How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

A rhetorical analysis essay requires you to write about an author’s writing. In other words, in a rhetorical analysis essay, you write about the way an author uses words to influence or persuade an audience to do or think something.

A rhetorical analysis essay explains how the parts of a text work together to persuade, entertain, or inform an audience.

When writing a rhetorical analysis, you are not writing a summary nor are you writing about whether or not you agree with the argument. Instead, you’re discussing how the author makes that argument and whether or not the approach used is successful.

In order to write a coherent and grade-winning rhetorical analysis essay, before you write, you need to make evident to yourself what you know about what you need to analyze (the text that you read and now have to analyze).


The scaffold below will help you identify all the information you need to write a brilliant rhetorical analysis. Once you’ve answered the questions, you are ready to write.

1.What is the title of the work you are analyzing?

  1. What is the genre?

3.What is the name of the author?

4.What is the work about (the topic)? Briefly summarize the text in no more than two or three sentences.

5.What do you know about the writer? (social, racial, or historical position in relation to the audience, professional title, etc.)

6.What is the writer’s purpose or intention? In other words, what does the author want you to think, feel, or do?

  1. Who is the audience? Knowing this will help you evaluate the effectiveness of the writer’s choices.

8.What is the writer’s claim (thesis)?

9.What points of support does the writer make?

10.Is an opposing view recognized?

  1. Are facts used to support the claim?

12.Are there other forms of evidence used to support the writer’s argument?

13.Does the author make use of assumptions or beliefs of the audience?

14.Does the writer make an ethical appeal (ethos)? In other words, does the writer use her or his own credibility and/or character to make a case or gain approval? In order to answer this question, ask yourself if the writer uses her or his position as an “expert” or a “moral authority” to help persuade?

15.Has the writer employed pathos or made an emotional appeal to gain acceptance or approval for the ideas expressed?  In other words, did the writer work on your sympathetic, compassionate, angry, sad, etc. feelings to try to persuade you to agree, to feel, or to do something?

16.Has the writer used reason to make a case (logos)? In other words, does the writer rely on factual evidence and proof to appeal to the audience?

  1. List the rhetorical devices are used by the writer.

18.List three rhetorical devices used by the writer that you feel comfortable writing about and that provide you with ample material to use in your essay. In your list, name the device, include the quotation in which the device is used, and the page number or paragraph number.

19.Evaluate the text. Form an opinion. Is the text well written? Is it persuasive? Can you compare it to other texts in the same genre, and if so, does this provide you with more words to represent your opinion?

Now you have all the information you need to write an excellent rhetorical analysis essay!

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Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.