Rhetorical analysis helps hone critical thinking skills in academia; it involves evaluation of an article, series of articles or other literary work. The analyst must identify the author’s purpose and tactics to prove his point. Rhetorical analysis is not a summation of another work; instead, analysts identify the argument, how the argument is presented, the purpose of the writing, the audience and whether the author was successful in his persuasive techniques. You cannot simply choose any article or piece of work to analyze, however.
Choose a topic that interests you. If you know the topic well -- for instance, if it is a hobby or part of your job -- you will have a head start on research. As an example, if you are studying economics or finance, you may want to know more about taxes.
Narrow your topic. Brainstorm about issues within the topic. Choose a practical subtopic. Your brainstorming should focus on topics easily visualized, not philosophical ones. Narrow the topic significantly, so that the subtopic is manageable and does not have an overabundance of resources and references you must read. You want enough information so you can understand the topic fully -- so do not choose a topic that is too narrow and has no resources -- but you do not want a topic that has so much information that it would take weeks to learn what you need to compose your analysis. If the subject is taxes, tax law or taxes in general is much too broad. Find subtopics -- the effects of tax breaks for the wealthy, the effects of lower classes not paying taxes, or the effects of higher or lower taxes on economic stimulation. With one of these topics, you will have plenty of references, but you won't be overwhelmed.
Find articles or works that deal with the subjects you have brainstormed. Choose the subtopic with the most comprehensive research, so your paper is well-researched.
Choose a topic with two distinct, opposing viewpoints. You must have an argument. Pull articles from sources with different audiences for truly opposing viewpoints. If you've narrowed your topic down to tax breaks for the wealthy, you must find research that supports tax breaks and other research that opposes tax breaks.
Analyze articles with some length. Do not choose short articles, because you may not have enough information to analyze. Do not use articles that contain only statistics, because this does not make a good argumentative analysis. Do research supporting articles that have statistics, and use them to support or refute the analysis of the original article you are analyzing.
Choose articles with strong, clear arguments. Even if you do not agree with the points made in the articles, make sure they are easily understood and analyzed. Choose a topic you know. For instance, do not choose a topic in microbiology -- where you would spend months learning the background details to form a legitimate analysis -- if your field is economics. The article you analyze must be well-supported and fully detailed, so you have a strong article to analyze, but you should not have to look up definitions or meanings of every sentence. Do not choose neutral articles to analyze, such as scholarly documents written without bias. You want bias. You can then use scholarly articles to support or refute the analyzed article, however.
Select a relevant or contemporary topic. Do not choose a topic that indicates viewpoints or beliefs that were held in the past but no longer are accepted. Connect present values and beliefs to the article through analysis.
Identify your audience. Choose a topic that is of interest to your audience. For example, if you are speaking to or writing for a group of microbiologists, they might not be interested in a discussion of taxes.
Rebekah Smith is a writer and editor from Montana and the owner of several businesses. Smith has consulted and worked with businesses in the fields of commercial greenhouses, ecommerce, technology and home improvement. She holds a Master of Business Administration and is working on a Ph.D. in business.