Selecting Visuals for Analysis

Selecting Visuals for Analysis

As you start looking for visuals to analyze, you may wonder how to decide which to use. This decision is usually based on two things: your assignment instructions and your personal preferences. For instance, the assignment instructions might ask you to analyze a specific type of visual, such as an advertisement or a political cartoon, which narrows down your choices. Whether your assignment tasks you with analyzing ads, images, or paintings, it is important to also choose a visual that engages you. Listed below are questions to help you select a visual that suits your personal tastes and common writing expectations or assignment instructions.


  • What type of image/s can you use for your analysis?
  • How many images are you expected to use?


  • Who might be the intended audience of the image (e.g., children, pet owners, chefs, etc.)?
  • Are you a part of this target audience?
  • What was your initial reaction to the image?
  • What does the image make you feel? How or why is this the case?


  • For what purpose/s was the image created (e.g., to inform, to persuade, to entertain, etc.)?
  • What message/s does the image deliver (e.g., buy a product, support a cause, etc.)?
  • Do you and/or the audience find the message/s appealing?


  • What physical elements of the image will you analyze (e.g., colors, symbols, text, etc.)?
  • How many of these elements can you identify in the image?
  • What do you and/or the audience find visually appealing (e.g., the color red, appetizing food, font styles, etc.)?
  • What rhetorical devices, if any, does the image use (e.g., ethos, logos, and pathos)?
  • Which rhetorical methods do you and/or the audience find convincing or unconvincing? What makes these methods effective or ineffective?


  • Where did you find the image (e.g., a website, an archive, a newspaper, etc.)?
  • Is the webpage or other location containing the image a reliable source?
  • Will you be able to access the image throughout your research process?


  • Can you identify the author or creator of the image?
  • Is there a title for the image?
  • Can you find the date when the image was created or posted online?
  • Is there any other information to include in the citation for the style you are using? For more on citation styles, see the Stone Writing Center (SWC) handouts on MLA, APA, and Chicago.

Using these questions to guide your selection can help you choose visuals that are engaging and suitable for analysis.

Page last updated July 12, 2023.