A rhetorical analysis analyzes how an author argues rather than what an author argues. It focuses on what we call the “rhetorical” features of a text—the author’s situation, purpose for writing, intended audience, kinds of claims, and types of evidence—to show how the argument tries to persuade the reader. Structure Your rhetorical analysis will need: • A short, neutral summary of the text • A thesis that argues the most important rhetorical features of the text and their effects • Several paragraphs that each include a topic sentence that introduces a rhetorical feature, evidence from the text, and an explanation of how the feature does or does not help achieve the author’s purpose
• A conclusion that summarizes your argument and provides a final evaluation of the text After you have read and annotated your text, you will have an abundance of evidence to draw from for your essay. Arrange your best ideas under claims about your text; you do not need to cover every category in this handout. There are many ways to structure a rhetorical analysis, but most will begin with a short summary of the text to orient the reader and then move into a thesis statement and analysis. The analysis should form the majority of the paper and be organized under central ideas. Each claim you make should have evidence from the text to back it up. EXAMPLE THESIS: In her essay “Indians,” Jane Tompkins shows that history constructed from a single perspective is problematic by using simple language with clear academic undertones and a first-person narrative to evoke empathy in the reader. Preparation You will want to read the text you plan to analyze both “with the grain” and “against the grain.” In reading “with the grain,” you “believe” everything the author tells you without question. In reading “against the grain,” you pose challenges to the author’s claims and techniques. This handout will use examples based on Jane Tompkins’s article “’Indians’: Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History” (Critical Inquiry 13.1 (1986): 101-119). Summary You will want to construct a short summary of the author’s main argument to orient the reader in points you will make in your analysis.
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