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ENC 1101 - Rhetorical Analysis Project: Rhetorical Analysis Project Instructions Pt. 1

Ad Analysis project

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Assignment instructions

Rhetorical Analysis of Print Advertisements

Purpose: What do I want the student to do?

This essay is designed to teach students how to successfully manage a research project, specifically identifying a thesis to research, locating applicable research sources, managing and evaluating those research sources, and writing an acceptable research paper.  Secondly, this project is designed to encourage students to become more proficient at thinking both critically and rhetorically about advertising and to become more aware at recognizing how this media shapes viewers’ responses to the outside world. 

This research project will be a balance between the two types of research modes typically assigned by your future professors: assigned topics and invented topics.

  • Assigned topics: I will be requiring you to focus your attention on one particular area – the effectiveness of a specific advertising technique or the sociological effects of advertising.  This will give you experience in dealing with a topic that you are both unfamiliar with and required to address.
  • Invented topic: I will be requiring you to select on your own the particular technique or effect that interests you.  This will require you to examine the general field and decide which technique or effect appeals to you.  This will give you experience in examining your own interests and curiosity and incorporating those interests into your academic work.

Advertisers use many recognizable techniques in order to better convince the public to buy or adopt a product, service, idea and/or belief.  Secondly, advertising in general have many effects on viewers, some of them positive, some of them negative. Your goal in this assignment is to identify one of these techniques or effects, research how it works and use two print advertisements as examples.  As the power of advertising as a cultural and marketing force continues to grow, it is imperative that consumers understand the rhetorical techniques advertisers use to shape the public's attitude towards and desire for these commodities.

Understand that we will not discuss in detail the marketing strategies used by advertisers in class, nor will be discussing in detail the social effects, other than to briefly suggest ideas for locating them (for example, color, celebrity endorsement and sexual imagery as technique –  racism, sexism or negative body image as social issues).  Research papers are designed to teach you how to teach yourself, using proper research methods and tools.  You will learn these advertising methods or effects on your own. 

Project Overview: How do I want the student to do the assignment?

Focus your research paper on answering one of the questions below:

  1. What makes a particular advertising technique so effective? (For example, “What makes celebrity endorsements so effective?) 
  1. What evidence do companies use to justify spending so much money on print advertising?
  1. What specific damage to society does advertising do, and how exactly is advertising to blame?


Conduct a rhetorical analysis that evaluates two advertisements for their rhetorical elements. The two advertisements must fulfill one of these conditions:

  • Both ads are for the same product but were run at least five years apart (history).
  • Both ads are for the same product but were created for two very different cultures, geographical areas oraudiences (such as American/European, American/Asian, male/female, gay/straight, rural/urban, etc). 
  • The two ads are for competing products that occupy a similar market niche.

The assignment will be broken into the following five sections:

  1. Abbreviated Research Proposal—the Abbreviated Research Proposal is designed to put you on the right track when producing your research project.  Here you will identify your thesis (a hypothesis that you intend to prove with evidence uncovered in your Final Research Paper) and locate viable research material
  1. Annotated Bibliography—the Annotated Bibliography will organize your research to make the research project easier to handle and enable you to understand fully all of your research.
  1. Proposed Outline—the outline will organize your future essay, prioritizing your thoughts and simplifying the drafting process.
  1. First Draft Research Paper (5-7 pages)—the Research Papers will be formal essays in which you introduce your thesis, support your thesis in the body using evidence from academically sound sources, provide a conclusion, and produce a works cited page with at least 5 academically sound resources.
  1. Second Draft Research Paper (5-7 pages)—a final draft to ensure me that you can indeed produce an acceptable research paper for future professors.

Advertising Technique Possibilities 

Advertisers use hundreds of techniques in order to sway viewers to buy or adopt their product.  Below is a list of possible topics to research.  (This list is by no means complete.  Every semester students surprise me with new topics.)

  • Celebrity endorsement (Celebrity branding)
  • Color symbolism
  • Emotional appeals (for example, fear)
  • Family values
  • Humor
  • Informative
  • Lifestyle or imitation
  • Narrative (storytelling)
  • Patriotism
  • Print techniques such as gaze, typography, framing or bleed techniques
  • Sexual imagery
  • Shock (startling or overtly offensive)
  • Subliminal messaging
  • Testimonials

Advertising in general can affect viewers’ behaviors and alter viewers’ perceptions of reality.  Below is a list of possible topics to research. (This list is by no means complete.)

  • Racism and ethnic stereotyping
  • Sexism or gender discrimination
  • Homophobia
  • Negative body issues
  • Negative health practices (obesity, smoking, alcoholism)

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