TASK: Writing a Political Cartoon Analysis

In this task, you will learn...
    • to analyze political cartoons from the 2016 campaign and discover what’s actually in a cartoon,
    • take a closer look at the message of cartoons as well as the cartoonist’s toolkit, that is, the methods and tools a cartoonist deploys to evoke a certain image, feeling, or response,
    • develop and argue your own opinion about election cartoons and write a cartoon analysis based on your research.


1    Introduction     

Select one of the cartoons in the GALLERY: Political Cartoons of the 2016 Campaign or, alternatively, look for other political cartoons online (see resources below).

Identify its theme or topic. Also take notes of any unclear or confusing aspects and initial questions you might have. Do a quick web-search to solve them.

Take detailed notes.


2   A look at the cartoon's message      

Next, think about your cartoon's message.

  • What is the cartoonist trying to say or convey with this cartoon?
  • What is the cartoon's effect on you? That is, does it trigger any emotions, reactions, or questions?

Take detailed notes.


3   Critical analysis    

Study the cartoon's visual elements, such as people, objects, setting, speech bubbles, and the caption or title (if provided). Are there any significant, unusual, or surprising aspects?

Now, focus on the persuasive techniques that the cartoonist might have applied. These are the most common techniques:

   Persuasive techniques (click on links for more details)

  • Analogy
  • Exaggeration
  • Irony
  • Juxtaposition
  • Labeling
  • Symbolism

What could be their function and what is their effect on your understanding of the cartoon? Take notes and discuss your findings with your partner or group. Do you all agree or are there any points of disagreement?


4    Writing a cartoon analysis  

Use your notes to compose a written analysis of the cartoon (1-2 pages). You can use the database Learner Texts to share your analysis.

Follow the general structure of a cartoon analysis.

   Cartoon analysis structure
  1. Introduction
  2. Description (of visual elements)
  3. Critical analysis (of persuasive techniques)
  4. Conclusion


  Self-study tips for this task     Analyzing cartoons