Rhetorical Analysis Paper

Utilizing a rhetorical theory, concept, or methodology, analyze a rhetorical artifact of your own choosing. Appropriate artifacts include, but are not limited to, political speeches, public service announcements, social movements, advertisements, television programs, films, music, architecture, clothing/attire, and personal effects. As the senior paper is a confluence of inquiry, reasoning, and communication, your finished essay should show evidence of extensive research, careful analysis, and superior writing ability. Final papers should be 20-25 pages (double-spaced) in length and adhere to the tenets of good writing (organization, syntax, punctuation, APA style).  The paper should include each of the following sections:

  • Introduction. A good introduction catches the reader’s attention, identifies the rhetorical artifact for analysis, reveals the theoretical/methodological approach, and presents a clear thesis/preview statement.
  • Theory/Method. Explain the rhetorical approach you’ve chosen. This section of a paper is frequently called a literature review. The purpose of this section is to display your understanding of an area of rhetorical theory and provide a justification for why this approach is appropriate for your particular artifact. This section should display a familiarity with, and understanding of, both seminal and contemporary literature. In essence, this section of a paper delineates the theoretical frame applied during analysis.
  • Rhetorical Critique. The substance of a rhetorical critique usually focuses on two major elements: background/rhetorical situation and the criticism proper:
  • Background/Rhetorical Situation. Provide the background/biography of the artifact/rhetor, the history of the situation, and/or the rhetorical context. Is the rhetorical exchange part of a broader discussion or argument? What potential audiences need addressing? What constraints or opportunities are present?
  • Criticism. Using your theory/method discussion as a critical frame, analyze your artifact. Look for patterns/themes that emerge from the text and show, very specifically, how these patterns/themes are developed. Excellent rhetorical criticism offers a unique perspective of an artifact by intertwining insightful analysis, creativity, and detailed textual reference.
  • Discussion. Based on your critique, discuss the efficacy of the text; did the text produce the intended effect? How might this artifact influence the way we view our world? How does this artifact contribute to our understanding of cultural attitudes, beliefs, and values? Does your analysis offer any support or challenges to our understanding of rhetorical theory?
  • Conclusion. A solid conclusion offers a brief summary of your major arguments, potential directions for future research, and a thoughtful closing.