How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Published by on 2021-04-09 08:47:52

First of all, you should know the rhetorical analysis essay definition before you start finding out how to write it correctly. So, obviously, this paper is about analyzing some literature source (a poem, a book, for example), other rhetorical cases (i.e., speeches), events, or anything. That may sound banal and simple, but students mostly get stunned when it comes to writing this type of academic assignment. That is why this guide exists: to stop you from googling something like “what is a rhetorical analysis essay?”

So, now, when the phrase “rhetorical analysis” does not scare you anymore, it is time to get up to work. As you understood already, that assignment wants students to analyze something. The analysis itself has certain principles to keep up with. Let’s pay more attention to them. See how to write a rhetorical analysis paper step by step in the following guide.

A Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topic

The range of possible topics is literally unlimited here. If your professor did not specify the particular subject of your analysis, it’s nothing bad, though you might feel a bit confused due to the variety of possible choices.

In case you’ve got that freedom, try to think over potential rhetorical analysis essay topics thoroughly. The goal is to find something really interesting for you. Like, there are hundreds or even thousands of rhetorical analysis papers by different authors discussing Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have a Dream”. It’s great to pick it, as it is a really outstanding rhetoric masterpiece example.

But does it actually touch your mind and heart? If not, it is great to try coming up with something different. What if you go in for a speech less famous but still worth analyzing? For instance, try thinking over a speech by your high school council president at the graduation ceremony. What? The majority of such speeches are worth special attention. It doesn’t matter if they are not that famous.

Still, to make this guide complete, it is clever to choose a worthy and well-known sample. So, our rhetorical analysis essay example below will touch on the outstanding speech by Winston Churchill, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”.

Rhetorical Analysis: Preparation

To prepare properly, you should keep in mind the key elements of the paper. To know how to start off a rhetorical analysis essay correctly, try to answer the following questions before you begin analyzing:

  • Who is the speaker/author?
  • What’s the context of the speech/writing?
  • Who is the target audience of the writing or speech?
  • What’s the author’s purpose?
  • What are the outcomes?

The other ingredient to consider is the overall tone of the author’s language. That one can mean a lot, too. So, you might want to try revealing and explaining it to yourself before you actually start writing your rhetorical essay outline.

In the sample case, the bullet list of noted points will look like the following:

  • Speaker: Winston Churchill, The UK Prime Minister
  • Context: World War II, House of Commons, 4th of June 1940
  • Target audience: Parliament members, British civilians, and military servants
  • Purpose: to motivate the country to fight; to prepare them for the possible Nazi invasion
  • Result: Churchill successfully reached the purpose and impressed the entire nation
  • Tone: patriotic, detailed, bellicose

Basic Analysis

Now, when the topic is known and the key elements are defined, it is time to conduct the basic analysis. When analyzing a speech, you should look in between the lines, trying to understand the written text deeper than just reading it.

Distinguish the persuasion modes used (logos, ethos, and pathos). Reveal emotional requests. Find and mention proofs of logical argumentation and moral code persuasion. Tear the entire writing or speech apart to analyze every element separately.

Then, after you’ve got a certain impression from the rhetorical content you analyze, you can proceed. Come up with a thesis statement.

Formulation of a Thesis Statement

What’s the main message of your rhetorical analysis essay? In other words, what exactly would you like to say with it? That’s how the pure thesis statement should look like. A proper thesis statement is a cornerstone in setting the build-up plan of the entire paper.

It’s okay for the thesis statement to be a bit blurry and undefined while you are only starting to write a rhetorical essay outline. The thesis will expand and change its shape as you continue analyzing the chosen speech. So, don’t keep up with it too tightly: it’s okay to edit it along with crafting your analysis.

The sample thesis may sound like the following:

The speech by Winston Churchill “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” was one of the main turning points of World War II.

A Rhetorical Essay Outline

Usually, the thesis statement serves as the starting point of the entire paper. So, it is wise to develop an outline from it. This outline can be a bullet list including a couple of key words just to keep you oriented while adding the detail. It can contain the grounding sentence from each paragraph, too. The shape of your rhetorical essay outline is up to you.

Writing: Example of Rhetorical Analysis

Okay, now you are finally prepared for the real action. The job done previously is a solid ground to stand on while building the rhetorical analysis essay further. Just like any other essay, this one consists of three standard parts: the intro, body, and conclusion. See the details and examples below.


The introductory part of your rhetorical analysis essay should contain the thesis statement along with the hook used to interest the professor and some introductory words. Some summary along with the persuasion threads applied by the speaker would be great to show them here as well.


Serious business starts here. Keeping up with the points stated in the outline, you should describe the rhetorical elements the speaker used and the effects they were called to bring. It is fine to use citations here to prove your point.


The best way to finish your rhetorical analysis essay is to prove your thesis statement was correct by adding a strong final argument as a summary. Close things up by restating the main point (avoid repeating it word by word, though), and leave the professor no other choice but to agree with your viewpoint.

Extra Tips on How to Craft a Top-Quality Rhetorical Analysis Essay

It is impossible to deny that following the above-mentioned guidelines, you will have a chance to come up with a well-structured, coherent, and consistent paper. However, here are a few extra tips that may contribute to the desired result. 

Use a Single Source

After writing research papers and synthesis essays, you are used to spending long hours in the library and citing numerous sources. Rhetorical analysis essays might seem easier to write, as you have a single source to use. However, your task does not end with reading and summarizing. You have to analyze the language devices used by the author, evaluate their efficiency and sometimes suggest improvements.

Read the Source Many Times

Before you used to skim different articles and books, making small notes to yourself about the quotes and data you could use. Now you have to read each word and sentence carefully a few times to get a better grip on the author's motivation, style, and tone. You might want to put the text away for a day or two and reread it again with fresh eyes. Previously unnoticed details might come to your attention. Try reading the source both silently and aloud, especially if you have to analyze a speech. Hearing the text can have a stronger impact than reading it in black and white.

Leave Out the Hook

Other types of essays usually call for an intriguing introduction, complete with a hook. When you write a rhetorical analysis essay, quotes might be appropriate, but other types of hooks are better left out. Instead, provide as much information about the source as you can. Introduce the text title and author, mention the time when it was written. You can add information about the circumstances of the text creation and its intended audience. Don't forget to include your thesis statement into the first paragraph. It should include your take on the writer's purpose and the most prominent literary devices used. Add the analysis of the writer's success or failure to meet the goal to round up your thesis statement nicely.

Don't Analyze What Is Said, Analyze How It Is Said

When you write other types of essays, you need to analyze the information the source provides. A rhetorical analysis essay requires you to analyze the way things are written instead of the content itself. You will need to brush up on your literary devices definitions.

Use Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to Get an A

Even if you don't use the terms ethos, pathos, and logos directly, you need to scour the source text for these three pillars of rhetoric if you want to get an A for your essay. Here is a quick guide to help you discern between them.

I can trust the writer, because

If you catch yourself thinking along these lines, the author used ETHOS. It means you trust the arguments because the writer has a formidable reputation, is an expert or has years of experience. Think about all the times you've seen actors wear a white lab coat on TV to get you to buy toothpaste or yogurt. They used ethical tools to persuade you.

It makes me feel so

Whether the text makes you laugh, startle in surprise or cry, the author uses PATHOS. It appeals to our emotions and provokes strong feelings, either positive or negative. The stronger the emotion you feel, the more effective the writing is.

These arguments make a lot of sense

If the writing seems logical, the writer uses LOGOS to persuade you. Rational arguments based on reason and logic, statistics, diagrams, and calculations are all tools of logos. While pathos stimulates your imagination, logos address common sense.