements and political propaganda do this to great effect.

Pathos is also a valid appeal in academic work, but it must be backed by a lot of facts and hard evidence.

Otherwise, a work rich in pathos but lacking in either ethos or logos is empty and risks polarizing the audience or losing them completely.

As you might guess, logos is the same word used in 'logic.' it involves a practical appeal or demonstration to the mind and intellect of the audience.

Using facts, figures, and fact-based evidence, the writer seeks to draw connections that the audience is meant to see as logical arguments.

Logos is a major device used in scholarly work.

Scientific minds rely on hard evidence and logical facts to prove a point, but it would be unappealing unless it was garnished skillfully with a bit of pathos.

As the rhetorical triangle shows, the three major parts are fully co-dependent. However, a few others are also worth a mention:

Kairos means 'right time.' The most effective writers build the tempo up to the time when they can deliver the main argument.

If it were given too early or too late, it would not have the effect desired and might even be detrimental to the work.

Thus, a good writer knows how to time their acts perfectly. That is kairos in action.

Stasis means 'resting place.'

A writer may move the arguments away from his main idea in such a way that they seem to differ, but will actually rest on one firm point that seems irrefutable.

Such is the mark of a skilled writer, and this common point or foundation is what is called stasis.

Remember to include a ‘Works Cited’ section at the end of your essay.

It will be your bibliography of both the text under analysis and any other sources you have relied on during in the essay. Use an approved citation style for this section.

How to Write a Good Rhetorical Analysis Step-by-Step

Rhetorical essays are typically unstructured, at least not in the way that other assignments can be.

The way to approach them if you want to write an excellent essay is through a planned logical approach. Here is one way to go about it:

1. Pre-writing

The first part, one that you will include in the essay, is a general explanation of what you think the work is about.

Start with a broad approach and talk about the impression the work has had on you.

However, remember that you will later have to defend each of these opinions.

2. Breakdown

Pick out the major strategies or techniques that the writer uses to bring his message home.

They will be techniques you have already covered in your schoolwork, so be lookout as you are reading the work.

3. Craft Your Thesis Statement

Write down a few sentences explaining what the major strategies used in the text are.

As you do, note down the textual evidence you will use to support them.

Remember that you should also be doing this as you read through the work, preferably on a notepad for future reference.

4. Write the Draft

Make sure that you have your thesis statements put down and polished because there will be little room to change them later.

Then write as if you are trying to debate or convince your colleagues regarding the literary devices and techniques in use.

5. Edit and Proofread Your Work

Go through your work once or thrice to make sure that there is a natural flow of ideas. Of course, there should be no grammatical errors in the work. 

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

Free Rhetorical Analysis Generator

  • 🌟 Intro to Rhetorical Analysis Generator

🤔 What Is Rhetorical Analysis?

  • ✒️ Components of Rhetorical Analysis
  • 💎 SOAPSTone Template
  • 📝 Essay Outline

🔗 References

🌟 intro to our free rhetorical analysis generator.

Rhetoric refers to the use of language that helps motivate, persuade, or get the point across to a particular audience. Rhetorical analysis involves studying and evaluating strategies authors and speakers use to achieve this goal. Here, you’ll learn how to use our generator, the fundamentals of rhetorical analysis, and the components of making a great essay.

Rhetorical Analysis Generator & Reasons to Try

It’s not always easy to conduct a good rhetorical analysis. Many students struggle with it and may even fail to submit their work on time. Our rhetorical analysis generator is here to help! It has many benefits that help you finish your work faster:

A rhetorical analysis evaluates a piece of work and the effectiveness with which the author communicated their ideas. It can be anything from a novel to a movie, as long as the work wants to persuade an audience. In other words, instead of discussing the events of The Count of Monte Cristo, you explore what Alexander Dumas wanted to tell his readers, which techniques were used to convey the message, and whether it was successful.

11 Common Rhetorical Analysis Devices

Look at some of the most popular rhetorical devices you can encounter in written and spoken works. They will help you better identify and include them in your upcoming papers.

✒️ Rhetorical Analysis Components & Their Meaning

You can come across several rhetorical analysis methods in your professional and academic work. The rhetorical triangle is the most popular type but has several lesser-known subtypes.

Its components are:

  • Ethos . This notion appeals to the author or speaker’s credibility. It evaluates a person’s authority on a subject and tells the audience if they should trust them.
  • Pathos . Pathos deals with emotions. It’s the most effective rhetorical device as it’s used to connect the speaker and the audience. For example, an emotional appeal over the use of facts is a tell-tale sign of propaganda.
  • Logos . This element backs up a claim with logical and reasonable substance. Through it, the author provides factual evidence that supports their claims.
  • Kairos . When a writer or a speaker addresses a particular time and place, they use kairos to provide specific context. To illustrate, an address concerning the First Amendment is most effective during a political debate.
  • Stasis . The final segment of the rhetorical analysis lets people view arguments from different perspectives. This adds an impact and makes the audience more likely to side with the writer or speaker.

💎 Rhetorical Analysis: SOAPSTone Template

Like any analysis, evaluating a person’s rhetorical capabilities requires structure. Without it, you may fail to address some aspects of the work, making your paper incomplete. You can make this process easier with the SOAPSTone template and its components:

📝 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

Writing any type of essay requires structure and cohesion. While you may have encountered this structure before, it’s worth to remember the basics. A rhetorical analysis paper outline requires the following elements:

  • Introduction . This paragraph introduces the text and its author. Some experts recommend including a summary of the work and elements of the SOAPStone analysis you uncovered. Explain why you’re conducting the research and give a clear thesis statement.
  • Body . The section where you present arguments about work and what makes it persuasive. Here you discuss the methods, strategies, and rhetorical and literary devices the author used to convey their message.
  • Conclusion . The conclusive paragraph ties your analysis together by driving home the main arguments provided in its body. It can also explain how the work impacted society or its target audience.

3 Good Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples

Here we have picked up some samples with rhetorical analysis of different types of works that can inspire you to create own impressive essay.

  • Rhetorical Analysis of Paypal’s Online Payments Commercial Essay . PayPal's online payments commercial employs a potent blend of rhetorical techniques to convey its message effectively. The ad emotionally connects with the audience through vibrant visuals, stirring music, and relatable scenarios. Using real-life situations highlights the convenience and security of PayPal's services, appealing to the ethos and building trust. Additionally, persuasive language and a call to action stimulate a sense of urgency, prompting viewers to adopt PayPal as their preferred online payment platform. By artfully combining pathos, ethos, and logos, the commercial convinces viewers that PayPal is a trustworthy and convenient decision for their online payment requirements.
  • “The Myth of Multitasking” by Rosen: Rhetorical Analysis Essay . The author adeptly employs rhetorical strategies to debunk the notion of multitasking. Christine Rosen dismantles the prevalent belief in multitasking efficiency through persuasive arguments and compelling evidence, revealing its detrimental effects on productivity and cognitive abilities. Her skillful use of logic and reasoning challenges readers to question their habits and consider a more focused approach to tasks. By strategically dismantling this cultural trend, Rosen urges her audience to reassess their attitudes toward multitasking, prompting a profound reevaluation of its impact on daily life and productivity.
  • A Rhetorical Analysis: “Chevy Commercial 2014” Essay . Chevy Commercial from 2014 is a captivating piece of rhetoric that skillfully employs various persuasive techniques to resonate with its audience. The ad establishes an immediate connection with viewers through emotional storytelling. The commercial artfully weaves heartwarming scenes of people's lives, accompanied by an inspiring soundtrack, evoking a sense of nostalgia and relatability. Ethos is reinforced by showcasing real people in everyday situations, enhancing the credibility of Chevy's brand positioning as an integral part of consumers' lives. Furthermore, logos strategically highlights the car's innovative features and performance. By aligning Chevy with moments of happiness and adventure, the ad compels viewers to consider Chevy as the vehicle that can accompany them on their life journeys.

We hope our tool will facilitate your rhetorical analysis of books, commercials, or speeches, so you'll create a unique essay! Besides, you may try our hook generator to engage the audience to read your paper from the beginning.

📌 Rhetorical Analysis Generator – FAQ

  • Rhetorical Analysis – Jessica Allee, University of Arkansas
  • How To Write a Rhetorical Analysis in 8 Simple Steps – Jennifer Herrity, Indeed
  • Rhetorical Analysis – Blinn College District
  • What Is a Rhetorical Device? Definition, List, Examples – Jeffrey Somers, ThoughtCo
  • Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Formatting – Brandon Everett, California State University, East Bay
  • What is Rhetorical Analysis? – Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel, PressBooks
  • SOAPStone Graphic Organizer for Rhetorical Analysis – Sacramento City Unified School District
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This page contains a free tool for conducting rhetorical analysis. It is user-friendly, accurate, and fast. You can customize the analysis according to your text type and context. Also, we have prepared a guide where you can find out about literary devices, components of rhetorical analysis, and the structure of your future essay.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

Nova A.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics – 120+ Unique Ideas

10 min read

Published on: Mar 31, 2018

Last updated on: Jan 16, 2024

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

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Ethos, Pathos, and Logos - Structure, Usage & Examples

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Looking for the right rhetorical analysis essay topic can be a tough challenge for some people!

It’s a well-established fact that for such essays, you need to have an excellent grip on the topic you choose.

For that purpose, we have created a comprehensive list of rhetorical analysis essay topics, so you can pick the topic that matches your interest perfectly. 

Before coming to the topic ideas, let’s briefly discuss what is a rhetorical analysis essay.

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Introduction to Rhetorical Analysis Essay Writing

In a rhetorical analysis essay , a writer deeply analyzes a work of literature, art, or film, takes a stance, and thoroughly evaluates the purpose of the original content.

The goal is to ensure effective delivery to the audience.

Having said that, a rhetorical analysis essay finds out how effective the message of the original content was. And how the author or speaker uses rhetorical advice and strategies to convey their message.   

Now, let’s move on to the handpicked list of topics! 

Good Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

Being aware of a student’s academic struggles, we have gathered some interesting topics for your rhetorical analysis essay needs. So if you are looking for rhetorical essay ideas, you’ve landed at the perfect place! 

Choose the best rhetorical topics from the list below and draft a compelling essay.

Easy Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.
  • “The Revenant” by Michael Punke.
  • “Witches' Loaves” by O. Henry.
  • “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
  • “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.
  • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.
  • “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler.
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.
  • “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk.
  • “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for High School

  • “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie.
  • “Beloved” by Toni Morrison.
  • “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller.
  • “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen.
  • “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley.
  • “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf.
  • “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston.
  • “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for Middle School

  • "Yes, Please" By Amy Poehler
  • "The Revenant" By Michael Punke
  • The Primary Themes In "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland"
  • "Huckleberry Finn" Rhetorical Analysis
  • "Witches Loaves" By O'Henry
  • Discuss My Philosophy for a Happy Life by Sam Berns.
  • The Painted Veil.
  • Analyze Romeo and Juliet.
  • Analyze the “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain.
  • Amy Poehler. “Yes, Please.”

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Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for College Students

  • “Antigone” by Sophocles.
  • “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.
  • “Dubliners” by James Joyce.
  • “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.
  • “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.
  • “A Yellow Raft in Blue Water” by Michael Dorris.
  • “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls.
  • “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.
  • “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison.

Non-Fictional Topics for Rhetorical Analysis Essay

  • “Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results” by Stephen Guise.
  • “The Ethics of Belief” by William Kingdon Clifford.
  • “Easter Island's End” by Jared Diamond.
  • “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.
  • “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott.
  • “A nation among nations” by Thomas H. Bender.
  • “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond.
  • “The Price of Inequality” by Joseph Stiglitz.
  • “The Spirit Level” by Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson.
  • “The Status Syndrome” Michael Marmot.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics About Speeches

  • “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Inaugural Address of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Emma Goldman’s Address to the Jury.
  • League of Nations Final Address by Thomas Woodrow Wilson.
  • “Every Man a King” by Huey Pierce Long.
  • “The Evil Empire” by Ronald Reagan.
  • “Mercy for Leopold and Loeb” by Clarence Seward Darrow.
  • “A Time for Choosing” by Ronald Reagan.
  • “The Struggle for Human Rights” by Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics on Movies

  • Manhattan Project.
  • Jurassic Park.
  • The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Rhetorical analysis of Almost Famous.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire.
  • Rhetorical analysis of Romeo + Juliet.
  • Rhetorical analysis essay on Man of Steel.
  • Rhetorical analysis of Macbeth.
  • Wuthering Heights.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for 2023

  • “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” by William Butler Yeats.
  • “The Epic” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
  • “Shakespeare’s Sonnets” by William Shakespeare.
  • “The Rape of the Lock” by Alexander Pope.
  • “England in 1819” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
  • “The Price Of Inequality” By Joseph Stiglitz
  • "Cri De Coeur” By Romeo Dallier
  • "Traveling Mercies” By Anne Lamott
  • "A Nation Among Nations"

Visual Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  • Analyze Poe's Poetry, “The Raven.”
  • A favorite poem written by William Shakespeare.
  • Analysis of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech.
  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
  • Clifford's "The Ethics Of Belief" Summary And Analysis
  • "Easter Islands' End" By Jared Diamond
  • "Success Strategies” Analysis
  • Jonathan Edwards’ Sermons
  • "Guns, Germs, And Steel” By Jared Diamond

Literary Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  • “I Am Prepared to Die” by Nelson Mandela
  • Gettysburg Monologue in Remember the Titans
  • “Full Power of Women” by Priyanka Chopra
  • Speech from Finding Forrester
  • Red’s Parole Hearing from Shawshank Redemption
  • The movie industry.
  • The insider.
  • Enough of the movie.

Funny Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  • Maximus’ Speech to Commodus from Gladiator
  • “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” by Tim Urban
  • Harvard Graduation Speech by Donovan Livington
  • Obama’s Final Farewell Speech
  • Pink’s VMA acceptance speech
  • Do you love your family members or not?
  • Do all people grow old?
  • A rhetoric analysis of Coca-Cola’s logo colors
  • What is your opinion of prequels and remakes?
  • Payment of college athletes

Comparative Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  • The lottery vs. the hunger games
  • Non-fictional novels and fictional novels
  • President Obama’s speech at the inauguration compared to that of President Trump
  • Religious texts and their rhetorical composition.
  • Medicines vs. natural remedies
  • Social sciences vs. humanities
  • Economic upliftment vs. better standard of living
  • Compare movies based on Stephen King’s works versus his novels
  • Hurricanes vs. tornadoes
  • Football vs. basketball

Argumentative Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics 

  • Political Speeches and Rhetoric
  • Advertising Influence on Consumer Behavior
  • Climate Change Communication
  • Social Media Persuasion
  • Rhetoric in Gun Control Debates
  • Fake News and Rhetorical Techniques
  • Environmental Activism and Rhetoric
  • Healthcare Debates and Persuasion
  • Rhetoric in Civil Rights Movements
  • Rhetorical Strategies in Literature

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How to Choose a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topic?

The first thing in any writing that attempts to grab the reader’s interest is an engaging topic. Every writer aims to make his writing readable and exciting for the audience. 

Coming up with an interesting and engaging topic for your essay can be a tough job. The following are some tips to consider while selecting the topics for your rhetorical analysis paper.

Deliberate your Interest

The fundamental trick of making writing impressive and exciting is to focus on the topic of your interest. Before you start writing a rhetorical analysis essay, try to pick the topic that catches your attention and interest. Also, ensure that it has scope for research and writing.

Choosing something not to have any broad scope or data will not be an ideal topic for your essay.

Do not force yourself to write about a topic that seems popular and promising but not impressive. At least find a rhetorical question that interests you and has good research opportunities.

Reflect on your Knowledge

The second important thing to consider while choosing analytical essay topics is that you have little knowledge about them. Selecting something entirely unfamiliar will not help you. 

Remember that you need to provide insight into the writing style of the author while doing the analysis. Word choice also depicts your strength. Gather knowledge about the rhetorical devices and literary critics used in the work, which you can discuss and explain in your essay. 

Most of the time, you decide to pick topics you have discussed in class. Reflect on the level of your knowledge before finalizing your options.

Do Background Research

Another vital trick to consider while picking the topic is to do background research. You can compile a list of topics, which seem captivating. After that, narrow down the list and select the final topic by researching the topic’s available information.

Do not forget to make notes of the background research. In case you forget the points while writing your essay, you will have the notes for reference.

Get the Suggestions of your Instructor

After going through all the above options, if you cannot make a decision. Prepare a list of suitable topics and ask your instructor to provide you with suggestions. 

It is much better than contemplating on your own. You will have a fixed path to walk on, and you will research the points presented in your paper.

Professional Tips to Write Rhetorical Analysis Essay Fast

Students always look for tips and tricks to make their academic assignments perfect. Below are some professional tips gathered by the writers at MyPerfectWords.com to help you write your essay in no time:

  • Identify the target audience to choose a good topic for your rhetorical essay.
  • Define the purpose of the work chosen. Grab your reader’s attention by drafting a catchy opening for your essay.
  • Provide a structure to the content by drafting an excellent  rhetorical analysis essay outline . The outline should divide your information into the introduction,  thesis statement , main body, and conclusion sections.
  • Use simple sentences. The strength of a rhetorical essay is the clarity of the content that comes from using simple sentences.
  • Avoid using narrow terminologies. Make sure that the vocabulary used compliments the theme and context of the content.
  • Gather information from credible sources. Use references from journals, articles, books, and research papers to make the content of the essay authentic.

Elevate Your Analytical Skills with Rhetorical Analysis Essay Questions 

Queries are present in rhetorical analysis essays, meant to help the writer. These questions aid the writer in further sharpening their writing proficiency.

As a plus, the questions serve the purpose of motivating writers to become actively involved in understanding the outlook of a rhetorical essay.

  • What methods do you plan to employ to engage your readers?
  • Does the conclusion of the argument resonate with your audience?
  • How has the author employed stylistic devices within the narrative?
  • Defining satire: How has the author used it, and what impact does it have
  • How does the author build credibility, evoke emotions, and use logic in the text?
  • Do cultural or historical references in the text support the author's argument?
  • Do repeat words or phrases for emphasis in the text have a noticeable impact?
  • Does the tone impact the author's credibility, and how?
  • How is the audience likely to receive the message?
  • How has the author engaged the audience in their discourse?

To conclude, writing a rhetoric paper can be challenging. It is suggested to take a professional’s help for your academic writing assignments and not risk your grades.

To get professional assistance, get help from the expert analytical essay writing service at MyPerfectWords.com. Visit our online essay writing service now and push your essay writing game to new heights.

Our qualified writers draft 100% original content for the students and guarantee better grades. 

So why wait? Connect with us now to shine in your essay writing assignments! 

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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Super Bowl 2024

Super bowl ads played it safe, but there were still some winners.

Eric Deggans

Eric Deggans

When I spoke with Shayne Millington about the cheeky Super Bowl ad she was planning with Cardi B, the advertising executive was excited about the prospect of tweaking male sports fans in a way Big Game ads often don't do.

But the NFL threw some cold water on her plans Sunday, preventing makeup brand NYX from airing part of their ad suggesting that men may have mistaken the name of their Duck Plump lip gloss and used it in a certain private area. Instead, they aired 30 seconds featuring Cardi B and displayed a QR code viewers could use to access the full ad.

Millington, the chief creative officer at McCann New York, told me before the game that the ad was an attempt to turn the tables on traditional Super Bowl advertising.

The story behind Carl Weathers' posthumous Super Bowl ad

The story behind Carl Weathers' posthumous Super Bowl ad

"You have to really look at how women have been portrayed in Super Bowl ads and in the past, and it's not great," she added. "So, on a platform as big as the Super Bowl, where men have [traditionally] had the upper hand with humor ... [this time] women will have the last laugh with Cardi B."

Turns out, Millington's ad was among the sauciest in a Super Bowl where brands played it safe even more than usual, perhaps due to the mammoth, $7 million-per-30-seconds fee for airtime.

Political messages were subtle and shaded, including a retro-looking ad for independent presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. that didn't get near his controversial stands on vaccines and other issues (talk about a nepo baby). An ad for the website hegetsus.com aimed at boosting Jesus Christ focused on how his teachings might bring people together, not the controversial stands of one funder , the family that owns notably religious craft store chain Hobby Lobby.

Blame the intensely crazy pace of real-life news or the back-breaking price for ads, but this year's crop of commercials seemed to lean away from controversy and into nostalgia, celebrity and cross promotion — with Super Bowl halftime performer Usher appearing in more spots than the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Here's a breakdown of what worked and didn't in the biggest — and most expensive — advertising showcase on American television.

Usher's Super Bowl Halftime show was chaotic but cemented his R&B legacy

Usher's Super Bowl Halftime show was chaotic but cemented his R&B legacy

Best use of a celebrity poking fun at something he knows we're all laughing at anyway: state farm's "like a good neighbaa".

We all know Arnold Schwarzenegger has somehow won over America's hearts despite delivering lines in films so drenched with his Austrian accent that it sounds like English put through a Cuisinart. That's why it's so delightful to see him willing to send up both his action hero past and his dicey diction, playing a swashbuckling State Farm agent who somehow can't say "labor," "concealer" or "neighbor." Even Jake From State Farm couldn't help coach him through a speech pattern that, somehow, still makes all those words sound cooler when they come out of Ahnuld's mouth. (Though his former Twins co-star Danny DeVito untimately had to help him out.)

Worst use of a celebrity tolerating something we're all laughing at anyway: BMW's "Talkin' Like Walken"

How do you come up with a concept so promising — much-mimicked Hollywood eccentric Christopher Walken walks through a day where everyone is doing their own Walken impressions — and wind up with a spot so, well, odd? Where are the celebrities who do amazing Walken impressions, like Kevin Pollak, Jay Mohr or even Tom Hiddleston? Where's the moment Walken has fun with people trying to cop his off-kilter patois, (instead of looking like he can't wait to get off the screen)? And why is the Super Bowl's halftime headliner Usher showing up at the end and NOT doing a Walken impersonation? Small wonder this overhyped ad is also in the running for Best Missed Opportunity. Sigh.

Best way to get someone else to publicize your new music: Verizon's "Can't B Broken"

The ad itself is a fun affair, with Beyoncé trying to "break" Verizon's 5G network through a series of outlandish stunts (assisted by Veep co-star Tony Hale), including creating Beyonc-A.I., the pink-themed Bar-Bey, and a musical performance in space. When none of that succeeds in bringing down Verizon, she says "OK. They ready. Drop the new music."

Of course, Beyoncé meant business, dropping two new tunes on her website and announcing the debut of a country-inspired album, Act II , for March 29. Forget about announcing a new album during the Grammys; Bey dropped her announcement on TV's biggest platform, paid for by Verizon. Respect.

Best celebrity save: Uber Eats' "Don't Forget Uber Eats"

Actually, I want to forget much of this spot, which features wooden moments like David and Victoria Beckham pretending to forget she was in the Spice Girls (Will anyone catch that they're spoofing a scene from his Netflix docuseries?) and another, um, forgettable cameo from Usher (Did you know he's playing the Super Bowl halftime? Feels like he's popping up in half of the Super Bowl ads to remind you!)

But the conceit — that you have to forget something to make room in your memory for Uber Eats' awesome services — hit home when Jennifer Aniston appeared, ignoring David Schwimmer even as he reminds her they worked together for 10 years on one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history.

Perhaps it's because I disliked his character Ross' romance with Aniston's character on Friends so much, but when she walked away, convinced she didn't know him, and he muttered "I hate this town," I felt like TV justice had somehow been served.

Best hope for Marvel fans: The Deadpool movie

That sound you heard at the game's start wasn't sports fans settling in for the Big Game. It was Marvel fans screaming in anticipation after realizing that Ryan Reynolds' new Deadpool movie won't just feature Hugh Jackman returning as Wolverine, but Reynolds' disfigured, wisecracking mercenary superhero getting kidnapped by the TVA — an organization from the Loki series. And the TVA's representative here is none other than Succession' s Tom Wambsgans, or the actor Matthew Macfadyen. If any film can rescue the world from superhero fatigue, this might be the one.

Best use of a cat/worst use of a McKinnon: Hellmann's "Mayo Cat"

Fans know Saturday Night Live alum Kate McKinnon has a special bond with cats — she's even come up with some sidesplitting sketches on the subject — so it was cute to see her alongside a feline who captivates the world by simply saying "mayo." The ad also has a cool button at the end, where the cat dates and breaks up with fellow SNL alum Pete Davidson ("You lasted longer than most," McKinnon quips.) But how do you spend millions on a commercial starring the funniest woman on TV and give all the action to her cat? Purrfectly frustrating. (Yes, I went there.)

Second best use of a celebrity poking fun at themselves: Skechers "Mr. T in Skechers"

I'll be honest, I didn't notice there was no "T" in the footwear company's name until Tony Romo upsets the famous A Team star by pointing it out. Watching a 71-year-old Mr. T walk on hot coals and do CGI-assisted pull-ups while insisting "I pity the fool who has to touch his shoes" as he cavorts in Skechers slip-on shoes, I saw a mix of nostalgia, absurdity and good-hearted self-parody that I didn't even knew I needed until it happened. Once again, Mr. T. for the win.

Best tribute to a departed legend: FanDuel's Super Bowl Kick of Destiny Part 2

Reprising the stunt from last year, where the four-time Super Bowl champion tight end tried — and failed — to make a 25-yard field goal, this year's commercial featured Gronk failing again. In a teaser for the series of ads released early, Rocky co-star Carl Weathers was shown riding up on a motorcycle to encourage Gronkowski. After Weathers died earlier this month at age 76, producers reworked one of those ads to show the actor saying ruefully, "You gave us your all, Gronk." Then the spot flashed to an image of Weathers with the message "Thank you, Carl. 1948 - 2024." Glad to see the company kept him in the spot; there's no better, classier tribute to a towering talent than tipping the hat to him on the biggest platform in the world.

Best "I'm not crying, you're crying" ad: Google Pixel's "Javier in Frame"

I first gave this award last year for the dog food ad that made everyone emotional. This time, it's Google Pixel showcasing its guided frame technology, in which the phone tells users when faces are fully in the picture frame. We see this work from the perspective of Javier, who utilizes the phone despite his problems with blurred vision to capture important moments in his life, including the birth of his child. The spot's director, Adam Morse, is blind and it's narrated at the end by Stevie Wonder. Poignant doesn't begin to describe it.

Most confusing movie ad: "Twisters"

It's not apparent from watching the Super Bowl ad whether this film is a reboot or a sequel to the 1996 film that featured Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton and Philip Seymour Hoffman ( according to Variety , it's indeed a sequel). But after watching Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones jostling around in a 2-minute spot spouting dialogue that referenced the original, I only had one question that really needed answering: Why?

Best contest with the worst ad: DoorDash's "All the Ads"

It's an inspired giveaway: DoorDash will provide all of the items in every Super Bowl commercial to one lucky winner, including a 2024 BMW All-Electric i5, chicken wings from Popeyes for 150-plus people, a $50,000 check for their dream home and much more (you had to watch the commercial during the game and add a promotional code at this URL to enter). But hearing Laurence Fishburne majestically narrate a preview ad that uses DoorDash as a verb while products are bursting from the ground makes me want to DoorDash as far away from it all as possible.

Worst use of a celebrity: "Sir Patrick Stewart Throws a Hail Arnold" on Paramount+

Yes, you read the title right. Patrick Stewart, star of Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+, appears in a spot where he argues with Drew Barrymore, then orders Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to throw an animated fourth-grader from Hey Arnold! up a mountain, before doing it himself. (The band Creed also shows up to play a song for some reason.)

All I want is a sample of whatever the scriptwriters were smoking when they came up with this nonsense — or when they got Stewart to agree to appear in it.

Second-worst use of a celebrity: Squarespace's "Hello Down There"

The concept's not so bad: We're so distracted by our phones and social media that no one on Earth notices a fleet of flying saucers overhead until the aliens build a website with Squarespace.

But it's a drag seeing Oscar winner Martin Scorsese direct this bit of fluff without much humor and a punchline that goes over like, well, a badly formatted website: Scorsese, in traffic, looks at a sky filled with spaceships and tells his driver: "I told you to take Broadway. This always happens."

Feels a little like hiring Frank Lloyd Wright to design your kid's backyard playhouse.

  • Super Bowl LVIII
  • Super Bowl ads

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  1. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

    A rhetorical analysis is structured similarly to other essays: an introduction presenting the thesis, a body analyzing the text directly, and a conclusion to wrap up. This article defines some key rhetorical concepts and provides tips on how to write a rhetorical analysis. Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

  2. How to write a rhetorical analysis [4 steps]

    To write a rhetorical analysis, you need to follow the steps below: Step 1: Plan and prepare. With a rhetorical analysis, you don't choose concepts in advance and apply them to a specific text or piece of content. Rather, you'll have to analyze the text to identify the separate components and plan and prepare your analysis accordingly.

  3. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: 6 Steps and an Outline for Your

    Follow these 6 steps to write a rhetorical analysis that's clear and insightful. 1. Identify the 4 elements of rhetoric. Start your analysis by taking note of the following rhetorical elements: Audience: Who is the piece intended for? Depending on the medium being used, the audience might consist of readers, spectators, listeners, or viewers.

  4. How to Write a Great Rhetorical Analysis Essay: With Examples

    How Do You Write a Rhetorical Analysis? What are the Three Rhetorical Strategies? What are the Five Rhetorical Situations? How to Plan a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Creating a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples of Great Rhetorical Analysis Essays Final Thoughts What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

  5. Rhetorical Analysis

    In writing an effective rhetorical analysis, you should discuss the goal or purpose of the piece; the appeals, evidence, and techniques used and why; examples of those appeals, evidence, and techniques; and your explanation of why they did or didn't work.

  6. How To Write a Rhetorical Analysis in 8 Simple Steps

    A rhetorical analysis typically includes five paragraphs and three parts: an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. To begin, break a creative work down into parts and describe how the parts act together to produce a certain result. The author's desired effect could be to inform, entertain or persuade.

  7. PDF A Simplified Guide to Writing a Rhetorical Analysis

    Communicative style/tone How does the author convey their message through the use of language? Does the author use a particular style or tone throughout the article? THE NEXT STEP: ANALYZING THE TEXT FOR APPEALS & INARTISTIC PROOFS The rhetorician (the writer making the argument) uses two methods to make their argument,

  8. 8.10: Rhetorical Analysis

    You may be asked to write a rhetorical analysis of an ad, an image, or a commercial. When you analyze a work rhetorically, you explore the following concepts in a piece: Audience. Purpose. Style or Tone. Supporting Appeals and Claims: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos - an appeal to ethical considerations.

  9. Rhetorical Analysis Handout

    The rhetorical situation identifies the relationship among the elements of any communication--audience, author (rhetor), purpose, medium, context, and content. Audience Spectator, listeners, and/or readers of a performance, a speech, a reading, or printed material.

  10. Rhetorical Analysis

    Identify— Analyze— Evaluate— Begin by reading the text closely, taking inventory of the features and characteristics of the text. The rhetorical analysis will first identify how the argument functions. This is the time to ask questions about the text in connection with the rhetorical situation. Such as: When was this text written?

  11. Rhetorical Analysis

    Rhetorical analysis is the process of evaluating elements of a text and determining how those elements impact the success or failure of that argument. Often rhetorical analyses address written arguments, but visual, oral, or other kinds of "texts" can also be analyzed. Rhetorical Features—What to Analyze

  12. 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric

    The assignment is to write a rhetorical analysis of a piece of persuasive writing. It can be an editorial, a movie or book review, an essay, a chapter in a book, or a letter to the editor. For your rhetorical analysis, you will need to consider the rhetorical situation—subject, author, purpose, context, audience, and culture—and the ...

  13. Rhetorical Analysis

    the practice of analyzing a rhetorical situation. a mode of reasoning that informs composing and interpretation. a heuristic, an invention practice, that helps writers use to kickstart invention. a method of analysis used to understand and critique texts. Rhetorical Analysis is a vital workplace, academic, and personal competency-a way of ...

  14. Rhetorical Analysis

    Step 2: Preview your chosen text, and then read and annotate it. Step 3: Next, using the information and steps outlined in this chapter, identify the rhetorical situation in the text based off of the following components: the communicator, the issue at hand, the purpose, the medium of delivery, and the intended audience.

  15. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

    Article Summary Co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD Last Updated: January 27, 2024 Fact Checked A rhetorical analysis can be written about other texts, television shows, films, collections of artwork, or a variety of other communicative mediums that attempt to make a statement to an intended audience.

  16. PDF Academic Writing How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

    HOW TO WRITE A RHETORICAL ANALYSIS Analytical writing moves beyond just summerizing or reporting information. In a rhetorical analysis you apply critical reading skills to break down a text through specific contextual lenses—otherwise known as rhetorical devices.

  17. Organizing Your Analysis

    This resource covers how to write a rhetorical analysis essay of primarily visual texts with a focus on demonstrating the author's understanding of the rhetorical situation and design principles. There is no one perfect way to organize a rhetorical analysis essay. In fact, writers should always be a bit leery of plug-in formulas that offer a ...

  18. Rhetorical Analysis of a News Article

    Craft a coherent rhetorical analysis essay that includes the following two components: Very brief summary of the article; Close reading of the work; For the summary portion (1), rather than describe everything in the article, very briefly share only the main points of the article. The summary should be no more than a brief paragraph.

  19. Elements of Analysis

    This resource covers how to write a rhetorical analysis essay of primarily visual texts with a focus on demonstrating the author's understanding of the rhetorical situation and design principles. The Rhetorical Situation. Introduction. No matter what specific direction your essay takes, your points and observations will revolve around the ...

  20. 70 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

    Whether you're analyzing rhetorical appeals such as ethos, pathos, and logos or looking at rhetorical devices, these speeches will work for discussion or as the text for a rhetorical analysis essay. " I Am Prepared to Die " by Nelson Mandela - Pair with " Nobel Peace Prize Speech " by Malala Yousafzai

  21. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

    How to Write a Good Rhetorical Analysis Step-by-Step. Rhetorical essays are typically unstructured, at least not in the way that other assignments can be. The way to approach them if you want to write an excellent essay is through a planned logical approach. Here is one way to go about it: 1. Pre-writing.

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    1. Introduction to Rhetorical Analysis Essay Writing 2. Good Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics 3. How to Choose a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topic? 4. Professional Tips to Write Rhetorical Analysis Essay Fast 5. Elevate Your Analytical Skills with Rhetorical Analysis Essay Questions Introduction to Rhetorical Analysis Essay Writing

  24. The best (and worst) Super Bowl 2024 commercials : NPR

    Best use of a celebrity poking fun at something he knows we're all laughing at anyway: State Farm's "Like a Good Neighbaa" We all know Arnold Schwarzenegger has somehow won over America's hearts ...