What to Analyze in Summary and Analysis and a Word about Thesis

After today’s class, I became concerned that some students are not quite grasping the rhetorical angle of the analysis. Some students appear to have have trouble discerning what to write about, and when they talk about their articles or essays, they are focusing more on a critical understanding or cultural critique instead of an analytical breakdown of the elements in the article/essay.

Remember, a rhetorical analysis is a breakdown of the whole of the text to analyze its parts. A rhetorical analysis answers the question: How does the author make his or her argument?  Again, you look at the parts of a text in order to understand how they work together to make meaning for the reader.

We are talking about word choice, sentence structure, purpose, audience, angle of vision, tone, and devices such as appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.

And like I said in class, if you are really stuck, and if you must, you can choose to do a simple rhetorical analysis based on ethos, pathos, and logos, but if you do, you should go fairly deeply into each element, writing with facts and supporting points. It should NOT read like you are filling out a worksheet. For example I do not want to see four paragraphs that look something like this:

The audience of this article is_______________.

The ethos of this article is _________.

The pathos can be seen by ________

And finally, the logos is evident in ________________.

If you are going to talk about ethos, talk about the writers appeal to ethos, and support it with in-depth in-text proof that shows actual methods the writer is using to appeal to ethos and provide a certain effect for the reader. If you are going to talk about audience, don’t just say who the audience is, demonstrate the specific words and phrases the writer uses that clue the reader in to who the audience is. Every statement you make should be backed up by proof in the text.

I am going to lift a paragraph from one of the sample essays we have already read. Read this paragraph again and look for the specific proof the author is using to support his/her points.

Here is the link:  http://www.stlcc.edu/Student_Resources/Academic_Resources/Writing_Resources/Writing_Handouts/Rhetorical-Analysis-Sample-Essay.pdf

And here is a sample paragraph. Note how in-depth the writer goes into the author’s language choice and how it affects author’s appeal to pathos.

“Along with strong logos appeals, Grose effectively makes appeals to pathos in the beginning and middle sections. Her introduction is full of emotionally-charged words and phrases that create a sympathetic image; Grose notes that she “was eight months pregnant” and her husband found it difficult to “fight with a massively pregnant person.” The image she evokes of the challenges and vulnerabilities of being so pregnant, as well as the high emotions a woman feels at that time effectively introduce the argument and its seriousness. Her goal is to make the reader feel sympathy for her. Adding to this idea are words and phrases such as, “insisted,” “argued,” “not fun,” “sucks” “headachey,” “be judged,” “be shunned” (Grose). All of these words evoke negative emotions about cleaning, which makes the reader sympathize with women who feel “judged” and shunned”—very negative feelings. Another feeling Grose reinforces with her word choice is the concept of fairness: “fair share,” “a week and a half more of ‘second shift’ work,” “more housework,” “more gendered and less frequent.” These words help  establish the unfairness that exists when women do all of the cleaning, and they are an appeal to pathos, or the readers’ feelings of frustration and anger with injustice.”

Here are some more sample papers:

file:///C:/Users/Dawn%20Davies%20Tyrrell/Downloads/rhetoricalanalysis%20(2).pdf (we read this one)


There are number of them online. If you feel you need to read more, just google “rhetorical analysis sample” or something similar and you will find several more.

And here is a link I just found that can help you with your own writing language. If you scroll down on the page you will see sample words for things like talking about tone, strong verbs that are an alternative to “show,” as in “the writers shows us that…” It also has words to help you analyze syntax and diction.



I’m pretty sure I said that we are primarily concerned with understanding the thesis of the paper you are writing about. You will be addressing that in the summary part of the paper. With regard to your own thesis, you need one, but with an analysis that is only three pages, you are not likely making any big argument or claim about your paper, as this is not an argument paper. The thesis of a short analysis may be as simple as stating the elements you see at work in your article, and what you will be writing about.  Use the thesis to narrow the focus of what your paper will talk about.

Like with any thesis, it’s often easy to start with a questions.

What elements do I see in this essay that work to persuade the reader of____________?

Or, what rhetorical tools does this writer use to get her point across so effectively?

Then, once you answer that question, turn the answer into a thesis statement.

Here is an example of a thesis process:

What rhetorical elements do I see Anne Lamott using in “Sh!##y First Drafts?”

Hmmm, well, I see her using a conversational tone, surprising language, and humor to primarily connect the reader to the text.

Well, that’s decent. What’s the purpose of it? Let’s think more deeply…..

Maybe she does it because she wants the readers to not take writing, which is often fraught with fear, so seriously. Maybe she wants them to lighten up because they will be better writers when they are not stressed.

So a rough of a thesis might be, Anne Lamott, in “Sh!##y First Drafts,” uses a conversational tone, surprising language and humor to connect her readers to her topic, allowing for the reader to more easily retain the methods of writing first drafts she is trying to teach.

Then the next nice, filled-out paragraph talks about conversational tone, and proves that she uses it with facts she pulls from the text.

The next nice, long paragraph after that talks about surprising language, and proves that she uses it with facts she pulls from the text.

Then the next rich, long-enough paragraph talks humor, and proves that she uses it with facts that she pulls from the text.

Then there can be a simple conclusion that does not exactly regurgitate the thesis. If you take more than one paragraph to talk about an element, it’s fine. You have up to four pages total to write something meaningful.


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