How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Tips for Students

What is a Rhetorical Analysis

Many college and university students have to write a rhetorical analysis essay at some point of their studies. Before writing such kind of academic paper, it is essential to understand what is rhetorics and how to prepare a rhetorical analysis of the text. Rhetorics as a discipline studies different ways in which the speakers and writers can make an influence on the audience with the help of words. In turn, this type of work is a specifically defined process that includes its unique steps.

Rhetorical Analysis Definition

Most people define it as a kind of essay in which you need to decompose a particular non-fictional text into different parts and then explain the ways in which separate fragments work together to make a specific influence on the audience. The functions of the rhetorical analysis can be different. They depend upon what it exactly is that the author wants to convey: to inform the audience, to entertain or to persuade them. It is also possible to analyze some visual argument. A few examples of the latter include an advertisement, video clip, or cartoon. In fact, this can be any visual material that intends to make a particular influence on people.

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Every analytical process that you conduct should provide the interpretation of the rhetorical goals of the author, identify the instruments that were used by the author to achieve a certain effect, and evaluate whether they were effective. However, you should not give your personal opinion about the argument, and you should not agree or disagree with what the author has to say. The goal that you pursue in this assignment is to discuss how exactly those techniques that you have identified contribute to the effectiveness of the overall message.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

While there are many different types of rhetorical analyses, in this article we will discuss the most common type, which is the analysis of the persuasive pieces. With our tips, you will be able to finish this type of work very quickly and easily. The basic format of the rhetorical analysis is very similar to any other essay. However, there are some important peculiarities that you should remember.


In the introduction, you should inform your readers about the rhetorical situation of the text under interpretation. Namely, you need to define the author, the context, and the audience. Since this is background information, you have to make sure that your introduction is concise and clear. Also, in the introduction, you need to define whether the author achieved his or her persuasive goal in the text.

Thesis Statement

The introduction should have a solid and specific thesis statement. It is usually put at the end of the intro. The thesis should consist of one or two sentences. It must provide the readers with the main points of the analysis. In the thesis, you should indicate the tools and techniques used by the author in his or her text. Some of the examples include the use of diction, literary means, etc.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs in this kind of academic paper must provide the detailed analysis of the tools and techniques that the author had used in the text. Each body paragraph must begin with the topic sentence that briefly introduces the central idea of the fragment. It should relate to the thesis statement and enlarge upon some certain point mentioned in it. It is always a good idea to take the quotes from the text that illustrate some technique and then explain them. You should try and keep the quotes relatively short. Also, the text of your interpretation of every given quote should be no less than three times bigger in size than the quote itself.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

These are the three rhetorical strategies that are typically used in the persuasive writing. You can define them as different types of appeal that the authors apply in their persuasive texts. Let’s talk about each strategy.

Ethos refers to the ethical reasoning; it is a moral proof showing that the point is accurate and correct. Pathos appeals to the emotions of the audience, and it is aimed at provoking an emotional response in the audience towards the discussed point. Logos deals with the logical arguments, and this is the method of convincing the audience with the help of solid and dry reasoning.

When you conduct a rhetorical analysis of the text, you should try and find the examples of how the author appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. Also, it will be very good for you if you learn to use these techniques in your very own persuasive writing.


The conclusion is a final part of your work. This is the end of your writing, and here, you should wrap up the whole paper.  The best way to do it is to take a look at the text under analysis from the distant perspective. As you write a conclusion, try to bear in mind all the major findings of your decomposition and interpretation. Also, do not forget about your readers. At this point, they will have made some progress not only in reading your text but also in understanding the text that you have analyzed.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Most essay examples of this type of academic assignments are very similar in format and structure. Take a good essay sample from the Internet and keep it in front of you while conducting your own rhetorical analysis. As you will look through the examples written by other people, you will notice that most analyses have the SOAPSTone at their core. This acronym stands for the following elements of the rhetorical analysis: Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, Tone.


This means that before starting any research, you should identify which voice in the text belongs to the author. The author and the narrator may be different, or point of the author may be delivered through some kind of the contradiction. In any case, it is very important to know who the speaker in your text is.


This refers to the kind of content and the context of the text. Your task is to identify what is the purpose of the text and why the author had written what is now on the paper.


Every persuasive text targets some particular audience. It will never have the convincing effect if it does not have anyone to convince.


This is the ultimate goal of the text. The purpose is more than just a message that the author wants to deliver. This is the mere intention that stands behind all the strategies and tools.


Simply put, the subject is the topic of your rhetorical analysis paper.


This element of the persuasive essay is usually associated with the strategies that you chose for the presentation of your information.

This framework can be very helpful in writing your own rhetorical essay examples. Remember to spend enough time doing some thinking about the text for the research before you actually get down to writing.

Rhetorical Analysis Topics

The success of any rhetorical analysis very much depends upon the kind of topics that you chose. Some useful piece of advice for you would be to always choose the topic that matches your interests. It will be much easier to conduct an excellent research if you really like the topic, and if you think that you would find it interesting to explore. If the assignment does not presume much freedom of choice, you should pick the one that you are most familiar with so that you could easily find valid arguments.

A lot of interesting topics for the rhetorical analysis come from the media. You can talk about some widely discussed contemporary issue or global problem. The discourses that always include numerous persuasive strategies are the speeches. You can take a look at the speeches of some famous personalities and political leaders. It is guaranteed that their public talks will be crammed with the rhetorical strategies.

A very good source of inspiration when searching for the topics is the news media. Explore online websites or any other printed articles that present the recent news. Regular entertainment magazines will also suffice. You will be surprised at the abundance of tools that the journalists use to shape the public opinion.

All in all, the topics for such kind of research usually vary, and the approaches to writing the rhetorical analysis can also be very different. Your task is to determine all the rhetorical strategies correctly and deconstruct the intentions of the author in the right way.