How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Step by Step

, Staff Writer
Updated May 12, 2020
Person writing rhetorical analysis
    Person writing rhetorical analysis
    Goodboy Picture Company / E+ / Getty

Wondering how to write a rhetorical analysis essay? You’ve come to the right place. Learn what a rhetorical analysis essay is and how to write one - from choosing a topic to finishing your paper. We’ll even guide you through creating a rhetorical analysis essay outline.

How To Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Just the words rhetorical analysis might sound scary. However, when you break down the words, it isn’t as frightening as you think. First, rhetoric is the art of writing. So, doing a rhetorical analysis is analyzing writing. Sounds much simpler now, right? Get a step-by-step guide for how to write a rhetorical analysis.

Preparation: Think SOAPS

When it comes to writing, there are a lot of parts. Before analyzing the different techniques a writer used, you need to understand the parts of writing. This where SOAPS comes in handy. And no, it’s not talking about washing your hands.

  • S is for speaker - Who is telling the story? Is it the author? Or are the author and speaker different?
  • O is for occasion - Where does the text take place? What era is it in? What events surrounded the writing? Did something prompt the writing?
  • A is for audience - Who was the text written for? Is the audience defined?
  • P is for purpose - Why did the author create the writing? What is it saying?
  • S is for subject - What is the main purpose of the writing? How is that revealed?

There is also one final component to think about, ‘tone’. Think about the language, voice, and imagery created. Examine the meaning behind it.


Choose a Topic

With SOAPS on the brain, it’s time to choose your topic. Per the name, this will be a piece of writing. But it doesn’t just have to be a piece of literature. You can complete a rhetorical analysis on different types of writing like speeches, poems, famous addresses, etc.

While topics are limitless, make sure to choose something of interest. For example, anyone can choose a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King; however, choose something relevant for you. Did your class president make an amazing speech? Try analyzing it.

Analyze the Work

With a topic in hand, it’s all about analysis. Put SOAPS into play to critically read through the piece. This is more than just looking at what it says. Dissect the piece of writing looking at every part. Explore the mode of persuasion they used like ethos, pathos or logos. Do they use an emotional plea like MLK? Or are they more logical in their argument? Maybe they are persuading your moral code. Knowing the mode of persuasion the writing is using can help block out your thesis statement.


Formulate a Thesis Statement

What do you want to say in your essay? That is your thesis statement in a nutshell. It’ll set the structure for the essay and work as the beginning of the outline. Remember, your thesis statement should:

  • Set the tone
  • Highlight your argument
  • Develop your reader point of view

In the beginning, the thesis statement isn’t concrete. As you write, it will move and morph to become better and stronger. But, you will need to provide your article bones to grow from.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

The thesis statement is typically the beginning of your essay. From the thesis, create an outline. The outline can be rough like a few keywords to keep on track, or you might use sentences for each different paragraph and the points you want to make. Whatever outline method you choose, just make sure it works best with your writing style.


Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

You’re ready to dive into the deep waters now! However, the preparation you’ve done up to this point ensures you have a floatation device at the ready. When it comes to crafting the essay, there are three main parts. The introduction, body, and conclusion. Let’s break each down.


The intro will include your thesis statement and an opening hook, along with an introduction to the piece. It can be helpful to include a little summary and the persuasion methods used.


This is where the real magic will happen. You’ll not only justify your arguments, but you will dig into the SOAPS questions and methods of persuasion used by the author. Use your thesis as a way to guide your writing, making sure every point is hit. When crafting the body remember:

  • Go in chronological order.
  • Devote an entire section to the author’s mode of persuasion.
  • Keep your SOAPS questions in mind as you write.
  • Use quotes to support your opinions.
  • Use your voice to write the work rather than the author's.


End with a bang! Your conclusion should round out your essay by restating your thesis, key points, and closing things out. Don’t make it boring. When your essay is done, you want your reader to sit back and go ‘wow’.

Steps to Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Wow, that was a long journey! But, you made it through. And now you’re armed with everything you need to write an amazing rhetorical analysis essay. With this under your belt, take a look at definition essay examples and topic ideas. It’s always a good idea to know more about essays.