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Rhetorical Analysis Essay - A Complete Guide With Examples

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Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Are you a student faced with the daunting task of writing a rhetorical analysis essay? Does the thought of dissecting persuasive strategies, speeches, or texts send shivers down your spine?

You're not alone!

Rhetorical analysis can feel like deciphering an ancient code, with appeals like ethos, pathos, and logos. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down the art of rhetorical analysis into manageable steps. By the end of this blog, you'll be equipped with the skills and confidence to craft a compelling analysis that stands out. 

Let's dive in together!

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  • 1. What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?
  • 2. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay? 
  • 3. Writing Tips for Rhetorical Analysis Essay AP Language
  • 4. Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples
  • 5. Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

According to the rhetorical analysis essay definition:

“It is a type of academic writing that examines the techniques and strategies used by authors, speakers, or creators to persuade and influence their audience.”

It's a common assignment in high school and college courses, especially in English and communications classes where you use rhetorical devices. 

But what exactly does it entail?

Breaking Down the Term: Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical: The art of effective communication through the use of language.

Analysis: Thorough examination, dissection, and evaluation of the elements within a text or communication, including words, phrases, structure, and style.

Unlike other types of essays, a rhetorical essay is based on the following information:

  • The rhetorical situation is highlighted by the author in the original piece. 
  • Who is the author?
  • The main goal of the analyzed text based on the original author’s intentions
  • Does the main idea complete the author’s objectives? 

So, a rhetorical analysis essay essentially involves analyzing how a piece of communication uses rhetorical techniques to achieve its persuasive goals. 

This type of essay goes beyond summarizing or reviewing; it seeks to uncover the "how" and "why" behind the author's or speaker's persuasive power.

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay? 

Before you move on to the writing section, it is vital to learn how to start a rhetorical analysis essay. Six elements are required to start a rhetorical analysis essay. 

  1. Speaker
  2. Occasion
  3. Audience
  4. Purpose
  5. Subject
  6. Tone

Steps to write a rhetorical analysis essay

When the planning of your essay is strong, the writing process will become easier. Once you have taken all the required pre-writing steps, start writing your essay by taking the steps provided below:

Step 1: Understand the Prompt

This initial step is crucial. Carefully read and comprehend the assignment prompt or guidelines provided by your instructor. 

For instance, if the prompt asks you to analyze a presidential speech, understand which speech is being referred to, the context, and any specific elements you should focus on.

Step 2: Determine the Rhetorical Strategy

The effectiveness of any communication, whether verbal or written, is based on persuading the audience. The strategies used to persuade the audience include; ethos, pathos, and logos, a rhetorical triangle.

  • Ethos - ethical appeal convinces readers of the writer's credibility and moral argument.

For example, "As a doctor, I am qualified to tell you that this course of treatment will likely generate the best results."

  • Pathos - Pathos, also known as pathetic appeal, is an appeal to emotion that can make readers feel pity or anger.

For example, "If we don't move soon, we're all going to die! Can't you see how dangerous it would be to stay?"

  • Logos - This logical appeal is a strategy that uses logic to convince the intended audience. 

For example, "History has shown time and again that absolute power corrupts absolutely." 

Step 3. Choose the Text 

Once you understand the assignment, select a text for analysis. 

Let's say you've been assigned to analyze Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. It's a famous speech that's rich in rhetorical elements.

Step 4. Pre-Writing Analysis 

Before you begin writing, immerse yourself in the chosen text. Read it multiple times and take notes. 

For instance, in "I Have a Dream," you might note King's passionate delivery, the use of historical references, and his appeal for racial equality.

Step 5. Create a Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement should be a concise summary of your main argument. 

For example: "In 'I Have a Dream,' Martin Luther King Jr. employs powerful rhetorical strategies, including appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos, to call for racial justice and equality in America."

Step 6. Organize Your Essay 

Plan your essay's structure. 

Your rhetorical analysis essay introduction should introduce the text author and present your thesis. Body paragraphs should each focus on a specific rhetorical strategy or element supported by evidence from the text. 

The conclusion should summarize your main points.

Step 7. Analyze Rhetorical Strategies 

Analyzing rhetorical strategies in the body paragraphs of your rhetorical analysis essay is a critical part of the process. This is where you break down how the author or speaker uses specific techniques to persuade the audience.

For instance, when discussing ethos in King's speech, you might highlight his credentials as a civil rights leader, which enhances his credibility.

Step 8. Address Style and Language 

Addressing the author's style and language is an important part of a rhetorical analysis essay. This step allows you to explore how the author's choices in the type of writing contribute to the overall persuasive effect of the text.

In King's speech, you can discuss his use of metaphors like "promissory note" and "content of their character," which evoke strong imagery.

Step 9. Provide Evidence 

Back up your analysis with evidence from the text. Quote relevant passages, such as King's famous lines about his dream, to illustrate how he uses language to create emotional impact.

Step 10. Revise and Proofread 

After drafting your essay, revise and proofread it for clarity, coherence, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure your ideas flow logically and that your analysis supports your thesis effectively.

Writing Tips for Rhetorical Analysis Essay AP Language

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay for Advanced Placement English Language and composition is mandatory. It is a course and examination offered in Advanced Placement Programs by the College Board. 

There are some writing tips to make your rhetorical analysis essay for AP Lang perfect.

Follow the easy writing tips provided below to draft a compelling rhetorical analysis essay:

  • Choose an interesting ap lang rhetorical analysis essay prompt for your essay.
  • Read the original until the basic elements of the work are not clear. For example, speaker, occasion, audience, purpose, subject, and tone. 
  • When drafting a thesis statement for your rhetorical analysis essay, make sure the thesis matches your topic. 
  • Use accurate and appropriate language when drafting an essay.
  • Keep in mind that the fundamental objective of this essay type is to analyze and not to prove the counter-argument. 
  • Keep your voice as well while explaining the ideas of the text. 
  • In the concluding section of the essay, only summarize the major points of the contents. Avoid introducing new ideas in the concluding paragraphs. 
  • Proofread your essay at least thrice to check if the content is error-free.
  • Another tip is to take a professional’s help to draft a perfect essay. 

You can refer to this example for a better understanding:

Ap Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Rubric 

The AP Language and Composition (AP Lang) rhetorical analysis essay is typically scored based on a rubric that evaluates various aspects of the essay. 

While the specific rubric may vary slightly depending on the year and exam administration, the following is a general outline of key rhetorical concepts you can expect to be assessed in an AP Lang rhetorical analysis essay:

1. Thesis Statement (0-1 point):

Score of 0: The essay lacks a thesis or the thesis is merely a restatement of the prompt.

Score of 1: The essay has a thesis, but it may be vague, overly simplistic, or not clearly aligned with the rhetorical strategies in the text.

2. Understanding of the Prompt (0-1 point):

Score of 0: The essay does not address the prompt.

Score of 1: The essay responds to the prompt, but the response may lack depth or thoroughness.

3. Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points):

Score of 0: The essay provides little to no evidence or commentary from the text.

Score of 1-2: The essay offers some evidence and commentary, but it may lack depth or relevance to the argument.

Score of 3: The essay provides a reasonable amount of relevant evidence and commentary from the text.

Score of 4: The essay offers substantial, relevant, and insightful evidence and commentary from the text.

4. Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies (0-4 points):

Score of 0: The essay demonstrates little to no analysis of rhetorical strategies.

Score of 1-2: The essay provides some analysis of rhetorical strategies, but it may be limited or lack depth.

Score of 3: The essay demonstrates a reasonable level of analysis of rhetorical strategies.

Score of 4: The essay offers thorough and insightful analysis of rhetorical strategies.

5. Organization and Structure (0-1 point):

Score of 0: The essay lacks a clear organizational structure or is disorganized and difficult to follow.

Score of 1: The essay demonstrates a basic organizational structure, but it may lack cohesion and coherence.

6. Style and Language (0-1 point):

Score of 0: The essay uses ineffective or inappropriate language and style.

Score of 1: The essay demonstrates effective language and style, but it may lack sophistication or variety.

7. Concluding Statement (0-1 point):

Score of 0: The essay lacks a concluding statement or provides a weak conclusion.

Score of 1: The essay includes a concluding statement that effectively wraps up the analysis.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples

It is essential to first go through examples and samples to see which structure and outline to follow when drafting. 


Expert Tip

For your ease, give a read to our rhetorical analysis essay examples blog. 

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

To write a rhetorical analysis essay that is strong and effective, choosing a good topic is essential. 

Selecting rhetorical analysis essay topics that are appropriate for the content is a time-consuming process. 

  • Martin Luther King Jr’s last speech
  • A scene from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet
  • “I Am Prepared to Die” by Nelson Mandela
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Macbeth’s rhetorical analysis
  • Rhetorical analysis of the movie “The fault in our stars”
  • Analyze the poem "The Epic" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • Analyze Joseph Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality”
  • Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
  • Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird'

Expert Tip

If you want more on rhetorical analysis essay topics, give a read to our blog!

In conclusion, writing a rhetorical analysis essay is not easy but with this descriptive guide, you can craft a well-structured analysis essay.

In addition to this, if you want professional assistance for your academic papers and academic essays, is the best essay writing service for your needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many paragraphs does a rhetorical analysis essay have?

FAQ Icon

In your rhetorical analysis, you'll tackle the text directly by focusing on three areas in each paragraph. Each area should contribute to a larger argument that supports the main idea or thesis statement for this piece of work. 

What is the purpose of rhetorical analysis?

FAQ Icon

The purpose of a rhetorical analysis is to understand HOW the author writes, rather than WHAT they wrote. To do this, you will look at how the author achieved their goal or purpose for writing. 

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Nova A.


Nova A.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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