For beginners, learning how to write a rhetorical analysis may appear to be a difficult task, but once you know the tricks and tips, you will be writing like an expert in no time.
In this article, we’ll define rhetorical analysis and walk you through a step-by-step process with an outline, tips, and examples. However, if you’d rather skip all of this and have one of our professionals assist you, please contact our grade office essay writing service by clicking the button below.
What Is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?
As you may be aware, various literary works are written with the sole intention of persuading readers of the author’s ideas and point of view. There are a variety of strategies and literary and rhetorical devices that authors can use to achieve this goal, and this is exactly what you will have to deal with while writing your rhetorical analysis essay.
So, what exactly is a rhetorical analysis? A rhetorical analysis, in a nutshell, is the process of determining how successful an author was in persuading, informing, or entertaining their audience. There are thousands of writing strategies used to analyze modern and historical texts, but keep in mind that in any rhetorical analysis essay, you must identify the author’s writing style and point of view. This necessitates an examination of the author’s persuasion methods (words and phrases created by the author) and their effectiveness with readers.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompt
What exactly is the purpose of rhetorical analysis? When given this type of task, students are typically given specific prompts that explain the purpose of the task and specify the areas to pay attention to.
Here is an example of a basic rhetorical analysis essay prompt:“ Create a 2-3 page rhetorical analysis essay based on the assigned text. You will be required to complete the following tasks: (1) summarize the main argument/claim/purpose of the text, and (2) explain how this argument was constructed.”
As you read the assigned text, consider how the author uses:
- Various rhetorical strategies (pathos, ethos, logos)
- Reasoning, evidence, and examples to back up their main points
- Elements of persuasion or style”
As the prompt indicates, the primary goal of this task is to define, analyze, and discuss the most important rhetorical features of the assigned text.
Rhetorical Analysis Strategies
There are three universal methods of persuasion, which are also known as rhetorical strategies. To complete the task, you must have a solid understanding of these strategies and how to apply them.
So, what exactly are the three rhetorical strategies? Let us define each and examine their key characteristics in greater detail:
In a literary piece, the ethos rhetorical device establishes the author’s credibility. Simply put, the skillful application of this strategy is what allows readers to determine whether or not a particular author can be trusted on a particular subject. The author’s credibility is defined by his or her expertise, knowledge, and moral competence on any given subject. Aristotle classified ethos into three types: arete (virtue, goodwill), phronesis (useful skills and wisdom), and eunoia (goodwill towards the audience).
For example, when the author of a book is a well-known expert in a particular subject, or when a product is advertised by a well-known person – these are examples of ethos in use for persuasion
According to the pathos literary definition, this Greek word translates to “experience,” “suffering,” or “emotion” and is one of three methods of persuasion that authors can use to appeal to their readers’ emotions. In a nutshell, the key goal of this strategy is to elicit certain feelings (e.g., happiness, sympathy, pity, anger, compassion, etc.) in their audience with the sole purpose of persuading them of something. The main goal is to help readers relate to the author’s identity and ideas.
Some of the common ways to use pathos in rhetoric are through:
- Personal anecdotes, etc.
For example, if you see an advertisement that depicts sad, loveless animals and asks you to donate money to an animal shelter or adopt an animal, you are clearly using emotional appeal in persuasion.
According to the logos literary definition, this word translates from Greek as “ground,” “plea,” “reason,” “opinion,” and so on. This rhetorical strategy is solely logical; thus, unlike ethos or pathos, which rely on credibility or emotions, the logos rhetorical device is used to persuade readers through the use of critical thinking, facts, numbers and statistics, and other undeniable data.
For example, logos occurs when the author of a literary work makes a statement and backs it up with verifiable facts.
Logos, ethos, and pathos are three strategies that must be used when writing a rhetorical analysis essay. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to determine how effectively the author of the assigned text used them. Now, let’s look at how to get started.
Rhetorical Analysis Topics
To write an excellent rhetorical analysis essay, a student must first choose an interesting topic. The following are some of the best tips to consider when selecting a topic that will engage the audience:
- Focus on your interests. The key to writing an excellent paper is to choose a topic in which you are genuinely interested. Many students make the huge mistake of choosing topics that are promising and trending but do not interest them. This approach can make rhetorical writing even more difficult. However, if you deliberate your interests and write about something that truly interests you, the writing process will become much more enjoyable and simple.
- Pick a topic you are familiar with. Another useful tip is to select a topic that reflects your knowledge. Choosing something completely new to you can get you stuck even before you start writing. Keep in mind that this academic paper requires you to conduct a thorough analysis of an author’s writing and evidence-building style, and the more familiar you are with a particular topic, the easier the analysis will be.
- Do some background research. When selecting a topic, it is critical to ensure that it has a broad enough scope and sufficient information for you to conduct your research and writing. As a result, it is critical that you conduct some preliminary research before settling on a specific topic. You can accomplish this by making a list of topics that interest you. Then, take your time researching the available information from the selected topics and selecting one that is not only engaging but also provides good research and analysis opportunities. When conducting background research, make sure to take notes on the most important points of the topic. These notes will be useful later.
- Ask your instructor for advice. If you’ve already outlined the most interesting topics and done your background research on them but still can’t decide, it’s a good idea to seek advice from your instructor. Request that your instructor review your list and advise you on the best subject for you.
You should be able to find a topic that is both interesting and promising if you follow the advice given above. Let’s take a look at a list of good rhetorical analysis topics to get you started:
Easy Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics
- “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
- Symbolism in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”
- “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
- The Use of Symbolism in the “Harry Potter” Series
- “Witches Loaves” By O’Henry
- The Main Themes in Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club”
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.
- Chief Joseph’s “Surrender Speech”
High School Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics
- Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”
- “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
- The Main Themes in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
- The Use of Symbolism in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
- “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer
- The Central Idea in “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen
- Symbolism in Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”
- Sam Berns’ “My Philosophy for a Happy Life” Speech
- “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
College Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics
- The Main Themes in “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
- “Antigone” by Sophocles
- Rhetorical analysis of Macbeth
- “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- The “Every Man a King” Speech by Huey Pierce Long
- “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
- The Literary Devices Used by William Shakespeare
- “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
- Rhetorical Analysis of “The Phantom of the Opera” Movie
- Analysis of Poe’s Poetry in “The Raven”
2020 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics
- Analysis of Beyonce’s Speech to the Class of 2020
- “Profiles in Corruption” by Peter Schweizer
- Pink’s VMA Speech about Acceptance
- “The Price Of Inequality” By Joseph Stiglitz
- The Main Themes in Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”
- “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” TED Talk Speech by Tim Urban
- Rhetorical Analysis of the 2020 Commencement Speech by Barack Obama
- “Cri De Coeur” By Romeo Dallier
- Feminism in Oprah’s Golden Globes Speech
- President Donald Trump’s Latest Speech
How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: Step-by-Step
Step 1: Read and analyze the text
The first step in writing a rhetorical analysis essay is to read and analyze the assigned text. Make notes of important information that will aid in the analysis process as you begin reading.
Step 2: Identify the author’s strategies
The first step in writing a rhetorical analysis essay is to read and analyze the assigned text. Make notes of important information that will aid in the analysis process as you begin reading.
- Who is the author’s intended audience, and who is the author’s intended audience?
- What was the purpose of writing the speech/project?
- Is the setting significant or relevant to the main message(s)? If that’s the case, why did the author choose that specific setting?
Keep these questions in mind as you begin writing to help you analyze the author’s strategies. These questions, at the very least, provide you with a framework to work with and will help you understand the author’s methods of persuasion.
Step 3: Look for persuasive tactics used by the author
As Aristotle defined it, the ingredients for persuasion are divided into three categories: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Example:“Thousand years of history has taught us that war never changes.”
Every Advanced Placement (AP) English exam (where rhetorical analysis essays are common) will include examples of at least one of the three persuasive methods in the literary prompt for your essay. It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out which tactic the speaker used after using the background information as a guide.
If you are required to come up with your own topic, here are some examples of rhetorical analysis essay topics to consider:
- Discourse in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Persuasive strategies used in “Speech to the Troops at Tilbury” given by Queen Elizabeth I
- Analysis of the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
- Rhetorical strategies of Samuel L. Jackson’s monologue in Pulp Fiction
Now that you know what to look for let’s move on to the outline.
Rhetorical Essay Outline
A student must have a thorough understanding of rhetorical devices and strategies in order to write an excellent paper. Furthermore, you must be able to identify and analyze their use in specific literary works. When analyzing a text, proper structure is also important—a good rhetorical analysis essay should be well-structured and organized.
Keep in mind that organizing your rhetorical analysis essay is not the most important consideration; the most important consideration is ensuring that you address the specific demands of your specific writing task. As a result, there is no requirement to adhere to any standard essay structure; there are numerous ways to begin your rhetorical analysis outline correctly.
If it is preferable for you to adhere to the structure provided by your professor. You can always use the 5-6 paragraphing style if they don’t provide a required structure for your essay. Here’s some pointers for your outline:
- Make sure to read, analyze, and make notes before beginning your outline.
- Write the main points of your essay in your outline and add evidence to support them.
- Create a thesis statement that encompasses your main points and addresses the purpose of the author’s writing.
The writing will be easier if you have the main ideas to support your thesis and evidence to back them up in your outline. You can also use our rhetorical analysis essay outline template to help you write your paper more effectively. Remember that the intro-body-conclusion structure is constant.
To gain the reader’s trust in a rhetorical analysis essay, demonstrate that you’ve read and fully comprehended the assigned text. When writing the introduction, keep it brief and to the point.
To begin, briefly summarize the passage you’ll include in your essay in your own words; this will demonstrate to the reader that you understand the text’s central message.
Following that, you can briefly discuss the author’s persuasive styles and their impact.
Finally, turn your point of view into a well-crafted thesis statement. It should answer the questions ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why.’ Typically, your rhetorical analysis thesis statement appears at the end of your introductory paragraph.
Remember that your introduction is your chance to pique the reader’s interest in the topics you’ll discuss later in the text.
After providing some context for the reader, it’s time to conduct some critical analysis. A significant portion of your time will be spent writing informative body paragraphs. Explain in the body how the author used information, persuasion, and entertainment to inform, persuade, and entertain the reader.
- If the author used persuasive language, state that he or she did so.
- If the author used sympathetic language, explain it and provide examples.
Remember that all writing should be consistent and have a logical structure. Rather than cramming everything into one paragraph, it’s better to have separate paragraphs explaining the author’s strategies.
When identifying the author’s writing strategies, answer the following questions:
- How does this strategy work?
- How is the strategy working in the example?
- Why did the author use a specific approach for this audience?
- How did the strategy make the audience feel, react or respond?
Changes in tone and diction are also important to notice within the body paragraphs. Remember to always use proper citations in your work. For citations in literature, the MLA format is commonly used.
Finish your essay after you’ve written your detailed, well-cited body paragraphs. Summarize what you’ve previously elaborated on, as you would in most other types of essays. Discuss how the author’s words influenced their audience’s opinions or if they had a significant impact on society.
You can provide an impactful concluding statement in the final sentence of your rhetorical analysis conclusion that demonstrates the importance of the author’s writing or how its strategies have helped shape history.
Let’s take a look at a sample rhetorical analysis essay outline on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech to see how each part of this work is broken down in detail.
- Introduction: Rhetorical Précis:
- Author’s name, an appositive phrase about the author and their genre to establish credibility and authority, and the title of their work (followed by the date in parenthesis); a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “assert,” “argue,” “suggest,” “imply,” “claim,” etc.); and a THAT clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work.
Example:“ Martin Luther King Jr., one of America’s most famous activists and spokespeople, and a leader of the civil rights movement, argues in his most famous speech “I Have a Dream” (1963) that racism should be abolished in the United States. ”
An explanation, usually in chronological order, of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis.
Example:“ Martin Luther King Jr. develops and supports his ideas in his speech by referring to pivotal documents in US history, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution. He also refers to historical events such as the abolition of slavery and invokes Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”
A statement of the author’s apparent purpose, followed by the phrase “in order.”
Example:“ In the speech, the author advocates for civil rights in order to draw attention to the issue and put an end to racial discrimination.”
A description of the intended audience and the author’s relationship with the audience
Example”The speech is aimed at a large audience, essentially the entire American nation, and the author establishes an equality relationship among the entire audience by claiming that we are all “God’s children.”
- Body Paragraph #1:
- Transition/topic sentence: “(author’s last name) begins with/by…(make your claim about what strategy you see working—address the purpose/prompt)”
Example:“ “King begins with a powerful statement about slavery’s abolition.”
- Give a specific example to back up your point: provide EXPLICIT textual support woven into your comments to back up your claim. Discuss all of the strategies used in the first section in detail, using text as support.
Example:“ He says, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” and concludes with a metaphor, claiming that this event “came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their (slaves’) captivity.”
Discussion of how the following examples support the idea: Relate the strategy to your main claim/thesis/purpose.
Example:“ To emphasize the urgency of the situation, King employs a variety of techniques, including voice merging, prophetic voice, and dynamic spectacle.”
- Body Paragraph #2:
- Transition/topic sentence: “After (an idea), the author moves on to (another idea)” Connect an idea from the previous paragraph’s last sentence to the first sentence of this paragraph to demonstrate how the strategies build on each other.
Example:“ After emphasizing the iconic nature of the abolition of slavery, King makes a counter-statement – “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free” – to draw attention to the ongoing problem.
Give examples to back up your claim.
Example:“ “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” King says, expanding on his point with real-life examples. He emphasizes the lack of economic and civil rights that African Americans have faced – “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” – and argues that this discrimination is wrong: “the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”
Discussion of how the example bolsters the concept: Relate your strategy to your main claim/thesis/purpose.
Example:” Finally, the author employs pathos to elicit emotion from the audience with the statement, “And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
4. Last Body Paragraph:
- Transition/topic sentence: “To conclude the essay/speech, (author)…” or “Concluding the argument, he/she…” – Connect an idea from the previous paragraph’s last sentence to the first sentence of this paragraph to demonstrate how the strategies build on each other.
Example:“ In conclusion, King uses pathos to appeal to the people’s consciences, stating that “it would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”
Give examples to back up your claim.
Example:“ “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice,” the speaker says, appealing to the nation’s conscience. Now is the time to move our country from the sands of racial injustice to the firm ground of brotherhood. Now is the time to bring justice to all of God’s children.”
Discuss how the following example supports the concept: Relate your strategy to your main claim/thesis/purpose.
Example:“ The author elicits sympathy from the audience and summarizes his point by saying, “There will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.”
- Restate your thesis.
Example:“ The speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. emphasizes the importance of putting an end to racial discrimination.”
Consider the examples and main ideas in the body paragraphs, as well as the significance of these strategies and how they relate to your thesis.
Example:“ Throughout the speech, King employs a number of rhetorical strategies and devices, including ethos, pathos, and logos. To convey his message, he uses facts and examples, logic, and emotional appeals. In addition, he employs various speaking techniques, such as voice merging, prophetic voice, and dynamic spectacle, to enhance the impact of his speech.”
Indicate whether or not these were effective in communicating the claim/thesis/purpose.
Example:“ Martin Luther King Jr. is a skilled orator who employs a variety of rhetorical devices to persuade the audience, and he clearly succeeds in this endeavor.”
- Closing thoughts – summarize the main point of the text being analyzed.
Example: “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most iconic, game-changing speeches in American history.”
Here is a rhetorical analysis essay template / scheme of the above-mentioned outline:
- Rhetorical Précis
- Thesis statement
- Topic sentence/transition
- An example that supports the main idea
- A discussion of how the given example supports the idea
- Restatement of the thesis statement
- Reflection on the ideas and examples provided in the body
- Explanation of how the strategies used by the author were effective in conveying his or her thesis/claim/purpose
Writing Tips to Follow
- The author’s persuasion techniques (examples of ethos, logos, & pathos)
- The writing style employed (formal or informal English; specific terms, logical flow, spelling/punctuation)
- The original intended audience (business people, professors, etc.)
- The author’s tone (which can range from pressing/casual to humorous/sarcastic)
Discern the goal of the passage:
Learn why the author chose those persuasion methods, writing style, and tone with the target audience.
- How do the rhetorical techniques assist the writer in achieving the passage’s primary goal?
- Why did the writer choose these methods to persuade the target audience on that particular occasion?
- Focus your summary on the author’s literary techniques and persuasive strategies.
Steps to Polish Your Rhetorical Analysis
Here are seven steps you can take to assist you with proofreading and editing, which can have a significant impact on the quality of your writing.
It’s always a good idea to double-check your writing for spelling and punctuation errors—avoid abbreviations.
In all types of educational institutions, this is a punishable offense.
- Make sure to properly cite anything you use.
To ensure that you haven’t plagiarized anything in your coursework, you can use an online plagiarism checker like Copyscape or Grammarly.
Using a variety of words will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the passage under consideration. While studying, use a thesaurus to broaden your vocabulary and achieve better results.
Transitions between paragraphs are always beneficial. Don’t jump from one statement to the next. Instead, use smooth transitions to guide the reader through your essay.
- Write in Present Tense
To avoid confusion for your readers, write in the present tense; it keeps your paper straightforward and easy to follow.
- Respond to the Text
Write your paper as if you were responding to the passage while analyzing it. A rhetorical analysis paper is similar to a mirror image of the text. Analyze the author’s rhetorical style while remaining natural and offering your thoughts and opinions.
- Use a Suitable Title
First impressions are important. Make an effort to use a captivating title that stands out from the crowd. Make sure the title is appropriate for your work.