How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay (The Complete Guide)

What is a rhetorical analysis essay?

Rhetorical analysis essay is a piece of writing enabling students to write about a literary work such as a book, an article, a movie, or advertisement with the view of evaluating the strategies that the authors have used to appeal to the audience.

The interpretation and analysis is attainable by focusing on rhetorical strategies that the author(s) have used otherwise known as ethos, logos, and pathos among others. Do you know how to write a rhetorical analysis essay in AP Lang?

Rhetoric is the study of how writers and speakers use words and literary devices to influence an audience. A rhetorical analysis is an essay that breaks articles, documents, speeches, books, movies, etc., into parts, and then explains how the parts work together to create a certain effect—whether to persuade, entertain, or inform.

The word rhetorician is used to refer to the author of the speech or document. A rhetorical analysis should explore the rhetorician’s goals and techniques (style, word choice, organization, phraseology, transitions, and especially literary devices), and the effectiveness of those techniques.

Rhetorical Analysis (RA)

When writing a comparison-contrast paper based on your rhetorical analysis, you are NOT saying whether or not you agree with the argument. Instead, you’re discussing how the rhetorician makes that argument, and whether or not the approach used was successful. An appeal is an attempt to earn audience approval or agreement by playing to natural human tendencies or common experiences.  There are three kinds of appeals: the pathetic (pathos), the ethical (ethos), and the logical (logos).

Purposes: of the Rhetorical Analysis (RA) assignment

· To develop your understanding of rhetoric by investigating how a writer constructed a professional document or text in your major field

· To practice analytical thinking and clear writing
Step 1:

As a preliminary step, before you actually write your paper, you should try to answer the following questions about the document you are analyzing: · What do you think was the author’s purpose in producing this writing? · Who was the intended audience?

· What genre does it represent? · What style and tone did the author use? (formal, informal)· What rhetorical appeals did the writer use? (ethos, pathos, and logo).

Come up with succinct rhetorical analysis essay topics, follow the laid out format, come up with a good thesis statement, and comprehensive conclusion showing whether the author succeeded or failed. Craft your rhetorical analysis essay prompt well to grasp your readers’ attention from the introduction to the conclusion.

Logos = Logic (Appeal to the mind/intellect, to reason)

The use of logic, rationality, and critical reasoning to persuade. Logos can be thought of as the text of the argument, and how well a writer has argued his/her point.

The logical appeal uses reason to make their case. Academic discourse is mostly logos-driven because academic audiences respect scholarship and evidence. Rhetoricians using logos (logical appeal) rely on evidence and proof, whether the proof is hard data or careful reasoning.

Pathos = Emotion (Appeal to the heart/emotion)

As seen from the rhetorical analysis definition, the use of emotion and affect to persuade. Pathos appeals to the heart and to one’s emotions and sympathetic imagination. Pathos can be thought of as the role of the audience in the argument.

The pathetic appeal invokes the audience’s emotion to gain acceptance and approval for the ideas expressed. In this context, the word “pathetic” has no negative connotation, but refers only to the ability to stir emotions. Using Pathos (pathetic appeal), rhetoricians attempt to convince their audience of their argument by tapping into the reader’s sympathy, compassion, anger, disappointment, desire, love, and sadness etc. Effective rhetoricians can create these feelings in an audience even if the feeling wasn’t there before.

Ethos = Ethics and Credibility (Appeal that establishes the writer’s/speaker’s believability, qualifications, and character)

Ethos can be thought of as the writer in the argument, how credible his/her argument is. Ethos seeks to persuade the reader through appeals to ethics and character that the writer/speaker can be trusted and believed due to his/her noble character or ethical ways in which he/she is presenting ideas. Consider the rhetorical analysis thesis generator as your learn how to write a rhetorical analysis on a movie.

The ethical appeal uses the writer’s own credibility and character to make their case and gain approval for their argument. Rhetoricians use themselves and their position as an “expert” or as a “good person” to give their argument presence and importance. An everyday example of this is a minister, rabbi, priest, or shaman—individuals who are followed because they have established themselves as moral authorities. Writers using ethos (ethical appeal) may use detailed statistics and a multitude of documents to establish their authority and knowledge on the subject.

· What strategies were used to develop ideas? (description, narration, process analysis, compare and contrast, cause and effect, etc.)
· How is the text organized, and why do you think the author chose this particular organizational pattern? Is there a particular format that is used?

Try visual rhetorical analysis essay examples as well · Why do you think the author included or omitted particular information? · What kinds of evidence did the author include to support his/her point of view, and how was that evidence used?

Step 2: Decide which appeals and strategies you will focus on in your paper. Come up with relevant rhetorical analysis topics. 

A writer might use many appeals and strategies, but some are more important than others in achieving the writer’s purpose. So you need to be selective; choose those that you think are the most important (or most interesting) and write about them in your body paragraphs using appropriate rhetorical analysis strategies.

Follow this Rhetorical Analysis Outline


a. What is the purpose of the Rhetorical Analysis (RA) assignment?

b. Why/how do writers use rhetorical writing strategies to achieve their purpose? Provide a general/brief explanation of this.

c. Introduce the document you are analyzing:

1- What is the full title of the document?

2- Who is the author?
3- Under what circumstances was the document written? (You may have to guess based on the content and the purpose.)

4- When was it written?

5- Who was the intended audience? Describe the discourse community the document was written for.

6- What is the author’s purpose in producing this piece of writing? What did he/she want to achieve? What do you think the author wanted the reader to think or do after reading this document? (to inform, to persuade, etc.)

d. Preview Statement:

Indicate the rhetorical strategies you will discuss in the rest of this RA. Strategies include style, tone, use of rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, or logos), organization (narration, description, exemplification, analysis of cause and effect, comparison, contrast, etc.), transitions/flow, presentation/format (look at p. 16 of your Course Reader, “Framework for Analyzing Genres and Rhetorical Strategies/rhetorical analysis devices.”)

II. ANALYSIS OF RHETORICAL STRATEGIES (details of the strategies mentioned in “d” above)

You will begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, and the paragraph will have a unified focus. You should write one paragraph on each of the rhetorical strategies you mentioned in the introduction. Here is how you should develop your paragraphs:

a. Define the rhetorical strategy you will be discussing in that paragraph. (You can quote or paraphrase from your course readings)

b. Quote or paraphrase 2-3 examples from the document that illustrate the use of the strategy. Consider other rhetorical analysis essay topics too. 

c. Explain how or why the examples illustrate the strategy and how it contributed to the author’s purpose. This will define your success in your example of rhetorical analysis essay using ethos pathos and logos.


a. Summarize briefly the main points of the analysis 

b. Explain the significance of your analysis as you consider the following:

1. What conclusions can you draw about the role in general of rhetorical strategies in producing clear communication through writing?

2. What strategies were successful for the author’s intended audience and purpose? Give examples and explain why.

3. What changes would you recommend to the author to better achieve his/her purpose?

How to write a rhetorical analysis essay AP Lang?

1. Determine the authors’ purpose for the book.
2. Explain why you think the authors wrote this book?
3. Define the authors’ ideas and concepts: create a context for the reader.
4. Explain the authors’ arguments, and their target audience.
5. Analyze how the authors present their ideas to the reader.
6. Discuss the significance whether or not the authors use effective methods and information to convince the reader of the validity of their purpose/argument.

Remember that a single document or speech can employ one, two, or all three appeals. Sometimes rhetoricians will combine many techniques and literary devices to create a stronger persuasive argument. As you read, research, and study the two historical documents that you have chosen, focus on the author’s appeals and literary devices that are the most prevalent or interesting, and that you can describe persuasively. After completing the actual rhetorical analysis, you are ready to write your comparison-contrast paper.

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