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

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

How Do You Write a Rhetorical Analysis?

  • 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

What are the Three Rhetorical Strategies?

Rhetorical Strategy 1: Ethos

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

Rhetorical Strategy 2: Pathos

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

Rhetorical Strategy 3: Logos

What are the Five Rhetorical Situations?

  • 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?

How to Plan a Rhetorical Analysis 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?

Creating a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

1: Introduction

  • 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

2: Body

  • 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

3: Conclusion

Before You Submit

Examples of Great Rhetorical Analysis Essays

  • 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.

Final Thoughts

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