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How to Write a Conclusion for a Rhetorical Analysis Essay
February 14, 2022 by Beth Hall
Wondering how to write a conclusion for a rhetorical analysis essay? When writing the AP® Lang rhetorical analysis essay, there can feel like a lot of pressure! Time is extremely limited, and you may try to make cuts where possible. So, do you really need a conclusion for a rhetorical analysis essay?
Is a conclusion required?
The short answer: no. The AP® Lang rubric does not state that a conclusion is required for the rhetorical analysis essay. However, a conclusion can be beneficial for your essay.
Ultimately, if you are deciding between writing a conclusion or developing your body paragraphs, I would choose the latter. The bulk of your score will come from the body paragraphs, so having well-developed body paragraphs is key to scoring well on the exam.
If you have time, and you feel confident in your body paragraphs, it definitely won’t hurt to give the conclusion the attention it deserves, as it can help you produce a more well-rounded essay.
Tips for Writing a Conclusion
Tip #1: don’t just restate your thesis. .
When students first start learning to write essays, they are told to restate their thesis in the conclusion. This isn’t a bad practice, but you don’t want to copy the same thesis word for word – especially if you are worried your thesis is not defensible. Rewrite your thesis in new words, but make sure you still keep the same idea and write a defensible thesis.
Not sure how to write a defensible thesis? Read this blog post for more information.
While it is okay to restate your thesis in your conclusion, try to not recap your whole essay. Since timed essays are relatively short, recapping the essay seems redundant and lacks nuance.
Keep reading for more tips about what to do instead.
Tip #2: Dig deeper into the call to action.
This will not apply to every text, but for some texts, there is a strong call to action. For this type of conclusion, you want to ask yourself, “What happens if the audience heeds the call to action and what happens if they don’t?”
With this type of conclusion, you want to examine the different actions an audience can take and the impact said actions will have. This can also demonstrate the impact of a text or speech. For example, in his Pearl Harbor speech, FDR called Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan. We know that his call to action worked; the US entered WWII. In thinking about FDR’s call to action, we can also situate the issue in a broader context by examining the historical impact of the speech.
Tip #3: Reflect on the message of the passage.
Think about abstract concepts from the passage, such as unity or resilience. In the conclusion, reflect upon what conclusions, messages, or lessons can be learned from these abstract concepts in the passage.
Ask yourself “how is the message still relevant today?” Doing so helps you situate the issue in a broader context.
For instance, Madeleine Albright gave a speech about perseverance to Mount Holyoke College in 1997. The theme of perseverance, especially for women, is still relevant today, so you can look at the broader implications of this message in today’s world.
Tip #4: Stay away from “In Conclusion.”
Instead of using the tired “in conclusion” to begin your final paragraph, try a different sentence stem. I like to use the following: When considering X and Y, it becomes apparent that…
Final Thoughts about Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion
Writing conclusion paragraphs require that you “zoom out” and look at the broader implications of the passage. Doing so adds a deeper analysis and perspective to your rhetorical analysis essay, which can boost your overall score, captivate your reader, and create a more well-rounded AP® Lang essay.
For more tips about how to write a conclusion for a rhetorical analysis essay, check out this video here.
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- How to write a rhetorical analysis | Key concepts & examples
How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples
Published on August 28, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience.
Table of contents
Key concepts in rhetoric, analyzing the text, introducing your rhetorical analysis, the body: doing the analysis, concluding a rhetorical analysis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about rhetorical analysis.
Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and writing, is a subject that trains you to look at texts, arguments and speeches in terms of how they are designed to persuade the audience. This section introduces a few of the key concepts of this field.
Appeals: Logos, ethos, pathos
Appeals are how the author convinces their audience. Three central appeals are discussed in rhetoric, established by the philosopher Aristotle and sometimes called the rhetorical triangle: logos, ethos, and pathos.
Logos , or the logical appeal, refers to the use of reasoned argument to persuade. This is the dominant approach in academic writing , where arguments are built up using reasoning and evidence.
Ethos , or the ethical appeal, involves the author presenting themselves as an authority on their subject. For example, someone making a moral argument might highlight their own morally admirable behavior; someone speaking about a technical subject might present themselves as an expert by mentioning their qualifications.
Pathos , or the pathetic appeal, evokes the audience’s emotions. This might involve speaking in a passionate way, employing vivid imagery, or trying to provoke anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response in the audience.
These three appeals are all treated as integral parts of rhetoric, and a given author may combine all three of them to convince their audience.
Text and context
In rhetoric, a text is not necessarily a piece of writing (though it may be this). A text is whatever piece of communication you are analyzing. This could be, for example, a speech, an advertisement, or a satirical image.
In these cases, your analysis would focus on more than just language—you might look at visual or sonic elements of the text too.
The context is everything surrounding the text: Who is the author (or speaker, designer, etc.)? Who is their (intended or actual) audience? When and where was the text produced, and for what purpose?
Looking at the context can help to inform your rhetorical analysis. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has universal power, but the context of the civil rights movement is an important part of understanding why.
Claims, supports, and warrants
A piece of rhetoric is always making some sort of argument, whether it’s a very clearly defined and logical one (e.g. in a philosophy essay) or one that the reader has to infer (e.g. in a satirical article). These arguments are built up with claims, supports, and warrants.
A claim is the fact or idea the author wants to convince the reader of. An argument might center on a single claim, or be built up out of many. Claims are usually explicitly stated, but they may also just be implied in some kinds of text.
The author uses supports to back up each claim they make. These might range from hard evidence to emotional appeals—anything that is used to convince the reader to accept a claim.
The warrant is the logic or assumption that connects a support with a claim. Outside of quite formal argumentation, the warrant is often unstated—the author assumes their audience will understand the connection without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the implicit warrant in these cases.
For example, look at the following statement:
We can see a claim and a support here, but the warrant is implicit. Here, the warrant is the assumption that more likeable candidates would have inspired greater turnout. We might be more or less convinced by the argument depending on whether we think this is a fair assumption.
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Rhetorical analysis isn’t a matter of choosing concepts in advance and applying them to a text. Instead, it starts with looking at the text in detail and asking the appropriate questions about how it works:
- What is the author’s purpose?
- Do they focus closely on their key claims, or do they discuss various topics?
- What tone do they take—angry or sympathetic? Personal or authoritative? Formal or informal?
- Who seems to be the intended audience? Is this audience likely to be successfully reached and convinced?
- What kinds of evidence are presented?
By asking these questions, you’ll discover the various rhetorical devices the text uses. Don’t feel that you have to cram in every rhetorical term you know—focus on those that are most important to the text.
The following sections show how to write the different parts of a rhetorical analysis.
Like all essays, a rhetorical analysis begins with an introduction . The introduction tells readers what text you’ll be discussing, provides relevant background information, and presents your thesis statement .
Hover over different parts of the example below to see how an introduction works.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of oratory in American history. Delivered in 1963 to thousands of civil rights activists outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech has come to symbolize the spirit of the civil rights movement and even to function as a major part of the American national myth. This rhetorical analysis argues that King’s assumption of the prophetic voice, amplified by the historic size of his audience, creates a powerful sense of ethos that has retained its inspirational power over the years.
The body of your rhetorical analysis is where you’ll tackle the text directly. It’s often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay.
Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.
Hover over the example to explore how a typical body paragraph is constructed.
King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.
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The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis wraps up the essay by restating the main argument and showing how it has been developed by your analysis. It may also try to link the text, and your analysis of it, with broader concerns.
Explore the example below to get a sense of the conclusion.
It is clear from this analysis that the effectiveness of King’s rhetoric stems less from the pathetic appeal of his utopian “dream” than it does from the ethos he carefully constructs to give force to his statements. By framing contemporary upheavals as part of a prophecy whose fulfillment will result in the better future he imagines, King ensures not only the effectiveness of his words in the moment but their continuing resonance today. Even if we have not yet achieved King’s dream, we cannot deny the role his words played in setting us on the path toward it.
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The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.
Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.
The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.
Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.
Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.
In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.
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Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion
Table of Contents
Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion Examples
Using a rhetoric conclusion example to end your paper smoothly, do not lose sight of main points and ideas, rhetorical analysis essay sample, how to write a conclusion for a rhetorical analysis, using a rhetorical analysis essay conclusion to develop your argument(s).
Rhetorical analysis conclusion is a writer’s opportunity to draw their argument(s) to a close and say why patterns and techniques used in a text under analysis are significant. An effective conclusion does much more than just sum-up and restate the analysis by disclosing the patterns the writer or speaker used. Rather, rhetorical analysis conclusion helps to summarize argument(s) so that the desirable result is achieved.
Rhetorical Analysis Definition
A rhetoric analysis is a kind of analysis that implies dividing non-fictional writing in sections and further paying close attention to the way each section works on its own and together with other parts to influence readers in a certain way.
This kind of analysis considers goals, tools, and examples that the author used and whether their application was effectiveness. The rhetoric analysis does not require you to either agree or disagree with the argument but to discuss the way the argument is presented and whether or not it is effective.
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Rhetorical Analysis Structure
The purpose of the introduction is to present your claim. If you make a claim concerning the author’s position on a specific matter, you should first briefly present some general background of this matter. It is important to keep in mind that your claim should begin together with the first line of your essay. At the same time, providing some background information will help your readers to understand why your claim is relevant.
The body paragraphs must always begin with topic sentences and thus, guiding every subsequent sentence in a paragraph with one common idea and ensuring you are not distracted by discussing irrelevant points. In order to make your essay coherent and cohesive, organize the body paragraphs so that they follow the order in which you presented your main ideas in the introduction. Think about your paragraphs organization: you can discuss ethos, pathos, and logos along with their examples separately, and then, make a conclusion about their effectiveness; you can assess the least most effective techniques; or you can consider each technique used in the essay chronologically. For instance, when analyzing the Nacirema paper, you can first comment on its academic tone, then, on the diction, and last, on the common ground .
Include examples and their explanation in all paragraphs to demonstrate how the discussed technique works. When finishing the body paragraphs, you should check if the topic sentences have a link with the thesis. This will make your discussion strong, logically developed, and smooth.
While writing a conclusion for your essay, it is important to bear in mind that if the body of the essay explained how a rhetorical analysis achieves a particular effect, the concluding paragraph should step backwards and say why the writer chose a particular technique. Furthermore, it needs to show the readers the effect(s) it achieved.
An example of a rhetorical analysis conclusion is used to help writers to draft an effective essay conclusion. It should be noted that there are a few crucial steps to adhere to in order to end your paper properly. These steps are as follows:
Sum-up what was accomplished in the text you have been analyzing. For instance, persuade your readers to accept or believe in a particular idea.
Summarize how your goals were realized in your work. For example, how did the writer use evidence-based arguments while illustrating some point with an evocative and/or emotionally charged personal story or anecdote? If the analysis failed to achieve the intended goals, identify the reasons of it. Alternatively, what could or should have been done to make it effective?
Indicate why the rhetorical objective and method(s) are significant. Say, for example, how your view has altered because of a particular technique employed by the author. Focus your attention on a particular technique used by the author – such as outside research – and indicate why you think technique is the perfect choice. You could additionally refer to your rhetorical analysis conclusion example and say why you believe a particular technique was right for the targeted audience.
When writing the concluding section, it is essential that any arguments the author presents are put into relevant context. The best type of rhetorical analysis conclusion should show the argument(s) you analyzed perfectly presented a theme being significant for the entire text.
Reaffirmation of the Thesis Statement
Referring to a rhetorical analysis conclusion example can help you to reaffirm or reiterate your thesis. When you bring your analysis to its end, you need to do more than simply repeat your thesis – it needs to be reaffirmed. If you are using an expertly written example, it should be obvious to you that while the writer restates their thesis, he/she uses slightly different words while retaining original information. Thus, with a good example to guide you, you should learn how to:
The main ideas in your rhetorical analysis essay should be restated in the conclusion. Hence, by referring to an example, you should see how to effectively restate the key points of your essay. So, when drafting your concluding paragraph, do not forget to explain the importance of your main ideas and/or assertions and how these add value to your thesis statement.
Bear in mind, that your conclusion should be relatively brief. The process of restating main ideas should be no more than summing-up the essay’s argument(s).
Make Recommendation for Future Research
Similar to many types of essays, it is advisable to identify areas for further research and explain in your rhetorical essay, why this research should be undertaken. Say, whether you think there is any other information that would enhance your research work and analysis.
In these cases, having an example of a rhetorical analysis conclusion to refer to should help you to identify what type of research can be done in the future, what it might entail, and how or why it might prove useful.
Moreover, an example paper should show you how to highlight any issues and why future research is important.
Having a good example to look at when writing your concluding section will help you to explain why your analysis is important to the target audience.
When writing the essay’s conclusion, try to avoid such phrases as “to conclude …” or “in conclusion …” and so on. A lot of writers are taught to end their essays with phrases like these. However, when obtaining higher level of education, you should avoid these phrases. You will not see them in any well-written example papers, because they tend to clutter the writer’s closing statement.
Another important point to remember is to sum-up the most important information in the concluding paragraph. Do not introduce any new information in this section.
Finally, do not include any judgments in the conclusion of a rhetorical analysis. The accepted rule is to concentrate on how a point was made by the author rather than whether it was bad or good.
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If you use a good example of a rhetorical analysis conclusion as a guide, you will be well-positioned to write an effective conclusion. In short, you should be able to:
- Identify and Develop the Bigger Picture
You should try to focus your thoughts on the most important point, which you will explain in the later paragraphs. Encourage the readers to research your topic further.
- Divide Your Main Argument
Remember that a rhetorical analysis is not always focused on topics you are familiar with or have read about. Instead, it puts forward, supports, and enhances arguments on a particular topic aimed at a specific group of readers. Hence, your arguments may be based on additional material.
You are also required to determine if the author was or was not sufficiently persuasive. Therefore, the conclusion of your essay should make clear claims about how or why the author’s work was persuasive. Say, what the author did to develop their arguments. Additionally, it is important to point out the author’s greatest mistake.
The Tradition of Rhetoric
Comparing and analyzing rhetorical techniques in a text may seem like a scary task. However, it is one of most important aspects of a rhetoric analysis. Therefore, you should review a suitable example first and then address the text’s rhetorical moves.
This will help to create a conclusion that leaves powerful and long-lasting impression in the readers’ minds.
Analyzing the Rhetoric
The art of rhetoric analysis involves persuasion. Hence, your conclusion should discuss the rhetorical moves: say, whether you think they are persuasive and why.
Try to end your essay in a way you feel will leave your readers swayed by your argument or the stance you have taken. You may go further and suggest alternatives to your arguments, which should help to persuade readers even more and add strength to your conclusion.
It would also be good to talk about whether the text touches on values, beliefs, and morals that are generally upheld by the society. A conclusion to an essay on luxury vehicles could, for instance, show how humans hanker for convenience, comfort, and social status through acquisition of such possessions.
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Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion Example
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If you are finding the conclusion of your rhetorical analysis difficult to write, you should use a rhetorical analysis conclusion example as your writing guide. Rhetorical analysis conclusion is the paragraph that sums up the argument of the analysis while expressing the importance of the techniques and patterns that you found in the work that you were analyzing. A good conclusion does more than simply summarizing and repeating the analysis. It shows the point of specific techniques that the speaker or the author used in the work. If how the rhetorical work realized a specific effect has been explained in the body of a rhetorical analysis, the conclusion should articulate why the speaker or the writer chose the used technique and the effect that it has enabled him/her to accomplish- classroom.synonym.com.
Essence of using a rhetorical analysis conclusion example
Conclusions are usually the hardest part to write for most students. Using a good sample conclusion when writing a conclusion of your rhetorical analysis is very important because it gives you an idea of how a good conclusion should look like. It enables you to understand what exactly a good conclusion should accomplish. Basically, when writing a rhetorical analysis, you must ensure that apart from summing up what you said in the body, your conclusion answers the “so what?” question. It must show readers that everything that you wrote in the body had a specific purpose. A good rhetorical analysis conclusion sample acts as a final punch for the analysis.
Attributes of a good rhetorical analysis conclusion example
A good example of a rhetorical analysis conclusion should indicate the application of the analysis argument at a higher level. It should show readers why the argument is important and what it means to the broad, real world perspective- writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students.
Basically, a good example of a rhetorical analysis conclusion does the following:
- It restates thesis statement
This does not imply repeating the thesis that you stated in the introduction word-for-word. It simply means paraphrasing or rephrasing the statement using different terminologies while passing the same information. While restating thesis statement, a good sample should analyze how the creator of the original work brings out the purpose of his/her work. It should also ensure that audiences understand more about the restated thesis statement.
- It restates the main ideas of the analysis
While stating the main ideas of the analysis, a good sample conclusion of a rhetorical analysis explains how they supported the stated thesis as well as their importance. The conclusion sample does this in a brief manner because the writer has been supporting the thesis statement in the body of the analysis.
- It specifies whether there is a need for further research
If there is a need for further research to enhance comprehension or knowledge of the topic that the creator of the original work touched, a good sample of a rhetorical analysis will specify. The conclusion also indicates what the research should entail as well as how this would help. It also indicates the essence of the subject or topic and why it would be important to continue conducting research on it.
Examples of rhetorical analysis conclusion
“This biography lacks some details because the author covers Newton’s life pertinent details ranging from the troubled childhood that he had to endure all the way to his youth when he became a mediocre student and eventually a failed farmer as well as how he developed principia. Finally, the author presents him as the Royal Society’s president before his death. The exposition is written properly in a succinct and detailed manner. However, it covers the pertinent details of the life of Newton only using a creative style. Nevertheless, to understand Newton’s life better, there is a need for further research in other journals.”
Note that this rhetorical analysis conclusion example starts by summarizing the work that has been analyzed in the body. This includes explaining how the author presents information to the readers and what the work covers. The conclusion also shows how the author accomplishes the goal or achieves the purpose of the analyzed work which is to present the details of the life of Newton. The author concludes by indicating that the work is inconclusive and therefore further research is required to understand the life of Newton.
“Perhaps, the most important thing to note is not the functions that the techniques that Roiphe uses perform but how she uses them. For instance, if she had started by stating early in the work that she considers women as “female chauvinists” without first including a contrast, this would have had a completely different effect. This would have undoubtedly offended her readers especially women. Such an approach would have made her work less convincing. It is apparent that Roiphe used this technique purposely and in a prior-planned manner. This enabled her to come up with a special essay that enabled her to present ideas in a spectacular way”- sucomm.iastate.edu.
This sample conclusion of a rhetorical analysis summarizes the rhetorical analysis and the technique that the author uses. It paraphrases the thesis statement while showing the impact that the technique that the author uses has on the audience which is making her work more convincing. The writer notes that the technique is used purposely to present ideas in a more special way.
“By using rhetorical tools effectively and arranging the essay in a careful way, Solove succeeds in persuading his audience that a nothing-to-hide argument is one-sided and narrow way of getting privacy. Solove employs his expertise in rhetoric art by focusing the introduction of the essay on appealing to the intended audience ethically. Through the effective management of rhetorical distance between the audience and himself, he establishes a relationship and authority without seeming superior. He establishes credibility while portraying scholarly credit via quotations and literature citations from the privacy experts.
He follows this with a focus on logical appeal to his audience in the body of the essay. Through the display of deductive reasoning’s weaknesses of nothing-to-hide argument, he builds an inductive argument. Additionally, Solove presents two analogies to the audience and this enables them to come up with their own logical conclusions. While trying to make a strong impression, Solove reserved emotional appeals while writing the body only to include them in the conclusion. By using emotional and dramatic language, Solove appeals to the imagination and sympathies of the audience while reminding them that there is nothing that nothing-to-hide argument has to say”-uwec.edu.
This rhetorical analysis conclusion example shows the technique that the author of the original work uses which is to arrange the essay in a careful way. It restate thesis statement (by using rhetorical tools effectively and arranging the essay in a careful way, Solove succeeds in persuading his audience that a nothing-to-hide argument is one-sided, narrow way of getting privacy) while showing how effective the technique is because it enables him to establish relationship and authority without seeming superior. The conclusion sample shows that this technique also enables the author to establish credibility and build an inductive argument by displaying the weaknesses of nothing-to-hide argument. Thus, the conclusion shows that the author of the original work was effective and successful by using the technique.
Using rhetorical analysis conclusion sample to write your own conclusion
As you can see from these samples, a rhetorical analysis conclusion is not very different from the conclusion of other essays. It simply paraphrases the thesis statement while explaining the main idea which could be the technique that the creator of the original work uses. In some cases, conclusion of a rhetorical analysis can suggest further research- owl.english.purdue.edu.
When using a rhetorical analysis conclusion example as a guide for writing your own conclusion:
- Consider how the larger or main point of the analysis is presented in the sample conclusion.
- Consider how the sample conclusion dissects or summarizes the argument of the analysis.
- Consider what the sample conclusion says about the success or failure of the technique or techniques that the creator of the original work uses.
- How the conclusion sample assesses rhetoric such as how the used technique influences or impacts on the intended audience.
- Consider how the sample conclusion suggests further research on the subject.
These are the most important aspects of a rhetorical analysis conclusion that you should master how to write or present while writing your own conclusion. Most professors look out for these aspects of a conclusion while marking rhetorical analysis essays.
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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay–Examples & Template
What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?
A rhetorical analysis essay is, as the name suggests, an analysis of someone else’s writing (or speech, or advert, or even cartoon) and how they use not only words but also rhetorical techniques to influence their audience in a certain way. A rhetorical analysis is less interested in what the author is saying and more in how they present it, what effect this has on their readers, whether they achieve their goals, and what approach they use to get there.
Its structure is similar to that of most essays: An Introduction presents your thesis, a Body analyzes the text you have chosen, breaks it down into sections and explains how arguments have been constructed and how each part persuades, informs, or entertains the reader, and a Conclusion section sums up your evaluation.
Note that your personal opinion on the matter is not relevant for your analysis and that you don’t state anywhere in your essay whether you agree or disagree with the stance the author takes.
In the following, we will define the key rhetorical concepts you need to write a good rhetorical analysis and give you some practical tips on where to start.
Key Rhetorical Concepts
Your goal when writing a rhetorical analysis is to think about and then carefully describe how the author has designed their text so that it has the intended effect on their audience. To do that, you need to consider a number of key rhetorical strategies: Rhetorical appeals (“Ethos”, “Logos”, and “Pathos”), context, as well as claims, supports, and warrants.
Ethos, Logos, and Pathos were introduced by Aristotle, way back in the 4th century BC, as the main ways in which language can be used to persuade an audience. They still represent the basis of any rhetorical analysis and are often referred to as the “rhetorical triangle”.
These and other rhetorical techniques can all be combined to create the intended effect, and your job as the one analyzing a text is to break the writer’s arguments down and identify the concepts they are based on.
Rhetorical appeal #1: ethos.
Ethos refers to the reputation or authority of the writer regarding the topic of their essay or speech and to how they use this to appeal to their audience. Just like we are more likely to buy a product from a brand or vendor we have confidence in than one we don’t know or have reason to distrust, Ethos-driven texts or speeches rely on the reputation of the author to persuade the reader or listener. When you analyze an essay, you should therefore look at how the writer establishes Ethos through rhetorical devices.
Does the author present themselves as an authority on their subject? If so, how?
Do they highlight how impeccable their own behavior is to make a moral argument?
Do they present themselves as an expert by listing their qualifications or experience to convince the reader of their opinion on something?
Rhetorical appeal #2: Pathos
The purpose of Pathos-driven rhetoric is to appeal to the reader’s emotions. A common example of pathos as a rhetorical means is adverts by charities that try to make you donate money to a “good cause”. To evoke the intended emotions in the reader, an author may use passionate language, tell personal stories, and employ vivid imagery so that the reader can imagine themselves in a certain situation and feel empathy with or anger towards others.
Rhetorical appeal #3: Logos
Logos, the “logical” appeal, uses reason to persuade. Reason and logic, supported by data, evidence, clearly defined methodology, and well-constructed arguments, are what most academic writing is based on. Emotions, those of the researcher/writer as well as those of the reader, should stay out of such academic texts, as should anyone’s reputation, beliefs, or personal opinions.
Text and Context
To analyze a piece of writing, a speech, an advertisement, or even a satirical drawing, you need to look beyond the piece of communication and take the context in which it was created and/or published into account.
Who is the person who wrote the text/drew the cartoon/designed the ad..? What audience are they trying to reach? Where was the piece published and what was happening there around that time?
A political speech, for example, can be powerful even when read decades later, but the historical context surrounding it is an important aspect of the effect it was intended to have.
Claims, Supports, and Warrants
To make any kind of argument, a writer needs to put forward specific claims, support them with data or evidence or even a moral or emotional appeal, and connect the dots logically so that the reader can follow along and agree with the points made.
The connections between statements, so-called “warrants”, follow logical reasoning but are not always clearly stated—the author simply assumes the reader understands the underlying logic, whether they present it “explicitly” or “implicitly”. Implicit warrants are commonly used in advertisements where seemingly happy people use certain products, wear certain clothes, accessories, or perfumes, or live certain lifestyles – with the connotation that, first, the product/perfume/lifestyle is what makes that person happy and, second, the reader wants to be as happy as the person in the ad. Some warrants are never clearly stated, and your job when writing a rhetorical analysis essay is therefore to identify them and bring them to light, to evaluate their validity, their effect on the reader, and the use of such means by the writer/creator.
What are the Five Rhetorical Situations?
A “rhetorical situation” refers to the circumstance behind a text or other piece of communication that arises from a given context. It explains why a rhetorical piece was created, what its purpose is, and how it was constructed to achieve its aims.
Rhetorical situations can be classified into the following five categories:
Asking such questions when you analyze a text will help you identify all the aspects that play a role in the effect it has on its audience, and will allow you to evaluate whether it achieved its aims or where it may have failed to do so.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline
Analyzing someone else’s work can seem like a big task, but as with every assignment or writing endeavor, you can break it down into smaller, well-defined steps that give you a practical structure to follow.
To give you an example of how the different parts of your text may look when it’s finished, we will provide you with some excerpts from this rhetorical analysis essay example (which even includes helpful comments) published on the Online Writing Lab website of Excelsior University in Albany, NY. The text that this essay analyzes is this article on why one should or shouldn’t buy an Ipad. If you want more examples so that you can build your own rhetorical analysis template, have a look at this essay on Nabokov’s Lolita and the one provided here about the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter of Anne Lamott’s writing instruction book “Bird by Bird”.
Analyzing the Text
When writing a rhetorical analysis, you don’t choose the concepts or key points you think are relevant or want to address. Rather, you carefully read the text several times asking yourself questions like those listed in the last section on rhetorical situations to identify how the text “works” and how it was written to achieve that effect.
Start with focusing on the author : What do you think was their purpose for writing the text? Do they make one principal claim and then elaborate on that? Or do they discuss different topics?
Then look at what audience they are talking to: Do they want to make a group of people take some action? Vote for someone? Donate money to a good cause? Who are these people? Is the text reaching this specific audience? Why or why not?
What tone is the author using to address their audience? Are they trying to evoke sympathy? Stir up anger? Are they writing from a personal perspective? Are they painting themselves as an authority on the topic? Are they using academic or informal language?
How does the author support their claims ? What kind of evidence are they presenting? Are they providing explicit or implicit warrants? Are these warrants valid or problematic? Is the provided evidence convincing?
Asking yourself such questions will help you identify what rhetorical devices a text uses and how well they are put together to achieve a certain aim. Remember, your own opinion and whether you agree with the author are not the point of a rhetorical analysis essay – your task is simply to take the text apart and evaluate it.
If you are still confused about how to write a rhetorical analysis essay, just follow the steps outlined below to write the different parts of your rhetorical analysis: As every other essay, it consists of an Introduction , a Body (the actual analysis), and a Conclusion .
Rhetorical Analysis Introduction
The Introduction section briefly presents the topic of the essay you are analyzing, the author, their main claims, a short summary of the work by you, and your thesis statement .
Tell the reader what the text you are going to analyze represents (e.g., historically) or why it is relevant (e.g., because it has become some kind of reference for how something is done). Describe what the author claims, asserts, or implies and what techniques they use to make their argument and persuade their audience. Finish off with your thesis statement that prepares the reader for what you are going to present in the next section – do you think that the author’s assumptions/claims/arguments were presented in a logical/appealing/powerful way and reached their audience as intended?
Have a look at an excerpt from the sample essay linked above to see what a rhetorical analysis introduction can look like. See how it introduces the author and article , the context in which it originally appeared , the main claims the author makes , and how this first paragraph ends in a clear thesis statement that the essay will then elaborate on in the following Body section:
Cory Doctorow ’s article on BoingBoing is an older review of the iPad , one of Apple’s most famous products. At the time of this article, however, the iPad was simply the latest Apple product to hit the market and was not yet so popular. Doctorow’s entire career has been entrenched in and around technology. He got his start as a CD-ROM programmer and is now a successful blogger and author. He is currently the co-editor of the BoingBoing blog on which this article was posted. One of his main points in this article comes from Doctorow’s passionate advocacy of free digital media sharing. He argues that the iPad is just another way for established technology companies to control our technological freedom and creativity . In “ Why I Won’t Buy an iPad (and Think You Shouldn’t, Either) ” published on Boing Boing in April of 2010, Cory Doctorow successfully uses his experience with technology, facts about the company Apple, and appeals to consumer needs to convince potential iPad buyers that Apple and its products, specifically the iPad, limit the digital rights of those who use them by controlling and mainstreaming the content that can be used and created on the device .
Doing the Rhetorical Analysis
The main part of your analysis is the Body , where you dissect the text in detail. Explain what methods the author uses to inform, entertain, and/or persuade the audience. Use Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle and the other key concepts we introduced above. Use quotations from the essay to demonstrate what you mean. Work out why the writer used a certain approach and evaluate (and again, demonstrate using the text itself) how successful they were. Evaluate the effect of each rhetorical technique you identify on the audience and judge whether the effect is in line with the author’s intentions.
To make it easy for the reader to follow your thought process, divide this part of your essay into paragraphs that each focus on one strategy or one concept , and make sure they are all necessary and contribute to the development of your argument(s).
One paragraph of this section of your essay could, for example, look like this:
One example of Doctorow’s position is his comparison of Apple’s iStore to Wal-Mart. This is an appeal to the consumer’s logic—or an appeal to logos. Doctorow wants the reader to take his comparison and consider how an all-powerful corporation like the iStore will affect them. An iPad will only allow for apps and programs purchased through the iStore to be run on it; therefore, a customer must not only purchase an iPad but also any programs he or she wishes to use. Customers cannot create their own programs or modify the hardware in any way.
As you can see, the author of this sample essay identifies and then explains to the reader how Doctorow uses the concept of Logos to appeal to his readers – not just by pointing out that he does it but by dissecting how it is done.
Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion
The conclusion section of your analysis should restate your main arguments and emphasize once more whether you think the author achieved their goal. Note that this is not the place to introduce new information—only rely on the points you have discussed in the body of your essay. End with a statement that sums up the impact the text has on its audience and maybe society as a whole:
Overall, Doctorow makes a good argument about why there are potentially many better things to drop a great deal of money on instead of the iPad. He gives some valuable information and facts that consumers should take into consideration before going out to purchase the new device. He clearly uses rhetorical tools to help make his case, and, overall, he is effective as a writer, even if, ultimately, he was ineffective in convincing the world not to buy an iPad .
Frequently Asked Questions about Rhetorical Analysis Essays
What is a rhetorical analysis essay.
A rhetorical analysis dissects a text or another piece of communication to work out and explain how it impacts its audience, how successfully it achieves its aims, and what rhetorical devices it uses to do that.
While argumentative essays usually take a stance on a certain topic and argue for it, a rhetorical analysis identifies how someone else constructs their arguments and supports their claims.
What is the correct rhetorical analysis essay format?
Like most other essays, a rhetorical analysis contains an Introduction that presents the thesis statement, a Body that analyzes the piece of communication, explains how arguments have been constructed, and illustrates how each part persuades, informs, or entertains the reader, and a Conclusion section that summarizes the results of the analysis.
What is the “rhetorical triangle”?
The rhetorical triangle was introduced by Aristotle as the main ways in which language can be used to persuade an audience: Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, Ethos to the writer’s status or authority, and Pathos to the reader’s emotions. Logos, Ethos, and Pathos can all be combined to create the intended effect, and your job as the one analyzing a text is to break the writer’s arguments down and identify what specific concepts each is based on.
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How to Write a Conclusion for a Rhetorical Analysis
Kimberley mcgee, 25 jun 2018.
The art of effective writing lies in the rhetoric. A persuasive essay uses figures of speech and pairs it impeccably with compositional techniques. Stitching together an impressive rhetorical analysis requires attention to detail, use of concise and persuasive language and an effective use of evidence to support the main idea or theme. When you break the process down and understand it, writing a convincing rhetorical analysis can be easier to accomplish.
Explore this article
- What Is a Rhetorical Analysis?
- How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis
- How to Write a Quality Conclusion
1 What Is a Rhetorical Analysis?
While rhetoric is the study of how other writers deftly use words to sway an audience, rhetorical analysis dissects a piece of non-fiction into its basic parts to explain how they contribute to the whole. The process is for good reason. It offers a better understanding of how the piece affects the audience to persuade them of the author’s argument. It can be informative, entertaining or lean on philosophy to bolster its central theme. It should divulge the author’s goals in detail. A solid rhetorical analysis will explore the techniques that the author used to arrive at the conclusion and provide examples of the tools used. It will reveal the effectiveness of the techniques as well. In a successful rhetorical analysis, the writer is discussing how the author of the chosen piece being discussed makes their argument and whether that approach was effective in its entirety.
2 How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis
Break down the essay into its basic outline, which is the purpose of the piece, the appeals, evidence and techniques used. Next, break down the examples of appeals, evidence and techniques and finally offer an explanation of why they worked or did not in your opinion. Begin by writing a few ideas on index cards, which can assist in organization later as you delve deeper into the analysis. Once the prewriting and free-associating has run its course, it’s time to write a thesis. Focus on the techniques that you feel you can define in convincing detail. Assemble the introduction and body with the facts you’ve gathered. Each paragraph in the body requires its own topic sentence and several examples with detailed explanations to make your analysis cohesive.
3 How to Write a Quality Conclusion
More than a summary, a well-written conclusion gathers all the information you’ve painstakingly laid out and tidily presents a final, impactful point. A quality conclusion shows the significance of the techniques used in the piece that was critically examined as well as the author’s patterns. First summarize what the analyzed piece accomplished and how it went about achieving its intent. Highlight each topic sentence and points of evidence to assist in writing a concise conclusion.
- 1 Purdue Online Writing Lab: Organizing Your Analysis
- 2 University Writing Center: Rhetorical Analysis
About the Author
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.
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