Choosing the right evidence can be crucial to proving your argument, but your analysis of that evidence is equally important. Even when it seems like evidence may speak for itself, a reader needs to understand how the evidence connects to your argument. In addition, because analysis requires you to think critically and deeply about your evidence, it can improve your main argument by making it more specific and complex.
What Analysis Does: Breaks a work down to examine its various parts in close detail in order to see the work in a new light.
What an Analysis Essay Does: Chooses selective pieces of evidence and analysis in order to arrive at one single, complex argument that makes a claim about the deeper meaning behind the piece being analyzed. In the essay, each piece of evidence selected is paired with deep analysis that builds or elaborates on the last until the thesis idea is reached.
Analysis should be present in all essays. Wherever evidence is incorporated, analysis should be used to connect ideas back to your main argument.
Answer Questions that Explain and Expand on the Evidence
Asking the kinds of questions that will lead to critical thought can access good analysis more easily. Such questions often anticipate what a reader might want to know as well. Questions can take the form of explaining the evidence or expanding on evidence; in other words, questions can give context or add meaning. Asking both kinds of questions is crucial to creating strong analysis.
When using evidence, ask yourself questions about context:
- What do I need to tell my audience about where this evidence came from?
- Is there a story behind this evidence?
- What is the historical situation in which this evidence was created?
Also ask yourself what the evidence implies about your argument:
- What aspects of this evidence would I like my audience to notice?
- Why did I choose this particular piece of evidence?
- Why does this evidence matter to my argument?
- Why is this evidence important in some ways, but not in others?
- How does this evidence contradict or confirm my argument? Does it do both?
- How does this evidence evolve or change my argument?
Example: “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win,” stated Paul Watson at an Animal Rights Convention.
Argument: Violent action is justified in order to protect animal rights.
Questions that explain the evidence:What did Watson mean by this statement? What else did he say in this speech that might give more context to this quote? What should the reader pay attention to here (for example, why is the word “terrorist” here especially important)?
Questions that expand on evidence:Why is this quote useful or not useful to the argument? How does Watson’s perspective help prove or disapprove the argument? How do you think the reader should interpret the word “terrorist”? Why should the reader take this quote seriously? How does this evidence evolve or complicate the argument—does what Watson said make the argument seem too biased or simple if activism can be related to terrorism?
Because there may be multiple ways to interpret a piece of evidence, all evidence needs to be connected explicitly to your argument, even if the meaning of the evidence seems obvious to you. Plan on following any piece of evidence with, at the very least, one or two sentences of your honest interpretation of how the evidence connects to your argument—more if the evidence is significant.
Example: Paul Watson, a controversial animal rights activist, started his speech at the Animal Rights Convention with a provocative statement: “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.” His use of the word ‘terrorist’ refers to aggressive actions taken by animal rights groups, including Sea Shepard, under the guise of protecting animals. While his quote might simply be intended to shock his audience, by comparing animal activism to terrorism, he mocks the fight against international terrorism.
Allow Analysis to Question the Argument
Sometimes frustrations with analysis can come from working with an argument that is too broad or too simple. The purpose of analysis is not only to show how evidence proves your argument, but also to discover the complexity of the argument. While answering questions that lead to analysis, if you come across something that contradicts the argument, allow your critical thinking to refine the argument.
Example: If one examined some more evidence about animal activism and it became clear that violence is sometimes the most effective measure, the argument could be modified. The more complex argument might be: “Violent action by animal activists might be akin to “terrorism” and deemed unacceptable, but it does make more of an immediate impact and gets more press. Without such aggressive actions, animal rights might be seen in a better light.”
Avoid Patterns of Weak or Empty Analysis
Sometimes sentences fill the space of analysis, but don’t actually answer questions about why and how the evidence connects to or evolves the argument. These moments of weak analysis negatively affect a writer’s credibility. The following are some patterns often found in passages of weak or empty analysis.
1. Offers a new fact or piece of evidence in place of analysis. Though it is possible to offer two pieces of evidence together and analyze them in relation to each other, simply offering another piece of evidence as a stand in for analysis weakens the argument. Telling the reader what happens next or another new fact is not analysis.
Example: “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win,” stated Paul Watson at an Animal Rights Convention. According to PETA, hunting is no longer needed for sustenance as it once was and it now constitutes violent aggression.
2. Uses an overly biased tone or restates claim rather than analyzing. Phrases such as “this is ridiculous” or “everyone can agree that this proves (fill in thesis here)” prevent the reader from seeing the subtle significance of the evidence you have chosen and often make a reader feel the writing is too biased.
Example: According to PETA, The Jane Goodall Institute estimates that 5,000 chimpanzees are killed by poachers annually. This ridiculous number proves that violence against animals justifies violent activist behavior.
3. Dismisses the relevance of the evidence. Bringing up a strong point and then shifting away from it rather than analyzing it can make evidence seem irrelevant. Statements such as “regardless of this evidence” or “nevertheless, we can still argue” before analyzing evidence can diminish the evidence all together.
Example: Paul Watson was expelled from the leadership of Greenpeace. Nevertheless, his vision of activism should be commended.
4. Strains logic or creates a generalization to arrive at the desired argument. Making evidence suit your needs rather than engaging in honest critical thinking can create fallacies in the argument and lower your credibility. It might also make the argument confusing.
Example: Some companies are taking part in the use of alternatives to animal testing. But some companies does not mean all and the ones who aren’t taking part are what gives animal activists the right to take drastic action.
5. Offers advice or a solution without first providing analysis. Telling a reader what should be done can be fine, but first explain how the evidence allows you to arrive at that conclusion.
Example: Greenpeace states that they attempt to save whales by putting themselves between the whaling ship and the whale, and they have been successful at gaining media support, but anyone who is a true activist needs to go further and put whalers at risk.
For the following pairings of evidence and analysis, identify what evasive moves are being made and come up with a precise question that would lead to better analysis. Imagine your working thesis is as follows: Message communications came to life in order to bring people closer together, to make it easier to stay connected and in some instances they have. More often however, these forms of communication seem to be pushing people apart because they are less personal.
1. An article in USA Today last year had the headline, “Can Love Blossom in a Text Message?” I’m sure most people’s gut reaction would be a resounding, “Of course not!” The article discusses a young woman whose boyfriend told her he loved her for the first time in a text message. Messaging is clearly pushing people apart.
2. In fact in the United States today, there are an estimated 250,146,921 wireless subscribers. Evidence shows that a person is more likely to first establish communication with someone you are interested in via text message or a form of online messaging via Facebook, Myspace, email, or instant messenger. People find these means of communication less stressful. This is because they are less personal.
3. This way of communicating is very new, with text message popularity skyrocketing within only the last five years, the invention of instant messaging gaining popular use through AOL beginning in 1998, and websites such as Myspace and Facebook invading our computers within only the last 5 years. Regardless of this change in communication technology, these forms of communication do not bring people together.
4. The way some people wish others “Happy Birthday” is another example. On birthdays, if you are on Facebook, your wall becomes flooded with happy birthday wishes, which is nice. However, if one of your close friends or perhaps a sibling simply wishes you a happy birthday on Facebook, you probably will feel a little cheated. It is important to know where you stand in your relationships, and if the person is actually important to you, you should take the time to call them in this kind of situation.
5. Studies suggest that over 90% of the meaning we derive from communication, we derive from the non-verbal cues. These nonverbal cues include body language, facial expression, eye movement and contact, posture, gestures, use of touch (such as hug or handshake), vocal intonation, rate of speech, and the information we gather from appearance (Applebaum, 108). It’s terrible to think that such important things are said with only a mere 10% of their meaning being properly conveyed. Phone calls can eliminate some of these problems.
6. Many people now have “Top Friends” on their Facebook profile where they rank their friends in order of importance. Sure most of us have a couple people who we refer to as our “best friends,” but never before this online ranking phenomenon has the order in which you rank your friends been public knowledge. This shows that friendship has lost all meaning.
1. argues with tone and uses a generalization
2. introduces new evidence and uses generalizations
3. dismisses evidence
4. offers advice or a solution and dismisses evidence
5. argues with tone and offers advice
6. uses a generalization
Last updated June 2011
Many students may have problems or difficulties with writing a rhetorical analysis essay. It is a special writing assignment, and students just don’t understand how to go through the creating this kind of essay.
A good rhetorical analysis essay may be written on almost any subject. It should provide a persuasive line of reasoning, effective arguments, and a summary as well as a clarification and an explanation of what do you think about the subject and why do you think so. Sometimes students prefer to order the rhetorical analysis essay. For some reasons, it can be a good decision. But remember that a rhetorical analysis essay is a part of the AP English exam. If you have to pass this exam and have no experience in writing this type of essay you may have problems. So use your chance to find out the main peculiarities and tips and read the article.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Preparation
Remember that the AP exam is a type of task which has strict time limits. If you are about to create an outstanding paper, you have to devote much energy and efforts to the preparation stage because it can determine the final result. You need to break down the time, which is allocated for the exam into three steps: reading the text, analysing, and finally writing.
Reading And Analysing The Text
Of course, you will start reading the text from its introductory information. Use the advice of professional writers and take notes about some important facts and crucial information. It will make the analysis process easier.
Write down the answers to the next questions:
- What do you know about the author of the text?
- What are the peculiarities of the target audience?
- What was the purpose of the text?
Answering these questions during reading, you will be able to simplify the analysing and writing process. They explain what strategies the author used, what persuasive methods and arguments made the article conclusive and in which way pathos, ethos, and logos were connected and interacted. Analyse the article or document taking into account ethos, logos, and pathos. You will find at least one method of persuasion when passing the AP English exam.
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are three different modes of persuasion that can be used to convince the audience.
- The ethos always appeals to the ethics. It assesses the author’s credibility;
- The pathos in its turn refers to the human emotions. The author creates an effective emotional response and in this way convince the audience;
- The logos appeals to a ratio or logics. The author uses facts and reasons in order to persuade the audience.
When you have finished the analysing of separate parts or methods, you need to determine which method is the most effective to persuade the readers. You should explain why do you think the author has chosen this method or approach and does this method is really effective in a particular situation.
Creating an Outline and Writing
After reading the text and analysing it, you should review your notes. After that, you will start the process thanks to which you can earn your A+ grade. Follow the common structure of the rhetorical analysis essay and create and outline which consists of the next parts:
- Body paragraphs;
It is the reliable way to satisfy the requests of your professor.
It is the shortest part of the paper, but still important. You will devote the biggest part of your time to body paragraphs in order to make them informative and persuasive. That’s why you will not have enough time for introduction, so you have to make it short and at the same time well-directed.
Provide the summarization of all main arguments of the author. It will show that you have understood the main idea of the article. If you understand what does the author say and in which way you will be able to express your own opinion on the issue. Don’t’ forget about the persuasive styles and their effect. You can read more about how to create an introduction here.
The body paragraphs of the rhetorical analysis essay will take the most of your time. It is the biggest part of your paper, and you should answer many questions here. What is the most important thing you should do in this part of the essay? You will have to explain in which manner and with the help of which methods and strategies the author of the text develops the main thesis. Pay attention to the devices which he applies to. Find out all strategies of persuasion that were used and devote each one paragraph to one strategy. Your statements and ideas should answer some of these questions:
- Which feelings, reactions or responses does the strategy make the readers to experience? And how?
- Does the strategy actually work?
- How does the strategy work in the particular example?
- How do you think why did the author of the text use the particular strategy to influence the reader?
It is the hardest part of writing process which requires good writing skills and appropriate writing style. If you have not much experience in writing, you can read examples of good papers here.
When you have finished explaining the strategies, arguments and persuasive methods in the body part of the essay, it’s time to end the paper with an effective and impressing conclusion. In this part, you should explain the way in which the text has affected its readers. You should show the end result and the feedback which the author gets from his or her audience. Give the explanation of the effect which each device has. After that, conclude them all together to find out the importance of the text as a whole.
As you can see, a rhetorical analysis essay is not an easy task. It is complicated and requires good writing skills. If you are not sure that you can cope with it, just ask for the help of professional writers. But if you have to create a rhetorical analysis essay within the exam, you should pay attention to the advice that we give in this article. If you still have difficulties or questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.
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