How to write a rhetorical analysis essay: steps and outline

How to write a rhetorical analysis essay: steps and outline

Do you struggle to write a rhetorical analysis essay? You can use a rhetorical analysis essay outline to organize your work. An outline will help you remember major points and write fast. It makes your workflow smoothly from start to finish.

To start a writing process, you need to understand the definition of a rhetorical analysis. A rhetorical analysis measures the success of an author in persuading, entertaining, or informing an audience.

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When writing a rhetorical analysis essay, students identify an author’s writing style and strategy. The following is a guide on how to write a rhetorical analysis.

How to write a rhetorical essay ap lang

To write a rhetorical essay ap Lang, you need to read a prompt. Read and understand the provided question. Mark the tasks and areas you need to focus on. It is important to understand the prompt so that you give an accurate answer.

Instructors provide students with a text to read before answering a prompt. Read and find out how authors use rhetorical strategies.

For example, examine how an author uses pathos, logos, and ethos. Analyze an author’s reasoning and examples that prove the main idea. Look at persuasive elements in a given text.

Elements of Persuasion

When writing a rhetorical analysis essay, students need to identify elements of persuasion. These are methods an author uses to persuade an audience. Here are the strategies writers can use in a text and persuade an audience

1.     Ethos

An author needs to establish credibility in any piece of essay writing. Ethos is a rhetorical device that shows the credibility of an author.

An author’s credibility is evident in their expertise in a particular subject. Moral competence and knowledge also demonstrate credibility.

For example, ethos is evident when an expert in a particular field writes a book. It means the book is credible.

A famous person can advertise a product and give it credibility. Ethos is in three different categories. These are;

  • Arête (virtue and goodwill)
  • Eunoia (goodwill for the audience)
  • Phronesis (wisdom and valuable skills)

2.     Pathos

Authors can appeal to the emotions of readers to persuade them. Pathos which means experience, emotion, or suffering in Greek, is one of the strategies authors use.

The main aim of pathos is to appeal to emotion and provoke certain feelings from an audience. For example, an author can use pathos to evoke feelings of happiness, anger, sympathy. Others are sad or pitiful feelings.

Such feelings help in persuading an audience about an issue. Students can provide a rhetorical analysis example when discussing pathos in a text. Some of these examples are in storytelling, anecdotes, or metaphors.

3.     Logos

Logic is another method that authors use to persuade an audience. Logos uses critical thinking, statistics, facts, data, and numbers to prove a point. For example, an author can express an idea and support it with relevant statistics.

How to write a rhetorical analysis step by step

Authors aim to persuade an audience about an idea using their writing. A rhetorical analysis tries to find out how successful an author is in persuading an audience. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to analyze an author’s work.

1.     Read and understand an author’s text

A rhetorical essay assignment requires you to read and understand a particular text. Perform critical reading.

Underline important information and write down short notes. These are essential points that will help you write a rhetorical analysis.

2.     Identify literary strategies

Read the text and find out more information about the author. Who is the author trying to reach with the text? What is the aim of writing the passage?

Find out the context of the text and the setting. Check if there is a connection between a setting and the main idea. When you get all the information, you will be able to know the author’s strategy.

Authors can use different strategies or techniques in their work. Such strategies are helpful in expressing a point to an audience. The following are common strategies that writers use.

Definition strategy

An author uses this strategy to describe a point of discussion. It involves providing a definition of what is being discussed.

Authors persuade readers by telling them what something is. Persuasion happens when readers understand the meaning of what is discussed.

Process analysis strategy

A writer can use process analysis or critical analysis to explain to readers the procedure of doing something. A process can be simple or complex.

When readers understand how a particular process takes place, they are persuaded about an author’s idea. A process rhetorical analysis strategy is common in historical essays.

Cause and effect strategy

A cause and effect helps readers to understand what causes something to happen. Authors can use this strategy to persuade an audience about what they are discussing. Cause and effect look at the past and the future.

Exemplification strategy

An author can use examples to explain a particular point. Such examples can help readers to better understand the author’s idea.

Exemplification is a common strategy that enables authors to persuade their audiences. The examples provided must be related to the point that a writer is discussing.

Compare and contrast strategy

This strategy uses similarities and differences to discuss a point. A writer can use a compare and contrast strategy in writing reports. It can also be used in presenting arguments to convince readers.


Authors can narrate relevant stories to persuade readers about a specific point. The stories should be connected to the topic of discussion. Narration is a common type of rhetorical analysis strategy.

3.     Author’s persuasion tactics

Persuasive methods students should look out for are pathos, ethos, and logos. Discuss how an author uses these tactics to persuade an audience.

When writing an ap Lang exam, it is common to find a rhetorical analysis question. The prompt for this type of essay has three examples of persuasive methods.

Such a rhetorical analysis essay example provides insight into analyzing a text. These examples help you find persuasive methods a particular author is using.

How to write a rhetorical analysis outline

When writing a rhetorical analysis essay, there should be a good flow of ideas from start to finish. Students can use a rhetorical analysis outline to create a smooth flow of the analysis.

Readers should be able to follow your understanding of strategies and rhetorical devices that authors use. A good rhetorical analysis essay structure will help readers to understand your line of reasoning as you discuss literary works. The following is how students should structure a rhetorical essay.

1.     Rhetorical analysis essay title

After identifying an interesting topic, the next step is to craft an engaging rhetorical analysis title. Research and find out how to title a rhetorical essay.

Look at examples online and get insights on how to write an eye-catching title. A title should entice readers to read your paper.

Make sure it is catchy and informative. It should reflect the topic of your rhetorical analysis essay.

2.     Introductions

An introduction should capture readers’ attention. Show at an early stage that you understand a specific text.

Provide a summary of a passage using your words. Include a brief description of persuasive styles that an author has used in a text.

Make sure your introduction is informative and short. When students include this kind of information in an introduction, a reader can trust that they understand the text.

Such information shows that you are knowledgeable in what you are about to discuss. The last part of your introduction should be a thesis statement.

A thesis should address “who,” why,” what,” and “when.” Make it concise and on point. The length should be one long or two sentences long.

A thesis statement guides your writing process. When an audience reads a thesis, they should know what your paper is all about.

3.     Body paragraphs

Body paragraphs are where the weight of your analysis and discussions lies. Discuss methods an author uses to inform, entertain and persuade readers.

Explain why a writer uses a particular persuasive language in a text. For example, an author can use sympathetic language. Provide quotes of such language from the text as evidence.

Make sure your analysis is consistent, and readers can follow your reasoning. Students can use a rhetorical essay outline to provide consistency.

A clear structure that provides consistency makes reading and understanding a rhetorical analysis essay easy. Each paragraph should explain a particular strategy that an author uses.

Do not put all strategies in one paragraph. The following questions can help students identify an author’s approach in a text.

  • What are the strategies, and how do they work?
  • How is a strategy applied in an example?
  • Why did an author choose to use a specific strategy to address a particular audience?
  • What is the reaction of the audience? How do they respond to the strategy?

Provide in-text citations where necessary to prove your points. A typical citation style is the MLA format.

Look at an example of a rhetorical analysis essay online and get insights into formatting your work. Consider an author’s diction and tone of voice when performing an analysis.

4.     Conclusion

The last paragraph of a rhetorical analysis essay is where you summarize the discussion in the body paragraphs. Write about the impact of an author’s words on their audience.

How have these words transformed an audience’s opinion on a particular subject? Write about the significance of an author’s work.

Restate your thesis statement and write a concluding sentence. A final sentence should bring your discussion to a close.

It should give readers a sense of finality. Connect your final sentence with the topic of your essay.

Rhetorical analysis essay outline template

Students can use a rhetorical analysis outline template as a guide to writing a rhetorical analysis essay. The following is a rhetorical analysis template you can consider.

1.     Introduction paragraph

Start with a rhetorical précis. Provide brief information about an author. For example, write an author’s name, includes a positive phrase, credibility, title of works, and a thesis statement.

2.     Body paragraphs

Topic sentence, provide an example to support your thesis statement. Discuss how examples support a thesis.

3.     Conclusion

Write a restatement of your thesis statement. Summarize discussions in the body section.

Explain the significance of an author’s strategy. End with a concluding sentence.

Rhetorical analysis essay topics

To start writing a rhetorical analysis essay, you need to select a topic. An instructor can provide students with prompts that can offer guidance in topic selection.

Other times students research and select an interesting topic that will engage an audience. Here is what you need to consider when choosing a topic

1.     Select a topic that interests you

A topic can be trending, but it might not interest you. When you select such a topic, you will struggle to write your rhetorical analysis essay outline.

You will also struggle to write your final draft. Select a topic that inspires you. An inspiring topic is enjoyable to write about.

You will be able to finish writing fast if the topic is interesting. Readers will find your writing engaging and easy to understand.

2.      Choose a familiar topic

Pick a topic that you are knowledgeable about. An entirely new topic can be challenging to research and write about within a limited timeframe.

Students can get stuck when the topic is new. When you have some knowledge about a particular topic, it is easy to perform a thorough analysis of an author’s work.

It is easy to examine the evidence provided in a text and discuss it if the topic is familiar. The analysis process is easier.

3.     Perform preliminary research

After selecting a topic, it is important to conduct background research. The research helps to determine if a topic has enough information.

A topic should be broad enough to provide you with the content to write a rhetorical analysis essay. A broad topic enables you to make a thorough analysis of an author’s work.

It should also be narrow enough to fit in an academic research paper. Make sure your topic is broad enough to provide you with enough research material. It should, however, not be too wide or too narrow.

When performing research, make short notes of important points. Such notes will help you determine if the topic is suitable for your essay.

4.     Reach out to your instructor

After performing preliminary research, come up with a list of topics. They should be interesting topics, and you have some knowledge about them.

Brainstorm the list of topics and select the best topic idea. If you find it difficult to make the right decision, you can reach out to an instructor.

Instructors are academicians who have encountered many rhetorical analysis essay topics in their line of work. You can ask an instructor for advice.

These tips will enable you to find a topic that is interesting and engaging. Here are examples of topics you can use to write a rhetorical analysis essay

Rhetorical analysis topics for college students

Students can analyze passages from different books and discuss authors’ strategies and literary devices. The following are topics you can consider

  1. Analyze Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles.”
  2. Analyze Sophocles book “The plays and Fragments.”
  3. Discuss Helen Vendler’s “The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.”
  4. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth Mark.”
  5. Huey Pierce’s “Share Our Wealth.”
  6. Discuss William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
  7. Discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The scarlet letter.”
  8. Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
  9. Analyze Edgar Allan’s “The Raven.”
  10. Analyze John Steinbeck’s “The Perl.”

Easy rhetorical analysis essay outlines topics

The following are easy topics that students can analyze. You can brainstorm and select a suitable topic.

  1. Discuss Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise.”
  2. Discuss MLK’s speech.
  3. Analyze Harper Lee’s “Go Get a Watchman.”
  4. Analyze Mark Twain’s “Roughing it.”
  5. Examine O’Henry’s “Cabbages and Kings.”
  6. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
  7. Discuss Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey.”
  8. Explain symbolism in “Harry Porter.”
  9. Discuss themes in the book “Fight Club.”
  10. Analyze Chuk Palahniuk’s “Survivor”

Tips for rhetorical analysis

Students should have a good understanding of the strategies and devices an author uses. You need to be able to identify these devices in the text.

Here are tips that will help identify strategies and devices. These tips can help you write a compelling rhetorical analysis essay.

1.     Start immediately

To write an excellent rhetorical analysis essay, you need to start early. There is a lot that students need to do.

For example, you need to read and understand an essay question, read and understand a passage, and write your essay. You may also need to research and select a topic. After choosing a topic, research and find relevant information.

Time management is essential when writing this type of paper. Divide your time well and allocate enough time for research and proofreading. Do not wait until the last minute to start writing a rhetorical analysis essay.

2.     Read and understand the question

A rhetorical analysis essay assignment requires you to understand a particular question. Mark areas that emphasize what is expected from you.

When students do not understand an essay question, the answer they will provide will not be accurate. Researching and writing an inaccurate answer will cause your paper to be rejected.

It will also be a waste of time to produce the wrong paper. Make sure you understand the question and ask for clarification from your instructor if necessary.

3.     Use a rhetorical analysis template

It is important to present the correct information in the right sections of your paper. A rhetorical analysis template helps you to know how to present your work.

Students can use such templates to enable them to work faster. An outline template makes your writing flow coherently from start to finish. Readers can easily follow a discussion.

4.     A brief and informative introduction

Do not include details in your introduction section. Provide readers with a brief summary of what they should expect in the body of a rhetorical essay. Make sure you include the author’s information like the name and the title of his or her works.

5.     Conclusion section

The last paragraph of a rhetorical analysis paper is where you present your final thoughts. Write your thoughts about an author’s work.

Do not include new information in this section. Bring the discussion to an end.

6.     Rhetorical analysis format

Look at the instructions and identify the required rhetorical essay format. Provide evidence in your work and use the correct citation.

Look at examples of formatting styles online. Apply the proper format so that you get full marks for correct formatting.

7.     Edit and proofread your work

After you finish writing, read and make corrections. Read aloud and find out if there is a good flow.

Check the outline and make sure all the key points are captured.  Correct grammar slips, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

When an essay has grammar and spelling mistakes, it lowers your credibility as a writer. It can cause you to lose marks.

Do not be in a hurry to proofread and edit a rhetorical essay. Take a break for a day. After the break, read your work again with a fresh mind.

Correct any mistakes you did not notice earlier. Ask a friend or a classmate to read your work and provide feedback.

Consider the feedback and make necessary changes. After thoroughly polishing your rhetorical analysis essay, you can submit it.

Key takeaway

A rhetorical analysis essay outline is an organizing tool that students can use to write a rhetorical analysis paper. An outline is like a road map that guides and helps you remember significant points.

After performing in-depth research, create an outline that will make you write faster. Readers can follow your line of thought as you discuss how authors use different strategies and literary devices.

As discussed in this article, provide quotes from a text you are analyzing. Such quotes are evidence that you discuss further in a rhetorical analysis paper. To learn more about writing a rhetorical analysis essay, contact us.

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