Basic Questions for Rhetorical Analysis
What is the rhetorical situation?
- What occasion gives rise to the need or opportunity for persuasion?
- What is the historical occasion that would give rise to the composition of this text?
Who is the author/speaker?
- How does he or she establish ethos (personal credibility)?
- Does he/she come across as knowledgeable? fair?
- Does the speaker’s reputation convey a certain authority?
What is his/her intention in speaking?
- To attack or defend?
- To exhort or dissuade from certain action?
- To praise or blame?
- To teach, to delight, or to persuade?
Who makes up the audience?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What values does the audience hold that the author or speaker appeals to?
- Who have been or might be secondary audiences?
- If this is a work of fiction, what is the nature of the audience within the fiction?
What is the content of the message?
- Can you summarize the main idea?
- What are the principal lines of reasoning or kinds of arguments used?
- What topics of invention are employed?
- How does the author or speaker appeal to reason? to emotion?
What is the form in which it is conveyed?
- What is the structure of the communication; how is it arranged?
- What oral or literary genre is it following?
- What figures of speech (schemes and tropes) are used?
- What kind of style and tone is used and for what purpose?
How do form and content correspond?
- Does the form complement the content?
- What effect could the form have, and does this aid or hinder the author’s intention?
Does the message/speech/text succeed in fulfilling the author’s or speaker’s intentions?
- For whom?
- Does the author/speaker effectively fit his/her message to the circumstances, times, and audience?
- Can you identify the responses of historical or contemporary audiences?
What does the nature of the communication reveal about the culture that produced it?
- What kinds of values or customs would the people have that would produce this?
- How do the allusions, historical references, or kinds of words used place this in a certain time and location?