How To Write A Visual Analysis Essay

 Visual analysis essay writing

The main goal of writing a visual analysis essay is to break down the different elements that is projected by the visual component of any topic or subject. Your visual analysis essay should convey an understanding or an opinion to what such elements are communicating to its audience and an idea of its purpose. It is one of the most interesting forms of a written essay because it judges visual elements rather than words and ideas. It demands a certain degree of imagination from the writer and can be quite an enjoyable thing to do.

Visual texts include things you see every day, such as:

  • Websites;
  • Photos or paintings;
  • Brochures or flyers;
  • Advertisements.

Unlike other essays, a visual analysis will focus upon a subject’s visual elements and how it’s rhetorical situation is configured. These include audience, purpose and context (or circumstances).

The rhetorical situation

Whether visual or verbal, you might investigate a text’s rhetorical situation by asking journalistic questions (the who, what, when, where, how, and why) about its audience, purpose, and context.

Let’s consider UAB’s website, as an example:

  1. Who is the website’s audience? In other words, who might come to the website?
  2. What is its purpose? In other words, why might someone come to the website?
  3. What is its context or environment? In other words, where, when, and how might someone visit the website?

Steps to Writing your Visual Analysis Paper

There is not one ultimate form to writing an essay, but there are some guidelines that you can follow. These 3 general steps serve as foundation to writing a good visual analysis paper as you develop your ideas on your writing:

  • Describe
  • Respond
  • Analyze

1. Describing the Subject

Many people overlook this step, but simply describing a visual text is an important part of the process. Trying to analyze a text without being able to first describe it would be like trying to analyze an article without being able to first summarize it.

The act of describing the visual component of the topic is one of the most important steps in making a visual analysis essay. It gives a definition of your subject and gives the reader a clearer picture/idea of what you are trying to portray.

When you describe a visual text, you might look at:

  • Objects and shapes
  • Colors and shading
  • Foreground and background
  • People and places
  • Arrangement of elements on page

2. Responding to the Subject

Responding means you are drawing a reaction from a deeper part of you. In making a response, here are some useful questions that can incite your feeling.

When you look at a visual text, think about:

  • What’s your initial gut reaction?
  • How does the subject make you feel?
  • What does the text make you think?
  • Does the text make you want to do something?
  • Does the text remind you of anything I’ve seen, heard, or read about before?

3. Analyzing the Subject

Beyond the description and response is the integration within your analysis. This will show how the topic’s different elements convey meaning and accomplish purpose. This is where you are going to apply your knowledge of the rhetoric situation. Analyze the audience, purpose and context of the subject.

How does the audience see it? What is its impact? What was the purpose of the artist and how did he portray it in his work? What is the context of the production of the visual material?

4. Creating your thesis

Making your thesis statement for a visual essay should depend upon your specific assignment, purpose, and subject you are analyzing. Make sure that it contains your main idea that surrounds your general understanding of the visual subject. This is where your whole essay will revolve on.

Making the introduction for your essay

The best tip on how to write a visual analysis essay is to create a good introduction which would present your subject to the reader and provide a concise overview of your essay. In your introduction, you are making the reader understand how you accomplished visual analyzing.

5. Organizing your analysis

You have many options for organizing your visual analysis (and, again, what you choose will depend on your specific situation). Below are some general options for organizing the body of your paper. Please keep in mind that these are only a few options for a structure of visual analysis.

Spatial: The structure of your paper follows the way your eyes follow a visual text, generally from left to right or from most to least prominent parts.

Elements: Each section or body paragraph focuses on an element of the text, such as color, images, etc.

Rhetorical appeals: The paper’s sections are divided into the three appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Rhetorical situation: The paper’s sections are divided into the elements of the rhetorical situation: audience, purpose, and context.

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