Now what? 

  1. Read/listen to at least 3 of the speeches.
  2. When you have finished, select one and read/listen to it again.

This time, look for key themes, make notes about what strikes you most powerfully, and think about what message you see or how the speaker makes you feel. You might want to print out the transcript so you can highlight or annotate key passages.

As you prepare to write your analysis, think about the questions below. You might even try writing out answers to them to give you a start on generating ideas for your essay.

  • How does the speaker appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos? (See pages 164-169 in your OER for an overview of the classic rhetorical appeals.) Provide specific examples for each if present.
  • Are the appeals to logic well-reasoned, or are they hard to follow? Do they make sense to you? Why or why not?
  • Who is the speaker? How does he/she establish credibility (ethos)? Does he/she come across as knowledgeable? Fair? Does the speaker’s reputation convey a certain authority? Identify these areas in detail.
  • What is his/her purpose in writing/speaking? To attack or defend? To exhort or dissuade from certain actions? To inform or convince? To explore or mediate? To praise or blame? To teach, delight, or persuade?  Again, be specific; identify examples to illustrate your points.
  • Who makes up the audience? Who is the intended audience? What values does the audience hold that the speaker appeals to?
  • What is the content of the message? Does the message/speech/text succeed in fulfilling the speaker’s intentions? For whom?
  • What is the structure of the speech? Does the structure aid or hinder the speaker’s intention?
  • What figures of speech are used? Are there allusions the speaker makes? What kind of style and tone are used and for what purpose? How is repetition used?
  • How effective is this text in meeting its purpose?
  • How effective is it in meeting the needs and expectations of its audience or affecting its audience as its author intended?
  • Are you persuaded by the argument? Why or why not? For instance, do you find the appeals to emotion excessive? Or do you find them inspiring? What is the speaker’s ethos? Confident? Meek? Reticent? Strident? At times patronizing or condescending? If you’re viewing a video clip of the speech, do humor, visual presentation, and non-verbals (tone of voice, gestures, posture), contribute to your impression?
  • Finally, make an overall evaluation of the argument (or summarize the evaluations you’ve already made). Based on the analysis you’ve presented, is the argument persuasive, sound, and valid?
  1. Drafting

Considering your answers to the above questions, what ideas are present in multiple places? Sometimes one clear topic emerges related to delivery, logic, or other matters. Remember, your job here is to analyze, not summarize. You may briefly explain *what* the speaker says, but the majority of your paper should be about *how* they say it. How do they appeal to your emotions or intellect? How do they use language, allusion, and other rhetorical strategies to persuade their audience?

To develop your thesis, think of “Say, Mean, Matter.” What does the speaker say, what does it mean, and why does it matter?

Then outline possible body paragraph topics to support your best thesis. These topics may align closely with your most developed answers to the above questions. Be sure to quote memorable/important lines from the speech to illustrate your points.

Your introduction should begin with an introductory hook to add interest; next, it should introduce the speaker’s full name, prize-winning status/year, or other pertinent information, and briefly describe the context of the speech (not necessarily in that order) and transition to your thesis. Your thesis should make clear the grounds for your analysis: both the effectiveness of the speech and how it achieves its intended purpose.

Your conclusion should develop final reflections on topics raised in your paper.

  1. Source Use

Some of the speeches will raise questions, depending on how much knowledge you already have of geography and social or political events of recent years. Writing well without answers to basic questions like When were antiviral drugs first used to combat HIV? is impossible, but finding out the answer does not mean you need to cite the source necessarily. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re referring to information available in multiple sources, it’s considered common knowledge and you do not need to cite it.

The answer to the above question, for example, does not require citation (the mid-’90s) but if you want to quote more specific information, you’d need to cite your source. Know that you are not required to use sources beyond the speech, and using sources in a way that you’d have to cite may sidetrack you from your chief goal of rhetorical analysis. Not filling in your own gaps of common knowledge, however, may weaken your paper (like not knowing Hurricane Katrina primarily devastated New Orleans, LA, for example). So learn a little something along the way, but don t turn a rhetorical analysis into a research paper.

  1. MLA Format

You will need to cite the speech at the end of your paper or on a separate works cited page.

According to the 8th editing of the MLA Handbook, your citation should include the following information:

  • The speaker’s name.
  • Title of the speech (if any) in quotation marks.
  • Title of the particular conference or meeting and then the name of the organization.
  • Venue and its city (if the name of the city is not listed in the venue’s name).
  • The descriptor that appropriately expresses the type of presentation (e.g., Address, Lecture, Reading, Keynote Speech, Guest Lecture, Conference Presentation).



Stein, Bob. “Reading and Writing in the Digital Era.” Discovering Digital Dimensions, Computers, and Writing Conference, 23 May 2003, Union Club Hotel, West Lafayette, IN. Keynote Address. Atwood, Margaret. “Silencing the Scream.” Boundaries of the Imagination Forum.” MLA Annual Convention, 29 Dec. 1993, Royal York Hotel, Toronto.

See the Resources topic for more guidance.

The essay should be:

  • 3-4 pages in length (which is 750 to 1,000 words)
  • The 12-point font in Times New Roman or Arial
  • In MLA manuscript format (double-spaced, etc. See Resource tab for more information)

All of the papers you write for this class should be entirely your own work. The penalty for taking part or all of your ideas or words from someone else’s work is a zero for the assignment — and possibly, depending on the seriousness of the plagiarism, an “F” for the course. Your academic honesty is necessary for this course to be fair, effective, and worthwhile.

If you need a similar but plagiarism-free “drafting your rhetorical analysis”, then feel free to contact us!