How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay on an Image

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay on an Image

Knowing how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image is an important step towards enhancing your writing skills. In fact, it will also significantly improve your communication skills. On this page, we will give you some of the best guidelines to stick to in order to deliver outstanding visual rhetoric essays. Further, we will also give examples of well written essays of this kind to offer you more comprehensive information on how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image.

A rhetorical analysis essay on an image is an academic paper that uses a combination of imagery and written word or text to communicate a message. Also known as visual rhetoric essays, such papers require you to vividly bring a concept into reality using images and text.

In writing a rhetorical analysis essay on an image, you have to show the readers that you properly understand the way in which the given piece communicates its messages and also the meanings of the information. On the other hand, you may also be required to analyze the historical context of the image.

The imagery used in the piece of work may be in the form of movie or film clips, newspaper cuttings, graphs, web pages, paintings, clippings, and charts among others. Knowing how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image requires you to explain how a particular image or visual detail communicates a certain concept to the audience.

Guidelines on how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image

You can easily master the art of how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image with expert advice. Although there may be various things to consider when writing such papers, the following are the most important ones that you should always look into.

Study the image for your essay

Rhetorical analysis essay assignments are mainly given to test your understanding of various pieces of work. In the case of a visual rhetoric analysis essay, it is important that you first get to know how an image is used in communication.

In a typical assignment, you will be given an image to analyze in your rhetoric essay. Therefore, it is advisable that you take time to carefully look at it in order to understand its various perspectives. Find out how the overall concept of the said image impacts the audience in order to get ideas for your essay.

Studying the image will also require you to determine its goal or the reason why it was used in that particular piece. All these will help you in generating ideas on how to frame the essay in such a way that relates to the image and also appeals to readers.

To have a better understanding of the image, it is advisable that you also analyze its details like color, texture, shape, size, line among others.

Formulate a main claim

Many students assume that writing an analysis essay simply means summarizing the given piece. However, this is wrong. Crafting a good rhetorical analysis essay on an image entails clearly showing the readers, how the image has been used to convey a particular message.

In the formulation of a claim, you may choose to pursue any of the following avenues:

  • Reflecting on the overall organization of the piece of art, which may be a painting, photograph, film clip or any other.
  • Considering the kind of impact that formal elements have on the meaning of the image
  • Relating the piece of work to others that you have studied, looking into their similarities and differences.

In order to have a strong claim, you have to list down some of the specific visual details of the image. The main claim will act as the thesis statement since it is the point from which your analysis will be argued.

Organize your observations

Considering that you have studied the image and developed the main claim, you can now note down the elements to be discussed in the analysis. Try to dig deeper into the image to find out the main details or aspects of the image that stand out from the others.

You can always analyze the image from any perspective. For instance, from the front to back, background to foreground and vice versa. The observations that you have chosen are the ones that will be discussed in the rhetorical analysis essay.

In organizing the observations, it is also important to try to establish the links between the various visual elements of the image. Every point that you have noted to discuss in the paper has to be supported by evidence from the image to show that you have properly understood the message that it aims to communicate.

Step by step procedure on how to write a rhetorical analysis essay

The procedures on how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image are not very different from those of other academic papers. Follow the steps below in order to easily write an outstanding rhetorical analysis essay on an image.

Introduce the essay

The opening statements of your visual rhetoric analysis essay should be catchy enough to compel the reader to reading other parts of the paper. In the introduction, clearly tell the readers what the document or piece to be analyzed is. Besides, you can also give brief background information about the history or development of the piece.

In the introduction, also provide a basic outline of the rhetorical situation that surrounds the image. This may include information about its author, the audience, goal and context.

Write the thesis statement

The thesis statement is the main observation that you have made about the image or visual to be analyzed. However, it should be portrayed in a way that smoothly links the introduction to the rest of the paper.

Bear in mind that the argument of the thesis statement is what you will be proving in the body of the paper, thus, it has to be a claim that you can comprehensively support in the essay.

Craft the body paragraphs

Based on the genre, size of the image or requirements of the assignment, there are various logical ways to organize the body paragraphs of your essay. Some of the most commonly used include chronological and spatial orders. However, chronological is the most recommended approach since it enables you to present your observations in the similar order which viewers experience the image.

In writing the body, always use a different paragraph to explain every visual element. Try to be clear and elaborate in explaining every aspect of the image in a way that relates to its concept or purpose. Give particular visual details of the image in the body to make your ideas or arguments more compelling.


The conclusion should briefly remind the readers of your main ideas and their importance. In case there is need for further research on the concept, you can also point it out in the conclusion.

Examples of rhetorical analysis essays on an image

The following sample papers will also offer you more help on how to write a rhetorical analysis essay on an image.

Example 1

Simplicity Breeds Clarity

‘’When making an argument or persuading people, images are quite useful since they can be complex and communicate messages that would not be achieved by text alone. However, their simultaneous ability to remain simple and natural also makes them ideal for communicating modest and stark ideas. The Australian Red Cross combined this ability with text in contradicting a common belief among its audience and also inspiring a particular course of action…’’

Read the rest of this sample essay here.

Example 2

A Sick Obsession

‘’Take a moment to look at the above advertisement. From a distance, the image looks just like a typical contemporary advert- an image of a thin, minimally dressed woman who appears to be more than willing to reveal her ‘perfect’ body to the world simply to sell a product. Considering the modern day society’s obsession with the female body and sexuality, this image bears all the components of a good advert according to most people…’’

Click here to read the whole of this visual rhetoric essay.

Example 3

Drugs to Death in a Political Cartoon: An Oversimplification?

‘’As the more stable counterpart to a volatile southern neighbour, the US has always been wary of Mexico. Recently, the increase in illegal immigration, unpredictable economies in both nations, and issues of drug abuse and trade has heightened tension to the already bleak relationship. The blame is quite evident and is based on various subjects- both governments, drug cartels, drug users among others. However, in a recent political cartoon posted by David Kurtzman, various rhetorical strategies are used to show the opinion of the cartoonist, that blame should be limited to a single party, which is the drug cartels…’’

You can find the entire essay here.

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