Skip links

How to write a rhetorical analysis essay

If you’re looking to write a strong rhetorical analysis essay, you’ve come to the perfect place. 

Writing a solid rhetorical analysis essay can be demanding, even for seasoned practitioners. For an essay to be effective the author has to be able to persuade the reader of the credibility of his or her analysis. A cohesive and structured essay with a strong thesis statement is essential to any good rhetorical analysis. 

Before we get to what makes a good rhetorical analysis essay though, let’s start by going over what a rhetorical analysis is. 

What is a Rhetorical Analysis? 

Most commonly, rhetorical analyses are written by students or researchers with regards to speeches or written documents. However, a rhetorical analysis can be done on TV series, literary pieces, artworks and virtually any other communicative medium where someone is attempting to convince an intended audience of a point of view. When writing a rhetorical analysis, you’re exploring whether or not the author was successful in persuading his audience. You are less concerned with what the author is arguing for than how he or she is arguing for it. 

Determining how the author attempts to make his or her case is done by breaking the work into parts to reveal the tools and techniques used to persuade the audience. In the analysis, you also explore how these constituent parts have been put together to create a desired effect. 

The three rhetorical appeals 

There are three rhetorical strategies used to persuade the audience by playing on basic human tendencies. These methods are also known as appeals and are integral to any rhetorical analysis as authors use these appeals to create a persuasive argument. You’re probably already familiar with these concepts or have at least heard of them before; pathos, logos and ethos. Let’s brush up on what they mean:

Logos: The logical appeal uses reasoning and argument built upon logic, evidence and critical thinking to make a case. This is the type of persuasive appeal you’d expect to dominate in an academic presentation or written paper. Hard facts, numbers and other types of data are used to influence the audience’s ways of thinking. Example:

Ads for vitamin supplements regularly appeal to logos by citing supposed data from studies and also use scientific language or jargon to describe its various benefits.

Ethos: The ethical appeal involves the author presenting themselves as a trusted authority on a particular topic and using his or her credibility to gain the audience’s approval. The author can give credence to a moral argument by highlighting their own virtuous characteristics or might want to position themselves as a specialist by listing their credentials to establish their authority. A practical example of ethos:

A cardinal from the Catholic Church visiting a Christian liberal arts class in Milwaukee to speak about the virtuous lives of American saints and beatified people.

Pathos: The pathetic appeal gains approval by evoking the audience’s emotions. This can be any emotion that convinces the audience of a point of view or argument. This can involve speaking or writing in a fiery or impassioned way or using language that taps into the audience’s sense of anger, disgust, love or compassion. By provoking an emotional reaction the writer or speaker can gain acceptance for ideas or arguments. Example; 

Internet marketing ads asking you to help build a school for disenfranchised girls in the developing world appeals to your empathy and emotional instinct to help poor children in need.

Begin by trying to figure out something useful about the author as it relates to the text at hand; is he or she an authority on the matter being discussed? Understand the context in which the text is written, was it part of an open academic seminary or a private exchange of letters between colleagues? Understand the core audience and the intention of the author when writing the text and what he or she wants the audience to accomplish or do.  

Start to zoom in on the actual text in more detail, break it into parts and study how the parts combine to create an effect. To do that successfully, you will need to go over the work you are analysing more than once. Investigate its purpose and goals. Identify and discuss the different appeals, literary devices and supporting evidence used by the author. Provide examples of these and determine whether or not they were effective in getting the point across. Determine and discuss if the author was successful in creating a persuasive argument for his stance. Once you’ve done that, you can start forming an analysis. 

Intro, Body paragraphs & Conclusion

Let’s circle back to the topic of this article, namely how to write a rhetorical analysis essay. 

Use the common three part essay structure that is commonly used in academic writing. It consists of an introduction, body paragraphs and finally a conclusion. 


Like all essays, the analysis starts with an introduction that informs the reader of what to expect. It should lead the reader straight to what text is being analysed. Make sure to present compelling background context that sparks the reader’s interest and take the time to compose a solid thesis statement that can anchor the analysis. Choose your thesis statement wisely! It is important for the thesis statement to be narrow, concise and make it clear to the reader what you are arguing for without unnecessary exposition. The introduction sets the tone for the remainder of the essay so make sure to get all your substantive thoughts in this paragraph.

Body paragraphs

The main body of your essay is where the discussion is presented and where you argue for your thesis. Whatever you bring up in the body of your essay should refer back to what was presented in the introductory section. Typically the body has three paragraphs but if you are making a more complicated argument as part of an in-depth academic discourse, then you’ll need more paragraphs to flesh out your stance. 

There are a number of different ways to structure your main body depending on whether you want to address all of the techniques deployed by the author as they appear chronologically or just focus in on the most prevalent ones or the ones that you can describe most persuasively. Decide what makes the most sense given the aim and context of your essay. It is important however that your body paragraphs create a cohesive unit that provides the reader with a logical transition that’s easy to follow. One way to go about this is by asking yourself “why is this paragraph here” or “why am I structuring my argument this way”. If you’re unsure how to structure your analysis or don’t have much practice of writing rhetorical essays it might be a good idea to simply dedicate a paragraph to each of the three rhetorical appeals (ethos, logos and pathos). Each paragraph should nevertheless have its own topic or idea and every following sentence in that paragraph should discuss techniques and offer examples that relate back to the topic or main idea in a logical flow. Each topic or idea should ideally then be connected to your overall thesis. By following this format, you’ll create a sense of intellectual rigor. Try to also make sure you organize your arguments in the same order in which you’ve presented them in the introductory passage, all in all, this will solidify the impression of craftsmanship and add persuasive appeal to your essay. 


The conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay and should tie everything together neatly. You don’t want to add new facts or concepts in a conclusion. If you’re writing a long paper you might need more than one paragraph to conclude. Make sure you do two things in your conclusion: summarize the main points from the main body and, if you can, explain the significance of the argument. This last bit becomes a way for you to not only reestablish your thesis statement, which you definitely should try to do, but also comment on it and reinstate why your analysis actually matters in the grand scheme of things. You can end the essay with something that encourages further thinking by asking a related question or by offering suggestions for more study. 

There should be a clear trajectory throughout the essay that unites the introduction, the main body and the conclusion. 

Last tips for writing the perfect rhetorical analysis essay:

  • Make sure not to include too many claims and supporting evidence in one single paragraph. 
  • Hover over each body paragraph to make sure it is well crafted and provides a transition to your next topic.
  • Remove unnecessary words or phrases that don’t contribute to the point you are trying to get across. 
  • Always proofread your essay several times and use online grammar checkers. 
  • Last but not least, don’t craft an essay that’s too intricate and complex. It’s much preferred for it to be simple, cohesive and easy to follow and understand for a reader.

Leave a comment