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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

October 11, 2019

A rhetorical analysis is a part of the AP exam in English, the most difficult of all exams for students. To pass this exam a student must have deep knowledge of the English language and understand its expressive means.

This task means that a student must analyze some piece of text like a famous public speech or a fragment from a book or article. A student must distinguish which effect the creator of that text wanted to produce, the chosen means and whether that was a success. Thus, you need to know and understand English really well to analyze the text on several levels and distinguish between communication and persuading means.

In brief, it is like “that person used these techniques and chose these words to produce this effect, and it was a success or failure because of those reasons”.

Initial Analysis of the Text for the SOAPSTone

When you have to write an essay of any type, you need to run research as the first stage of doing the task. This is necessary to get the information you need to understand the topic and find the arguments which support your point of view. A rhetorical analysis essay needs research as well, though it is of a different kind.

Your task is to “decipher” the text you have to analyze, and here the first stage is finding its SOAPSTone. If you never dealt with this concept, it might look frightful at once. However, it is only the abbreviation that describes the main components of the text’s essence and targets.

  • S – Speaker. This can be the author who created this text or the narrator, or both. If you deal with a public speech, note that the speechwriter chooses certain persuasive means, and the narrator uses own skills to accentuate ideas. The speech the narrator makes might differ from the speech the writer composed.
  • O – Occasion. It states for the circumstances when the text was written and what for. This context will determine the form and the means of the text.
  • A – Audience. This aspect is connected with the previous “occasion” item because it defines the effect which the author wants to produce on people. The choice of the techniques comes from it.
  • P – Purpose. It is the simplest of all concepts: what goal the writer wanted to achieve. In many cases, it is to make the audience believe the author’s rightness. Or sell some product to the people – ideas are products as well.
  • S – Subject. It is the topic of the text.
  • Tone – is the emotional coloring of the text, the mood it has.

You need to understand these concepts and see how they are implemented in the text you analyze. This way you receive a kind of the working area where you can go further to analyze the meaningful details and their purpose.

Outline the Structure of Your Essay

Like any other essay, your rhetorical analysis should have a definite structure. It matches the same criteria which other texts of this genre will have.

Your essay text should have three parts:

  • The introduction;
  • The body;
  • The conclusion.

There are some specific requirements which concern this rhetorical analysis form, and we’ll describe them further. In brief, everything you write in your essay has to be about the text you analyze.

What you write in the rhetorical essay Introduction

It is a relatively short part where you should briefly describe your work and present it to the audience to catch their attention and make them interested.

It is a good idea to start the Introduction with a citation from the text you analyze. You should choose the one which presents the main idea or purpose of the text in the best way. Or it can illustrate the persuading literacy means the writer prefers. The goal is to present your “field of analysis”.

Give a brief description of the text in which you analyze and mention the SOAPSTone items. You are not obliged to list them in this order and give a definition to each one. You can insert those which you can harmonize naturally with the rest of the text in the Introduction.

Present your thesis statement. This is a required part of each essay. You need to define your main ideas about the text, which you will support with arguments. When you write a rhetorical analysis, define the writer’s techniques and strategies that you’ve distinguished in that text, as you are going to expose them further.

Note that the thesis statement is short – you can formulate it in a couple of sentences max. However, it has to be strong and identify the main features which you found while analyzing that text. Besides, the thesis statement must be obviously connected with the main part of your essay, and each reader or listener should be able to trace how your arguments support the thesis.

The three parts of a rhetorical analysis Body: Ethos, Pathos and Logos

The “three-paragraphs” structure suits the Body of this essay best of all. The thing is, when you perform the rhetorical analysis of the text, you work with three aspects which together build the eventual effect of that text. Thus, you will dedicate a paragraph with arguments to each of these aspects.

The names of these aspects come from Old Greek: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Let’s examine what they state for:

  • Ethos is the concept of the writer’s ethics. Here you should find if the author’s ideas and arguments are credible. When you analyze the language and the expressive means used in the text, you need to mark those arguments which the writer uses to stress his or her expert status. They would be the persuasive means to spread own authority over the audience.
  • Pathos is the emotional aspect; you must have heard this term when discussed some books or movies. Here you need to analyze the “toolset” which the writer employs to raise the emotional reaction from the audience. These are expressive literacy means like strong metaphors, emotionally colored words, repetition, etc.
  • Logos is a concept associated with rational thinking. The author applies to the logic and offers truthful shreds of evidence to support own statements and make the public believe them. When you analyze the text, determine the main claims – at least one – which the author makes. Then make sure to investigate the proofs for these claims.
  • When you write about these concepts, collect your arguments from the style of the author and the choice of words. Examine the means of imaginary and figurative language.
  • If you analyze an oral speech – pay special attention to the diction and the tone of the speaker. Note, which words and phrases are stressed and why, and analyze the rhythm of the sentences – these all are means to make the text more influential.
  • This way you define the strategies of the writer. Now, evaluate if they are efficient or not – this is the main goal of your rhetorical analysis essay.

The Body is the biggest part of any essay but is should be laconic. You might not include all the details which you would like to, as the size of your paper should not be large enough. So, concentrate on the most outstanding samples which illustrate the writer’s techniques and strategies in the best way.

Sum up your analysis in the Conclusion

The main rule for a Conclusion is that it can’t contain any new information. You need to build it on the previous data which are known to you and your audience.

Refer again to your thesis statement and ask yourself if you understood the writer’s goals and writing strategies. Assess if the text was a success or a failure for the audience, and which factors caused that. You may even speculate if the writer could use other means to change that situation.

Present a strong final of your essay – stress the importance of improving the writing techniques, or ask some related questions to call the audience’s positive reaction.

Get proper examples of the rhetorical analysis works

If you never performed a rhetorical analysis of a text, it will be very helpful for you to refer to the highly evaluated samples of such works. Take the analyzed texts too and see how other successful authors explored them. Note which factors they think to be important, which arguments they use and how they present the data. You mustn’t copy someone else’s texts, of course. They should serve as inspiration and examples of the data arrangement for you.

In any case, the main factor will be your own understanding of the expressive means of the text and analysis. And with the help of our recommendations, you will surely succeed at writing a great rhetorical analysis essay.

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