Rhetorical analysis

Nelson Mandela Speech in Trafalgar Square (Links to an external site.)Nelson Mandela Speech in Trafalgar Square


You will listen to, read, and then analyze a speech by Nelson Mandela, looking for examples of rhetorical devices he uses to create an effective speech.

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  1. Watch the YouTube VideoHow to Identify Ethos, Logos and Pathos by Schmoop (Links to an external site.)How to Identify Ethos, Logos, and Pathosto learn about these terms. If desired, you may select to include closed captioning. See the “CC” button in the lower right-hand corner of the video.
  2. View Nelson Mandela’s Poverty Speech video above. Click here for a Word copy of Mandela’s Poverty Speech transcript.
  3. View and take notes on the PowerPoint about Rhetorical Devices for Speech Analysis.
  4. Review Mandela’s speech in the video or transcript. Note specific examples of how Mandela uses audience, purpose, repetition, imagery, ethos, logos, and pathos to make his speech effective.



Because rhetoric can unwittingly persuade a listener or reader, recognizing and analyzing the elements of rhetoric within a speech will help you become a stronger critical thinker. In this assignment, you will analyze a famous speech by finding examples of rhetorical elements such as audience, purpose, repetition, imagery, logos, ethos, and pathos.


  1. Review and select ONE speech from the website titled 100 Greatest Speeches (Links to an external site.). (NOTE: You may not use the first two speeches.)
  2. Open, download, and save the Rhetorical Devices Chart (Links to an external site.) to begin your speech analysis.
  3. Write the source information for the speech at the top of the chart.
  4. Read and analyze the speech for TWO specific examples of audience, purpose, repetition, imagery, logos, ethos, and pathos.


The rhetorical analysis essay allows you to flex your critical thinking muscles and demonstrate what you have learned about rhetorical analysis. The hope is that you will be able to apply a few of these devices to your own writing.


You will write a rhetorical analysis essay as your midterm exam. In this essay, you will analyze THREE rhetorical elements from the speech you selected for analysis earlier in the module. Before writing the essay you will construct a detailed outline for your midterm exam essay. You can use information you wrote in your discussion board posting for your outline, and your outline will be the basis for writing your midterm exam.

This 5 paragraph essay will have an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. You will first develop your ideas for your essay using an outline. An outline of your ideas will help you establish a focus for your essay and then provide supporting ideas for that focus. Your outline and essay will consist of the following ideas:

  1. Introduction: A good introduction needs to get your reader interested in your topic, provide relevant background information for that topic and, in a thesis sentence, state the focus of the essay.
  2. Body Paragraph 1: Begin the first body paragraph with a topic sentence about the first rhetorical device, and then provide evidence and analysis of that first point.
  3. Body Paragraph 2: Begin the second body paragraph with a topic sentence about the second rhetorical device, and then provide evidence and analysis of that second point.
  4. Body Paragraph 3: Begin the third body paragraph with a topic sentence about the third rhetorical device, and then provide evidence and analysis of that third point.
  5. Conclusion: Restate your thesis, sum up the analysis of your essay, and provide final thoughts about the importance of rhetorical devices.

Your essay should be about 500-750 words and use proper MLA formatting, in-text citation and Work Cited page.



Developing an analysis of the rhetorical devices used in a speech helps you learn critical thinking. It also helps you learn how a strategy can be employed in writing effectively.


  1. Review the Rhetorical Devices Chart you completed in the previous assignment.
  2. Identify TWO rhetorical devices to discuss from the speech you read analyzed.
  3. Develop a two-paragraph analysis about those points. Create one substantive paragraph (7-12 sentences per paragraph)for each device.
  4. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence (Links to an external site.) that identifies the rhetorical device it will discuss.
  5. Include SPECIFIC evidence from the speech you analyzed; see the examples you listed on your chart.
  6. Revise your analysis and proofread it.



This assignment requires you to organize your thesis and supporting evidence before writing a five-paragraph essay of 500-750 words (2-3 double spaced pages). Writing a thesis and sentence outline enables you to organize your thoughts and strengthen the structure of your analysis.


  1. Download and open the OUTLINE TEMPLATE.
  2. Add the required outline parts tot the template and remove direction sentences as you go.
  3. Read the information below on parallelism and unity between the thesis and body paragraphs to see review how they are used in thesis and essay writing.
    • Parallelism is using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. Grammatically, this means when a sentence has multiple parts, those parts need to be structurally written in a similar way. This is important in thesis writing, especially when an essay’s main ideas are listed as part of a thesis sentence.
    • Unity in an essay is when the body paragraphs relate directly to the thesis statement; unity in a paragraph is when the sentences in a paragraph relate directly to the topic sentence.
  4. Review your Rhetorical Devices Chart and your Discussion posting. Select three rhetorical devices from audience, purpose, repetition, imagery, logos, ethos and pathos. You may use the two devices you presented in your previous discussion board posting, but you will need to choose one more rhetorical element.
  5. Write a thesis statement for an essay analyzing the speech you selected earlier in the unit. Be sure to include the topic (your selected speech), your claim about the speech, and the three rhetorical devices.
  6. Create an introduction (Links to an external site.) of at least four sentences before the thesis.
  7. Make a separate support paragraph for each rhetorical device.
  8. Write topic sentences for each support paragraph. In each topic sentence, be sure to include the topic, your claim and the specific rhetorical device discussed in the support paragraph.
  9. Develop each body paragraph idea with adequate supporting evidence (at least two quotes or paraphrases per paragraph) from the speech, and then add explanation/analysis to show how that evidence supports your topic sentence/thesis idea.
  10. Focus on analyzing the rhetoric and not the content of the speech.
  11. Make a quote sandwich (Links to an external site.) for each quote.
  12. Include in-text citations (Links to an external site.) in your outline.
  13. Write a conclusion (Links to an external site.) at the end of your outline.
  14. Include a Work Cited (Links to an external site.) at the end of your outline. Create an appropriate citation for the speech you chose. Format the citation correctly with hanging indent and double-spacing. Here is an example of an MLA formatted speech citation.

Johnson, Lyndon B. “1964 State of the Union Address.” U.S. Capitol, 8 Jan 1964, Washington, D.C. Speech.

15. Save your outline as a Word or Google doc attachment and submit your assignment as a file upload.

Sample Topic Sentence Outline

Here is the beginning of a topic sentence outline for a rhetorical analysis essay based on Nelson Mandela’s “Poverty” speech. Note the three color-coded elements of the thesis (topic, claim, list of main ideas). Be sure to include all three parts in your thesis and check for parallelism in your wording of the three main points.

Thesis: In Nelson Mandela’s “Poverty Speech,” Mandela created an effective speech through repeating key words, speaking to a global audience, and using emotional appeals to convince his listeners that poverty needs to end.

Main Idea #1: By repeating key words relating to the global problem of poverty throughout his speech, Mandela highlights the significance of the problem.

First sub point: Mandela uses the word “global” repeatedly during the speech.
Evidence: In speaking of the white band he is wearing on his arm, he explains, “I am proud to wear the symbol of this global call to action in 2005.”
Analysis: Mandela uses the word “global” to stress that poverty is not unique to one country but is a problem that people around the world need to take action on.

Second sub point: At the end of his speech, Mandela repeats two similar call to action sentences to emphasize his point about eradicating poverty.
Evidence: Mandela says, “Make poverty history in 2005. Make history in 2005.”
Analysis: The repeated pattern of these similar sentences reminds the listener about the main point of the speech and reinforces Mandela’s persuasive message about ending poverty.

Main Idea #2: Mandela’s choice to speak before a global audience also demonstrated the value of what he had to say and emphasized that poverty is a worldwide problem.

Main Idea #3: Mandela’s effective use of pathos helped engage his listeners to his cause by appealing to their emotions.

NOTE: The pattern for providing supporting ideas for a topic sentence is shown for Main idea #1. When you complete your outline template, you need to add sub point sentences, evidence and analysis for each main idea.


You must limit your outline and Work Cited to two pages. (Remember to remove directions from the template after you have filled in your sentence outline, but keep the labels to show the purpose for each sentence.) When you print out your outline including the Work Cited to use for the midterm exam, you should print a double-sided copy. You will be allowed to use only ONE double-sided piece of paper when testing.

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