Putting Together A Rhetorical Analysis

Below is a possible outline for a rhetorical analysis. Keep in mind that this kind of analysis can take many forms, and of course should be taylored according to specific situations and uses.



I. Introduction


®    Introduce your topic or subject of analysis.

®   Make evident your purpose.

®   Engage your reader.

®   Remember this is primarily an objective analysis.




o      What is the issue? (It may help to state it as a yes-no question, even if the answer is not ultimately yes or no.)

o    What's the context?

o      Who is making the argument? What are their credentials? Do they make contact information available? Do any biases seem evident?

o      Who seems to be their targeted audience?

o      What is their MAIN point or thesis?

o      What KIND of argument is being presented, based on info in CTW:  is their argument one of policy? evaluation? substantiation? This question is linked to another one: what is their purpose?

o     How is the argument structured?

o    What are the argument's enabling assumptions?


III. Summary of the Argument's APPEALS

    A. ETHOS

·       How would you describe the writer's character? What sort of PERSON is projected?


·       What are his/her CREDENTIALS?




·       What is the author's toward his or her material? What is his or her tone of voice? How would you describe this person’s style and approach? What is their way of thinking?



Describe in detail the work's
logos: the argument’s logical reasoning and evidence:

·       What claims are being made in support of the thesis?

·       How are those claims being supported? What KINDS of evidence are presented? Recall our class discussion about kinds of evidence: empirical data (facts, statistics, studies); general principles; personal experience; primary sources (interviews, letters, diaries, memos, field work); secondary sources (documents such as newspapers, magazines, books); common sense; etc. In some cases, HUMOR may be an appeal or type of "evidence" or strategy.

  In each case above, provide/describe specific examples !



·       What SPECIFIC emotions does the argument evoke? What is it the writer mostly wants you to feel? Pity? Horror? Fear? Sadness? Joy? Anxiety? Awe? Sympathy?

·       How does the author evoke those emotions? Poetic language? Stark facts? Visual effects? Special music? Interviews with victims? What specific appeals tend to arouse emotion in the piece?


IV. Summary of How the Argument NEGOTIATES OPPOSING VIEWS

  • Does the work acknowledge opposing claims and evidence? Does it do so fairly and with good will? Does it do so thoroughly?
  • Does the work refute those opposing claims and evidence? If so, how?

V. Summary of the Argument's Strengths and Weaknesses

Can you identify any reasoning errors such as the ones we recently examined in class? E.g., slippery slope, name calling, avoiding the issue, causation fallacy, conflict of interest, etc.?

Any other problems with the argument more generally?

Try not to spend too much time on this. Remember that a rhetorical analysis is meant to be an objective examination of an argument—not necessarily an evaluation of that argument. But you can devote a segment of your paper to finally assessing the film a bit, especially if you strongly disagree with the argument which the author makes.

VI. Conclusion


This can be brief, and might actually be folded into V. above.


Note: some of the above items overlap or can overlap in your essay.



Tips and Reminders


®    Don’t forget transitions between your paragraphs and between segments of your paper! They help your reader follow your thinking.

®    Edit for clarity and proofread for mechanical errors.

®    For info on how to format and paginate a college essay, see the first link in our online class library, “Bedford St. Martin’s Research and Documentation Online.” Explore the Bedford St. Martin site, especially  their “Humanities” and “Sample MLA Paper” links.

®    Remember that CTW, Chap. 3 is important; you’re expected to know it.

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