How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay has its difficulties, especially when you do it for the first time. Nevertheless, when you get to learn the guidelines of how to do it step by step, your writing skills will be equivalent to that of a pro.

This article will define rhetorical analysis and demonstrate a bit-by-bit guide with an outline and illustrations.

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

It goes without saying that many authors write various literacy works intending to persuade readers in the rationality of their beliefs and perspectives. These writers use several strategies, literacy, and rhetorical devices to achieve this goal. When writing your rhetorical analysis essay, this is what you will interact with.

Therefore, what is a rhetorical analysis? A rhetorical analysis is an evaluation of the author’s success in convincing, educating, and engaging his/her audience. Analyzing modern and ancient texts requires using several writing strategies. Do note that it is vital to pinpoint the author’s writing style and viewpoint when writing a rhetorical analysis essay, which needs you to evaluate the author’s persuasion methods, such as the words and phrases they use and their effectiveness to readers.

Rhetorical Analysis Prompt

Why is a rhetorical analysis necessary? When instructors assign this kind of task, they avail particular prompts that expound on the aim of the task and specific areas students need to concentrate on. Below is an example of a basic rhetorical analysis essay prompt.

“In a 3–4 page essay, analyze the text, speech, article, journal, etc., by paying attention to the words, phrases, organization, structure, devices the author uses. This paper requires you to do the following: (1) Review the text’s main argument/purpose/claim and (2) Identify the author’s techniques and discuss their effects on the audience.

When reading the allocated assignment, you should contemplate how the author uses:

  • Logic, illustrations, and proof such as data and statistics to back up their main ideas.
  • Persuasive and literary techniques.
  • Several rhetorical strategies like pathos, ethos, and logos.

As discussed in the prompt, defining and analyzing the essential rhetorical features is the main point of this task.

Rhetorical Analysis Strategies

Authors universally use three rhetorical strategies, also known as methods of persuasion. For you to manage the task, it is necessary for you to have a good glimpse of these persuasion methods and their functions.

What are the three rhetorical strategies? We will define each and look closely at their fundamental features:


Pathos is initially a Greek word that means “experience” or “suffering.” According to Aristotle’s book Rhetoric, authors use this mode of persuasion to evoke their reader’s emotions, such as anger, happiness, compassion, nostalgia, fear, etc. Authors use pathos to persuade the audience to relate with their opinions and identity.

You can use pathos in rhetoric through:

  • Metaphors
  • Storytelling
  • Personal anecdotes, etc.

An example of pathos is in the World Wildlife Fund advertisement. They created an image of a deformed person indicating the negative impacts of global warming; this instills fear among people who come across it, persuading them to conserve the environment in ways such as investing in renewable energy sources.


Logos originates from Greek which means “reason,” “opinion,” “plea.” This method of persuasion is based on logic. Logos are used to persuade audiences through data, statistics, facts, rationalizing, indisputable facts.

An example is when an author of a literary work makes claims about something and uses data or graphs to support them; that is the use of logos.


This rhetorical device helps readers determine an author’s credibility in their literary works. Ethos also allows the audience to figure out an author’s trustworthiness on a particular issue. Credibility is well-defined by the author’s knowledge, prowess, and ethical competence in a specific matter. According to the Rhetoric book, ethos exists in three forms: eunoia (this is the perception that the author has the audience interests at heart or also means goodwill towards the audience), arete(moral virtue, excellence), and phronesis(wisdom, prudence).

An example is when you see a celebrity advertising a product.

Rhetorical Analysis Topics

For a student to write an outstanding rhetorical analysis essay, it is essential for them to choose a fascinating topic. We will discuss several tips for picking a topic that engrosses the audience.

  • Concentrate on what interests you most: Choosing a topic you are sincerely interested in is crucial for writing an excellent paper. Many students make one massive mistake by selecting topics that relate to trends and look promising, but they don’t connect with their interests. This approach can make writing a rhetorical essay dreadful and difficult. The writing process can become enjoyable and easy if you deliberately choose a topic that interests you.
  • Choose a topic based on how well you know the subject: Picking a topic you are well-conversant with is a gateway to efficiently managing to write your paper. When you select a genuinely unfamiliar topic, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed prior to writing the essay. Remember, the paper requires you to thoroughly analyze the author’s writing style; this is why it is vital to choose a topic related to your knowledge.
  • Ensure you do background research: Before you pick a topic, make sure you do background research to know whether it has a wide range of information that can help in your research and writing process. You can do this by first writing several topics that interest you and are relevant to your knowledge. Afterward, you can do background research on all of them to determine which meets your interests, expertise and has significant research and analysis prospects. While doing your background research, you can highlight the topics’ main points; this could be useful when doing your analysis essay.
  • Enquire more information and guidance from your instructor: If you cannot reach an agreement on which topic to select, you can ask your instructor for advice after writing the most engaging topics and doing background research. This approach can be by sending a list of your topics for the instructor to direct you on the most appropriate subject.

These tips will guide you in picking an excellent topic for your analysis. Below is a list of suitable rhetorical analysis topics:

Easy Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  1. “The Lottery” By O’Henry
  2. The Use of Symbolism in “Pride and Prejudice” By Jane Austen
  3. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
  4. “Witches Loaves” By O’Henry
  5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by “Harper Lee
  6. The Main Themes in “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland”
  7. “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett
  8. “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler
  9. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  10. “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand
  11. Primary Themes in “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics for High School

  1. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  2. “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  3. The Use of Symbolism in “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf
  4. “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
  5. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
  6. “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer
  7. The Main Idea in “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen
  8. Major Themes in “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
  9. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
  10. Symbolism in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  11. “My Philosophy for a Happy Life” Speech by Sam Berns

College Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  1. John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”
  2. “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  3. “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison
  4. “Antigone” by Sophocles
  5. “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare
  6. “Dubliners” by James Joyce
  7. Analyze Poe Poetry in “The Raven”
  8. The Key Themes in “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  9. “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls
  10. “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics For 2021

  1. Cri De Coeur” By Romeo Dallier
  2. Harvard Graduation Speech by Donovan Livington
  3. “The Price of Inequality” by Joseph Stiglitz
  4. Obama’s Last Farewell Speech
  5. “The Rape of the Lock” by Alexander Pope
  6. “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott
  7. Pink’s VMA Speech about Acceptance
  8. “Shakespeare’s Sonnets” by William Shakespeare
  9. “England in 1819” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  10. “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” by Tim Urban

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Carefully Study and Evaluate the Passage

The starting point of writing a rhetorical analysis essay is studying and analyzing the allocated passage. As you read, highlight important information which will come in handy in the analysis process.

Step 2: Identify the author’s Strategies

Below are the questions you should ask yourself when reading you can answer afterward in your analysis:

  • Who is the writer/author/speaker?
  • Who is the writer’s target audience (age, nationality, preferences, interests, gender)?
  • What is the primary goal of the analyzed piece of text based on the author’s intentions?
  • What is the connection between the text’s setting and the main message?

Considering these questions will ease analyzing the author’s device when you commence writing. These questions will assist you in comprehending the writer’s persuasion methods.

Step 3: Identify the Persuasive strategies the author uses

According to Aristotle, there are three persuasion methods: ethos, logos, and pathos.

Example: Thousand years of history has taught us that war never changes.

The three methods of persuasion

Exploit the background info as a guide to figure out which strategies the author/writer/ speaker uses. Below are examples of rhetorical analysis essay topics you can utilize if you are supposed to develop your topic.

  • Analyze the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
  • Discourse in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Rhetorical appeals of Samuel L. Jackson’s monologue in Pulp Fiction
  • The Persuasive tactics used in “Speech to the Troops at Tilbury” by Queen Elizabeth 1.

Rhetorical Essay Outline

Writing an outstanding paper requires a student to have a good glimpse of rhetorical tactics and devices. In addition, identifying and analyzing their importance in a literary piece is crucial. Other essential determinants of an excellent rhetorical analysis essay are exceptionally structured and organized paragraphs. But remember that the most vital part of the writing process is addressing your task’s particular demands.

You should follow the structure allocated by your instructor. If there is no structure provided to guide you, use the 5–6 paragraphing style. Let’s look at how to develop an outline

  • First, study, analyze, and takes notes of valuable information prior to commencing your outline
  • Put down your essay’s primary points in your outline, adding proof that backs them up.
  • Develop a thesis statement that comprises your key points and focuses on the aim of the author’s writing.


To get hold of a reader/instructor’s trust, you should show them you have read and comprehended the allocated text. The introduction is a vital part of your rhetorical analysis essay. Make your opening brief and detailed enough to give an overview of what will be in other paragraphs.

First, in brief, use your own words to summarize the text you will add to your essay. This part will aid the reader in grasping the passage’s key message.

Second, briefly indicate the persuasive tactics the writer/speaker uses and their impact.

Finally, at the end of your introduction paragraph, give your opinions, beliefs, and thoughts in a well-defined thesis statement. This part answers the “who,” “what,” “why,” and “how” questions.

Keep in mind that the introductory paragraph should make the reader aware of what will be discussed afterward in the essay.

Body Paragraphs

After providing a brief overview of what you are writing about, this is the next section. Developing well-structured and informative paragraphs can take a considerable part of your time. This section discusses the author’s strategies in persuading, informing, and entertaining the audience.

Ensure that each persuasion method is in its paragraph to help the reader understand what you are talking about.

When determining the writer’s persuasion tactics, consider the following questions:

  • How does this tactic work?
  • How is the strategy working in the example?
  • Why did the writer choose that particular approach for this audience?
  • How did this strategy affect the audience’s feelings?

Keep in mind that you should add in-text citations in the body. Formats such as APA, MLA, and Harvard help students format their work correctly.


This part comprises a summary of what you discussed in the body paragraphs. You can conclude by saying how the author’s words/ sayings have influenced the audience’s perspectives or whether they have immensely impacted society.

The last sentence in your rhetorical analysis essay can indicate the significance of the author’s literary piece.

Let’s look at a sample rhetorical analysis outline on the topic “Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator” by Tim Urban

  1. Introduction: Rhetorical Precis:
  • Name of the author, appositive phrase about the author and their genre to establish credibility & authority, and title of their work (followed by the date in parenthesis); a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “assert,” “claim,” “suggest,” “argue,” etc.); and a THAT clause containing the primary assertion (thesis statement ) of the work.

Example: “Tim Urban, one of the internet’s popular writers and a speaker on the TED show, in his most icon speech, “In the Mind of a procrastinator,” (2016), argues that the brain of a procrastinator is different from that of a non-procrastinator.

  • An explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis, usually in chronological order.

Example: “In his talk, Tim Urban develops and supports his ideas by stating that he went to an MRI lab to study the brains of a procrastinator and a proven non-procrastinator.”

  • A statement of the author’s apparent purpose followed by an “in order” phrase

Example: “In the speech, Urban calls for people to stay aware of the instant gratification monkey in order to curb procrastination.”

  • A description of the intended audience and the relationship the author establishes with the audience.

Example: “The talk was intended for people who procrastinate on a daily basis, and the author establishes a relationship of equality among the whole audience by claiming that he is also a procrastinator.”

  1. Body Paragraph # 1:
  • Topic sentence/transition: “(author’s last name) begins with /by …(make your claim about what strategy you see working address the purpose /prompt).”

Example: “Urban opens the speech with an interesting personal experience of procrastination in college as a government major.”

  • Provide a specific example to support the idea: provide EXPLICIT textual support woven into your comments to back your argument. Thoroughly discuss all the tactics used in the beginning section, supported by the text.

Example: “He explains how he completed a 90page thesis that mainly took almost a year in 72 hours( by pulling not one but two all-nighters) and completed his point with some irony of being called by the school about how great his thesis was.”

  • An explanation of how various examples support the idea: connect the strategy back to your main claim/thesis/ the purpose

Example: “ Giving this experience, Urban uses various techniques: such as humor, irony, and pictures to illustrate what he is talking about.”

  1. Body Paragraph #2:
  • Topic sentence/ transition: “After (an idea), the writer moves to (another idea).” Connect an idea from the last sentence of the previous paragraph to the first sentence of this paragraph to show how the strategies build upon each other.

Example: “After giving a personal experience of procrastination in college, Urban also adds another personal experience months ago when the TED Talk contacted him .”

  • Provide examples to support your claim

Example: “Urban supports his claim by explaining how when contacted by TED Talk, his rational decision-maker was telling him to plan for the presentation day while the instant gratification monkey told him to search for India so he might get a better view and understanding of the country.”

  • Discussion of how the example supports the idea: connect the strategy back to your primary claim/thesis/purpose.

Example: “Finally, the author uses ethos to appeal to the audience by narrating his personal experiences.”

  1. Last Body Paragraph
  • Topic sentence/transition: “To close the essay/speech,(author)…” or “concluding the argument he/she…” Connect an idea from the last sentence of the previous paragraph to the first sentence of the paragraph to show how the strategies build upon each other.

Example: “Concluding the argument, Urban uses pathos, stating that “all of us procrastinate in one way or another be it working out or eating healthy meals “ to appeal to the people’s consciences.”

  • Provide examples to support your claim

Example: “The speaker appeals to the audience to stay aware of the instant gratification monkey that hinders them from meeting deadlines and achieving their goals in order to curb procrastination.”

  • Discuss how the example supports the idea: connect the strategy back to your primary claim/thesis/purpose.

Example: “The speaker invokes the audience’s feeling of the guilt of procrastination and summarizes by saying we all need to know what we are procrastinating about.”

  1. Conclusion
  • Restate your thesis

Example: “Urban’s talk emphasizes on the instant gratification monkey present in the mind of procrastinators.”

  • Reflect upon the examples and main ideas in the body paragraphs, the significance of these strategies, AND how they are linked to your thesis.

Example: “Throughout the talk, Urban uses several rhetorical strategies and devices such as ethos, logos, and pathos. He uses pathos when he gives his personal experience of procrastination in college and several months ago when the TED talk communicated to him about the chance to present his hypothesis to a large audience. Urban uses logos appeals such as deadlines and the panic monster. He describes how people get stressed when they know they are running out of time to meet their deadlines which is relatable to the audience.”

  • State if these were effective in conveying the claim/thesis/purpose.

Example: “Tim Urban is a skilled speaker who utilizes a variety of rhetorical tactics to persuade the audience, and he succeeds in his endeavor.”

  • Closing thoughts- close out the primary purpose of the text being analyzed.

Example: Urban’s “In the Mind of a Procrastinator” is one of the most iconic, mind-blowing speeches in TED Talk. “

Below is a rhetorical analysis essay template/scheme of the outline described above:


  • Rhetorical precis
  • Thesis statement

Body paragraph(s)

  • Topic sentence/transition
  • An example that backs your argument
  • An explanation of how the given example supports the idea


  • Restatement of the thesis statement
  • Reflection on the ideas and illustrations provided in the body
  • A discussion of how the methods of persuasion used by the author/speaker were effective in conveying his or her thesis/claim/purpose

Writing Tips to Follow

Things to identify:

  • The persuasion methods used by the author such as ethos, logos, and pathos
  • The author’s writing style ( formal or informal language, logic, flow, and punctuation).
  • The author’s targeted audience (professors, students, business, people)
  • The tone the author uses ( this could vary from an optimistic to pessimistic tone or from casual to a humorous tone)

Decipher the Main Objective of the Text

Figure out the reason behind the author’s choice in the writing style, persuasion methods, and tone towards the audience.

  • In what way do the methods of persuasion assist the author in accomplishing the text’s central aim?
  • What made the author use these rhetorical strategies to persuade the audience towards a particular matter?
  • Pay attention to the literary devices and persuasive methods the writer uses.

Steps to Polish Your Rhetorical Analysis

To improve the quality of your work, you need to follow seven steps that will assist in the editing and proofreading process. Below are the 7 -steps you can take to polish your rhetorical analysis essay.

Avoid plagiarism

Using someone’s work without giving credit is a serious offense, whether intentional or not, which can make your education institution take disciplinary measures.

  • Ensure to cite the sources you use in the rhetorical analysis essay
  • After putting in-text citations, make sure you add them to your references
  • Paraphrase your work (use your own words in interpreting another person’s work).
  • You can also use online plagiarism checkers such as Scribbr and Grammarly to guarantee that no work is plagiarized.

Check Grammar

Checking for punctuation and spelling errors is essential in writing. To add to that, avoid using abbreviations that the instructor may not be familiar with.

Write Your Essay in Active Voice and Present Tense

To steer clear of confusing your readers, ensure to write your work in the present tense and in an active voice; it makes your essay very easy to comprehend.

Maintain Consistency

Using smooth transitions that lead your reader from one paragraph to another can significantly impact your essay.

Use Different Vocabularies

Applying various vocabularies in your writing can make the passage being analyzed more understandable.

Use a Captivating Title

A suitable title can grab the reader’s attention from the beginning of the essay to the end. Also, ensure that your title relates to what you are writing about.

Reply to the Passage

Write your rhetorical analysis essay as if you are responding to the text. Identify and analyze the author’s writing style and ensure to add your thoughts and ideas to the paper.

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