Possibly expanding on Journals #5 or #6, write a rhetorical analysis of either an advertisement or a speech. Focus on 

Possibly expanding on Journals #5 or #6, write a rhetorical analysis of either an advertisement or a speech. Focus on analytic thinking, which in a rhetorical analysis means both identifying and arguing the significance of how the communicator uses rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, and/or pathos). In other words, a rhetorical analysis isn’t simply a matter of identifying what the communicator is trying to persuade the audience of, but rather analyzing how and why the communicator chooses to persuade their audience. What kinds of rhetorical choices does the communicator make and whyHow and why are those choices meant to be persuasive?

After you’ve identified and analyzed the communicator’s use of rhetorical appeals, argue the rhetorical effectiveness of these appeals on the audience. Analyzing the rhetorical effectiveness of an ad/speech isn’t the same as saying whether you agree or disagree with what the communicator has to say or whether you think the advertisement is “good” or “bad.” Your reader expects you to argue how and why the rhetorical choices made in the ad/speech might be effective or ineffective in persuading at least one specific audience demographic. What kind(s) of specific audiences would be persuaded by the communicator’s use of rhetorical appeals and whyHow and whydoes the communicator target at least one specific type of audience? Remember, you can’t say the audience is "anybody" or "everybody."

Be sure to provide consistent, direct textual evidence in the form of quotes and/or specific details (such as the use of music in an advertisement or a speaker’s tone of voice). Your reader expects evidence that helps illustrate and explain your analytic thinking, meaning any and all details should serve as evidence of the use of rhetorical appeals in the ad/speech and/or the rhetorical effectiveness of those appeals rather than serve as a summary. Though rhetorical analyses don’t assume that your reader has already read, heard, or seen the speech/advertisement, focus on showing them everything they need to know to understand your analysis and nothing that they don’t.

Quick Tips

  • To guide your reader through the ad/speech as you analyze it, rhetorical analyses are written in present tense (“The commercial opens with a scared looking dog in a cage”), not past tense (“The commercial opened with a scared looking dog in a cage”).
  • Though you should be open to the idea of looking for all three rhetorical appeals, you don’t need to write about all three if they aren’t all there. A strong rhetorical analysis can be written about the use of just one or two appeals. This is especially common in commercials because they don’t usually have a lot of time (the average commercial is ~1 minute) to use all three.
  • The advantage of analyzing a speech is that they’re longer and thus have more evidence to provide, plus you usually can just focus on quotes from the speaker. Ads are short and so the evidence they provide is both more compact and varied (music, lighting, cinematography), but sometimes they’re so short that you run out of evidence quickly.

Advertisements are pretty accessible to you already, but here’s a list of speeches that I would suggest for Essay #3 (if analyzing a speech sounds interesting to you). You can deviate from this list, of course, but these are several very popular choices that have a ton of potential for analysis:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. – "I Have a Dream"
  • Frederick Douglass – "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" (Sometimes titled "What to the Negro Is the Fourth of July?")
  • Abraham Lincoln – "The Gettysburg Address"
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – "The Infamy Speech"/"The Pearl Harbor Address" (no "official" name for this speech exists)
  • Elie Wiesel – "The Perils of Indifference"
  • John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
  • persuasive TED Talk
  • Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech
  • Steve Jobs – 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address
  • List of of other suggested commencement speeches: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-best-graduation-speeches-of-all-time-2016-6 (Links to an external site.)
  • List and transcript of every Presidential Inaugural Address: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/inaug.asp

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