Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline: Examples & Strategies

Rhetorical analysis is never a simple task. This essay type requires you to analyze rhetorical devices in a text and review them from different perspectives. Such an assignment can be a part of an AP Lang exam or a college home task. Either way, you will need a solid outline to succeed with your writing. And we can help you nail it.

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In this article by our custom-writing team, you will find:

  • the structure of a rhetorical analysis essay;
  • a detailed guide and tips for writing a rhetorical essay outline;
  • an example and a template for you to download.

📚 Structure of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Pre-Writing

The first thing you need to know before you start working on your essay is that the analysis in your paper is strictly rhetorical. In other words, you don’t need to discuss what the author is saying. Instead, it’s a take on how the author says it.

And to understand “how,” you need to find rhetorical appeals. An appeal is a technique that the author uses to convince the reader. The main ones are logos, ethos, and pathos.

The picture shows the rhetorical triangle: ethos, pathos, logos.

The whole analysis is structured around them and divided into 3 parts: appeals in the text’s introduction, in the body paragraphs, and in its conclusion.

Remember that it’s essential to structure your essay in chronological order. To put it simply, it’s better not to describe the appeals from the conclusion before the ones in the introduction. Follow the structure of the text you’re analyzing, and you’ll nail it.

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Rhetorical Analysis Triangle

We’ve already mentioned ethos, pathos, and logos. The rhetorical triangle is another name for these 3 main appeals. Let’s examine them in more detail:

Logos Logos is the appeal of logic. It includes the usage of argumentation, citing statistics, and referring to facts. You will see a lot of logos in academic writing.
Ethos Ethos (also known as the ethical appeal) aims to convince the reader by taking the authority high ground. For example, authors may demonstrate how skillful or knowledgeable they are in the discussed field to make their claims more impressive.
Pathos The pathos appeals to the reader’s emotions. You can do it by revealing a shocking fact or delivering inspirational statements. Inducing anger, pity, or any other positive or negative emotion counts as pathos.

In your essay, it’s best to mention all 3 appeals. It’s also necessary to measure their effectiveness and give examples. A good strategy is to find the appeals in the text, underline them, and analyze them before writing the outline.

Each appeal can be characterized by the following:

  1. Diction. Diction is the words that the author uses to describe the idea. When analyzing diction, you want to find words that stand out in the text.
  2. Syntax. Simply put, syntax is the order of words used by the author. You can also look at the sentence length as a part of the syntax.
  3. Punctuation. This characteristic is all about the usage of punctuation marks. Aside from commas, it’s good to pay attention to colons and dashes. Authors can use them to focus the audience’s attention on something or create a dramatic disjunction.
  4. Tone. It’s the author’s attitude towards the discussed idea. The tone is a combination of diction, syntax, and punctuation. For example, you can tell if the author is interested or not by evaluating the length of sentences.

Remember that all 3 appeals are artistic proofs, and you shouldn’t confuse them with factual evidence. The difference between them lies in the amount of effort:

  • Citing factual evidence requires no skill. You create proof just by mentioning the fact.
  • In the case of artistic proof, you must use your knowledge of rhetoric to create it.

SOAPS: Rhetorical Analysis

SOAPS is a helpful technique for conducting a rhetorical analysis. It’s fairly popular and is recommended for AP tests. SOAPS stands for:

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Subject What is the idea of the text?
Occasion What prompted the author to write the text?
Audience Who would find the text interesting? Who is it created for?
Purpose Why did the author write it?
Speaker’s characteristics What is the author’s personality? What do they believe?

Answering the questions above will make it easy for you to find the necessary appeals.

✍️ How to Write an Outline for a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Now that you’ve found the appeals and analyzed them, it’s time to write the outline. We will explain it part by part, starting with the introduction.

How to Write an Introduction for a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

In a rhetorical analysis, the introduction is different from that of a regular essay. It covers all the necessary information about the author of the text:

  • Name (or names, if there are several authors.)
  • Genre and title of the reviewed work.


The author claims that cats are better pets than dogs.

  • The target audience that the writer is aiming at.
  • The context in which the text was produced, e.g. a specific event.
The picture shows the components of an introduction for a rhetorical analysis essay.

Aside from that, a rhetorical essay introduction should include a hook and a thesis statement. Want to know how to write them? Keep reading!

How to Write a Hook for a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

A hook is a sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. You can do it by presenting an interesting fact about the author. You may also use an inspiring or amusing quote. Make sure your hook is connected with the text you are writing about.

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For example, if you’re analyzing MLK’s I Have a Dream speech, you can hook the reader with the following sentence:


Martin Luther King is widely considered the most famous speaker in history.

Our article on hooks in writing can provide you with e great ideas.

Thesis Statement for Rhetorical Analysis Essay

In a rhetorical analysis essay, you don’t need to create a thesis statement in the usual sense. Instead, you describe the main point made by the author using a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “claims” or “asserts”) followed by a “that” clause.

For example, your thesis can focus on the techniques that the author uses to convince the audience. If we look at the I Have a Dream speech, we will notice several stylistic elements:

Metaphor MLK describes the poor financial state of the black community as a “Lonely island of poverty.”
Repetition King repeats the famous phrase “I have a dream” several times during the speech.
Symbolism The speaker refers to the members of the Civil Rights Movement as “my people.”

It’s not a complete list, but that’s enough to form a decent thesis.

We also need to mention the ideas behind the speech. The main idea is, obviously, equality. So, we’ll put it in our thesis as well. As a result, we have something like this:


Through the skillful usage of metaphor, repetition, and symbolism Martin Luther King effectively fills his audience’s hearts with the idea of unity and equality.

Rhetorical Analysis Body Paragraphs

If you are writing a generic 5-paragraph essay, you can divide your essay’s body into 3 parts:

  1. A paragraph about appeals in the text introduction.
  2. A section about rhetorical devices in the text’s body.
  3. A paragraph about rhetorical devices in the text’s conclusion.

Sometimes there is no distinct structure in a text. If that’s the case, just analyze the appeals in chronological order. You can also split the analysis based on the type of appeals. For example:

  1. A paragraph about emotional appeals.
  2. A section about logical appeals.
  3. A paragraph about ethical appeals.

Each of your essay’s body paragraphs should have 3 key elements:

  • Topic sentence that shows what appeal you will discuss in the section.
  • Examples that illustrate the rhetorical device you want to showcase.
  • Your take on the effectiveness of the given device.

It’s good to remember that every appeal you talk about needs an example. If you can illustrate your claim about a strategy with more examples, then go for it. The more examples, the better.

Good Transition Words for Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Transition words allow you to follow up one idea with another. They also help build connections between paragraphs. Choosing correct transition words depends on the strategy you use. If you want to build a sequence of a cause and its effect, you will need words like “thus” or “hence.” If you’re going to clarify something, you should use a different set of words.

Here’s a list of helpful transition words suitable in different contexts:

If you need to showcase an example For example, to illustrate, in particular, for instance.
If you need to supplement your information Actually, furthermore, also, besides, moreover, further, again, indeed.
If you need to emphasize something Above all, undoubtedly, obviously, indeed, especially, surely.
If you need to show a cause and its effect Therefore, as a consequence, for this reason, accordingly, as a result, thus, consequently.

Rhetorical Analysis Verbs to Use

A rhetorical analysis essay is a serious work that often touches on complex topics. Regular verbs like “tells us” or “shows” don’t always fit it. To make your paper more inclusive and precise, consider using strong verbs.

Strong verbs (or power verbs) are typically used when talking about the author. That includes their strategies, attitude, personality, or ideas.

For example, instead of “the author says,” you can use “suggests” or “clarifies,” depending on the context.

Some other rhetorically accurate verbs include:

  • Suggests
  • Hints
  • Implies
  • Questions
  • Sheds light
  • Clarifies
  • Notes
  • Observes
  • Asserts

You don’t have to use strong verbs only. If you feel like “says” suits your point better than any strong verb, feel free to use it.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Conclusion

The conclusion is the ending of your paper. It sums your essay up and underlines the points you’ve made in the body paragraphs. A good conclusion should accomplish several things:

  • Paraphrasing the thesis. You shouldn’t just rewrite the thesis from the introduction. The restatement is usually used to demonstrate a deeper understanding of your point.
  • A summary of the body paragraphs. Again, simple repetition is not enough. We need to link the points to our thesis and underline the importance of our statements.
  • Final thoughts. A powerful epilogue will leave a good impression about your work.

Make sure to avoid including any new ideas or statements. The conclusion is exclusively for summarizing. If you found yourself putting a new assertion in the ending, it’s probably a good idea to restructure your body paragraphs.

📑 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example Outline & Template

To make the writing process even easier for you, we will show you what an outline for your essay can look like. As an example, we will outline a rhetorical analysis of MLK’s I Have a Dream speech. We are going to structure it according to the appeals.

Have a look:



  • Hook. An interesting fact about the MLK or his quote. An emotional start about the importance and the lasting legacy of the speech will also work.
  • Background information. All the necessary info about the author. That includes:
    • The speaker’s name, occupation, and years of life.
    • The context in which the subject of our essay was produced.
    • The speech’s target audience.
  • Thesis statement. Point out the appeals you are going to write about. Describe their impact on the author’s general argumentation.

Body paragraphs

  • Paragraph 1. The emotional appeals in the speech. Mention the use of pathos.
    • Underline the often use of metaphor. Set “lonely island of poverty” and “ocean of material prosperity” as examples.
    • Talk about the usage of repetition. Use the constant repetition of “I have a dream…” as an illustration.
  • Paragraph 2. The logos and ethos usage in the speech. 
    • Demonstrate the use of logos. Mention King citing President Lincoln as an authority for his argumentation.
    • Showcase the ethos of the speech. Notice that MLK’s Civil Rights Movement logic correlates with social ethics at the time.
  • Paragraph 3. The symbolism in the speech. Give several examples of symbolism and their rhetorical effects. Include the following examples:
    • Comparing segregation to a “bad check.”
    • Referring to the Civil Rights Movement as “my people.”
    • Comparing the acquisition of equality to “cashing a check.”


  • Restate the thesis. Demonstrate a deeper understanding of the point made in the introduction.
  • Summary of the body paragraphs. Connect them to the thesis statement. Give a final take on King’s rhetorical strategies and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Closing thought. Finish by stating the primary goal of your analysis.

Alternatively, you can structure your essay in chronological order. Below you’ll find a template you can use for this type of rhetorical analysis. Simply download the PDF file below and fill in the blanks.


Rhetorical Analysis Outline Template

(your essay’s title)


The speaker/author is (state the author’s name.) The purpose of the text is to (state the text’s purpose.) The text is intended for (describe the text’s intended audience.)

Rhetorical Analysis Outline Template
Download the free sample

Check out the rhetorical analysis samples below to get some ideas for your paper.

  1. Greta Thunberg’s Speech: Rhetorical Analysis
  2. Rhetorical Analysis: “In Defense of the ‘Impractical’ English Major” by C. Gregoire and “Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Wasting Your Time as an English Major” by S. Reeves
  3. Siren et al.’s Study on Red Wines: Rhetorical Analysis
  4. Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech Rhetorical Analysis
  5. Brooks’ “Reading Too Much Political News…” Rhetorical Analysis
  6. The Speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” by Martin Luther King, Jr: Rhetorical Analysis
  7. Rhetorical Analysis Through Lyrics: “The Times They Are A-Changing” and “The Wind of Change”
  8. Roiphe’s Confessions of a Female Chauvinist Sow: Rhetorical Analysis
  9. “Snack Attack”: Rhetorical Analysis
  10. Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

  1. Analyze rhetorical appeals of a Hallmark’s commercial 
  2. Rhetorical devices and the atmosphere of Hamlet’s To Be or Not to Be monologue  
  3. The author’s argument in Us film 
  4. Compare pathos, ethos, and logos in two advertisements  
  5. Google Analytics: rhetorical analysis 
  6. The background and the audience of the Gillette commercial short film 
  7. Rhetorical analysis of capitalism and socialism 
  8. What makes John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address iconic? 
  9. The significance of the historical parallel in Susan B. Anthony’s speech 
  10. Sarcasm and skepticism in Shikha Dalmia’s article 
  11. Rhetorical analysis of political debates between Biden, Harris, and Booker 
  12. What makes Letter From Birmingham Jail powerful? 
  13. Problems of the modern education in Moore’s Idiot Nation and Gatto’s Against School 
  14. Rhetorical techniques in Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass 
  15. Compare and contrast Antigone and Creon 
  16. The word framing of Michelle Obama’s TED speech 
  17. James Q. Wilson’s arguments on gun ownership laws 
  18. Analyze ethos, pathos, and logos in a video advertisement 
  19. What makes the 2005 speech by Steve Jobs remarkable? 
  20. How does Jenna Berko convince readers in her essay? 
  21. Successful persuasion in the film Henry V 
  22. Margaret Fuller and Frederick Douglass: a rhetorical comparison 
  23. Characters, setting, and emotions in Of Mice and Men 
  24. Web blogs rhetorical analysis 
  25. Rhetorical devices in Barbara Holland’s collection of thoughts 
  26. Conduct a rhetorical analysis of Louis C. K.’s Shameless 
  27. What makes Claire Giordano’s essay convincing? 
  28. Biblical allusions in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas 
  29. Ali Siddiq’s ‘Prison Riot’ standup: a rhetorical analysis 
  30. Presentation of interracial romance in Get Out movie 
  31. Rhetoric Instruments in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States 
  32. How does Barack Obama try to change reality with his speech? 
  33. Target and purpose of L’Oreal EverCrème advertisement 
  34. Perform a rhetorical analysis of Pop Can: Popular Culture in Canada 
  35. The Myth of the Charioteer by Plato: rhetorical devices 
  36. Rhetorical goals of the authors of African-American history articles 
  37. The effectiveness of the Michelin advertising campaign 
  38. Rhetorical analysis of the Double Cola Company’s image 
  39. Compare the use of argument in Lincoln’s and Dickinson’s works 
  40. Rhetoric analysis of anti-communist and anti-Islam promotion 

We hope this article helped you with your assignment. Make sure to tell us what part helped you the most in the comments. And good luck with your studies!

Further reading:

  1. How to Write a Reflection Paper: Example & Tips
  2. How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline: Template & Examples
  3. What Is a Discourse Analysis Essay: Example & Guide
  4. How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline
  5. How to Write a Precis: Definition, Guide, & Examples
  6. How to Write a Process Analysis Essay: Examples & Outline

🤔 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline FAQs

What are the 5 elements of a rhetorical analysis?

According to SOAPS, the main 5 elements of a rhetorical analysis are:

1. Subject, or the author’s ideas.
2. Occasion, or the text’s background.
3. Audience, or the people who would find the text interesting.
4. Purpose, or the reasoning behind the writing.
5. Speaker’s characteristics, or the author’s personal beliefs.

What are the 4 rhetorical strategies?

1. Logos—the appeal to logic. It includes argumentation, statistics, and facts.
2. Ethos— the ethical appeal. Ethos appeal to the morality and ethical norms of the target audience.
3. Pathos—the appeal to the reader’s emotions.
4. Kairos—the time of the argument.

How do you end a rhetorical analysis essay?

Every rhetorical analysis ends with a conclusion. A good conclusion should:

1. Restate the thesis.
2. Summarize the points and strategies described in the body paragraphs.
3. End with concluding thoughts on the analysis.

How do you write a thesis for a rhetorical analysis?

A thesis for a rhetorical analysis is a bit different from the usual one. It needs to include the author’s appeals and the main point the author is trying to make. Like any other thesis, it must structure the further analysis and be connected to every paragraph.

What is kairos in rhetorical analysis?

Kairos is the timeliness of the argument. It is the appeal of the right time. The usage of kairos usually means that the author’s text is relevant for a certain period of time only.

🔍 References

This article was developed by the editorial team of Custom-Writing.org, a professional writing service with 3-hour delivery.
Comments (2)


Extremely helpful. Gave me wonderful definitions of Pathos,Lagos and Ethos.Broke down how to use these points to write my analysis. Thank you

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