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Graphic Organizer / Decision Making for Rhetorical Analysis

Decision Making for Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical analysis is not only helpful with understanding works of literature. It is also a
significant tool in analyzing speeches. Those who give speeches use certain rhetoric to cater to
their audience, environment, and what is currently going on in the world. It is important to keep
such factors in mind for context because it affects the “success” of the overall speech.

For this assignment, we will be analyzing J.K. Rowling’s The Benefits of Failure speech, which
she gave at Harvard’s 2008 Commencement ceremony. We will take notes while watching the
speech, as well as following up with discussion. However, I urge you to watch the speech again
for points that you may have missed. You can access the video here:

This graphic organizer assignment is another means to help you plan out your rhetorical analysis
essay. See the directions below on how to fill it out.

While watching, I want you to keep in mind the following questions: What is the sequence of the
speech? What devices does she use? What mode does she stick to, or does she use all three? Was
this an effective speech?


1. PURPOSE - Identify the purpose of the speech. You do not have to identify this at the
beginning. It could be anytime during the speech where you realize Rowling’s message.
2. DEVICES PRESENT - Identify the rhetorical devices present. List as many as you can.
3. EVIDENCE of DEVICE - Find a moment in the speech where she uses a device AND
where she appeals to one of the three modes of rhetoric. You may quote it if you like.
4. GROUNDS/SO WHAT? - Justify this device. Provide a reason why this was important
in the speech? Think about how is she using it and why?
5. DECISION - This is where your argument comes in. I want you to decide whether or not
Rowling’s speech was effective. Did it make the right impact? Why or why not?
6. REASONS - Justify your decision. Why or why not?

If you need more space to take notes, feel free to write it in a separate piece of paper.
Graphic Organizer / Decision Making for Rhetorical Analysis

Assignment Scoring Guide

Students demonstrate understanding of
purpose of the speech, in which they were
able to identify. Purpose is clearly defined. 4 points
Students are able to identify rhetorical devices
that are present in the speech. There are at
least 3 or more devices that the student lists in
the organizer. 2 points
Students are able to provide an example from
the speech that justifies their choice in
identifying the device. At least
ethos/logos/pathos is addressed. 3 points
Based on evidence, students are able to
clearly demonstrate the importance of the
device. They have identified and analyzed the
effects and impact of device on the overall
speech. 5 points
Students will make a “decision” in whether
the speech was effective. This box will be
your first version of your thesis. Make sure
your decision is clear. 3 points
List out the reasons in a concise manner in
why the student made the decision. What
made you decide your argument? 3 points
TOTAL 20 points
Graphic Organizer / Decision Making for Rhetorical Analysis



Graphic Organizer / Decision Making for Rhetorical Analysis

Here is an example of a Graphic Organizer I filled out!

- J.K. Rowling wants the audience to think Tone, ethos, pathos, allusion
about their privilege as Harvard students.
She wants them to question the
environment they are in and what position
they have to do something about it (2008
had a lot of racial and economic tensions
as context).
- She also wants to urge them not to be
afraid of “failing” (again, with the context
of 2008 events), because failing will lead
you to where you’re supposed to be.


Humor/light-hearted – tone Tone is important because it affects how a person
+ approaches a topic. She was dealing with serious
Could be satirical as well topics like the economy, and racially charged
politics, so she combated that with tone. It was
easier to talk about, therefore easier to absorb.
Ethos – her own graduation; she has been through Reflecting on her own experiences with failure
this before; “21 years that have expired between emphasizes her credibility because she has been
that day and this” through it before, and she emerged “successful.”
She was once a college graduate that struggled so
she understands their concerns; it makes the
graduates more comfortable with her.
Pathos – poverty + depression Appeals to the audiences’ emotions by letting
Work at Amnesty International them be aware of the possible risks and situations
Fear of failure they can find themselves through. She appeals to
“rock bottom became the solid foundation in emotion so she can prompt them to do the right
which I rebuilt my life” thing and be more empathetic.
Allusion – many harry potter references “time Referring to Harry Potter makes the audience feel
turner” “a BIG idea” more united because it’s something they all have
in common. It also helps her speech more fun.

Rowling’s commencement speech was an - Because she was able to relate to the
effective speech that communicated her thoughts audience by bringing up her own
and ideas directly and cohesively. experiences, as well as make them feel
united and comforted, her speech was
effective in that it was impactful and that
you could remember it.
- Her delivery was very cheery and
lighthearted in the beginning to allow for
an easier reception of the serious topics
she was about to discuss.
- She encouraged them to be more
empathetic to themselves and to the world
by bringing up real life scenarios that the
graduates could possibly encounter.