Rhetorical Analysis FAQs

Q: ASSIGNMENT What’s a rhetorical analysis again?

A: Reminder:  Rhetoric is the “use of language to achieve a purpose.”  So, the analysis of rhetoric is looking at HOW that happens (a look at the language, or in this case writing). It goes beyond literary analysis, which establishes some discovery about a text and then gives textual evidence, by looking at the “moves” the writer employs to make it so.  1-2-3 version:  1.  what is the message of the text itself?  2. find the evidence  3. consider and explain what the writer does to bring this message to the reader.  Things to look at include rhetorical appeals of logos, ethos, and pathos, read like a writer notices, and context.

Essentially, you are constructing a paper that deconstructs the song for your reader.  (Like taking apart a puzzle and putting it back together. . .)

Q: STRUCTURE What structure should I follow?

A:  Um, it should look like a paper.  Seriously, have I taught you nothing?  It should have an opening, followed by however much stuff, and then some kind of closing.  Readers should feel forward motion throughout.  Other than that, it’s up to you – no one way to do this thing.  DO NOT write a 5-paragraph you-know-what with three body paragraphs (one for each appeal).  This would make a terrible paper.  Try to weave your notices of appeals into the paper instead of smacking the reader in the face with them.

Q: STYLE Is this a professional or creative piece?  Should it be objective or subjective?

A: All writing is “creative” as it is created by you, the writer.  That being said, this particular kind of writing is typically an academic assignment; so, it should be more academic-sounding than the other papers you have written for this class.  That’s not to say you can’t add your own personality or flair to it.  It will be objective in the sense that you need to show you understand the components of rhetoric and can find evidence in the lyrics you analyze.  It is also subjective because not everyone will think just like you – just back yourself up.

Q: CONTENT Is it okay to explain the meaning of the lyrics/events in the play*, not JUST the appeals and such?

A:  Yes.  In fact, you’ll need to both explain the meaning/significance AND how the writer gets the reader to the meaning.  It’s perhaps the main point of your paper.  This also means your opinion can creep in.

Q: APPEALS Should I actually use the words ethos, pathos, and logos or just explain them without the Latin terms?

A:  Here’s the real scoop.  Use them.  But explain them and don’t use them a million times or your paper will sound strangely mechanical.  While we’re addressing appeals, you don’t necessarily have to note all of them, just some and in the prominent ways you notice them.  Also, from a tech standpoint, DON’T capitalize them, but DO italicize them.

Q: ADDITIONAL CONTENT Do I have to include the rhyme pattern or rap-specific/Shakespeare-specific* items in my analysis?

A:  Not necessarily.  But you DO need to go beyond addressing the appeals.  Whether you notice “read like a writer” items related to technique (e.g. word choice, imagery, allusion, rhyme) or context-related items (context in relation to the reader, the writer, the subject matter, society, etc.), you need MORE than just appeal to emotion, credibility, and logic.

Q: TECH ITEM/PUNCTUATION How do I properly write song titles (or plays*)?

A:  Put song titles in quotation marks and italicize album names.  (Italicize titles of Shakespearean plays).

Q: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE What curse words should be censored? All of them?  Some of them? None?

A:  It’s entirely up to you.  Since there was already a disclaimer about the language inescapable in rap music, it’s not a problem if you leave explicit language as is (assuming you are quoting).  If it makes you uncomfortable and you would rather censor it, that’s okay too.

Q: CITATION How do you correctly cite for this paper?

A:  When you quote other works in a humanities discipline (i.e. English class), use MLA format.  Technically speaking, this means use quotation marks around borrowed material, in-text parenthetical citation, and a works cited page at the end.  For the “rap” paper you are likely using only one source (the song), so you can just use quotation marks around the quoted material and a works cited at the end.  (Two reasons:  1. songs don’t typically have page numbers 2. the only work cited will be listed at the end, so the reader can assume all quotes are from there.) For Hamlet*, you will have additional sources.

Q: CITATION Can I quote sources other than the song/play*?

A:  If you did further research, yes.  You will then need to add them to the works cited list and to be sure to use parenthetical citation and/or in-text acknowledgment in your paper to show which source you are quoting.

Q: CITATION How should I quote/cite song lyrics or poetic lines?

A:  When you quote poetic lines (including song lyrics), use a slash to indicate the line shift (when there are just a couple of lines quoted within quotation marks).  If you quote four or more lines, insert them into your text as poetic lines using a block-quote style.  (Following MLA guidelines this means keep the double spacing, omit quotation marks, and tab them in twice aka double-indent).

Q: CITATION Do I need to cite one-word quotes?

A:  The answer here is no.  If you are inserting just a single word of quote for impact or because there is just no better word, just place it in quotation marks and keep moving.  Parenthetical in-text citation becomes invasive if you use it in this circumstance.

Q:  QUOTATIONS/LENGTH How many quotes are too many quotes? How long should this paper be?

A: Difficult to say. . . There should be a fair amount of YOUR own thinking and analysis, not just a bunch of quotes.  If you have more quotes, your paper will be longer??  “Rap” paper, I’d say 2 to 3 pages.  Hamlet* paper length is on the assignment sheet.

Q:  WORK(S) CITED Do I need a work(s) cited page?  How do I set it up?

A:  YES.  Please see the handout Quick Look at MLA Citations for a refresher on citing, paying close attention to the bulleted points about the work(s) cited.  Also find info on the Purdue OWL for citing songs citing other works – Purdue OWL MLA Guide or Shakespeare* How Do I Cite Shakespeare? Sante Fe Fogelson Library 

Q: REFERENCING THE WRITER How do I reference the writer/rapper/playwright*?  Do I have to use his/her full name each time?

A:  When you reference authors/writers, call them by full name or last name, but NOT first name only (as you don’t know them personally).  It gets a little tricky with rappers and musicians as they sometimes go by one name only (e.g. Eminem, Logic, Tupac).  Use your judgement or ask if you are unsure. (P.S. You can’t call Shakespeare “Will, or Billy, or Mac, or Buddy.”*)

Q: TITLE Can I title my paper the name of the song/play or the assignment?

A:  Absolutely NOT.  Always, always, always title your work with an original title fitting the piece you have created.  Reread your work and get to the “real” at hand.  Title accordingly.

Q: THE POINT What’s the point of completing the “rap” analysis assignment?

A:  It’s the one academic piece with a work cited that you complete first semester.  As an academic assignment it asks you to look closely at the moves writers make and explain them to a reader.  Of course, not just everyone would want to read a rhetorical analysis, but as a writer it asks you to keep thinking about writing “moves” and in turn that helps you notice the moves you can make.


Hamlet rhetorical analysis is for spring semester (8A/ENG 102)