Questions to Help You Focus Your Rhetorical Analysis
- What kinds of evidence—facts, statistics, anecdotes—does the author use? How does the selection of supporting evidence help fulfill the purpose of the text?
- How does the writer use supporting evidence to appeal to readers? Are these appeals logical and rational? Emotional? A combination of the two?
- What does selection of details tell you about the writer? What do these details tell you about the writer’s assumptions about the knowledge and experience of the readers?
- How does the organization of the text help fulfill its purpose? For example, if the author puts the thesis in the concluding paragraph, how does that strategy help persuade readers?
- What cueing devices does the author use to emphasize important points and to guide the reader through the essay? Do visual cues—headings, spacing, listing—help organize the text for the reader, or emphasize (or de-emphasize) certain points?
- Is the information clustered/segmented in a way meaningful to readers and compatible with purpose? Does the clustering of information follow established patterns (e.g., classification, description, comparison, problem/solution, others)?
- How does the language of the text help the text fulfill its purpose for the readers? How do the following uses of language influence the text?
How does the writer use language to establish a certain tone in the essay? Is the tone well suited to the audience and purpose?
What kinds of sentences does the writer use? Does the writer vary sentences for emphasis? How readable are the sentences? Does the writer use topic sentences or forecasting statements to guide readers? Does the writer include transitions to move smoothly from one sentence to the next?
- concrete versus abstract words
- level of technicality (Does the writer assume readers understand certain terms, or does the writer provide definitions of certain terms?)
- formality (highly formal, use of slang)