Visual Analysis

Analyzing Rhetorical Strategies in a Visual Argument

Deconstructing a visual argument uses the same set of skills needed to deconstruct a written text.  In this project, we will be rhetorically analyzing an advertisement or commercial of your choosing  to evaluate its effectiveness on the intended audience.

  • Purpose/Learning Outcome:In reading and writing essays, students will demonstrate understanding of the basic components of argument: claim/thesis, evidence/support, structure, rhetorical strategies, and appeals.


  • Your Project: Critically examine your choice, paying close attention to the strategies used to persuade the audience. The focus of your paper will be an analysis of the three Aristotelian appeals: ethos/pathos/logos, but should not be limited to these.  Remember that the term strategy can refer to any “move” that the author (or filmmaker) is making to persuade his audience.  This can include, but is not limited to: the speaker’s tone, the organization of the argument (is there a specific reason one thing precedes another), the use of humor/ music/dramatic effects, how evidence is presented, how the opposition is addressed, how the camera is used (angles, close-ups), etc.  Keep in mind that specific details are needed to support your project; so,how does the advertisement specifically appeal to pathos?  Or in what scenes does it build/develop its ethos?


  • Analysis:Your paper must go deeper than simply stating, “This commercial uses sad stories to appeal to pathos.” Nor should it list all of the instances in which you find a rhetorical strategy.Instead, you need to analyzeand evaluatethe use of rhetorical strategies and appeals.To do so, answer questions such as:
    • Does the overall argument have a balance of ethos/pathos and logos, or does it appeal to one more than the other two? If there is an imbalance, how does this contribute to the effectiveness of the argument?
    • Will the strategiespersuade the intended audience, why or why not?
    • Which strategies are effective and which strategies were misused/ineffective?Why?
    • If there is a misuse of strategies, what might the advertisers have done to make their argument more effective?


  • Structure: Try not to let the structure of the advertisement influence the structure of your paper. In other words, don’t fall into the old routine: “first it does this, then it does that,” because I’d rather see your thoughts as the guiding force behind your You may choose to start off with the strategies that were effective and then discuss those that were misused.  Or perhaps you want to have three paragraphs for each appeal (ethos/pathos/logos) and two or three more for other strategies.  As the author of this paper, you determine the structure based on how your points should be logically developed.

Helpful Hints:

Avoid the use of first person (I, me, my). For example: “[In my opinion], Michael Moore fails toappeal to logos when he uses one interview in a Canadian waiting room to stand for the whole nation. (“In my opinion” is not needed because it is your paper;therefore, it is implied that you believe it).


            In our textbook, “A Guide to Writing Textual Analyses” (111-128) and “A Guide to Writing Arguments” (171-182) both provide useful suggestions about how to approach this assignment.


Successful papers will:

  1. Accurately describe the advertisment’s argument and main claim to provide context
  2. Describe specific examples of strategies and how they work,giving careful consideration to the intended audience
  3. Provide interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of the strategies, making sure to support your analysis with evidence
  4. Use an effective structure that guides the reader from one idea to the next (paying attention to transitions within -as well as between- paragraphs)
  5. Be thoroughly edited so that sentences are readable and appropriate for an academic paper
  6. Be 3-4 pages in length (1000-1200 words), typed, double-spaced,andadhere to MLA formatwith an accurate citation of the film on the Works Cited page


Quizzes          30%

Workshops    30%

Final Draft     40%

This assignment is worth 10% of your final grade.

The Schedule:

20           Killing Me Softly 3

22           Draft One Workshop-Run Ons /SVA (10%)

25           “Weirdly Popular” (687) (Another example of an analysis)-Fragments (quiz)

27           Revision Workshop-Quotation Format (10%) (quiz)


29           Editing Workshop (10%) (quiz)


02           Essay One due at the beginning of class

04           Begin next paper cycle

06           Opposing Viewpoints in TCC Databases


Last Updated on May 24, 2019 by Essay Pro