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Commentaries, documentaries, T.V. shows, famous art collections, even historical books. A rhetorical analysis can be written about many different mediums. The aim of a rhetorical analysis is to determine how a creator of the work analyzed came up with their argument. When you write a critical analysis essay, you may even wish to determine whether or not the original argument was successful or failed.
The particular writing style used when authoring a rhetorical analysis varies slightly from that of a conventional essay, slightly more insight is required. Continue reading for more information on how to write a rhetorical analysis essay.
Understanding what is a rhetorical analysis essay
Often times, writers and public speakers tend to use linguistics to influence or engage with their audience. The field of studies which concerns this practice is referred to as ‘rhetoric’.
Occasionally, a writer will dissect works of non-fiction in order to determine how each piece of the original work fits together in order to convey a specific message or effect, this is called a rhetorical analysis or rhetorical analysis essay. The writer might find that the original creator used certain verbiage or created specific imagery in order to entertain the audience, or to inform them, or perhaps to create a call-to-action. Nearly every medium can be the subject of a rhetorical analysis, including cartoons and political speeches. The person whose work is being analyzed is often labeled the ‘rhetorician.’
The objective of the analysis is to get insight into the specific aims of the rhetorician, as well as the particular techniques and tools they have employed, and to provide examples of those tools and techniques in action and to discuss the actual efficiency of the tools they’ve used. The purpose of authoring a rhetorical paper is not to oppose or agree with a particular side of the argument, but rather to discuss how the rhetorician delivers their argument and if their approach is successful or not.
What is an analysis
Used frequently in education, research, and even everyday life, an analysis is the act of segregating various elements of complex text with the intent of developing a stronger comprehension of the work as a whole. The process of analyzing something means considering its real meaning, asking how it works or determining why it does what it does.
What is a rhetorical analysis
Prior to delving into what a rhetorical analysis, it is essential to discuss and know what it is not. A rhetorical analysis, while exploratory in nature, should not be confused with a research paper or article, and despite being consider a vehicle to explore literary works, it is not an example of a literary work itself. The purpose of a rhetorical paper is not to try to know the underlying meaning of the work being analyzed.
Understanding rhetorical analysis definition
The very definition of a rhetorical analysis implies that the person conducting the analysis call upon their critical thinking skills in order to dissect various elements of the work being analyzed. Essentially, this involves breaking the entire written work into sections and viewing each section objectively.
The primary objective of this type of analytical paper is to convey HOW the original author writes, rather than merely reflecting upon WHAT they wrote. To do this effectively, the very important thing you should do is to analyze different strategies used by the writer in question in order to achieve their overall goal or determine the purpose of their writing. Remember that writers from different backgrounds will often call upon different strategies in an attempt to meet their objective. Based on this understanding, it is acceptable to use different existing techniques of writing analysis to explore various works. For example, you wouldn’t use the same technique to explore a scientific report as you would to explore a historical paper. Given that each of the original authors had very unique goals in mind, it is only logical that they would utilize different writing style.
The first step to learning how to learning how to start a rhetorical analysis paper is finding a good article or literary work that you would like to base your analysis on.
From there, you will read (and possibly even re-read) the work you’ve selected. As you read the text, attempt to identify the thesis or the main ideas and principal arguments that the author is endeavoring to convey.
Once you’ve identified the thesis and have begun to develop a stronger understanding for the author’s argument, you will need to start analyzing the rhetorical features of the text. This involves re-reading the text, with the following questions in mind:
- Clearly define the thesis statement, explaining what exactly is the argument that the writer endeavours to make?
- What topic has the author elected to study? Why have they chosen this?
- What is the author’s intent? Do they want to persuade, or inform, or educate or criticize?
- Who is the audience that the author is trying to speak to?
- Does the author arrange his or her ideas in chronological order? If not, how are they arranged?
- How does the author use literary devices like diction?
- Does the author use quotes? Why?
- Are key points or terms repeated?
- How is the article structured? Is it exclamatory, imperative or declarative?
- Does the author utilize punctuation in order to create a specific effect?
The primary objective is to not only source for the answers to the questions presented above, but also to determine why exactly it is that the author has chosen to write in the style that they have written in. Remember, WHY not HOW. For example, when determining how the target audience is, consider why exactly the author would want to write for those specific individuals.
You can find out more on Chicago Annotated Bibliography.
Rhetorical analysis strategies
While there are many schools of thought on the best method to utilize while conducting a rhetorical analysis, at the top of the rhetorical strategy list is what is commonly referred to as the SOAPSTone method.
Created as a method for breaking down the work of professional writers, the SOAPSTone method presents those writing an analysis with the information they need in order to develop rhetorical criticism. An acronym, SOAPSTone stands for Speaking, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone. By using this strategy, it is possible to refer to any text and construct a strong sense for what the original author intended and how their target audience may have reacted to it.
The six parts of the SOAPSTone strategy are:
- SPEAKER: Figure out who the speaker is. Determine who is telling the story or relaying the information. Are they a narrator? Or perhaps a character, or is it the author themselves? What other important details or information should be known?
- OCCASION: Determine what the specific occasion is. The occasion (also known as the setting) refers to the place and time that the story takes place in. Consider the geography or era. What other relevant details are offered in the text?
- AUDIENCE: Who is the author speaking to? Could there be more than once audience? Why was this specific text written to this particular audience?
- PURPOSE: Why has the author chosen to write this message? What do they want to get across? Is the author’s thesis or goal clear?
- SUBJECT: After uncovering who the target audience may be, it is necessary to investigate the subject. What is the underlying meaning? What other information is revealed?
- TONE: Investigate the tone, evaluate each literary device and how the text is organized. What emotions does the audience have?
What are rhetorical strategies
Also referred to as rhetorical modes, rhetorical strategies are used by writers in order to allow them to better structure or analyze paragraphs or entire essays. Essentially, these types of strategies, or devices, enable writers to utilize patterns to effectively express their thoughts and ideas. The most commonly taught rhetorical strategies are:
- Cause and Effect
- Comparison and Contrast
- Process Analysis
The above-mentioned writing analyzers will be explained in further detail below.
Types of rhetorical strategies
Description: As most would agree, a great description has the potential to create strong images in the minds of the audience. An author might utilize an objective description, where they will describe the physical appearance of a character or location without any sort of emotion, or they may utilize a subjective description, where the feelings of the writer are clearly evident based on the description.
Narration: The terms ‘narrative’ refers to the scope of the storyline, where it takes place, who is in it, and what the most important elements are. A narrative will focus on the action of the plot, but will also include descriptions, themes, and ideas.
Exemplification: Mankind learns by example, and when presented with written text, it is the use of examples that allows us to learn at a much more rapid pace. Typically, and example is used to relate to a real world scenario regarding the argument or idea that the author is attempting to deliver.
Cause and Effect: The term Cause and Effect is just as it sounds, exploring the cause of a particular element or event and exploring the effect of that same element or event.
Comparison and Contract: When comparing one or more things, you determine how they are similar. When contrasting one or more things, you determine how they are different. Typically, you would compare things that are different from each other to determine how they are related. Moreover, you would contract things that are similar to each other to determine how they differ.
Process Analysis: Process analysis challenges the writer to answer the question “HOW”. More specially, the analysis thesis would answer the question “How does this happen or occur?”
Rhetorical analysis thesis
There are a few things that should be kept in mind when writing a thesis statement for a rhetorical analysis essay.
- Never speak in first person or use words like “I think that” or “I believe that”
- Your thesis statement will serve as a roadmap to your essay and guide your reader
- Your thesis statement should assert the conclusion and also highlight the rhetorical strategies deployed by the author
- Your thesis statement should clearly illustrate which techniques you intend to analyze and discuss the impact that each technique has on the text and its overall effectiveness.
Remember, a thesis statement for a rhetorical analysis paper is NOT:
- A vague statement of the topic
- A declaration of facts or statistics
- A summary of the original author’s works
- A declaration of what will be explored in the essay
Rhetorical analysis outline
Detailed below is an easy to follow outline for an analytical paper. Remember that this is only a guide and can be customized as needed.
- Clearly state your subject or topic
- Declare you purpose
- Spark interest in your audience
SUMMARIZE THE RHETORICAL ANALYSIS
- Explore the issue – it may be helpful to phrase this as a YES or NO question
- Determine the context
- Figure out who is making the argument
- Determine who the intended audience is
- Uncover the main argument or thesis
- Decide what sort of argument is being presented
- How is the argument presented
- What are the assumptions of the argument
SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT and APPEALS
- Describe the character of the writer, what type of person are they
- What credential or qualifications do they have
- Do they act on good faith, are they respectable, are they likeable
- What tone does the author use, how do they think
- What claims are made in the thesis statement
- How are they supported? What evidence is made available?
- Provide as much detail as possible
- What kind of emotion is presented in the argument
- How does the writer want the audience to feel
- What tools does the author use to call upon these feelings
SUMMARY OF HOW THE ARGUMENT IS VIEWED
- Does the text recognise opposing views or other evidence? If so, does it accept other views or negate them?
- Does the text combat opposing views? If so, how?
SUMMARY OF THE STREGNTHS AND WEAKNESSES
- Are you able to clearly identify errors or other problems?
- What are the strengths of the argument?
Rhetorical analysis essay example
The examples of rhetorical analysis essays can be found on the Internet. It is best to go through them to know the common writing patterns as well as the mistakes students often do, before you start preparing your own paper.