Rhetorical analysis – ooh, that sounds heavy, doesn’t it?
Let’s first understand what a rhetorical analysis essay is. The word ‘rhetoric’ refers to the study of words writers use to communicate and influence their readers. Basically, rhetorical analysis is nothing but analyzing a writer’s writing.
More than writing about whether you agree or not with the writer’s arguments, this essay asks you to dive deep into how the writer has chosen to write. It’s about dissecting into the piece to determine the writing techniques used to deliver the main point or message.
This might sound stressful and confusing but that’s what we’re here for – to break down the steps to writing a rhetorical analysis essay and help you put together an impressive, high-scoring paper.
How to Approach a Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Before jumping straight into the steps to writing a rhetorical analysis essay, it’s important to understand how to approach such an essay and the factors you need to consider in order to do justice to it.
This is where the SOAPSTone strategy comes into the picture. It stands for Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject and Tone. Following this strategy helps you plan the essay and approach it in an organized manner.
Read on to know what each of these crucial elements constitute of and the questions you need to answer while writing a rhetorical analysis essay.
‘Speaker’ refers to the person telling the story. Don’t mistake the author and speaker to be the same voice. In many instances, the author may choose to tell the story from the main character or narrator’s point of view.
Questions to ask: Who is the speaker? Are the author and speaker the same? What do you know about the speaker? What assumptions can you make about him/her?
‘Occasion’ refers to the setting or context of the piece of writing. While analyzing ‘occasion’, there are two ways to look at it – micro and macro view. Micro is about understanding where the writing was set while macro is about considering when the author wrote it and what was the environment like.
Questions to ask: What is the time and place of the text? What era is it set in? What are the historical events that took place then? What details are mentioned about the social or political climate? How does the environment influence the text?
As the name suggests, ‘audience’ asks you to consider who the text is directed to. The audience of a text can range from a certain person to a group of people.
Questions to ask: Who is the audience? Does the speaker define the audience? What do you know about the audience? What assumptions can you make? Why was the text written for that specific audience?
Establishing the purpose means analyzing why the author has written that piece of text and understand the message he/she wants to deliver through it.
Questions to ask: What is the purpose of the author? Has he/she made the purpose or goal of writing clear? How does the author choose to convey the main message? How does the text make you feel? What is the effect the author intends to have on his/her readers?
‘Subject’ is the underlying message or the main topic of the text – you should be able to explain that in a few words.
Questions to ask: What is the main idea or topic? What does the author reveal about the subject? What is the underlying message? When is the subject revealed? How does the author present the subject?
‘Tone’ refers to the attitude of the author which is usually reflected in the choice of words, imagery, sentence structure and other literary devices he/she uses.
Questions to ask: What words does the author use? What is the author’s attitude towards the readers and subject? What is the author’s point of view? What emotions are you left with after reading the text? What are the literary tools the author uses to set the tone?
Here’s a video by Snap Language which articulates how you can accurately interpret the author’s tone
6 Simple Steps to Write an Effective Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Once you have individually analyzed each of the above elements, gathered the answers and made your notes, it gets easier to begin the writing process.
Original: SourceSo, let’s get started. Here’s how you can write an effective rhetorical analysis essay in six simple steps.
1. Determine the Persuasion Strategy
According to Aristotle, any spoken or written communication that intends to persuade the audience contains three elements – ethos, pathos and logos.
a) ethos appeals to ethics and is used to convince the reader of the author’s credibility. An author would use this mode to justify his/her stance and exhibit how moral or reliable he/she is.
“I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.” – To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
b) pathos appeals to emotions and is meant to evoke an emotional response in the reader.
“He had meant the best in the world, and been treated like a dog—like a very dog. She would be sorry someday—maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die temporarily!” – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
c) logos appeals to logic and aims to convince the reader through logical reasoning and facts.
“Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation.” – Of Studies, Francis Bacon
Do note that the author can use more than one mode of persuasion in the text. While explaining your analysis, you need to point out which ones the author’s used while explaining the reasons behind it and determining if he/she was effective in persuading.
2. Actively Read Multiple Times
The first key step to writing a rhetorical analysis essay is actively reading the text you’re analyzing thoroughly because all the research you need to do and answers you want lie there.
The best way to read is to go paragraph wise, have the list of SOAPSTone questions by your side and answer them as you go. Don’t rely on one or two readings – you should give it multiple reads in order to be able to analyze it effectively.
Remember – you are reading to analyze and evaluate which means digging deep, making notes, focusing on the author’s writing techniques and taking note of patterns, if any.
3. Formulate a Clear Thesis Statement
Just like other academic essays, even a rhetorical analysis essay requires a well-defined thesis statement. This statement should reflect your stance or interpretation of the text. You need to essentially answer how effective the writer was in convincing the readers and/or meeting his/her goal.
Your thesis statement needs to be included towards the end of the introductory paragraph but it’s a good idea to start by crafting the thesis statement because that’s what forms the skeleton of your paper and gives your writing direction.
Make sure you write an arguable and precise thesis statement which you will need to justify and prove in the following paragraphs with evidence and examples from the text.
Watch this interesting video by Cruz Medina on formulating a thesis statement for rhetorical analysis essays
4. Create an Outline
Making an outline of the essay before writing is integral. It ensures your arguments flow logically and you don’t miss out on anything. So, spend some time putting together the outline and jotting down your points in the respective sections.
3 main sections of a rhetorical analysis essay
The introductory paragraph needs to begin with introducing the text you’re analyzing along with details on the author. It’s a good idea to include a crisp summary, just in case your instructor is unaware of what it’s about.
You should then mention the modes of persuasion used by the author along with touching upon the SOAPStone elements in the text. This paragraph needs to define your purpose of analysis and end with a thesis statement.
Being the majority of the paper, it’s in this section where you need to justify your arguments with the help of examples. In the body paragraphs, you need to elaborate on the persuasion appeals and do a comprehensive analysis of the literary devices, methods and strategies used by the writer.
It’s a good idea to devote one paragraph to each mode of persuasion. Remember to use a lot of quotes and excerpts to support your arguments.
Here’s a useful tip – go in chronological order while writing the essay. That way, you can present your insights as they appear in the original text.
The concluding paragraph needs to tie everything together. Don’t just repeat your thesis – rephrase it to reinstate the point you’re trying to make. Apart from that, you can also end with how the writer’s work has impacted the audience or society.
5. Use the Appropriate Writing Style
Apart from the rhetorical strategies you need to use, it’s important to stay true to grammar rules use the right words to put together an interesting read.
Maintain an objective tone in your writing, write in third person and stick to using present tense. Don’t make the mistake of being overly critical without proper reasoning and ensure you analyze the text along with giving enough supporting evidence instead of summarizing or merely stating your point of view.
6. Edit and Proofread your Work
Last but definitely not the least, don’t forget to edit and proofread your work before submitting it. You need to ensure you’re submitting an error and plagiarism free paper.
So, give it a few reads to see whether you’ve covered all the points, not made any silly mistakes and that your paper flows in logically.
We understand how taxing this assignment can turn out to be because it not only requires you to write impeccably but it also needs you to wholly understand rhetorical strategies, literary devices and other writing techniques.
So, follow these six steps to writing a rhetorical analysis essay and you’re sure to get the scores you desire!
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