Answered By: James Whitmer
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2020     Views: 23

Please Note: These are only common assumptions and suggestions about writing a rhetorical analysis. The requirements of such assignments often vary, so please follow your instructor's guidelines. 

A rhetorical analysis is your opinion of how well a particular argument achieves its goal of persuading its target audience. In other words, every argument, whether it is an article, movie, TV show episode, commercial, etc. has a purpose (i.e. to persuade, inform, and/or entertain) and is aimed at a specific group of people. For a rhetorical analysis, you have to judge how well that argument actually succeeded in its objective. In fact, a helpful metaphor for this assignment is that you are judging a performance, and in your essay, you must justify why you think the performance is amazing, terrible, or somewhere in between. That is why it is important to remember a rhetorical analysis is NOT just a summary of what you watched or read, and it is NOT an argument of why you agree or disagree with its message; rather, it is your judgment of how well the argument was presented to its audience.

Generally, to explain your judgment of the performance, teachers will ask you to refer to ethos, pathos, and logos, which are different appeals that a person can make to their audience to persuade them. These are largely considered to be the most important elements of any argument, and they must be used well in equal measure to successfully influence someone to change their mind. To simplify the concepts, you can think of them in the following way:

  • ethos: this is focused on the author of the message and whether they are credible and worthy of trust.
  • pathos: this is focused on the audience of the message and in what ways they are emotionally affected to better receive its meaning.
  • logos: this is focused on the message itself and whether it is built on sound reasoning and evidence.

As you write your rhetorical analysis, you will make claims about how well the author used these three appeals, provide evidence, and explain why the evidence supports your claims. For more detailed advice on this assignment, please see the following links: