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Evaluate 4 Factors in Argument Analysis

February 06, 2015

FAQ: How do you teach students to analyze an argument?

ANSWER: Let’s first acknowledge one of the hardest parts of this task–staying focused on the purpose. Students are to evaluate someone else’s argument; they are NOT to include their own personal opinions on the topic.

An analysis argument typically revolves around four factors. Depending on how they are executed, each could be a strength or a weakness.

Analyze & Evaluate Arguments Sheet

Summarize the author’s reasons.
In the standards this is stated as identify, explain, or trace the reasons the author provides in his argument. Consider if they are logical. Do they make sense?

Assess the provided evidence.
Each reason should be backed up with proof. First, look at the quantity of the proof. Determine if there is sufficient evidence to support each reason.

Then consider the quality of the evidence. Look for a mixture of numerical data (e.g., statistics, dates, percentages, etc.), expert quotes, and anecdotal evidence. A variety of evidence makes for a stronger argument.

Beyond the type of evidence, pay close attention to the timeliness and relevance of the data. Is the author citing data from fifty years ago? While 50-year old information would be appropriate for an argument based on World War II, it would not fit the topic “current trends in technology.”

Identify perspectives represented.
Within a strong argument, the opposition is granted space. Although persuasive writing presents only one side of an issue, arguments seek to present more than one perspective. Look to see if the counterargument is described and even validated with some evidence.

Then evaluate the author’s tone and language when referencing this opposing viewpoint. Well-written arguments are respectful to all sides– not biased, stereotypical, sarcastic, or derogatory.

Investigate the author’s credibility.
Look outside the argument itself. Read all provided information about the author’s background and credentials. What experiences or expertise qualifies this author as an authority on this topic? Such information can make someone’s argument more–or less–credible.

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