A Sample Rhetorical Analysis Structure

A rhetorical analysis examines how authors construct messages in their writing.
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From commercials to speeches to movies, all genres of writing make arguments. Because of this, authors must carefully consider their audience to find the best way to portray the intended message. A rhetorical analysis is an essay that explores how the parts of a composition, such as word choice, images and structure, create the author's argument. One way to structure a rhetorical analysis is by examining how the author establishes credibility, appeals to audience emotion and supports his ideas. These are also known as the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos and logos.

1 Introduction

A good way to begin a rhetorical analysis is by giving readers some background on the document, such as the time period and coinciding events. For example, President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War at a cemetery dedication just a few months after the battle of Gettysburg. This information can lead into your thesis, which states the author's argument and the tactics he uses to convey it. A sample thesis might be, "In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln emphasizes national unity and respect for the soldiers' sacrifice to persuade a divided country to heal."

2 Ethos

The essay can continue with a discussion of ethos, the way an author establishes himself as a trusted authority on the subject and earns readers' respect and trust. Ethos is often developed through writing style and knowledge of the topic, as well as the author's past reputation. You can analyze ethos by looking at the author's credentials, word choice and overall attitude, commonly known as tone. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln's credibility comes from his position as president, as well as the official, solemn tone used to address his audience.

3 Pathos

Pathos is an author's appeal to emotions. Sometimes, hitting on the human element of a topic can make it easier for audiences to understand and relate to. In analyzing your chosen composition, you can look for ways that the author creates sympathy on the part of the audience, such as using anecdotes or evocative, descriptive language. You might also look for ways the piece misuses emotional appeal, since excessive pathos can easily become manipulative. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln invokes emotional appeal through reference to the country's past fight for unity and forceful language to describe the soldiers' sacrifice.

4 Logos

Logos is the author's primary claim and use of evidence to support it. When writing a rhetorical analysis, students can look at the author's use of credible sources to support his points, as well as the way each of his main points unfolds in the piece. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln's primary claim is that the soldiers' sacrifice presents reason for the country to reunite. He uses the endurance of America's ideals of freedom and liberty as evidence and implies that if soldiers were willing to die to protect them, Americans should be willing to fight for unity as well.

5 Conclusion

As with any essay, a good conclusion should recap the major points without merely summarizing the content. It should also introduce a brief new idea the audience can consider after reading. In a rhetorical analysis, one conclusion strategy is to talk about what the document you analyzed reveals about the world we live in, or what larger truth the author conveys with his writing. An essay on the Gettysburg Address might conclude by discussing how today, America is still divided by political differences that often cause bitterness. Therefore, Lincoln's message of unity still bears relevance for us although written more than 150 years ago.

Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.