Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Nerd Recipe

Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Nerd Recipe

In rhetorical analysis essays, tutors assign you a text — or an article, video or a song — and want you to find the persuasive effect of this text on people. Moreover, they require you to explain what author does to create such effect. Such tasks are often tricky because students rarely know how to start an essay that deals with such variety of material.

For my personal use, I developed a step-by-step outline for rhetorical analysis essay that helps to write about any books, articles, and advertisements. It worked for many A+ papers and will surely work for you too.

Why—Who—What—How — Four Steps to Create Rhetorical Analysis Thesis

A thesis for rhetorical assessment does half of all work. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and we need to find who need to be convinced and what authors do to persuade.

There are four main elements that you need to consider.

  1. Why has the author of the piece written it? It is the purpose of the author — the idea that the audience should assume after reading, watching or listening to his creation. In the advertisement, it is a purchase of goods; in political articles, it is the support of some party or politician.
  2. Who needs to be persuaded? It is the audience of the article — people that the author wants to reach. The audience is rarely definite. For example, in the advertisement of Old Spice, the audience is young men, but may also be young women who want to make presents for men.
  3. What does the author do to persuade the audience? Tutors call all tricks that authors use rhetorical devices. We will search and write about them in the essay. Devices are citations of other authors, jokes, logical argument and many other things, which we will explain further.
  4. How successful is the author in persuasion? Here we become tutors by ourselves and decide whether rhetoric devices chosen by the author succeed to persuade the audience and achieve goals.

Tutors know that each creative piece has a different impact on various audiences — and you are an audience as well. That is why you cannot write a wrong thesis for rhetorical analysis essay if you think about appropriateness. It means that you should suppose what author wants to achieve with his contents, and then make your statement.

thesis for rhetorical analysis essay

For example, in the advertisement of Old Spice, it is appropriate to write that marketers want people to purchase deodorant, while methods may be different. You may write that the commercial wants to persuade athletes because the main character is muscular and often appears in the locker room. It may also want to convince women because the video shows an attractive male — and you will be correct in both cases.

However, if you say that Old Spice tries to convince you to buy horses, it will be incorrect. Even though the main character rides the horse, it uses it to demonstrate the deodorant.

So, in the introduction to rhetorical analysis essay, I always write about the audience and purpose. It will show the tutor that you understand what your piece is about. Many teachers ask about it directly, hence it is an excellent way to begin your essay.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline — Hunting Artistic Devices

You will write your body part of the essay about “What” part of the thesis — what rhetorical devices the author uses, how they should convince the audience and whether they are useful. The problem is that Wikipedia lists more than hundred of devices, all in sophisticated Greek terms. Years ago, I used to browse them one-by-one, trying to guess whether my assigned text includes them.

Three categories of rhetoric devices to accelerate the process:

  • logos
  • ethos
  • pathos

Tutors often call these categories modes of persuasion, rhetorical strategies or rhetoric appeals. Be sure that they are all the same. Try to find at least two instances of each in your text for analysis.

three categories of rhetoric devices

Logos for Logic

Logos are all devices where logic and reasoning are used to prove their point. It is also all facts and empirical evidence used in the text. Logos is an only device of all scholars, so if you are lucky to analyze the academic article, it is the only tool you will need to use. If not, there are some typical examples of logos.

  • Citations of academic articles and statistics.
  • Use of equations and numbers.
  • Logical clauses such as “if …, so…” or “as far as …, then …”

Ethos for Authority

Ethos is used when the author facilitates someone’s else credibility to convince people. It is often used in commercials — muscular mad guy for Old Spice is an ethos appeal because he is an example of a successful person who uses deodorant. Writing rhetorical analysis essays, you should pay attention to the following types of ethos appeals.

  • Author’s relevance to the topic — it is appealing when Elon Musk talks about rockets and distrusting when it does Kim Jong-un.
  • Usage of quotes from famous people and artists.
  • Citation of Bible, religious texts, and historical cases.
  • References to experts.

Ethos is often linked with logos. For instance, when I cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is logos because I use scientific facts but also ethos as the Bureau is a reputable governmental institution.

rhetoric analysis toolkit

Pathos for Emotions

Pathos is all cases where authors try to support their argument with emotions and feeling — love, fear, hatred, greed, and jealousy, to name the most popular. Old Spice commercials are founded on pathos: the main character mimics heavily, shouts and screams, tries to engage people with emotions. However, there are also less extreme examples in texts and videos.

  • Metaphors and stories that illustrate or strengthen author’s opinion.
  • Jokes and puns.
  • Slang, jargon, offensive or over-friendly language.
  • Personal experience of the author or other people.

I have a simple trick to find pathos for rhetorical analysis essays. As soon as you see something that seems witty, fun, outraging or true-to-life in the text or video, stop and check the list above. You will surely find that it qualifies for pathos appeal.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Conclusion — Grading the Author

When you are done with rhetorical devices, it is high time to re-answer your What-Why-Who-How from the thesis. All tutors demand this part — you need to determine whether author’s rhetoric devices successfully reached the audience and whether the purpose was fulfilled.

I browsed my archive records and found a couple of good examples of rhetorical essays conclusions. Check them before doing your own.

good examples of rhetorical essays conclusions

Now you have everything you need to write an essay that assesses the purpose, audience and rhetorical appeals in any text and video. Each case, however, has different specifics. If you share examples of rhetoric appeals from your essays or unique tasks given by your tutors, I will try to elaborate them too — there are never too many examples of essays 😊


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