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Introduction to a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

by Rebecca Epstein, Demand Media
    The introduction of your rhetorical analysis paper guides your reader through the rest of the essay.

    The introduction of your rhetorical analysis paper guides your reader through the rest of the essay.

    Rhetoric is the study of how a speaker or writer influences others. The study of rhetoric is becoming more common in college, and before asking students to use their own rhetorical strategies to persuade others, instructors sometimes require them to analyze the rhetoric of a text. If you have to write an essay in which you analyze the rhetoric of a film, book, advertisement or anything else, be sure to put care into your introduction, as it's essential to the success of your assignment.

    What Is a Thesis Statement?

    Every introduction to an academic essay requires a thesis statement. A thesis statement is "a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow," according to Writing Tutorial Services at the University of Indiana. Your thesis statement is often the first or last sentence of the introductory paragraph, but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. The statement should sum up your argument, without being too general or too specific, so that readers understand the message and the scope of your paper.

    How to Write a Thesis Statement

    One method for writing a thesis statement is to figure out what the assignment is asking. For example, perhaps it's asking you to analyze the use of color as a rhetorical device in a magazine advertisement for a clothing company. Narrow the assignment prompt to a specific question that you plan to answer -- for instance, "How does the use of color in this advertisement persuade the viewer that the clothing is desirable?" Your thesis statement needs to answer the question and give an overview of the evidence you will use to convince your readers that your thesis is sound.

    The Rest of the Introduction

    The remainder of the introductory paragraph brings the reader up to speed on the topic being discussed. It's not necessary to define "rhetoric" or "rhetorical analysis" for the reader; however, it may be necessary to give some context regarding the text that you're analyzing. "Text" refers to whatever the object of analysis is, even if it's a film or an image. You might include contextual information such as when, where and why the text was produced.

    Revising Your Introduction

    Write your essay, providing evidence in each body paragraph to support your thesis. Even if you do so, it's common to reread your essay only to discover that your introduction no longer works to introduce the reader to the essay you've written. Because of this, you may even choose to write your introduction last, after you've written the body of the essay. It's important that your introduction prepare readers for what you're about to say in the rest of the paper, so revise accordingly.

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    About the Author

    Rebecca Epstein has been writing since 2004 with work appearing in journals such as "The Seneca Review" and "Arts and Letters." She received her Bachelor of Science in human development with a concentration in neuropsychology from Cornell University and a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of Arizona. Epstein is a MFA candidate in nonfiction at the University of Iowa.

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