From Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to Barack Obama's inaugural address, speeches are time capsules of the values and events of the periods they were given in. A communication analysis explores the significance of an event, speech or artifact by putting it under the microscope of rhetorical theories and techniques. Analyzing the persuasive elements of a speech can help you create an essay that enhances readers' perspectives on a significant communication event.
Summarize the Significance
Providing the context of the communication artifact you've chosen can both grab readers' attention and introduce them to the author, when the event took place and the circumstances that led to it. If you're analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, for example, you might describe the growing desire for racial equality and the crowd that gathered at the March on Washington to hear King discuss the cause. Knowing the significance of the artifact upfront can help readers feel invested to learn what makes it a successful communication piece and provides context for the analysis that follows.
Thesis and Theories
Your thesis statement should clearly define the lens you'll be looking through to analyze the artifact. For example, an audience analysis focuses on how the author reaches his listeners, a feminism essay looks at the function of gender roles in the author's ideas and an ideological essay explores the speech's political views. Choose a theory to use in analyzing your artifact and craft a thesis statement. If you're writing an ideological analysis of the "I Have a Dream" speech, for example, your thesis might describe how King uses the political contradiction between racism and America's claims of independence and liberty to demonstrate the need for equality.
Dissecting the Details
In the analytical portion of your essay, you'll explore your thesis using direct quotes and examples from the speech or artifact to illustrate your ideas. One way to keep your thoughts organized is to focus each paragraph on a different tool the author uses to express his message. For example, in the ideological analysis of the "I Have a Dream" speech, you might discuss the comparisons King makes to seminal documents such as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, his descriptions of the current consequences of segregation and his forecast of a future vision of equality.
Your essay's conclusion should not only wrap up and summarize your ideas, but show audiences what your examination of the artifact can add to what they already know. Demonstrate how looking at the speech from the theoretical lens you've selected enhances its meaning and creates a greater understanding of its importance. For example, an ideological analysis of the "I Have a Dream Speech" could argue for the persistent contradictions between a country that claims to give freedom and liberty, yet doesn't consistently offer that for all. It can also look at the milestones America has achieved since 1963 toward many of King's objectives.
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