Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Tips, Outline & Topics

By Editorial Team Last updated: Oct 11, 2023

Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Tips, Outline & Topics

According to Texas A&M University Writing Center, rhetoric is described as the art of persuasion via oral or written communication. Thus, a rhetorical analysis is the assessment of the tactics employed to persuade the reader or listener in a cartoon, advertising, speech, or piece of literature. These approaches, referred known as rhetorical strategies or stylistic choices, differ according to the medium of the message (visual, audio, written, etc.). Typically, rhetorical analysis is reserved for non-fiction materials that are attempting to market a product or idea. To examine a communication's persuasive appeal, you must first understand how the message appeals to the audience.

Read also: Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical Analysis Essay

While learning how to write a rhetorical analysis may appear to be a challenging assignment for beginners, once you understand the secrets and strategies, you will be writing like an expert in no time.

This article will cover the definition of rhetorical analysis and provide a step-by-step tutorial complete with an outline, guidelines, and examples. However, if you'd rather bypass all of this and have one of our specialists assist you, please contact our top essay writing service by clicking HERE.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay: What Is It?

As you are probably aware, various literary works are written with the express intention of convincing readers of the author's views and point of view. There are numerous tactics and literary and rhetorical devices that authors employ to accomplish this purpose, and this is precisely what you will encounter while writing your rhetorical analysis essay.

Therefore, what is a rhetorical analysis defined as? In a nutshell, rhetorical analysis is the process of determining the extent to which an author persuaded, informed, or entertained their audience. There are thousands of different writing styles for analyzing modern and historical literature, but any rhetorical analysis essay requires you to identify the author's writing style and point of view. This entails examining the author's persuasive techniques (the words and phrases the author generates) and determining their effectiveness with readers.

Prompt for Rhetorical Analysis Essay

What purpose does rhetorical analysis serve? Typically, when students are assigned this type of activity, they are supplied with specific prompts that clarify the task's objective and outline the areas to focus on.

Overview of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompt

Write a 2-3 page rhetorical analysis (analysis of the argument) of the assigned text.  You will need to complete two different tasks:

  1. Summarize the text’s argument and
  2. Explain how the text’s argument is put together.  


  • You must begin the summary part by introducing the text you will be examining. Then you will summarize the text's argument, highlighting the text's primary statements and supporting evidence.
  • The analysis section should consume the most of the paper's 2-3 pages.
  • You are attempting to evaluate and explain how the argument was constructed in this section (which rhetorical strategies it uses).
  • What effect are such methods intended to have on the reader? In other words, how do the tactics aim to sway the reader's mind and emotions? How are the techniques connected to and supportive of the central argument?

As you read the given text;

Consider the author's use of the following terms :

  • Diverse rhetorical techniques (pathos, ethos, logos)
  • Justifications, evidence, and examples to substantiate their core principles
  • Elements of persuasion or stylistic appeal

As implied by the prompt, the primary objective of this assignment is to describe, analyze, and explain the most salient rhetorical features of the provided text.

Three Generally Recognized Types of Rhetorical Strategies (Appeals)

According to Aristotle, the art of persuasion can be classified into three broad categories. When examining the persuasive strategies employed by a text, it is beneficial to keep them in mind.

So, what are the three rhetorical strategies?

Let us define each and examine their primary characteristics in greater detail:

1. Ethos

In a literary work, the ethos rhetorical device establishes the author's trustworthiness. Simply said, it is the expert application of this method that enables readers to judge whether or not an author can be trusted on a certain subject. Credibility is determined by the author's expertise, knowledge, and moral competence in relation to the subject at hand. According to Aristotle, ethos is classified into three categories: arete (virtue, benevolence), phronesis (useful talents and wisdom), and eunoia (common sense) (goodwill towards the audience).

For instance, when the author of a book is a well-known authority on a certain subject or when a product is sold by a celebrity — these are all examples of ethos being used to persuade.

2. Pathos

According to the literary definition of pathos, this Greek term translates as "experience," "suffering," or "feeling." It is one of three strategies of persuasion that authors might employ to appeal to their readers' emotions. In a nutshell, this strategy's primary objective is to provoke specific emotions (e.g. happiness, sympathy, sadness, wrath, compassion, etc.) in their audience with the express purpose of convincing them of anything. The primary objective is to connect readers to the author's persona and views.

Pathos is frequently used in rhetoric in the following ways:

  • Storytelling;
  • Metaphors;
  • Personal anecdotes, anecdotes, etc.

To illustrate, when you see an advertisement depicting sad, loveless animals and it encourages you to donate money to an animal shelter or adopt an animal, that is a clear example of an emotional appeal being used to persuade.

3. Logos

This word, according to the logos literary definition, translates from Greek as "ground," "plea," "reason," and "opinion." Unlike ethos or pathos, which are based on credibility or emotion, the logos rhetorical device is employed to persuade readers through the use of critical thinking, facts, numbers and statistics, and other incontrovertible data.

For instance, when the author of a literary work makes a statement and backs it up with verifiable facts, this is an example of logos.

The three tactics of logos, ethos, and pathos are critical components of writing a rhetorical analysis essay. The more you understand them, the easier it will be to judge how effectively they were used by the author of the prescribed work. Now, let's look at how to get started.

Topics for Rhetorical Analysis

To produce an effective rhetorical analysis essay, a student must first choose an engaging topic. The following are some of the best guidelines to consider while selecting an audience-engaging topic:

  • Concentrate on your passions. The primary technique to producing an excellent report is to choose a subject that piques your interest. Numerous students make the grave error of selecting topics that are promising and hot yet are uninteresting to them. Such an approach can exacerbate the difficulty of rhetorical writing. However, if you deliberate your interests and write about something that truly interests you, the writing process will become lot more enjoyable and straightforward.
  • Choose a topic that is familiar to you. Another effective technique is to select a subject that shows your expertise. Selecting an unusual subject can put you in a bind even before you begin writing. Bear in mind that this academic paper demands you to conduct an in-depth examination of an author's writing and evidence-building technique, and the more familiar you are with a particular subject, the easier the analysis will be.
  • Conduct some preliminary research. When selecting a topic, it is critical to ensure that it has a sufficiently broad scope and sufficient material to allow for effective research and writing. As a result, it is critical that you conduct background research before settling on a specific topic. This can be accomplished by compiling a list of things that pique your interest. Then, take the time to investigate the available material on the chosen topics and choose one that is not only entertaining, but also provides excellent chances for research and analysis. Additionally, when conducting background research, make notes on the topic's most critical elements. These notes will prove useful in the future.
  • Consult your instructor for assistance. If you've already identified the most intriguing themes and conducted background study on them but are still undecided, it's a good idea to solicit advice from your instructor. Request that your instructor peruse your list and advise you on the most appropriate subject.

By using the methods outlined above, you should be able to identify an intriguing and promising topic.

Related: Rhetorical Analysis Definition and Examples

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

To get you started, here is a selection of good rhetorical analysis topics:

Simple Topics for Rhetorical Analysis Essays

  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"
  2. The "I Have a Dream" Speech of Martin Luther King Jr.
  3. Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"
  4. Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" Symbolism
  5. Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
  6. The "Harry Potter" Series' Symbolism
  7. O'Henry's "Witches Loaves"
  8. Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club": The Major Themes
  9. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."
  10. The "Surrender Speech" of Chief Joseph

Topics for High School Rhetorical Analysis Essays

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

Related: Criminal Justice Research Topics and American history research topics

Topics for College Rhetorical Analysis Essays

  1. The Major Themes in Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451"
  2. Sophocles' "Antigone"
  3. Macbeth's rhetorical analysis
  4. Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"
  5. Huey Pierce Long's "Every Man a King" Speech
  6. John Steinbeck's "East of Eden"
  7. William Shakespeare's Literary Devices
  8. Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"
  9. A Rhetorical Analysis of the Film "The Phantom of the Opera"
  10. Poe's Poetry in "The Raven" Analyzed

Rhetorical Analysis Essays Topics for 2023

  1. Peter Schweizer's "Profiles in Corruption"
  2. Pink's Acceptance Speech at the VMAs
  3. Joseph Stiglitz's "The Price Of Inequality"
  4. Michelle Obama's "Becoming": The Overarching Themes
  5. Tim Urban's TED Talk Speech "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator"
  6. Romeo Dallier's "Cri De Coeur"
  7. Oprah's Golden Globes Speech: Feminism
  8. President Joe Biden's Most Recent Address

Read also: Social Work Research Topics

How to Write a Step-by-Step Rhetorical Analysis

1. The first step is to read and analyze the text.

The first step in writing a rhetorical analysis essay is to read and analyze the prescribed text. As you begin reading, jot down important details that will aid in simplifying the analyzing process.

2. Identify the author's strategies.

Consider the following questions while you read and attempt to address them later in your analysis:

  • Who is the author, and who was the intended audience for their work?
  • What objective did you have in mind when you wrote the speech/project?
  • Is the setting significant or related to the primary message(s)? If that is the case, why did the author chose that particular context?

Once you begin writing, keeping these questions in mind will assist you in analyzing the author's techniques. At the very least, these questions provide a framework for your work and aid in your comprehension of the author's strategies of persuasion.

3. Examine the author's persuasive strategies.

Aristotle classified the ingredients of persuasion into three categories: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Outline for a Rhetorical Essay

To create an excellent paper, students must have a strong grasp of rhetorical devices and tactics. Additionally, you must be able to identify and assess their utilization in specific literary works. Additionally, correct structure is critical when analyzing a text—a good rhetorical analysis essay should be well-structured and ordered. Bear in mind that structuring your rhetorical analysis essay is not the most critical consideration; what is critical is that you handle the unique requirements of your particular writing assignment. As a result, there is no requirement to adhere to a typical essay structure; there are several effective methods to begin your rhetorical analysis outline.

If it is more convenient for you to adhere to the framework established by your lecturer. If they do not provide a structure for your essay, you may always adopt the 5-6 paragraph format.

Our recommendation for your outline is as follows:

  • Prior to commencing your outline, read, analyze, and take notes.
  • Outline the essay's major themes and include evidence to support them.
  • Create a thesis statement that summarizes your primary ideas and addresses the author's intended audience.

If you have identified the essential concepts that will support your thesis and included evidence to support them in your outline, writing will be easy. Additionally, you can utilize our rhetorical analysis essay outline template to assist you in creating your paper. Bear in mind that the intro-body-conclusion structure is constant.


To earn the reader's trust in a rhetorical analysis essay, you must demonstrate that you have read and comprehended the provided content completely. When composing the opening, keep it brief and succinct.

  • To begin, summarize the passage you're going to include in your essay in your own words; this will demonstrate to the reader that you grasp the text's core idea.
  • Following that, you can briefly discuss the author's persuasive styles and their effect.
  • Finally, organize your thoughts into a well-written thesis statement. It should address the questions of 'who,' 'what,' 'how,' and 'why.' Typically, your rhetorical analysis thesis statement follows your introduction paragraph.
  • Bear in mind that your introduction is your opportunity to pique the reader's interest in the content you'll discuss later in the text.

Body Paragraphs

After providing context for the reader, it's time for some critical critique. A significant portion of your work will be spent developing informative body paragraphs. Explain in the body how the author informed, persuaded, and entertained the reader.

  • If the author utilized convincing language, state so.
  • If the author used sympathetic language, justify it with quotes.

Keep in mind that all writing should be grammatically correct and follow a logical pattern. It is preferable to have distinct paragraphs outlining the author's strategies than to cram everything into one.

Answer the following questions when determining the author's writing strategies:

  • How is this technique implemented?
  • How effective is the strategy in the example?
  • Why did the author choose a particular strategy for this audience?
  • How did the plan influence the audience's feelings, reactions, and responses?

Additionally, changes in tone and diction should be noted within the body paragraphs. Never neglect to properly cite your sources in your work. Citations in the literature are frequently made in the MLA format.


Conclude your essay after writing your extensive, well-cited body paragraphs. As with the majority of other essay types, summarize what you have already discussed. Discuss how the author's words influenced their audience's perceptions or if they had a big impact on society.

In the last sentence of your rhetorical analysis, you can make an impressive assertion demonstrating the author's writing's significance or how its tactics shaped history.

Tips for Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

  • Before you begin your analysis, make a list of all rhetorical devices. Stylistic analysis guides and poetry anthologies will include definitions and illustrations of stylistic devices. This list and guide may help you find other traditional stylistic techniques that you may have overlooked during the message analysis process. Assonance, consonance, parallelism, alliteration, exaggeration, and anaphora are all important strategies to look for in a style guide.
  • When conducting your rhetorical analysis, keep in mind the medium through which you intend to convey your work. Was it intended to be read or to be heard? Consider factors such as word emphasis, tone, and pauses that contribute to persuasion in the case of a recording. Is body language used to emphasize particular aspects in a speech? If the advertisement is printed, how does the visual aspect interact with the written? If it is an advertisement, how do the images and imagery relate to the text?
  • Choose a subject that distinguishes you from the rest of the class. Numerous pupils employ the same speeches as those listed above. Rather than that, pick something that calls to you. Something that has swayed your opinion. When it comes to grading, choosing unique source material will help you stand out from the crowd – as your essay will not only be distinctive, but also on a subject close to your heart.
  • When preparing for an Advanced Placement (AP) English exam (where writings on rhetorical analysis are common), review prior papers and questions to get a sense of the type of work that will be required. Through the rhetorical examples above, you can get experience and prepare for the rhetorical analysis section of your AP English exam. Our guide to essay writing might assist you with the preparation process.

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