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How to Analyze a Speech (+ Examples)

Speech Rhetorical Analysis
A speech rhetorical analysis is a process of examining a spoken or written communication, such as a speech, essay, or any other form of discourse, to understand and evaluate how the author or speaker uses rhetorical devices and techniques to convey their message, persuade the audience, and achieve their intended goals. Rhetorical analysis involves breaking down the speech into its constituent parts and analyzing how each element contributes to the overall effectiveness of the communication.

Key Components & How to Write

Here are some key components of a speech rhetorical analysis and how to write each:

  1. Identification of Rhetorical Appeals: Rhetorical analysis typically begins by identifying the three main rhetorical appeals:
    • Ethos: This relates to the credibility and authority of the speaker.
    • Pathos: Refers to the emotional appeal made to the audience’s feelings and emotions.
    • Logos: Deals with the use of logic and evidence to support the argument.
  2. Examination of Rhetorical Devices: Analyze the use of various rhetorical devices, such as:
    • Metaphor and Simile: How figurative language is employed to make comparisons.
    • Anaphora and Repetition: Repeating words or phrases for emphasis.
    • Alliteration and Assonance: The use of similar sounds for effect.
    • Irony and Sarcasm: The use of irony or sarcasm to convey meaning or humor.
    • Hyperbole: Exaggerated statements for emphasis.
    • Rhetorical Questions: Questions posed for effect rather than requiring answers.
  3. Structure and Organization: Evaluate the organization of the speech, including the introduction, body, and conclusion. Analyze how the speaker introduces and develops their main points.
  4. Tone and Style: Consider the tone of the speech (e.g., formal, informal, passionate) and the style of language used (e.g., figurative, technical).
  5. Audience Analysis: Assess how the speaker tailors their message to the intended audience. Consider how the speaker addresses the needs, values, and expectations of the audience.
  6. Context and Purpose: Examine the context in which the speech was delivered and the speaker’s purpose. What motivated the speaker to give the speech, and how does this influence their rhetorical choices?
  7. Effectiveness: Evaluate how effectively the speaker achieves their goals. Does the speech persuade, inform, entertain, or motivate the audience as intended?
  8. Conclusion and Overall Impact: Summarize your analysis and discuss the overall impact of the speech. How successful was the speaker in communicating their message and connecting with the audience?

Rhetorical analysis is commonly used in academic settings to study speeches, essays, and other forms of communication. It helps individuals gain a deeper understanding of how persuasive techniques are employed to influence an audience and allows for a critical assessment of the effectiveness of those techniques in achieving the speaker’s objectives.

Dos and Don’ts

Here are some common pitfalls and how to avoid them:

  1. Analysis Supported by Evidence; Avoid Personal Bias:In a speech rhetorical analysis, it is imperative to base your analysis on concrete evidence from the speech itself. Avoid relying on personal bias or preconceived notions about the speaker or topic. Instead:
    • Do: Cite specific examples from the speech to illustrate your points. If you claim that the speaker used pathos effectively, provide quotations or instances from the speech that evoke emotion.
    • Avoid: Making sweeping statements without substantiating them. Saying, “The speaker is clearly biased,” is less effective than pointing to instances in the speech where bias is evident.
  2. Focus on Audience and Context; Avoid a Superficial Analysis:Understanding the audience and context in which the speech was delivered is crucial for a meaningful analysis. Avoid superficial assessments by:
    • Do: Investigate the demographics and interests of the audience to explain how the speaker tailors their message. Consider the historical, social, or political context that may influence the audience’s receptiveness.
    • Avoid: Making generalizations without context. Simply stating, “The audience was receptive,” without explaining why or how is less informative.
  3. Evaluate the Big Picture; Avoid a Narrow Perspective:A robust analysis goes beyond isolated elements and considers the holistic message of the speech. Avoid a narrow perspective by:
    • Do: Keep the overarching message and purpose of the speech in mind throughout your analysis. Explain how individual elements contribute to the larger narrative.
    • Avoid: Getting bogged down in minutiae. While analyzing specific rhetorical devices is important, remember to tie them back to the broader themes and objectives of the speech.
  4. Critique Its Effectiveness; Avoid Overgeneralization:Assessing the speech’s effectiveness is a central part of rhetorical analysis. However, avoid making sweeping judgments without providing a nuanced evaluation:
    • Do: Provide a balanced assessment of the speech’s effectiveness by considering both its strengths and weaknesses. Highlight instances where the speaker succeeded in persuading the audience and areas where they fell short.
    • Avoid: Offering a one-sided critique that either overly praises or harshly condemns the speech. An analysis that acknowledges both sides is more credible and insightful.

In essence, a well-executed speech rhetorical analysis is marked by its reliance on evidence from the speech, its consideration of the audience and context, its holistic view of the message, and its balanced evaluation of effectiveness. By avoiding personal bias, superficial analysis, narrow perspectives, and overgeneralization, you can provide a more thorough and valuable analysis of the speech in question.


  1. “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): King establishes credibility by referencing historical documents and leaders.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to the audience’s emotions through vivid imagery and repetition.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): King uses logical arguments and historical references to support his claims.
    • Metaphor (Rhetorical Device): The “I Have a Dream” metaphor is central to his speech, conveying hope and a vision for a better future.
    • Context: Delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, a crucial moment in the Civil Rights Movement.
  2. “Inaugural Address” by John F. Kennedy
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Kennedy emphasizes his qualifications and references the nation’s history.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by inspiring hope and unity.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Kennedy uses logical arguments about the global struggle for freedom.
    • Parallelism (Rhetorical Device): “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
    • Context: Delivered during the Cold War, with a focus on unity and addressing global challenges.
  3. “The Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Lincoln invokes the authority of the Founding Fathers and the importance of preserving the nation.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by emphasizing the sacrifice of soldiers and the idea of a “new birth of freedom.”
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Lincoln provides a logical argument for the principles of liberty and equality.
    • Antithesis (Rhetorical Device): “We are met on a great battlefield… We have come to dedicate a portion of that field.”
    • Context: Delivered during the American Civil War, addressing the significance of the battle and national unity.
  4. “A More Perfect Union” by Barack Obama
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Obama establishes credibility through his personal background and experiences.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by addressing racial issues and the American Dream.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Obama uses logical arguments to discuss the complexities of race in America.
    • Anaphora (Rhetorical Device): The repetition of “We the people” emphasizes unity.
    • Context: Delivered during his 2008 presidential campaign, addressing racial divisions in America.
  5. “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” by Hillary Clinton
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Clinton draws on her experience as First Lady and her advocacy for women’s rights.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): She appeals to emotions by sharing stories of women facing oppression.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Clinton presents logical arguments about the importance of women’s rights globally.
    • Alliteration (Rhetorical Device): “It is a violation of human rights when…”
    • Context: Delivered at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, addressing gender inequality on a global scale.
  6. “Commencement Address at Stanford University” by Steve Jobs
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Jobs establishes credibility through his experience as a successful entrepreneur.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by sharing personal anecdotes and stories about life and death.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Jobs uses logical arguments to encourage graduates to pursue their passions.
    • Metaphor (Rhetorical Device): “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life…”
    • Context: Delivered at Stanford University in 2005, emphasizing the importance of following one’s dreams.
  7. “A Talk to Teachers” by James Baldwin
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Baldwin’s authority as a writer and civil rights activist lends credibility.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by addressing the impact of education on marginalized students.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Baldwin uses logical arguments to critique the education system’s shortcomings.
    • Anaphora (Rhetorical Device): The repetition of “The paradox of education…” emphasizes the central theme.
    • Context: Delivered to New York City teachers in 1963, highlighting the role of educators in addressing social issues.
  8. “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” by Winston Churchill
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Churchill establishes credibility as the Prime Minister during World War II.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by evoking the spirit of the British people.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Churchill provides logical arguments about the challenges Britain faced during the war.
    • Epistrophe (Rhetorical Device): “You ask, what is our aim?” reinforces the message.
    • Context: Delivered as his first speech as Prime Minister in 1940, rallying the nation during a critical time.
  9. “The Ballot or the Bullet” by Malcolm X
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Malcolm X’s background as a civil rights leader and activist lends credibility.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by addressing the urgency of African American rights.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Malcolm X uses logical arguments about political engagement and self-defense.
    • Rhetorical Questions (Rhetorical Device): “You don’t have a peaceful revolution…”
    • Context: Delivered in 1964, advocating for African American political empowerment during the Civil Rights Movement.
  10. “First Inaugural Address” by Franklin D. Roosevelt
    • Ethos (Rhetorical Appeal): Roosevelt establishes credibility as the President during the Great Depression.
    • Pathos (Rhetorical Appeal): He appeals to emotions by addressing the fear and challenges faced by Americans.
    • Logos (Rhetorical Appeal): Roosevelt presents logical arguments about addressing economic crisis and government’s role.
    • Anadiplosis (Rhetorical Device): “I do not believe that any of us…”
    • Context: Delivered in 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression, outlining his plans for economic recovery.
    • These examples illustrate how different speeches employ rhetorical appeals, devices, and context to convey their messages effectively and persuade their audiences.