Rhetorical Analysis Essay:
The first step is to find something you'd like to write about.
Appropriate topics might include:
- a verbal, written, or visual argument that evokes a personal reaction in you. This might be something you've read in another class, something you saw on the news, or something you came across the Internet.
- a current event or subject that you want to learn more about
- a text that you feel has been misread or misinterpreted
For this lesson, view this sample project from a student who has an interest in video games. She knows that she wants to do her research project on these texts, but is not sure where to focus. From ENG101, she remembers that the Rio Library subscribes to the Opposing Viewpoints database. Watch a video of her search. She finds a wealth of resources on Opposing Viewpoints, and after reading for a while, she chooses one article to analyze and plans to use evidence from an opposing viewpoint as well as her own experience with playing the titles mentioned, as evidence.
Your search might look differently, but the goal is to save time in order to do it well. Once you have your object of analysis and have done some research to help find evidence, you will want to focus your efforts:
- READ your text carefully, and at least a couple of times to ensure that you fully understand what you have read. Can you see the author's thesis?
- Next, start to analyze the features of the text you're analyzing. Keep the following questions in mind as you read:
- Who is the author? Does s/he have credibility to discuss the topic? Is there apparent bias? Is an institution sponsoring him/her, and if so, what does that institution represent?
- What is the thesis, and what is the overall argument the author presents?
- What did the author choose to study? Why?
- What is the writer's purpose? To inform? To persuade? To criticize?
- Who is the author's intended audience? Does s/he appeal to a resistant audience? A Neutral audience? Or is s/he "preaching to the choir?"
- What appeal(s) are applied (ethos, pathos, logos, or a combination)?
- How does the writer arrange his or her ideas? Does the author use inductive or deductive reasoning in structuring the argument?
- Did you note any fallacies as you read? Is so, which ones?
- How does the writer use diction? (Word choice, arrangement, accuracy, is it formal, informal? Technical versus slang?)
- Does the writer use dialogue? Quotations? Statistics? Why?
- What have others said about this text? Some databases like Opposing Viewpoints will automatically share related articles. If you find an article online, you can search for more information (for example, the student with an interest in video games might search Video Game Violence Reactions).
Please note: If your essay just answers these questions, it will not get a good grade! These questions are designed to be a guide for note taking! Not every question will apply to every analysis, and you may find other appropriate questions to ask that are specific to your selection.
Focusing Your Essay
Now that you have your subject of analysis (your text), have done some background research, and have analyzed your text, it's time to write your thesis. Here's the trick: It does not matter whether you agree or disagree with the message in your text... your thesis should focus on its strategy.
- Focus on rhetorical features: "The article titled 'Video Games Violence is Overblown' initially attracts an audience through its use of logos, but when the facts turn to editorial ranting, the argument degrades to a mess of fallacies including ad hominem attacks against video game producers that render the overall argument ineffective."
- Focus on interaction of elements: "The ad makes impressive use of visual appeals to pathos by rallying the audience to come together using a sympathetic image, by creating a strong tagline that is easy to remember, by crafting inspiring verbiage, and by providing resources to take further action."
- Focus on audience: "While some would argue that a segment found on Fox News' YouTube channel would show bias against Democrats, this particular segment does an impressive job of reaching out to a resistant audience by stating statistics (including statistics that make the Republican side look bad), using impartial language, and avoiding headlines or imagery that could be seen as 'attacking' the opposing view."
This can be a tricky step, so make sure to save time to draft and revise accordingly to make sure your thesis matches what you truly wish to argue.
Organizing the Essay
After identifying your thesis, look back at the notes you took on your text. Try to arrange the key ideas in a logical way, following the support structure in your thesis. You may find that some of the observations you noticed at first are less important. It is ok to toss things aside to keep focused.
A sample outline might look like this:
- Summarize the text being critiqued
- Discuss the author and their background
- Discuss issues related to the audience and the appeals
- Discuss specific elements that relate back to the points about the audience
- Discuss what others have said about the text
The shape of the essay will evolve depending on the text you select. Thinking back to the sample essays, each took a different path to meet the goal, but they all had certain elements in common. See the list for guidelines:
- Make sure to logically transition between ideas.
- Stay on topic and let your thesis be your guide.
- Each paragraph should have a strong topic sentence to ease transition between elements.
- Avoid summary in favor of clear, specific examples.
- Make sure to cite all sources in MLA format.
Compose your rhetorical analysis essay using the directions listed in the Instruction section of this lesson. Your essay needs to meet the following requirements:
- You should not include more than one in-text citation per paragraph, and the conclusion should contain no citations. In addition, only one short quote and one long quote are allowed per essay.
- The essay should be 4-5 pages (not counting the cover sheet) in MLA style.
- You will be required to cite at least two sources for this essay (the text you're analyzing and at least one source to support your analysis). Check out the "Citation Help" page in the ENG101&102 Research Guide to review correctly formatted sample citations and to learn about tools that will generate citations for you!
- Your essay must follow MLA formatting guidelines, including in-text citations and a Works Cited page.
*** PLAGIARISM WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED***
****PLEASE WRITE MOSTLY IN YOUR OWN WORDS***
PLEASE READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY, I AM NOT PICKY ON THE SUBJECT, I AM PLANNING ON DOING MY FINAL PAPER ON LEADERSHIP STYLES SO BONUS IF YOU CAN MAKE THIS ESSAY RELATED TO THAT!!
Also here is a sample essay for you to use as a guide!
Here is the sample essay: The CDC and the Zombie Apocalypse
The blog entry "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" that is featured on the Center for
Disease Control website was written in a manner to effectively grab the attention of a specific audience by using a popular topic to convey important information about being prepared for emergencies. By using false analogies about an unconventional topic as an attention grabbing device, while using ethos to frame the article’s primary claims, this blog was effective in sharing important information with a demographic that might have missed it if it was shared through
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a Government organization that receives a majority of its funding through grants. Some people would even go as far as saying "their tax dollars" pay for this government program. The CDC.gov website is a resource to inform and educate the people about illnesses and diseases as well as promote healthy living and help prevent harm. On the CDC's homepage, there are topics displayed that are meant to inform about common issues or to make people aware of new issues that are taking place. On May 16, 2011, the CDC shared a blog the entry written by Ali S. Khan. Khan, who has written several
CDC, has prior involvement, knowledge, and history on past well-known emergencies. According to Ali S. Khan's CDC Biography, "he has responded to and led
more traditional channels.
Comment [KD1]: Very well focused. Note how the thesis describes not only the elements that author will focus on, but also sets the rhetorical context—how the text is composed and how the audience responded.
other blogs for the
Comment [KD2]: Notice how the background of the publication organization and medium frame the discussion of this controversial text. This provides the audience with a clear framework for understanding the text and its context.
numerous high profile domestic and international public health emergencies including [...] the Asian Tsunami, and the initial public health response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans" (“Biography” par. 1). This would lead most readers to believe that Khan takes his profession
position in the CDC. However, the "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" blog entry is one of
unconventional standards, which is what Khan aimed for.
The "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" blog was written to make people aware and
prepare for an emergency. However, Khan wrote the blog by effectively using a false analogy in his favor to reach a particular audience, the youth. Khan took the popular topic of zombies taking over/apocalypse and put it in the same category of more communally known, and real, emergencies like hurricanes, pandemics, and disasters. Khan acknowledges the false analogy in his blog by saying:
The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder “How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?” (“
Although he uses a false analogy, he is able to find a common ground with his audience, whichable to convey emergency preparedness information to the youth. With using
ethos to share his fondness and knowledge of zombies, the reader will also acknowledge the possibility of such events that could/would eventually take place which would require such preparedness.
seriously to ensure the safety of people, and not to mention because he is in high
Comment [KD3]: The student researched the writer’s background in order to comment on his experience and his ethos.
Comment [KD4]: Note, in MLA style, providing paragraph numbers is optional unless they are provided in the article as it’s written, or unless it would be difficult for a reader to find the original reference. In this case, the author opted to provide paragraph numbers.
Comment [KD5]: Through quotes and explanations, the writer demonstrates how the author took a false analogy (a fallacy), and made it work to his advantage.
he is successfully
Despite the blog being featured and still available on the well-known government website, Khan has written the blog in a tone that is light hearted, in character, and professional. Within the blog there is little slang used, which seems to keep the article’s credibility intact.
. More specifically, where Khan describes the CDC's role during an emergency, like a zombie apocalypse, he subtly asserts his authority within
the CDC by indicating that he would send lower level researchers to investigate the cause of the zombie virus outbreak out in the field (“Preparedness” par.8). By inserting such verbiage into his writing, he is increasing the
When the blog was released on the internet, it did create a lot of attention, so much that the cdc.gov website server had crashed (“News Anchor”). The blog had not only attracted a younger audience but also a resistant audience who felt the blog was a waste of time and a bad use of taxpayers' money, as evidenced in the comments following the blog entry. While many
having a sense of humor and admiring that they are trying something new to reach out to those who wouldn't normally take the time to read and research
about what to do if real emergency preparedness, there were others who were appalled. For example, the YouTube video, "New Anchor NOT a fan of CDC's ‘Zombie Blog,’” has Robin Baumgarten from WGN-9 morning news expressing her opinion about the blog. After the piece was shared, she is seen literally rolling her eyes and clearly not realizing the bigger picture of what the blog was meant to do. As her fellow anchor is trying to move on to other news, she angrily states, "Ridiculous... ZOMBIES!" Although Ms. Baumgarten was not pleased with the
help educate people about emergency preparedness, her reactions and those who shared their negative response on the CDC's website are outnumbered by those who responded positively.
What little slang that is used is placed with timing
Comment [KD6]: Notice how stylistic elements are described as elements that make the text work.
Comment [KD7]: Also notice, here and elsewhere, how the student consistently uses the vocabulary and concepts from the lessons.
Comment [KD8]: Notice how the student focused on how the audience responded, doing additional research, as needed, to help her make these claims.
logos of the blog.
raved about the CDC finally
topic of zombies to
Comment [KD9]: The media is not just quoted, but is contextualized and explained in the writer’s own words.
At the end of the day, Ali S. Khan wanted to inform about emergency preparedness to a particular audience that had not been touched on, namely, a younger group. He successfully accomplished this mission by posting a blog on the CDC website about a hot topic that many young people can relate to, a zombie apocalypse. Even though the blog uses a false analogy, he is effectively using logos to explain how being prepared for an emergency would be effective in
Khan not only managed to reach a young audience but an audience that was resistant to the idea of zombies. Khan posted this blog in hopes still to educate the people whom he serves while at the CDC.
Comment [KD10]: The conclusio
o, here is a sample essay for you to use as a guide: