How to Set Up a Rhetorical Analysis

by Robert Russell

The point of departure for rhetorical analysis is the realization that people are moved and persuaded in a variety of ways. Convincing an audience or reader by appealing to evidence and rational argument is only one way of making an argument. In some situations, a more convincing case may be achieved by appealing to the reader or audience at an emotional level. The goal of rhetorical analysis is to analyze and understand a text by breaking it down into its constitutive elements.

Carefully read the article and determine subject matter and goals of the author. The goal may be to explain or inform the reader about a particular issue or topic. The goal may be to amuse and entertain the reader about a more light-hearted topic or its aim may be motivating or persuading the reader.

Analyze the rhetorical elements of the author's writing style. Writers and speakers use words in language in different ways to achieve different effects. Rhetoric recognizes that a speaker or writer persuades his audience with different tools and techniques. Aristotle categorized rhetoric into three categories: logos, ethos and pathos. Logos uses reason and rationality to persuade the reader. Ethos seeks to persuade the reader by appealing to credibility of the writer or another expert. The expert's authority, rather than the evidence itself, convinces the reader. Pathos attempts to make the case by appealing to the reader at an emotional level. Pathos may appeal to the reader's sympathy or compassion, sadness or anger, love or hatred and so forth. Read the text and take notes about the different rhetorical styles used.

Write an outline for the rhetorical analysis. The analysis should have three parts: an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. Divide the main body of the analysis into subsections. The subsections may be devoted to the different rhetorical elements used in the text.

Write a strong thesis sentence that clearly states the main points of the analysis. Describe the central argument made by the author and the general method used to make the argument. Outline the steps of your argument in the last one or two sentences of the introduction. Present the different elements of your analysis in the main body of the paper. Cite examples from the text as evidence for your analysis. Write a one paragraph conclusion that summarizes the central points of the analysis.

About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.

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