What in the world is a rhetorical analysis?
To begin, let us define what a rhetorical analysis is NOT. A rhetorical analysis is not a summary of a literary work or scholarly article. You may have analyzed a novel’s plot line or taken apart the meaning of Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet before; however, trying to understand the meaning of a work or summarize a story is NOT the goal of a rhetorical analysis! Now that we’ve declared the most common mistake among rhetorical analysis papers, let’s begin dissecting what a rhetorical analysis does ask you to do. Definition: A rhetorical analysis requires you to apply your critical reading skills in order to “break down” a text. In essence, you break off the “parts” from the “whole” of the piece you’re analyzing. The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to articulate HOW the author writes, rather than WHAT they actually wrote. To do this, you will analyze the strategies the author uses to achieve his or her goal or purpose of writing their piece. Keep in mind that writers of different disciplines often use varying writing strategies in order to achieve their goals. So, it is okay to analyze a scientific article a different way than you would a humanities writer. These authors have very different goals in mind, and thus will use different writing strategies. Whoa, that was a lot of information! Okay, so now that you’ve grasped the “dictionary” concept of a rhetorical analysis, let’s break it down into more manageable parts. *First off, you want to make sure you READ the scholarly articles, literary work, etc., carefully and understand what you have read. Try to identify the author’s thesis, or his/her main idea or argument. *Now that you’ve read your sources and understand their overall arguments, it’s time to start analyzing them for rhetorical features. Take a second look at your sources, but this time, keep the following questions in mind and write the answers on a separate sheet of paper. Questions...
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