Is an institution sponsoring him/her and if so what does that institution represent?

A rhetorical analysis is a form of argument that involves both critical thinking and research. You will be asked to use your knowledge of audience appeals (ethos, pathos and logos), as well as your understanding of fallacies and the rhetorical situation in writing this essay.

A rhetorical analysis requires you to apply your critical reading skills in order to break down a text. The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to articulate HOW the author writes by discussing the strategies the author uses to achieve his or her goal or purpose of writing his or her piece. This will include strategies used to attract the audience (like the rhetorical situation) as well as the classical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos). Along the way, stay critical—your thesis will encapsulate your judgment of the piece, and you will need evidence to point toward the success or failure of the item youre analyzing.

Your essay will need to include one outside source in addition to the text itself.

Appropriate topics might include:

a verbal, written, or visual argument that evokes a personal reaction in you. This might be something youve read in another class, something you saw on the news, or something you came across the Internet.

a current event or subject that you want to learn more about

a text that you feel has been misread or misinterpreted

READ your text carefully, and at least a couple of times to ensure that you fully understand what you have read. Can you see the authors thesis?

Next, start to analyze the features of the text youre analyzing. Keep the following questions in mind as you read:

Who is the author? Does s/he have credibility to discuss the topic? Is there apparent bias? Is an institution sponsoring him/her, and if so, what does that institution represent?

What is the thesis, and what is the overall argument the author presents?

What did the author choose to study? Why?

What is the writers purpose? To inform? To persuade? To criticize?

Who is the authors intended audience? Does s/he appeal to a resistant audience? A Neutral audience? Or is s/he “preaching to the choir?”

What appeal(s) are applied (ethos, pathos, logos, or a combination)?

How does the writer arrange his or her ideas? Does the author use inductive or deductive reasoning in structuring the argument?

Did you note any fallacies as you read? Is so, which ones?

How does the writer use diction? (Word choice, arrangement, accuracy, is it formal, informal? Technical versus slang?)

Does the writer use dialogue? Quotations? Statistics? Why?

What have others said about this text? Some databases like Opposing Viewpoints will automatically share related articles. If you find an article online, you can search for more information (for example, the student with an interest in video games might search Video Game Violence Reactions).

Please note: If your essay just answers these questions, it will not get a good grade! These questions are designed to be a guide for note taking! Not every question will apply to every analysis, and you may find other appropriate questions to ask that are specific to your selection.

Organizing the Essay

After identifying your thesis, look back at the notes you took on your text. Try to arrange the key ideas in a logical way, following the support structure in your thesis. You may find that some of the observations you noticed at first are less important. It is ok to toss things aside to keep focused.

A sample outline might look like this:


Summarize the text being critiqued

Discuss the author and their background

Discuss issues related to the audience and the appeals

Discuss specific elements that relate back to the points about the audience

Discuss what others have said about the text