Rhetorical Analysis of a Public Service Announcement

Rhetorical Analysis of a Public Service Announcement

Essay 3: Rhetorical Analysis of a Public Service Announcement (PSA)


  • Who is your audience? Write your essay for a reader who is an educated adult who is not as familiar with the text you are analyzing as you are.
  • What is your purpose? To  summarize a public service announcement (PSA) and analyze how the PSA  aims to achieve its purpose with the target audience through an appeal  to either ethos, logos, or pathos.
  • Which PSA will you analyze? You will analyze one of the following PSAs; you choose which:


  • How long should Essay 3 be? Essay  2 will be a minimum of four (4) paragraphs: an introductory paragraph, a  summary paragraph, a thoroughly developed rhetorical analysis paragraph  that follows the MEAL plan, and a concluding paragraph. Generally, an  effective MEAL plan paragraph for a rhetorical analysis will be 400-500  words long. The introductory paragraph can be accomplished in 100-150  words, maybe more. The summary paragraph can be accomplished in 150-250  words, considering the length of the letter. And the concluding  paragraph can be accomplished in around 100 words. This will make your  essay length about 750-1000 words, but you may write more.
  • How should you format your essay? Use MLA format.


  • What is required in the introductory paragraph?
    • Your opening paragraph should orient your readers to the who, what, where, when, and why of your text:
      • The PSA’s title
      • The PSA’s maker (see the organizations’ logos (as in logo, not logos) at the of the PSA)
      • The context surrounding the PSA: what problem has prompted the need for the PSA?
        • You are welcome to find this information by going to the PSA’s campaign page on Ad Council.org; for instance, you can find the Caregiver Assistance page here. You will notice that the campaign page has stats to help you deliver the context. However, you must cite the page as your source, so use attributive tags as you do for summary writing.
    • Your opening paragraph should close with a thesis statement that is appropriate for a rhetorical analysis essay:
      • Your thesis should reveal your  insight into one way the PSA attempts to achieve its purpose through a  specific aspect of one of the rhetorical appeals.
      • For example: The Gill  Foundation’s “Meet Jami & Krista” PSA aims to evoke sympathy in  viewers in order to raise awareness about how LGBT couples are  discriminated against. 
      • This thesis works as a  rhetorical analysis thesis because 1) it identifies the PSA’s purpose  and 2) it identifies one way the PSA uses a rhetorical appeal (pathos: sympathy) to achieve that purpose.
  • What is required in the summary paragraph?
    • Summarizing a PSA is very  different than summarizing an article. You will need to describe the  content of the PSA for your readers–this includes describing what you  see and hear–so that readers can “see” and “hear” it too.
    • Like an article summary, your PSA  summary should begin with the main idea (usually a call-to-action) and  then one-by-one offer the essential details of the PSA.
    • Describe how it begins: visuals, sounds, text. Use descriptive terms so we “see” it.
    • Describe how it moves from the beginning to the end so that viewers “see” it through your description
    • Tags and verbs: You will want to  refer to the “PSA” rather than an “author.” If the main organization is  the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, you would attribute the  ideas of the PSA to that organization by using phrase like these:
      • The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s PSA’s calls viewers to…
      • Komen’s PSA begins with a black screen and white text that says, “etc etc etc…”
      • From here, the PSA shows  viewers a series of portraits of women… (describe what they look like  and any text that accompanies the portraits)
      • A series of informative statistics follow the portraits and lead the PSA to its final frames and its call-to-action…
    • Use transitions and other  signposts to show the relationship between the ideas, capturing the  structure and flow of the source’s ideas,
    • Represent the source’s ideas accurately, fairly, objectively, and comprehensively yet concisely,
    • Use quotations sparingly when you need to show readers exactly what the PSA says.
  • What is required in the body paragraph?
    • Your body paragraph must meet these requirements and apply these skills and strategies:
      • Apply the MEAL Plan paragraphing strategy for effective development and structure
        • It must present one main idea that makes a claim about how the PSA appeals to either ethos OR logos OR pathos
        • It must present sufficient (enough) and representative (the best) examples from the PSA as supporting evidence for the main idea
        • It must make the case for each example through thorough and helpful analysis, illustrating  for readers precisely that and how the example works as a rhetorical  appeal and explaining what role the example plays in the PSA’s overall  argument and purpose. In short, show readers the effect the appeal is  meant to have on the audience–don’t merely state the effect; illustrate  it with thorough analysis.
      • Properly quote examples
      • The paragraph must be  thoughtfully structured and organized so that readers follow your  thinking from the first word to the last without interruptions in the  logical flow of ideas. The development of your ideas should clearly  carry readers to your paragraph’s conclusion (or main idea) without  impediments caused by non sequiturs or gaps caused by unidentified or  faulty assumptions. In other words, your paragraph should walk readers  carefully and transparently through your reasoning so that they see what  you see.
  • What is required in the concluding paragraph?
    • Your concluding paragraph should wrap up your analysis
      • The best way to do this is to  briefly explore how analyzing the PSA in the way you have offers us  insight into the creator’s choices and their effects on the audience
    • Your conclusion should NOT wrap up  the ideas of the PSA or repeat the PSA’s final words or close with  something about the topic of the PSA because this is the closing  paragraph of your ideas, not the PSA’s ideas
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