Checklist on the Analysis of a Speech

Copyright, Stephen A. Smith, University of Arkansas. Used by permission

Name of Orator
Title of Speech
Occasion/Place Delivered
Date Speech Delivered

  1. Brief Rhetorical Biography of the Speaker
    General biography and important life events
    • Life chronology
    • Family influences (class, occupation, values)
    • Public career and important experiences
    • Forces shaping values and ideology
    • Major sources of speaker's ethos
    Rhetorical biography
    • Education and rhetorical training
    • Nature and extent of public speaking experiences
    • Significance of oratory in the speaker's life and career
    • Methods of preparation and delivery
    • Characteristics of general rhetorical style
  2. The Rhetorical Situation for the Speech
    The Exigence:
    • What issue led to the decision to speak?
    • What was the specific occasion for the rhetorical act?
    • Why was this an issue? (Bennett: structural, agenda, crisis)
    • What was the specific point of stasis? (fact, definition, value, policy)
    • What were the prevailing opinions or oppositional arguments on the issue?
    • Who were the prominent or implicit counteradvocates?
    • How could the issue be resolved or determined through rhetoric?
    The Audiences (Immediate and Secondary):
    • Were the audiences in a position to respond appropriately?
    • Were the audiences receptive to persuasion through argument?
    • What were the demographics of the audiences? (size, age, background, etc.)
    • What were audiences' level of knowledge, beliefs, interests,hopes, concerns?
    • What were values, needs, biases, goals, fears, motives of the audience?
    The Constraints:
    • What were the social, political, cultural, and ideological constraints?
    • Where was the locus of power and who held control?
    • What were the situational or institutional constraints?
    • What constraints were created by the audience?
    • What were the consequences of violating the "rules"?
    • Did the more important constraints come from the audience or the situation?
    • Did constraints limit rhetorical choice in language, style, data, arguments?
    • Did the speaker have any special constraints on or opportunities for persuasion?
  3. The Text of the Speech
  4. Description, Analysis, and Evaluation of the Arguments
  5. Organization, Style, and Delivery
    • Does the introduction construct the reality and frame the question effectively?
    • Is the purpose made clear?
    • How does the structure of the arguments contribute to persuasion?
    • How does the order of the arguments fit the situation and audience?
    • How do the counterarguments shape the organization?
    • How does the speaker manage purpose, evidence, and ideas?
    • How is language used to reflect and influence thought?
    • Does the language give clues about the speaker's views of self and opposition?
    • How do the situation and culture influence choice of language?
    • Did the language give life to the ideas and arguments? (Give examples & quotes)
    • Does the speaker use loaded words, jargon, confusing language?
    • Was the speech impromptu, extemporaneous, or prepared?
    • Were the volume and tenor appropriate for the topic and the audience?
    • What did observers say about the quality or effect of the delivery?
  6. Historical and Rhetorical Value
  7. Bibliography

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