<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> main template 102
Teaching at the University of Arizona
English 102-014
Spring 2004
Handouts Unit 1
Steps Towards a Rhetorical Analysis
Chapter 15 in the Student’s Guide details the rhetorical analysis assignment. I encourage you to read this chapter closely and practice analyzing the texts that we read for class prior to writing your own essay. I am including a list of steps that you may find useful.
  • Identify the Communicator: What is the position of the writer/speaker? (Position means both, how do they feel about their topic but also, what job or committees etc are they in that could influence their thinking?) What’s the title of the writer/speaker (Dr.)? What do you know about his/her background? Ask: “Who is doing the saying?”
  • Identify the Primary Audience: Who is the communicator targeting? What might the audience position be? What do you know about the commonalities and differences between audience members? Might they be predisposed towards one position or another? What might their level of knowledge about the topic be? Ask: “Who is being targeted?”
  • Identify the Situation: Is this a publication by a university? Is this a magazine? Is this an event? Ask: “Where does this communication take place?”
  • Identify the Genre: Is this an essay, what kind? Is this a speech? Is it a poem? Is it an email? Is it an address? A memo? Ask: “How is this communication transmitted?”
  • Identify the Purpose: What did the communicator hope to accomplish? What is actually accomplished? Was the goal to persuade the audience (and of what exactly)? Was it to entertain? To introduce (who or what)? To inform (of what)? Ask: “What was the point of this communication?”

    Identifying these elements (the communicator, the audience, the situation, the genre, and the purpose) is the first step towards analyzing the text. Next, ask why it matters. For example:
  • What difference does it make if it is a Doctor who delivers the address as opposed to a manager of a Burger King?
  • What difference does it make if the audience knows the latest experiments involving DNA or has no information at all?
  • What difference does it make if the text appears in a school textbook or in Newsweek?
  • What difference does it make if the text is a poem or an essay?
  • What difference does it make if the purpose is to persuade or to introduce the president?

Once you begin to see how a different situation or genre determines aspects of the text, you can begin to understand the choices a writer/speaker makes in writer a text.

Three Appeals

Effective communicators have assessed their audiences. Effective communicators try to understand what kinds of people are in the audience so that they can craft communication strategies to best “reach” or affect their audience. An effective communicator will make decisions about which strategies will best affect their audience so that the communicator can accomplish his or her purpose. These strategies can be identified in three main categories. These categories are called “appeals.” They are called appeals because they appeal to a sense of the audience. The communicator makes conscious decisions about which appeals he/she will use based on the audience he/she is trying to affect.

Ethos: The appeal to ethics refers to the character or the communicator. The character of the communicator is reflected in decisions the communicator makes about how to represent himself in the text. References to the communicator’s experience, knowledgeability, background, authority, and expertise count as appeals to ethos. The character of the communicator is also reflected in his decisions to consider other perspectives, and whether or not he treats the opposition fairly. His/her open mindedness towards others, and willingness to be self-critical also represents character. The tone that the communicator uses with his audience is also indicative of his/her ethos.

Logos: The appeal to logic refers to the kinds of reasoning used by the communicator. Reason is what moves most people to make decisions or actions. Logic is thus an essential element in persuading people. There are many different ways to reason with people. Which ones a communicator uses will depend upon his/her audience and purpose. These can include: definition of terms and concepts; analogy, metaphor, and/or simile; comparison and/or contrast; deductive and/or inductive reasoning; examples, statistics, and/or facts; precedents; law; cause and/or effect.

Pathos: The appeal to emotion refers to the strategies a communicator uses that are meant to affect the emotions of the audience. This can be to invoke fear, to invoke eagerness, to invoke jealousy, to invoke happiness and etcetera. A communicator can use narration, description, tone, as well as emotionally charged images or words to affect emotion. The style and/or tone of the text can also affect emotion, for example, the rhythm or repetition of a text can sway emotion.

Appeals are meant to motivate people to act or think differently: most people are motivated to act or think differently because:

• Someone they trust tells them they should (ethos)
• There are good reasons to (logos)
• They feel compelled to (pathos)

Effective communicators make decisions to use certain appeals because they want to motivate their audience to act or think differently.




Essay Assignments
Schedule by Unit
Log of Class Activities
UA Library
The Department of English
The Student's Guide to Composition
The Writing Program