Organizing Your Analysis
This resource covers how to write a rhetorical analysis essay of primarily visual texts with a focus on demonstrating the author’s understanding of the rhetorical situation and design principles.
Contributors:Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2015-08-30 05:01:04
There is no one perfect way to organize a rhetorical analysis essay. In fact, writers should always be a bit leery of plug-in formulas that offer a perfect essay format. Remember, organization itself is not the enemy, only organization without considering the specific demands of your particular writing task. That said, here are some general tips for plotting out the overall form of your essay.
Like any rhetorical analysis essay, an essay analyzing a visual document should quickly set the stage for what you’re doing. Try to cover the following concerns in the initial paragraphs:
- Make sure to let the reader know you’re performing a rhetorical analysis. Otherwise, they may expect you to take positions or make an evaluative argument that may not be coming.
- Clearly state what the document under consideration is and possibly give some pertinent background information about its history or development. The intro can be a good place for a quick, narrative summary of the document. The key word here is “quick, for you may be dealing with something large (for example, an entire episode of a cartoon like the Simpsons). Save more in-depth descriptions for your body paragraph analysis.
- If you’re dealing with a smaller document (like a photograph or an advertisement), and copyright allows, the introduction or first page is a good place to integrate it into your page.
- Give a basic run down of the rhetorical situation surrounding the document: the author, the audience, the purpose, the context, etc.
Thesis Statements and Focus
Many authors struggle with thesis statements or controlling ideas in regards to rhetorical analysis essays. There may be a temptation to think that merely announcing the text as a rhetorical analysis is purpose enough. However, especially depending on your essay’s length, your reader may need a more direct and clear statement of your intentions. Below are a few examples.
1. Clearly narrow the focus of what your essay will cover. Ask yourself if one or two design aspects of the document is interesting and complex enough to warrant a full analytical treatment.
The website for Amazon.com provides an excellent example of alignment and proximity to assist its visitors in navigating a potentially large and confusing amount of information.
2. Since visual documents often seek to move people towards a certain action (buying a product, attending an event, expressing a sentiment), an essay may analyze the rhetorical techniques used to accomplish this purpose. The thesis statement should reflect this goal.
The call-out flyer for the Purdue Rowing Team uses a mixture of dynamic imagery and tantalizing promises to create interest in potential, new members.
3. Rhetorical analysis can also easily lead to making original arguments. Performing the analysis may lead you to an argument; or vice versa, you may start with an argument and search for proof that supports it.
A close analysis of the female body images in the July 2007 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine reveals contradictions between the articles’ calls for self-esteem and the advertisements’ unrealistic, beauty demands.
These are merely suggestions. The best measure for what your focus and thesis statement should be the document itself and the demands of your writing situation. Remember that the main thrust of your thesis statement should be on how the document creates meaning and accomplishes its purposes. The OWl has additional information on writing thesis statements.
Analysis Order (Body Paragraphs)
Depending on the genre and size of the document under analysis, there are a number of logical ways to organize your body paragraphs. Below are a few possible options. Which ever you choose, the goal of your body paragraphs is to present parts of the document, give an extended analysis of how that part functions, and suggest how the part ties into a larger point (your thesis statement or goal).
This is the most straight-forward approach, but it can also be effective if done for a reason (as opposed to not being able to think of another way). For example, if you are analyzing a photo essay on the web or in a booklet, a chronological treatment allows you to present your insights in the same order that a viewer of the document experiences those images. It is likely that the images have been put in that order and juxtaposed for a reason, so this line of analysis can be easily integrated into the essay.
Be careful using chronological ordering when dealing with a document that contains a narrative (i.e. a television show or music video). Focusing on the chronological could easily lead you to plot summary which is not the point of a rhetorical analysis.
A spatial ordering covers the parts of a document in the order the eye is likely to scan them. This is different than chronological order, for that is dictated by pages or screens where spatial order concerns order amongst a single page or plane. There are no unwavering guidelines for this, but you can use the following general guidelines.
- Left to right and top to down is still the normal reading and scanning pattern for English-speaking countries.
- The eye will naturally look for centers. This may be the technical center of the page or the center of the largest item on the page.
- Lines are often used to provide directions and paths for the eye to follow.
- Research has shown that on web pages, the eye tends to linger in the top left quadrant before moving left to right. Only after spending a considerable amount of time on the top, visible portion of the page will they then scroll down.
The classic, rhetorical appeals are logos, pathos, and ethos. These concepts roughly correspond to the logic, emotion, and character of the document’s attempt to persuade. You can find more information on these concepts elsewhere on the OWL. Once you understand these devices, you could potentially order your essay by analyzing the document’s use of logos, ethos, and pathos in different sections.
The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis essay may not operate too differently from the conclusion of any other kind of essay. Still, many writers struggle with what a conclusion should or should not do. You can find tips elsewhere on the OWL on writing conclusions. In short, however, you should restate your main ideas and explain why they are important; restate your thesis; and outline further research or work you believe should be completed to further your efforts.
In this paper, you are required to analyze an argument made by another person mostly with the intention of passing a message to a particular audience. A rhetorical paper is not a summary; it is more of analysis of the work of another person. A rhetorical text can be written on artwork, televisions programs, radios or even about other texts. To come up with a good template for rhetorical analysis you have to understand the main objective of the person when you are analyzing their argument.
Understanding what is a rhetorical analysis essay (definition)
A rhetoric analysis is an art of breaking another piece of writing or speech into smaller categories, examining it closely and combining them to persuade a certain audience, in other words, the essay is used to clarify to the audience the intention of the writer or speaker and the techniques used for persuasion in their piece. You also have to state to the audience whether the argument is successful or not since you are analyzing.
Given that all academic writing entails good preparation to come up with great content, rhetorical analysis paper is not an exception; you have to adhere to the step by step guide to come out successful. Before you get to start, you have to break your allocated time into three: reading, analyzing and writing. Reading goes hand in hand with analysis; in that, whenever you will be reading through the text that you are to write on, then you have to be writing down the major points. To analyze your text properly, you should have certain questions in mind like:
- Who is the speaker or author of your piece?
- What audience is he or she targeting in their argument?
- What is the intention of their writing?
- Under which set are they presenting their work?
With the above question in mind, you will be able to exploit every aspect of the piece and get to understand the intention of the speaker/author fully. After writing the points, you can brainstorm them and come up with some great content for your writing. Many authors and speakers usually have one intention in their piece, – convincing their audience. Once you convince your audience of what you are talking about, then you have delivered. There are three ways of convincing your audience while writing:
- Through appealing to their emotions – this way, you will need to capture the emotions of your audience by use of good descriptive words for emotions. You can easily achieve this by the use of the five senses. Once you apply the five senses, then the reader will automatically fit themselves into the situation, and this will make them emotional.
- Appealing to ethics – ethics concerns the morally right or wrong behavior expected in the society. You can use ethics to convince your audience because probably no one in the society will be comfortable to go against what is morally expected of them, and this is the best way to convince an audience because they have no option but to accept it as it is.
- Through critical thinking – critical thinking is all about being logical in your reasoning. While applying this technique, you have to give reasons and supports for your arguments to persuade your audience that indeed you are certain of your points.
How to write a rhetorical analysis thesis statement
A thesis statement is a brief statement that usually comes after the introduction, and it is as a rule purposed to guide the reader on what the paper is going to talk about in brief. A thesis statement is a transition from the introduction to the body part of your essay; it is through the thesis that the reader can be able to know that they have reached the body for your essay and hence give it more attention. In your thesis you should:
- Avoid common phrases like ‘I believe’ or ‘the main intention of the essay is…’. Learn to encrypt your thesis using unique words; it should not be common to the reader on how you are going to introduce the body. Let them find out about what the body is going to talk about uniquely. You can introduce a question and leave it unanswered so that the reader can proceed to the body to look for answers.
- Make your thesis brief and to the point – a thesis statement for a rhetorical paper should not constitute a lot of descriptions, you should go direct to the point to facilitate clarity of your work. A thesis statement should be one sentence, so you should summarize everything, in brief, to ensure you touch on what is expected in the body.
- Create suspense – it is good to create suspense in the thesis so that the reader can find a reason to proceed to the body. You should not give the intention of the essay clearly in the thesis because it is sure to make your work boring; try and raise the anticipation of the reader towards your work by making them find out more about the topic in the body paragraphs.
The thesis is fundamental in rhetorical papers because it helps you while building your conclusion. It also helps the reader to understand what the paper is all about in brief.
Tips on how to design a rhetorical analysis essay outline
For you to come up with a great rhetorical paper that is appealing to the reader, you have to know what is expected of you in the essay. Understanding the paper outline is key because it will determine how your essay would sound and look. The main outline for every essay is the introduction, the body, and the conclusion, but you have to understand how you will create content for the different parts. Below are tips on coming up with a good outline for your paper:
- Identify the audience for the author – you should be able to know whom the author is targeting in their writing so that you can come up with a good tone to fit the author’s audience. The tone of the essay is also dependent on the purpose of the essay; the tone varies depending on the intention of the paper. The tone is the attitude in the text. If your paper is about motivation, you will apply a tone that will uplift the readers when they go through the work.
- Identify the setting – the setting is the circumstances that surround the description of the author. To analyze a text, you have to understand the setting of the narration which goes hand in hand with the intention of the author. It is the setting that will enable you to differentiate a scholarly text and a non-scholarly one.
- Identify the purpose – the purpose of the text is what the author intends to pass in their piece. Once you understand the purpose of the author, then you can know how to place your thesis and plan your paper.
- Note the styles applied – when you read the work of other authors, you will be able to understand their purpose through the styles used. Many authors are not usually direct in their text; they do use different styles to bring out different impressions in their writing. Some of the common styles used include figurative language where metaphors are employed for comparison purposes. Repetition is another style used when the writer wants to emphasize a particular point. Imagery is also common because it helps to bring understanding to the audience as a certain aspect is compared directly with something that happens in reality. Imagery is normally used to involve the reader in your work by stimulating their emotions. Diction is also common with most writers; diction is the choice of words to bring out different implications in the text. The author usually chooses words that rhyme with what they are describing to their audience.
- Understand how is come up with the analysis – after reading through what you are to write about and gathering all the information, the next step is knowing how to organize your point to convince the reader. You should be able to know how the author used the styles to achieve their objectives.
Writing a rhetorical analysis introduction
The introduction to your paper should be attractive so that the reader can be attracted to read the rest of your work. You should put more attention to the introduction part because it is what the reader would come across first. You should be able to state your purpose in the introduction. It is in the introduction that you are supposed to let the reader know the essay is a rhetorical analysis paper. In your introduction, you have to state the piece that you are analyzing, the author, the occasion and the audience. After the introduction, you should include a thesis statement as a transition from the introduction to the body paragraphs.
Please feel free to use our Teacher Plagiarism Checker for the texts you have written.
How to write a body for rhetorical paper
The body is the main agenda for your paper. The body is all about organization of points; once you learn how to organize your points in your body paragraphs, then you are good to go regarding encrypting the body. You have to divide your points into sections and ensure each idea is placed in its paragraph so that you can achieve rhetorical appeal. In the paragraph, you should first state the idea, then support it with sufficient evidence to persuade your reader. An objective tone is necessary and should be maintained since it’s an analysis.
Rhetorical paper conclusion
In conclusion, be sure to use good words for a transition to your conclusion. The reader has to know that they are coming to an end of your analysis and it is your role to prepare them psychologically by use of good transition words fit for rhetorical essays. In conclusion, you should re-state the thesis just to act as a reminder to the reader on what the paper was to cover, then support your thesis by convincing the reader that you covered the mentioned points fully in your body. You can also make suggestion for further research on the topic for your reader.
Samples of rhetorical analysis essay – going through examples
It is good to go through various examples of rhetorical papers because it makes you a pro in writing. There are various good articles for rhetorical essay samples on the internet that you should get familiar with because it adds value to your writing. Some of the tips that you can learn from going through various essay samples are:
- You will advance your grammar – by going through essay examples, you will know how to adhere to grammar rules. The grammar for your work is critical because it determines whether your work would be understandable or not to the reader.
- Acquisition of new vocabulary – vocabulary helps to pimp your work; when you read examples of rhetorical papers you will learn how to apply different vocabulary in your writing.
- Development of coherence – coherence is the flow of your work. It is impossible to determine the flow of your work unless you read through it after writing. Essays examples are there to help you come up with a smooth flow of your work.
Significance of rhetorical analysis topics
While writing a rhetorical paper, you may be asked to write on the following topics: about a book, about a speech delivered in an event or about a television show. Topics in rhetorical writing are usually derived from some platform where communication is done to a certain audience. From different communication settings, you can easily analyze the speech or writing and come up with a good rhetorical paper. You should choose a topic that has sufficient points to sustain your analysis and length that you need for your essay.