Basic Guidelines on How to Do a Rhetorical Analysis

Basic Guidelines on How to Do a Rhetorical Analysis

A rhetorical analysis therefore is an essay that evaluates the usage of various elements like word choice, imagery or style to make an argument. When you are conducting this analysis, you do not say whether you agree with the author or not but reveal how he or she employs different techniques i.e. use of emotional appeals, establishment of credibility and use of supporting evidence.  Mastering how to do a rhetorical analysis can be a daunting task if you are clueless about the process. However, with this handout, your rhetorical analysis should never trouble you again. Read on and become an expert in rhetorical analysis….

Tips on how to do a rhetorical analysis

The list below gives you a list of some of the elements you always consider when doing a rhetorical analysis:

The author’s target audience – Find out the people that the author is writing to or addressing in the text.

The author’s purpose – Your analysis should bring out the author’s objective in the text. What is the rhetorician passing across in the movie, book, essay, advert or cartoon?

Organization of the work – Ask if the author uses a particular structure while making the argument. What is the impact of such organization to the readers?

Language usage Language is the main tool that any author uses to make an argument and convince the audience that the idea is valid. Focus on various elements of style the author uses to develop the argument.

Analyze the type of appeal – Devote enough time to this section by discussing all the appeals in the text. These appeals are ethos, logos, and pathos.

Evidence- What type of supporting information does the author use to convince the audience.

These elements should help you figure out how to do a rhetorical analysis. We shall discuss them in details in other sections of this manual.

Example #1: Rhetorical Analysis

“Why I won’t buy an iPad (and Think You Shouldn’t, Either) Cory Doctrow’s

This article is an old review of one of Apple’s leading brands, iPad. However, at the time of its publication in 2010, the iPad was one the company’s latest product on the market. Doctrow has proven record as a CD-ROM programmer and a successful blogger. He uses his vast experience to persuade potential iPad buyers worldwide not to purchase Apple products because of their limited digital rights. …

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This excerpt shows you how to introduce your rhetorical analysis, by giving the background information of the document, identifying the author’s purpose, target audience etc.

A simplified guide on how to do a rhetorical analysis

Like in any piece of written work, an introduction plays a major role in setting the pace for your work.

Try to address the following elements in your initial paragraphs:

  1. Start your intro with a hook. This is the time to pique your readers. Grab their attention by introducing your rhetorical analysis in a catchy way.
  2. Say the kind of paper you are writing. Let your reader know that you are writing a rhetorical analysis and not any other essay. Otherwise, they may expect you take a stance thinking that you are working on an argumentative essay.
  3. Identify the document you are analyzing. Give background information regarding its history and development. This can be a good place for you to do a QUICK narrative summary. We emphasize quick because you could be dealing with a bulky document. In addition, save detailed description of the piece for your body paragraphs.
  4. For smaller documents like a photograph or advert, capture it in your intro especially if the copyright laws of the work allow.
  5. Give basic rundown of the document. Here, identify the author, year of publication, the context of the document, the purpose and the target audience.
  6. Include your thesis statement. Towards the end of the introductory paragraph, state your main idea. This orients the reader and controls the flow of your ideas.
  7. Examine the following example as you work out how to do a rhetorical analysis. Focus of how the writer develops the intro by integrating the elements we have discussed in the previous section.

Example #2: Good Rhetorical Analysis Introduction

Not Quite a Clean Sweep: Rhetorical analysis of: “Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier”


[Hook]: A woman’s work is never done: is a common saying in America, which most women grew up knowing and feeling that it is true. [Context]: Jessica Grose, the author of “Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier, which was published in 2013, by the New Republic” is one such woman. [Author’s purpose]: She opines that while modern men are now embracing childcare and cooking in their homes, cleaning still belongs to women unfairly. [Thesis]: Grose establishes her credibility by giving personal details and authentic sources, quoting persuading statistics and employing emotional appeals successfully; however her credibility and argument weaken towards the end as she tries to appeal to the readers’ emotions.

From this introduction, you can clearly single out the writer’s hook, context, purpose of the author and thesis. Even though not every rhetorical analysis introduction will take this structure, it is a good approach to consider when handling your assignments. To read  the rest of the essay, visit

How to develop the body of your rhetorical analysis

Once you have an appealing introduction, the readers will have the desire to read on and get the flesh of your topic. You do not want to disappoint someone whose appetite is already wet. Get on to and give the best you can.

Body Paragraph 1: In this section, explain the author’s intended audience. As you do this, try to imagine how knowledgeable the readers are concerning the topic. Secondly, think of the audience’s reaction towards the author’ argument. Are they likely to agree or disagree? Will they disagree or agree among themselves? How does the author appeal to any of the values, which the readers hold? What are the values? These are just but some of the guiding questions you should address as you reflect on how to do a rhetorical analysis.

Different ways of ordering your rhetorical analysis

The way you organize your body paragraphs is important in enhancing the logical flow and sequence of your ideas. Always remember that regardless of the approach you take, the purpose of your analysis is to explain the author’s techniques in persuading the readers to agree with his or her argument.

You can organize your body paragraphs either chronologically or spatial. Let us explain each of these methods.

Chronological ordering – it is one of the simplest approaches. For example when analyzing a photo, chronological ordering allows you to present the images in a similar way in which the audience views them.

However, take caution when handling a document that has a narrative, i.e. a television show or movie. By using chronological ordering, it is easy to find yourself doing a plot summary, which is different from rhetorical analysis.

 Spatial ordering – Here, you cover your analysis depending on how the human eye scans different documents. The following guidelines will help you conduct spatial analysis:

  1. English speaking countries still consider left to right and top to bottom as the normal reading pattern.
  2. The eye always looks for centers in a document
  • Use lines to show direction for the eye to follow
  1. Web readers spend more time in the top left quadrant compared to the top right.

Since your tutor may have his or her preferred method, seek their guidance before settling on a particular approach. Let us look at another example to help you figure out how to do a rhetorical analysis.

Example #3: Rhetorical Analysis

A Search for Equality by Anne Roiphe

“Confessions of a Female Chauvinist Sow” by Anne Roiphe was first published by the New York Magazine in 1972. In the article, the writer focuses on convincing when that they are equal to men but not superior. She uses personal experiences, comparison, and contrast to persuade the audience. ….

Roiphe piques the reader by using a personal anecdote in her opening statements. She describes the realization that she had married a man similar to her father as horrific. This further distinguishes the essay as informal and personal. …

After emotionally winning the audience, she turns to contrast. In her varied examples, she shows how men and women are different, with emphasis on morals….

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With these examples and discussions, you should master how to do a rhetorical analysis with a lot of ease. Read and reread this manual and you will surely become a genius in rhetorical analysis. Good luck…

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