How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Writing analytical essays will require students to discuss a particular topic. Teachers may give them books or films to review and analyze. The students will focus on the message of the work and how it affects them. They will focus on the contents of the book or movie and explain how effective these aspects were. Another form of an analytical paper is a rhetorical analysis essay. Instead of focusing on a literary work’s content, it analyzes how the author conveys their message. This makes a rhetorical analysis more complex than an average essay. This article will help students and other individuals understand what is a rhetorical analysis and how to write it.

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Writing analytical essays will require students to discuss a particular topic. Teachers may give them books or films to review and analyze. The students will focus on the message of the work and how it affects them. They will focus on the contents of the book or movie and explain how effective these aspects were. Another form of an analytical paper is a rhetorical analysis essay. Instead of focusing on a literary work’s content, it analyzes how the author conveys their message. This makes a rhetorical analysis more complex than an average essay. This article will help students and other individuals understand what is a rhetorical analysis and how to write it.

What Is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

A rhetorical analysis essay is a document that examines the rhetorical aspects of a written or visual media. The paper does not focus on the subject’s content and message. It mainly highlights how an author or speaker delivers a message. The paper should emphasize the “how” rather than the “what” of a literary work. If a speaker is talking about climate change, a rhetorical analysis will discuss the way that the speaker spoke and form his sentences.

The purpose of a rhetorical analysis is to examine the effectiveness of a written or visual media in influencing its audience. The paper should discuss if the media is successful in achieving its purpose and if it greatly affects a reader or listener. The rhetorical analysis can also educate individuals on how to effectively structure a document or a video. Students, marketers, politicians, activists, and teachers can learn from this type of essay. Writing and reading a rhetorical essay sample can also help develop a person’s critical thinking skills.

Key Concepts in Rhetoric

Before one can write a good rhetorical analysis, one should first understand the meaning of rhetoric and its key concepts. The Oxford Languages define rhetoric as an art of persuasion through written and oral communication. It is the effective use of language to persuade an audience to take the side of the author or speaker. For individuals to be able to effectively persuade their audience, they use the key concepts in rhetoric when conveying their message.

1. Three modes of persuasion

The first concepts to understand are the “appeals” or three modes of persuasion. These are “ethos,” “logos,” and “pathos.” Masters of the art of rhetoric use these modes of persuasion to deliver their message better and grab the audience’s attention. Ensuring that a speech or a message has these modes of persuasion will help in convincing people. Before reading how to start a rhetorical essay, individuals should first know how to recognize these modes in a literary work.

Ethos

“Ethos” is a Greek word meaning: “character” and refers to the “ethical appeal.” It involves the author or speaker’s credibility on the topic. An author or speaker should show their audience that they are an authority figure with regards to the topic. They can do this through the use of appropriate and correct language. This means an individual should learn some technical terms when addressing an audience in a particular field. However, speakers and authors should be aware of the type of audience they have. If most of their audience are common people, using jargon may be ineffective and can potentially cause them to lose the audience’s interest.

Logos

“Logos,” meaning “word” or “speech,” refers to the “logical appeal.” “Logos” involves using logical reasoning to persuade an audience. This means using factual evidence with credible sources. Individuals who are citing an idea should back up their claims using statements from experts on the topic. If an individual is stating a unique idea from an expert that most people have never heard, they should cite the source. This will avoid people invalidating their claims and setting them down as rumors. When an individual’s audience leans on the academic type, they should avoid falling for logical fallacies. Individuals should try to recognize this concept when writing a rhetorical analysis essay.

Pathos

“Pathos” is the third mode of persuasion which means “suffering” and refers to the “pathetic appeal.” It involves using an audience’s emotion to persuade them into supporting the speaker or author. An individual using “pathos” will try to get the sympathy of an audience by provoking an emotional response. They can do this through the use of emotional language, anecdotes, and emotional stories. If an environmental activist is trying to gain support from common folks, they can tell stories of how a forest fire killed thousands of innocent animals. This will earn the audience’s sympathy and provoke the emotion of sorrow and even guilt. In a rhetorical analysis, the writer should try to recognize which emotion the author or speaker is trying to provoke.

2. Purpose

The next rhetoric concept is “Purpose.” This is the author or speaker’s main goal when writing or speaking. The purpose can be to convince an audience to side with the author or to inform readers about an idea. A literary work can have multiple purposes behind them. A “purpose” will often have evidence that will support it. The evidence can be a logical or pathetic appeal. Since a rhetorical analysis can be about any written or visual media with a message, it will be easy for an individual to recognize a work’s “purpose.”

3. Text

In rhetorical analysis, the “text” is the written or spoken piece that a writer will analyze. A “text” can be a speech, a book, a letter, a video, a marketing advertisement, or even an image. An individual should examine the language that the author used. They should analyze to see if the author used technical words, emotional prompts, or just used common words. For a speech, videos, advertisements, and images, an individual should examine the visual and auditory aspects. Listen carefully to recognize when a speaker uses inflections. Along with the “text,” individuals should also examine the “context.” This includes who the author is, when the author created the piece, and who the intended audience is.

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

Once an individual has understood the concepts of rhetoric, they can now learn how to write a rhetorical analysis essay. To better understand the steps, individuals can look for a rhetorical analysis essay example and refer to it as they read through the article. The sample will help them recognize the outline of the document and find the perfect rhetorical analysis template to follow. Once the essay sample is ready, they can now proceed with the steps below.

Step 1. Find the rhetoric elements in the literary work

One way in how to start the rhetorical analysis is by identifying the elements present in the literary work. This means looking for the purpose and context of the work. Read, listen, or watch the literary work and find out the author’s or speaker’s purpose. Individuals can look for a document’s thesis statement to find its main objective and purpose. For the context, they can research the author and the building process for the subject. Individuals should try to learn when and where did the author did the literary work. If this is not possible, try figuring out the social issues happening during the time of the work’s release.

Identifying the audience is also a crucial part of writing a rhetorical analysis. Try to learn the demographics that an author or speaker is trying to reach. Find out if they are trying to talk to a specific group or the general public. Individuals should examine the type of medium the author or speaker used to convey their work. As stated above, it can be through writing, speech, videos, and images. Knowing the medium can help recognize the potential target audience of a literary work. If a speaker releases a video on social media, they may be trying to reach millennials or tech enthusiasts. A speech in the middle of a busy street may be targeting the working class. Recognize these elements to create a complete rhetorical analysis.

Step 2. Recognize the modes of persuasion

After identifying the elements present in the literary work, the next step in the rhetorical analysis is to recognize the modes of persuasion. As stated above, these are “logos,” ”ethos,” and “pathos.” Individuals should recognize these modes while reading or watching a literary work. Try to be mindful of how an author or speaker addresses the audience. Find out if they are trying to evoke an emotion, provide factual evidence, or using technical terms to sound more knowledgeable. For advertisements, videos, and images, individuals should look at what the design is trying to convey. An image may be trying to provoke an emotional response or show a historical scene. Citing the modes of persuasion is an integral part of rhetorical analysis.

Step 3. Analyze the elements and the mode 

Once an individual has identified all the modes and elements, they can begin analyzing them. To make the process easier, an individual should write down the elements and modes that they found in the literary work. Try to ask questions like: 

  • Why did the speaker use this mode?

  • How did the author apply the mode?

  • Why did they use X mode instead of Y mode?

  • How did the social issues during the time of writing affect the author’s purpose?

Step 4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the work

After analyzing the elements and modes, evaluate whether the author or speaker is successful in conveying their message and achieving their purpose. The evaluation should come from the individual’s own experience. The individual should self-evaluate and find out if the literary work has affected them. If it did, they should discuss how it affected them and what could be the reason for its successful persuasion. If the literary work did not affect the reader, they should try to explain why the literary work failed. The evaluation will serve as the basis for the rhetorical analysis essay thesis statement.

Step 5. Create an outline

The evaluation process is the last step in organizing the ideas for a rhetorical analysis essay. Once an individual has created a thesis statement from the evaluation, they can then proceed with constructing a rhetorical analysis essay outline. Similar to other essays, a rhetorical analysis should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. The outline will help make the writing process easier for the writer. Individuals can look at an essay template online and examine the document to get an idea of how to create an effective outline. Once an individual has an outline, they can then proceed with writing the rhetorical analysis essay.

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Introducing the Rhetorical Analysis

Similar to other essays, the rhetorical analysis will begin with an introduction. It should give readers background information about the subject. They should include the author, speaker, title of the work, the release date, and other similar information. The introduction should also include the thesis statement. This is the main point of the paper and the writer should restate it during the conclusion. For a rhetorical analysis, the thesis should summarize the individual’s assessment of the work’s rhetoric. It should state if the author succeeded with their goal, the method that the author used, and the purpose of the work.

Rhetorical Analysis Outline

Looking at a rhetorical analysis template can help individuals construct their own outline. An outline is basically the skeletal structure of the document. It will help individuals write faster and organize their ideas even before starting to write. Below is a sample outline that individuals can follow or use as inspiration when creating their own.

Introduction

  • Title of the subject

  • Name of the speaker

  • Date published

  • Purpose of the subject

  • Rhetoric analysis thesis statement

Body

  • Paragraph 1

    • Effective use of persuasion mode

    • Support the effective use with evidence

    • Provide analysis

  • Paragraph 2

    • Connect an idea from paragraph 1

    • Support with evidence

    • Provide analysis

  • Paragraph 3

    • Another effective use of persuasion mode

    • Support the effective use with evidence

    • Provide analysis

Conclusion

  • Summarize the main points as one sentence each

  • Restate the rhetorical analysis thesis statement

  • Closing sentence

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Rhetorical Analysis: Jon Jorgenson’s “THE WALL: A Hopeless Situation”

Jon Jorgenson published “The Wall: A Hopeless Situation” in 2013 on his youtube channel. This was one of the years when youtube became a very popular website with 1 Billion users (“Youtube Reacher 1 Billion Users Milestone,” 2013). The video argues that hardships are part of Christian life and individuals should embrace these situations. Jon Jorgenson provides a great sense of logos by citing biblical events that perfectly fit his argument and uses an effective sense of pathos at the end of the video through the use of dramatic music and a motivating tone.

In his video, Jon Jorgenson begins by describing the nature of the “Wall of Jericho” in the bible. Here, Jorgenson uses an informative tone to tell the story of Joshua. He describes the hopeless situation that the character is facing. He then compares this situation to real-life examples like sickness, addiction, and divorce. The use of the informative tone at the beginning of the video helps in setting out the main point of his argument. Jorgenson was able to successfully inform his audience of what the remainder of the video will be about. 

He then proceeds with citing more biblical examples of hopeless situations like the case of Moses being trapped near the Red Sea, Lazarus being dead, and Jesus being crucified and buried in a tomb. Jorgenson cited 18 biblical examples during this part of the video. It is an effective use of logos since his argument includes the fact that most biblical stories were about individuals in hopeless situations. He also sped up his speech pattern while citing the examples, which only helps to make his statement more persuasive.

After citing the numerous examples, Jorgensen then transitions to a more passive tone of voice. He uses this tone while saying that those situations made the characters feel hopeless. After a brief pause, he then changes into a mild aggressive tone to tell the readers that the hopeless situation was not the end of the stories. Jorgen used an informative tone again to list how the situations concluded. As he goes further into the list, his informative tone slowly transitions into a motivating tone and the dramatic music volume rises with his voice. He uses this tone to provoke a sense of inspiration and hopefulness. The chemistry of the dramatic music and motivating tone provides an effective sense of pathos.

Jon Jorgenson’s effective rhetoric is a result of the effective use of logos through citing biblical examples and pathos through the use of dramatic music and motivating tone. The examples he provided were accurate biblical accounts that most Christians will see as factual evidence. His effective transitions between voice tones perfectly capture the emotion he is trying to convey. The combination of these two modes in conjunction with the visual medium provides an undeniably persuasive video that transcends the test of time.

References

Jorgenson, J. [Jon Jorgenson]. (2013, October 12). THE WALL: A Hopeless Situation [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGuO6hzI8Ok

(2013, March 21). Youtube Reacher 1 Billion Users Milestone. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/id/100575883

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