Surely you’ve already realized the difficulty involved in compacting all that is important in your essay into one key sentence – the thesis statement. Reaching a stage in writing your essay when you have decided on the main point that you would like to make can be quite challenging. That is especially when you consider the bearing that a single sentence could have on your entire essay. That’s how important a thesis statement is. It’s a focal point, a foundation on which you consequently build your paper, relating all the arguments you make back to this statement. Thesis statements vary depending on a particular type of essay you’re writing. Here, we provide a detailed guide on how one formulates a rhetorical analysis thesis statement.
What is a rhetorical analysis essay?
Rhetorical analysis is a detailed study of how an author of a non-fiction work succeeded (or failed) in creating a specific effect – to convince, inform or entertain his/her audience. Analyzed work can be a text, a speech or a visual argument such as an advertisement or promotional video. You refer to the author of such work as a rhetorician. Important tools used by a rhetorician include factual evidence and, more importantly, appeals of an emotional (pathetic), ethical or logical type. Generally speaking, appeals represent attempts to earn the audience’s approval by making use of fundamental human affinities or shared experience. Pathetic ones (here, we use the word pathetic without a negative connotation) primarily elicit an emotional response, sympathy or compassion, disappointment, sorrow or anger to persuade the audience of the rhetorician’s argument. Logical ones use common sense to prove a point, while ethical ones rely upon the author’s authority and trustworthiness to persuade the public of whatever attitude he/she has expressed towards a specific theme or topic. When performing a rhetorical analysis, you should look at which tool or technique the author has used, how successfully and what he/she has achieved by doing so.
What is a rhetorical analysis thesis statement?
All thesis statements represent a final element of the introduction section of an essay. They consist of three parts: topic, argument and reason for it. A thesis statement written within a rhetorical analysis paper could look like this:
Author (name) effectively convinces readers (viewers) of the product quality by pointing to the (health or other) benefits of using it.
Alternatively, you could also argue:
Author (name) fails to persuade the audience of the product quality by using trivial argumentation and appealing to the wrong emotions.
But how do you decide what stand to take towards work you’re analyzing? First of all, you should explore the goal a particular text or video is intended to reach. Next, check if the rhetorician has successfully achieved it. Then try to find out which techniques he/she used along the way and what has proven to be decisive in gaining the audience’s approval or disapproval.
What to remember when writing a rhetorical thesis statement
- Thesis statement is to serve as an orientation for readers, letting them know what will be discussed in a paper and from what angle or perspective.
- It keeps you, as a writer, focused. It functions as an anchor to prevent you from drifting away from your topic. Without it, you would risk straying from your central theme which could cause you to end up not proving your point or seeming unclear of the message you’re trying to get across.
- It defines the overall content of your paper covering all points you would need for convincing your reader that your argument is indeed valid.
- It is composed as an arguable claim. If something is an indisputable fact, then there is no use arguing its veracity. Thesis statement must have a potential to instigate discussion and provoke a reaction.
While there is no simple recipe on how to compose a compelling thesis statement for your rhetorical analysis essay, there are a few essential rules to follow:
- Become sufficiently acquainted with analyzed material (text, audio or video) which acts as a topic of your rhetorical analysis. Read it thoroughly or watch it a couple of times to find out what impression it makes on you, what the author’s primary goal was, what techniques he/she employed to reach this goal and whether it was successful. Analyze precisely what kinds of appeals the author used and to what avail. Don’t rush it. Take your time and if necessary go over the material several times to make sure that you didn’t miss anything.
- After you’ve scrutinized the material and got to the bottom of every appeal used and to check for its efficiency, continue to next step which includes more specific analysis of things that were contrasted or made to appear similar in the material. Try to find out what was the aim and if it was successful.
- Formulate a working hypothesis which will serve as an interim thesis statement while you further analyze material by examining factual evidence presented. It will be refined in the process until you reach a final thesis statement.
With what rules should a rhetorical analysis thesis statement comply?
- Most importantly, it is supposed to be well-defined and precise. There is no room for vagueness and ambiguity when writing a thesis statement. It should provide a clear indication of your principle idea, which you will elaborate throughout your paper. Its formulation should make it clear to everyone what your essay will cover and what position you will be taking on this subject. If necessary, read your thesis statement to a few friends or family members and ask them what they think will be the theme of your essay. If what you get as an answer differs from your initial intention, then your thesis statement was not clear enough and you need to alter it.
- Next, itemize rhetorical methods used by the author. Rhetorical analysis should identify all appeals used by the rhetorician to accomplish his/her goal. Determine which strategies were used and subject them to critical analysis. Decide if the author was successful in his use of common sense appeals, emotional cues or moral grounds for his argument. What impression do you think the audience got after reading or viewing the material?
- Restrict the scope of your analysis to a particular segment of the material. You cannot possibly cover every conceivable aspect in one essay. So keep it specific. Decide upon a topic you find the most significant or appealing. Then thoroughly examine it to find enough support for your thesis.
- Put some effort into finding a unique angle to your rhetorical analysis. It’s an original essay and should be as distinctive as possible. Your essay provides your subjective view on how effectively the author has persuaded the audience of his argument. Of course, this perspective should be backed up with supporting evidence or facts but it remains personal and different from anyone else’s nevertheless.
- Although personal, your view should not be illogical or biased. Your task is not to pass judgment but to determine the author’s successfulness in accomplishing his work’s goal. So, do not claim that the material is good or bad, but establish if it was efficient in conveying a particular message or successful in creating a public opinion on a subject.
- Discuss the author’s style and general tone he employed in his work. Consider the target audience for analyzed material and whether a particular style of presenting it is suited for them. If not, explain why. Talk about different techniques the author used to make an impression on his intended audience.
- Your thesis statement should represent the point you would like to make in your essay. It should state your position clearly and provide a basis for further analysis.
Step-by-step refinement of rhetorical analysis thesis statement
Step #1: consider all possible angles of approaching your analyzed material. Read or watch it several times and write down everything that comes to your mind. Include impressions made on you by the author, as well as emotional responses these impressions elicited. Then think of the author’s style and rhetorical appeals he utilized to accomplish his aim.
Step #2: restrict the scope of your analysis by deciding on which aspects of the material you would like to focus. These will be subjected to meticulous examination in your paper. Upon analysis, you will decide on the author’s effectiveness in proving his point. What contributed to his success or failure?
Step #3: formulate your thesis. Now is the time to compose a compelling thesis which provides information on your general position regarding the material you analyzed and the main argumentation that you will discuss in more detail in the remaining parts of your essay. Take a stand on how you think the author’s style, tone, and the various appeals used contributed to influencing the audience to think or feel in a particular way. If necessary, write multiple thesis statements and later decide on the most fitting one.
Step #4: refine your thesis. If you think your working version of the thesis statement is a bit rough around the edges, polish it to get a final version which pinpoints your position and expresses your point of view most clearly. A thesis statement is like a living organism; it changes and evolves over the time needed to write the rhetorical analysis essay. Adjusting it along the way is therefore crucial.
With a bit of luck, the information and guidance provided in this text will make the task of writing a rhetorical analysis thesis statement somewhat easier. It is a critically important part of the essay and should be given sufficient consideration so that you can structure the entire paper around it.