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Visual Analysis: Essay Writing Guide

March 11, 2021

visual analysis

One of the more confusing types of academic assignments out there is the visual analysis essay. Unlike other essays, this type of writing requires students to show an understanding of a piece of art by focusing on elements, including color, line, texture, and scale. Essentially, students must describe and explain the visual structure of a piece of art for its own sake.

In this article, we will answer some important questions about the visual analysis paper, provide a short process for writing a visual analysis, and give a list of visual analysis essay topics for you to consider.

What is a Visual Analysis?

First, we must understand “what is a visual analysis?” This kind of assignment is mostly writing for students of Art History, English, or History in general. This type of writing has some common features with demonstration  speech writing.

It is a description of an image and an explanation for how it is put together. Other questions a student may answer in his or her writing are the meaning of the image for the artist, the historical meaning of the image, and the effectiveness of the image in today’s world.

How to Do a Visual Analysis

A visual analysis paper can be written on several things, including paintings, photographs, and advertisements. Visual analysis can even be done on film or television shows. These last examples follow a different approach since the image is in motion, thus requiring students to consider several different factors.

The following five-step process will show you how to do a visual argument analysis correctly:

  1. Choose a Visual Work of Art that Is Interesting to You. Many students mistakenly choose a work of art that may be controversial because it allows for a unique perspective that will draw attention. This is a course that can lead students astray. Focus on picking something you believe makes a cultural, historical, political, or social impact.
  2. Find Out as Much Background Info to Put it Into Context. When writing your visual rhetorical analysis essay, you need to put it into context so that your readers understand why it is an important visual work worth considering.  A great way of achieving this is to answer the five Ws (just like in journalism.
  3. Analyze the Rhetorical Devices Used to Connect with the Audience. When one talks about rhetorical devices, people want to know what qualities make them believable and trustworthy. Consider the colors, images, and words that create emotional reactions. Do the qualities trigger cultural, historical, and political?
  4. Examine the Principles of Design Used by the Artist(s). There are thousands of design elements that can be identified in visual analysis. The most important are color, shapes, and lines. You can use other elements in your analysis, but it’s important you state why those elements are being used as well as the effect they have on the overall work.
  5. Make an Argument to Support Your Analysis. Finally, you must present your opinion. Organize your thoughts and present them in a logical sequence supported by evidence taken from the subject. If you use outside sources, be sure you get them from credible places like academic journals and articles.

How to Write a Visual Analysis

When you are tasked to write this type of assignment, you need to spend several hours preparing, researching, and drafting your assignment. One of the most common questions we get from students asks, “How to write a visual analysis essay?” This five-step process will help you put together a great assignment that earns you a top score.

  1. Identify a Topic You Can Handle. Before you start your research, you should carefully consider your subject. When you choose your visual object, you need to be sure that you are interested and familiar with the work. Trying to work on something completely new to you may be overwhelming. Brainstorm a few topics from your readings and classroom lectures and select an image that genuinely interests you. If you can pick any image, you may want to turn to the internet to browse several different images that meet your assignment’s requirements.
  2. Conduct Some Background Research. As soon as you have decided on a visual topic for your assignment, you should do some background research. This can be done on the web where you will find articles that provide you with some factual background information. Make sure you cite reliable resources from reputable organizations. Once you have enough background content, you can take your research to the school library where you will find current academic resources. Organize your notes and make sure to keep all citation information in order. This will make it easier to create your bibliography.
  3. Create a Visual Analysis Essay Outline. It’s a good idea to download a template before you start your essay. You can use the template to create an outline with your notes. Select your best arguments and arrange them in the body of the outline. Put in a temporary thesis statement and fill in each level of the outline with your supporting evidence. You should refer to your outline as you write the first draft. This way if you move away from your main points you can always find your place and get back on the right path.
  4. Write Multiple Drafts (First, Revise, Final). The writing process should involve multiple drafts. Your first draft can be written quickly without worrying about making corrections. Afterward, set your paper aside for a few days before you return to make revisions. The act of revising is reimagining your central and supporting arguments. If it means you need to delete, add, or rearrange content to make your paper better, do so. You need to get rid of content that does not strengthen your paper. Finally, your last draft should be a completely edited and proofread work that is free of grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. It should also be a concise and clear presentation of your argument, completely free of extraneous text that doesn’t serve to help your paper.
  5. Have a Friend Review Your Final Draft. Lastly, always ask a friend or a classmate to read your final draft before turning it in. Even after all of the work you have put in to write a good essay, there may be a few errors you might have missed. Having a friend read your paper helps to catch these mistakes so that you can correct them and hand in the best possible assignment.

A Short List of Visual Analysis Topics

Choosing the right topic can make or break any academic assignment. If you have the freedom to choose your topic, then you are in a better position to work on something that you are already familiar with. It’s still a good idea to choose something that challenges you, but you don’t necessarily have to research something you know nothing about. Here are some ideas for a visual rhetorical analysis essay assignment:

  • Diet supplements and celebrity endorsements. Often, we find advertisements on popular search engines, online news sites, and social media in which celebrities show off their toned bodies to endorse a diet supplement.
  • Retired professional athletes endorsing pain relief. While the pharmaceutical companies don’t have much trouble selling their pain relief products, they will get a lot of help from a retired athlete who swears by the effectiveness of certain pain relief products.
  • Sub-culture/street-culture art to support politicians. In the past twenty years, politicians have been more receptive to subversive artwork that has captured the attention of young voters. Consider Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster featuring then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
  • Military advertisements of the 1940s. At the start of the U.S.’s entrance to WWII, there was a sudden systematic use of posters to encourage enrollment and wartime investments (via war bonds) that many Americans found to be patriotic.
  • Professional sports logos. Every team and many players build their brands around a logo. These incorporate colors and lines which are easily identifiable to fans and generate a wealth of support from people who wish to relate to their favorite organizations and players.

These topics may only scratch the surface of some really good ideas for research. Your visual rhetorical analysis should focus on something that genuinely interests you. Picking something you like will improve your commitment to dig further and find resources that back your claims and make your arguments stronger.

Get A Visual Analysis Essay Example

We do encourage you to review an example before you start writing your visual complex analysis. As we stated earlier, these types of assignments are most done within the fields of Art History, English, and History in general. You can also find them in Media and Film. To find good visual analysis papers, you should head down to the school library and search for journals in your discipline. You will find numerous monthly or quarterly editions in which this type of article is published. Because academia has such rigorous writing standards, you can be sure that any example you find will represent the highest quality of writing, organization, and structure.

For more assistance in writing visual analysis essays or any other type of assignment, contact the support staff of our professional writer service. They are available 24/7 and can put you in contact with one of our highly qualified writing experts that could help you write a great visual rhetorical analysis paper or provide you with customized visual rhetorical analysis essay examples. You can also check out our other resources for free on this site. We cover a wide range of academic topics and provide you with the tools you need to achieve academic success.

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