Are you ambitious enough to take AP English class? If so, get ready for a couple of surprises. After all, the logical outcome of the class is an AP English exam; and, the essential part of AP English test is essay writing. More precisely, you will have to complete three different essay types, and chances are — one of these types will be a rhetorical analysis paper. And this is exactly the part where you get frustrated because most students have never worked with this particular assignment type before. If this is the case with you, read on — we’ll guide you through the entire process.
Rhetorical Analysis: the Basics
Have you seen the Inception movie? The one that deals with the concept of a dream within a dream, within a dream? Well, a rhetorical analysis essay is quite similar to that — with a little exception, of course. In a nutshell, a rhetorical analysis paper is writing about writing. Still confused? Let’s dig into more detail. For a rhetorical analysis, you take separate phrases from an already written work (most often, by some prominent author) and analyze them to see which persuasion techniques the writer uses and which effect is he/she trying to achieve. The most commonly analyzed works are famous speech. Think I Have a Dream famous.
How to prepare for a rhetorical analysis
Any exam is a time-limited procedure, so if you really want to ace it, preparation is the key to success. Remember that the time you have for writing will also involve reading and analyzing (even before you lift a pen). So, the best you can do is read, analyze, and even take notes at the same time. Here are just some things to focus on here:
- The author: who is he?
- The audience: why them?
- The purpose of the speech: what is the author trying to achieve?
- The setting: why this setting exactly?
Finding answers to all of these questions as you read the speech will make the writing process way easier. More importantly, it will save you a lot of time, which is precious during the exam. These simple questions alone give you a great start for the analysis — not to mention, they help you understand the three methods of persuasion (ethos, logos, and pathos defined by Aristotle eons ago).
What are these three methods exactly? There is a simple way to tag them: ethos deals with ethics; logos — with logic; and pathos — with emotions. In other words, each of the persuasion techniques appeals to a different side of human reasoning: the sense of decency and overall credibility in case of ethos; the emotions in case of pathos (which is the most effective, but also the most sneaky way to prove your ideas); and the logical reasoning in case of logos.
Take a look at the following example of the three:
- Ethos: Scientists have proven this treatment effective.
- Pathos: Make a right decision — you know what it is in your heart.
- Logos: History has shown us that war is a permanent state for the mankind.
Also, note that speeches chosen as prompts for an AP exam usually involve all three of these persuasion techniques; so, try to make a note of them and — more importantly — practice writing rhetorical essays before the actual exam. Take some time to draft at least a couple before the actual exam day.
Outlining a Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Remember the part about analyzing and taking notes as you read? This tip should help you mark the techniques used in the speech. After you’ve finished with that, you will have a lot of scattered, chaotic notes. Take a couple of minutes to put them to order. Aim for the 5-6 paragraph essay — that’s going to be your best bet. Two of those paragraphs will be introduction and conclusion, which leaves you 3-4 body paragraphs — that is, just 3-4 statements (persuasion techniques) to focus on. In fact, you can even include 3 body paragraphs, dedicated to ethos, logos, and pathos consequently. In that case, make sure you choose the most convincing, vivid quotes to support each of the analyzed methods.
Now, let’s take a quick look at each essay section in greater detail.
Even though the intro is important (after all, it sets the tone for the whole paper), the primary analysis will happen in the body paragraphs. So, make sure your intro short and to the point. The best way to achieve this effect is to summarize the main message of the speaker. Then, focus on what exactly the speaker is saying to interpret it and present your thesis. This will show that you do understand the essence of the speech, and more importantly, are ready to analyze it in detail. Finally, make sure the thesis is not too obvious and can be argued with — this will intrigue the reader.
The body is the most important section of your rhetorical essay — the part your teacher will pay most attention to. So, make sure it is informative and logical. Here, you are to explain how exactly the author uses persuasion methods. The best way to do it is to dedicate a separate paragraph for each new technique. You can choose 3-4 quotes (see above) and craft a separate paragraph on each. After stating the quote you choose, you will have to analyze it, in-depth. A solid analysis answers the following questions:
- What kind of strategy is it?
- How does it work?
- Why does the author use this technique in the context?
- How does the technique affect the audience?
Another thing to focus on in the body paragraph is the shifts in the author’s tone, voice, and even the length of the sentences (if any, of course). Sure, these details might seem minor in understanding the purpose of the speaker, but they do show your grasp on the overall style and usage of rhetorical techniques. Finally, make the most of the citations and remember the reference them correctly.
Once you’re done with the main part, wrap your findings up in the conclusion. The conclusion is similar to the introduction, but not quite the same. A great conclusion explains how the speech affects the audience. Focus on the result here — did the speech change anything in the society? Did it have an effect on its listeners? Did it help shape history as we know it today? This is the best way to highlight the significance of the analyzed work. Then, quickly summarize what you have already described in the body, and restate your thesis. That’s it!
Extra Writing Tips
Have a couple more minutes before the time runs out? Do not forget to proofread your essay. Even five minutes of polishing up can make a huge difference to your paper, so make sure to double-check the following:
- Grammar and spelling: as we write, we often make stupid errors, which seriously affect the quality of our papers. Take a close look at the essay to see if there are any grammar and spelling inconsistencies — or, simple typos in that matter.
- Word usage: when writing quickly, we subconsciously stick to the simple words. But, if you have the time to replace some of them with synonyms, it will highlight your vocabulary and make the paper more engaging to read. And, of course, a vast vocabulary range is one more factor the teacher will pay extra attention to.
- Logic and coherence: make sure you do not just jump from one idea to another. Include logical transitions — this will make your writing style smooth, and your paper — coherent. Also, try to take a critical look at your essay. Are you sure your reasoning is easy to follow? Do you make yourself clear in each of the paragraphs?
- Tense usage: it is common practice to write academic papers in present tense. The problem is, when we write, we often switch tenses. So, one more thing to double check before handing in your paper is your tense flow. Sure, working with quotations might sometimes involve including past tense in your paper. Still, your own words should better be written in the present.
- Analysis, not summary: this is the key point when writing an essay. Summarizing the plot and simply listing the rhetoric devices will not get you anywhere. Instead, analyze how each of the devices is used in text and provide evidence on how it impacts the readers.
Still Worried about your rhetorical essay analysis?
Yes, we do understand that writing your first rhetorical essay analysis is confusing. Fortunately, Elite Essay Writers is the leading team of academic experts on the web. Of course, we won’t be able to enter the exam room with you. But, you can always talk to us directly if you need more help with wrapping your head around persuasion techniques. And, if you are given a rhetorical essay as homework, you can even order it here! We can provide you with a perfect, polished up paper that will serve you a great example of what a solid rhetorical essay should look like!