How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis
Writing a rhetorical analysis is an aspect of educational writing that can often pose complexities for a writer. When facing this type of academic writing, you first need to understand the purpose of the assignment itself. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), the expectation for a rhetorical analysis is that the writer can competently discuss what message the author is attempting to convey to an audience and the means in which they choose to do it.
Determine what rhetorical artifact you want to use for the analysis. According to Sonja Foss, a leading scholar in rhetorical criticism, a rhetorical artifact can include a speech, photograph, building, visual art piece, song or poem. Choose the right artifact, as this is as critical as your own emotions about an artifact. Moreover, this aides you in determining what message the author tried to portray through the rhetorical artifact.
Analyze your rhetorical artifact. Learn the history and context of your piece. Once you understand when and why your artifact came to exist, it is much easier to make an argument about what message the author was attempting to portray with their artifact.
Decide what argument, or research question, you want to make with your rhetorical analysis. To determine the subject of your argument, pinpoint what message the author is trying to convey to an audience. After you identify what research question you want to answer with your rhetorical analysis, you have the basis for the argument of your analysis itself.
Research the communication theories that the author used to express the message behind their artifact. Then apply the rules of that communication theory or theories to your research question for the rhetorical analysis. Here is an example: During his famous inaugural address, how did John F. Kennedy use the dramatistic pentad of Kenneth Burke to convey his overall message of the need for change in America?
Compare the author’s message against the communication theory and determine if the author met the standards of the given theory. With this information, form the supporting evidence to answer your research question and support the argument of your rhetorical analysis. To demonstrate how to establish supporting evidence, here is a continuation of the previous example about John F. Kennedy: After analyzing Kennedy’s inaugural address against Burke’s pentad, it can be determined that Kennedy used the “agent” element of the pentad to establish himself as the new leader of America through his speech.
Write your rhetorical analysis by utilizing the research you have gathered about your rhetorical artifact. Ensure that your argument is complete by providing an appropriate amount of supporting evidence. Follow the assignment guidelines as far as format, style and required number of references.
Review your rhetorical analysis to determine everything is correct before submitting the assignment. Format your in-text references and bibliography in the required style, such as APA or MLA style. For style questions, reference the appropriate style manual.
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