Rhetorical Analysis Assignment

Purpose of the assignment:

The purpose of this assignment is to examine the use of ethos, pathos, and logos (Aristotle’s Modes of Persuasion) in a historical persuasive speech. How does a speaker use credibility, emotional appeals, and logical reasoning to attempt to persuade an audience? This assignment will help you understand the way an effective speaker uses persuasion, how audiences and listeners can potentially be persuaded by these modes of persuasion, and how you can ultimately use these modes of persuasion in your own speeches to persuade your audience.


1. Prior to beginning your paper, view one of the following YouTube videos:

· Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4UEv_jjPL0

· Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech Part 2

· 1992 Presidential Debate

· Ronald Reagan’s Berlin Address

· JFK at the 1960 Democratic Convention

· Dolores Huerta at the 21st National Conference on LGBT Equality

· Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary


· MLK’s Last Speech

· Rep. Walsh Remarks on Same-Sex Marriage Bill


· Mister Rogers Defending PBS to the US Senate


2. Your paper should be 3-4, double-spaced pages.

3. Your paper should include an introduction that highlights the paper’s purpose, forecasts the content of the paper, and provides a central idea (thesis statement). The central idea/thesis statement serves as the argument that the rest of your paper will expand upon and support. These required elements of the introduction should discuss ethos, pathos, and logos and their use in the speech.

· Example (about the 1992 Presidential Debate footage): In this essay, I will closely examine the role of ethos, pathos, and logos as they were employed in the 1992 Presidential Debate video clip (highlights the paper’s purpose). George Bush and Bill Clinton both used the three modes of persuasion in addressing the question asked by an audience member, but they primarily employed ethos in their responses. Additionally, Clinton used rhetorical appeals more effectively overall than Bush did (central idea/thesis). In the following paragraphs, I will discuss how each candidate utilized ethos, pathos, and logos in order to motivate their audience to vote for them (forecasting the paper’s content).

4. Your paper should discuss instances where the speaker(s) demonstrated ethos, giving specific examples and providing an explanation about how your example constitutes ethos.

5. Your paper should discuss instances where the speaker(s) demonstrated pathos, giving specific examples and providing an explanation about how your example constitutes pathos.

6. Your paper should discuss instances where the speaker(s) demonstrated logos, giving specific examples and providing an explanation about how your example constitutes logos.

7. Your paper should include a conclusion that summarizes the content of your paper, restates your central idea (thesis) and ends on a strong note.

· Example (1992 Presidential Debate): In conclusion, each candidate employed all three modes of persuasion to varying degrees (summarizes content). The question that was asked of the candidates had to do with their economic credibility as members of the elite class, and they both responded in ways that affirmed that they are able to identify with circumstances affecting the middle class. Bush appeared to struggle with the question, while Clinton appeared to respond with ease, which positively contributed to his general air of credibility. This supports my argument that each candidate primarily relied on ethos to respond to the question, but Clinton ultimately established ethos more effectively than Bush did (restates central idea).

Evaluation information:

Points will be given according to how well each aspect of this assignment was carried out. If the paper met an average fulfillment of requirements, it would receive a 75% (mid-C range) grade in each relevant category. If requirements were exceeded, the paper would earn more than 75% depending upon the degree in which requirements were exceeded. If requirements were not adequately met, the paper would earn less than a 75% depending upon the degree in which the requirements were not met. You can earn up to thirty points for this assignment.

Suggestions for preparation:

Choose the video that you think would most interest you. One that interests you will certainly be easier to watch repeatedly than one that does not. Similarly, don’t choose a video because it’s shorter than another. A shorter video is likely to have less material to work with.

Be very familiar with the definitions of ethos, pathos, and logos. If you have a clear understanding of each, you should be able to argue for your example.

Finally, the bulk of your grade comes from how well you understand the three modes of persuasion. The best way you can prove this is by actually backing your claim up with sound reasoning! Simply saying that the speaker used pathos and not explaining why does not communicate an understanding of pathos. Prove that you’re a genius of rhetoric!

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