Rhetorical Analysis


Rhetorical analysis is the process of evaluating a text according to its rhetorical purpose and strategies. When analyzing an argument rhetorically, the writer must go beyond what is being said and consider how the argument is being made. Often, rhetorical analysis papers will argue whether or not the writer is effectively persuasive.

THE RHETORICAL APPEALS:

Ethos—appeals that reference the author’s credibility and authority to speak on the subject
Logos—appeals based on factual data and logical arguments
Pathos—appeals using emotionally loaded diction, phrases, or images that play on the audience’s feelings about a particular subject.

Though any one of these appeals can be powerful on its own, writers should avoid using any one type of appeal exclusively.

THE RHETORICAL SITUATION:

When analyzing an argument rhetorically, asking yourself the following questions may help you determine the rhetorical situation of the argument:

  • Who is the target audience of the argument?
  • How does the author tailor his or her argument to reflect the values of the intended audience? Why would the author make such considerations?
  • When was the argument presented?
  • What exigent circumstances (context) may have provoked the argument?
  • How might the background and beliefs of the author influence the way the argument is presented?

KAIROS:

Kairos is a Greek word describing the perfect moment for an argument. Many rhetorical analysis assignments will require you to describe how the argument addresses the shifting circumstances that led the arguer to make his or her argument.

THE RHETORICAL ANALYSIS THESIS STATEMENT:

When writing your thesis for rhetorical analysis, remember that you are NOT making a statement about what the author is arguing, but instead, you are making a statement about whether or not the argument is presented effectively in terms of the author’s use of rhetorical strategies.

Incorrect:
“The Feed South Africa campaign argues that shoppers in South Africa should help stop the hunger problems in Africa.”
Correct:
“Because of the powerful use of pathos, the Feed South Africa campaign is successful in presenting a persuasive argument.”
“Because of the lack of appeals to reason and authority, the Feed South Africa campaign presents a weak argument.”

MOST RHETORICAL ASSIGNMENTS WILL INCLUDE SOME COMBINATION OF THE FOLLOWING PARTS:

Introduction:

  • Give background and context for the topic, problem, or issue being discussed.
  • Craft a thesis statement—a claim you make about the efficacy, or lack thereof, of the author’s persuasive tactics.

Summary of Argument:

  • Summarize the basis of the author’s claim
  • State context of author’s claim
  • Identify stakeholders

Evidence:
The evidence that you use to support your claim about the efficacy of the author’s argument may include descriptions of the author’s use of

  • Appeals, such as logos, ethos, and pathos
  • Logical fallacies
  • Literary devices, if they are used to produce a rhetorical effect
  • Other rhetorical or stylistic elements (e.g. context or audience) that can be used as evidence for the efficacy, or lack of efficacy, of the author’s argument

Conclusion:

  • Summarize key points
  • Reflect on the role rhetoric plays in making arguments


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