Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

At first, writing a rhetorical analysis can seem like an intimidating task. However, once you pick up on a few helpful tips, you will be able to produce these papers nearly effortlessly.

In this guide, we will cover several points. First, we’ll address the definition of a rhetorical analysis, then we will share a step by step guidelines to writing a rhetorical analysis essay. If you still need help, don’t despair. We’ll tell you how to contact us for help or check out a rhetorical analysis essay example.

What is a Rhetorical Analysis?

In a rhetorical analysis, you read a piece of written work in order to study how the writer uses their skills in order to persuade, entertain, or inform the audience. You do this by studying the written work, determining the writer’s point of view, and learning about their writing style. As the essayist, you analyze the methods used to persuade the audience and provide your opinion on how effective those techniques are.

Steps to Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Read the Text Critically

The first step involves critical reading. In this case, your goal isn’t simply to understand the content. Instead, you will take note of how the writer approaches the topic, and how they communicate with the audience. Be prepared to take notes as you cover the two points below.

What Strategies Has the Author Used?

As you read, there are certain questions you should try to answer. This information will be useful to you later.

  • What is the author’s purpose for writing what they did?
  • Who is the author’s target audience, and why did they select that audience?
  • What link does the author have to the subject matter or messaging?
  • Why did the writer choose that topic and context?

If you can find the answers to these questions, you will have an easier time providing an analysis of the author’s strategies as you write your paper. Further, having these answers gives you something to work from as you dig into the persuasive tactics employed by the writer.

Rhetorical analysis essay structure infographic

Identify the Persuasive Tactics

According to Aristotle, the art of persuasion employs three techniques. These are ethos, logos, and pathos. Whenever someone tries to get someone to believe something, they employ one or more of these tactics. Take a look at each one in detail.

Pathos is all about emotional appeal. This is often considered to be a manipulative technique, as it involves engineering a specific emotional response from the reader. One example of this would be implying that if people don’t support a particular charity that they must not care about other people.

Ethos is an appeal to the reader’s sense of ethics. Writers do this by infusing their writing with either their own credibility or the credibility of a reliable source. An example might be, ‘As a scientist, I endorse this method of saving energy.’ Another example is, ‘90% of doctors recommend this diet.’

Logos is an appeal to the reader’s capacity for rational thinking and logic. Here the author persuades through the use of reasoning. For example, ‘in 120 years, trickle-down economics have never helped the middle class.’

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topic Ideas

When you select an essay topic, the key is to find the written work, speech, or other content that is the best fit. Here are a few recommendations.

  • Analyze the persuasive techniques used in a recent political stump speech.
  • What persuasive strategies were used in the Gettysburg Address?
  • How did Ayn Rand use discourse in the novel, Atlas Shrugged.
  • Analyze a classic or modern poem for the use of pathos.
  • Write a rhetorical analysis of a Shakespearean work.

Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

Like any other essay, the way you choose to structure your paper matters. So do the specific points you choose to focus on. That’s why it is a good idea to start with an outline. In most cases, you will use a standard five-paragraph essay. You may or may not add additional body paragraphs as needed.

The first thing you will need to do is to read, analyze, and take notes as mentioned above. Then, you will work from your notes to write your essay.

Identify the most important points that you believe support your analysis and conclusions from the work.

Next, create a thesis that summarizes what you assert is the author’s purpose, their techniques, and whether or not they were successful.


The best way to begin your essay outline is to find a way to demonstrate to the reader that you have read the written work, and that you have gained a clear understanding of it. Make your introduction short, but include an informative hook to display your understanding. This could be an interesting fact about the work, the time period of the work, or the author. 

After the hook, write a brief summary of the work. Finally, present your thesis statement.

Body Paragraphs

Your essay will likely have three or more body paragraphs. Each paragraph will focus on a single point that supports your thesis. How you sequence these paragraphs is up to you. Some writers believe it is most effective to start with their weakest point and end with the strongest.

In any case, you will use the body paragraphs to describe the methods the author used to entertain, inform, and persuade the reader. Of course, in addition to describing the methods, you’ll also need to support your thesis. That means addressing whether or not those methods are successful.

Remember that your reader may not understand what ethos, pathos, or logs are.

They will also not know what discourse or rhetoric is. Be prepared to describe what each technique is, and why a particular passage represents the use of that technique.


Your concluding paragraph should provide a summary of the points you made. Then, bring things full circle by tying your points back to your thesis. Address whether or not your writer would have had an impact on their audience, then remind your readers why this is the case. If the writer had a call to action or was writing something of great impact, you can close with an impactful remark on the importance of that written work.

Best Rhethorical Analysis Paper Topics

  1. Examine an Inaugural Speech of the acting President
  2. What made“The Great Gatsby” film a victory?
  3. The main themes in "Harry Potter"
  4. "The Odyssey" vs "Beowulf"
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Writing the Rough and Final Drafts

If you compose a good outline, you should be able to create a good essay without too much work. It’s really just a matter of expanding on the points in your outline. Each section of your outline becomes its own paragraph. You’ll have to add transition words and do some editing polishing. However, with a good structure and foundation that process won’t be too difficult.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Tips

Here’s a brief but useful list of tips to make the writing process a bit easier, and to help you compose a better essay:

  • Cite your work carefully. Quote the author’s words properly so that you do not inadvertently commit plagiarism.
  • Be careful with your spelling and grammar.
  • Remember that you are not supporting or contradicting the argument the author is making, just their success in presenting it.
  • Use context. If you analyze a text written two centuries ago, you have to provide an analysis that takes into account the sentiment and understanding of readers at that time.

Remember: if you analyze a text written two centuries ago, you have to take into account the sentiment and understanding of readers at that time.

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