Checklist for Analyzing an Argument

Checklist for Analyzing an Argument

What is an Analysis?
A piece of writing that both explains and evaluates another author’s text by focusing on and judging the merits of its purpose, methods of persuasions, and rhetorical effectiveness.
Explanation – an analysis explains how a text’s argument is constructed by analyzing the methods of persuasion an author uses to persuade his or her audience of something.
Evaluation – an analysis evaluates and/or judges a text’s persuasiveness. In short, an analysis states and provides textual evidence to show why/how a piece of writing is persuasive, logically consistent, or limited in its argumentation.
Thus, an analysis focuses on the rhetorical dimensions of a text – it does not support or refute the author’s argument.

What is Rhetoric?

Rhetoric: “The faculty of observing in a given context the available means of persuasion” – Aristotle
Rhetorical Situation: audience, purpose, context
Rhetorical Strategies: word choice, figures of speech, sentence structure (active vs. passive, etc.), statistics and citations, etc.
Rhetorical Appeals:
Pathos – appeals to the audience’s emotions (Jacoby, p. 193 and Kristof, p. 184)
Ethos – appeals to the creditability of the author (Lawrence, p. 65)
Logos – appeals to reason or logic (Wilson, p. 124)

Things that May be Analyzed in an Analysis:

The Author’s Methods of Persuasion (p.181) – How does the author attempt to persuade his or her audience?
Does the writer quote authority? Are these authorities really competent in the field? Are equally competent authorities who take a different view ignored?
Does the author use statistics? If so, are they inappropriate to the point being argued? Can they be interpreted differently?
Does the author build the argument through examples or analogy? Are these satisfactory?
Are the writer’s assumptions acceptable?
Does the writer consider all of the relevant factors involved? Does the writer omit important points to make his or her case?
Does the author attempt to persuade through ridicule? Is this ridicule fair?
The Completeness or Incompleteness of an Argument: Does the writer consider all relevant factors? Has he or she omitted some points that you think need to be considered?
Author’s Persona: The effectiveness (persuasiveness) of an author’s persona or ethos in relation to his or her argument (p.182)
Pathos: The effectiveness (persuasiveness) of an author’s style/word-choice/pathos in
relation to his or her argument
Ethos: The effectiveness (persuasiveness) of an author’s use of statistics/citations/references/data in relationship to his or her argument

Your Thesis Statement:

Should indicate WHAT you want to analyze about your essay.
Should make some CLAIM (evaluation) about your essay’s logical/persuasive aspects in terms of its convincing or unconvincing nature.
Should detail your REASONS for taking a particular evaluative position with respect to the essay to be analyzed
(Possibly) make a qualified claim: e.g., one part of the essay is strong, the other part is not, etc.

Example of a Thesis-statement for an Analysis:

While Wilson’s criticisms of gun control policy are relatively convincing, his proposal to increase police searches (“stop-and-frisk”) is not (Claim). This is because Wilson does not explain, in depth, how the potential negative consequences of his plan (racial profiling, enlarged state intervention, increased prison numbers, etc.) would out-weigh the positives. In other words, Wilson’s argument fails to show how his solution would fully solve the problem he wishes to address – he merely assumes it. (Reasons or justification).

Bok’s argument that all racist forms of speech should be constitutionally protected, because such forms of speech should be considered “offensive,” is ultimately unconvincing and woefully shortsighted (Claim). This is because Bok neglects to consider how racist forms of expression also have the potential to inflict real psychological damage to those targeted (Reasons or justification). His failure to consider this traumatic dimension of racist speech thus radically undermines his credibility as an author.

Kristof’s essay, although entertaining and thought-provoking, failed to convince me of his proposal for two reasons. Firstly, his argument’s use of humor overwhelms his essay to such an extent that it undermines his argument’s seriousness. Secondly, he fails to fully explain why alternative solutions, such as use of contraceptives, would not be effective as bringing back hunting.

Outline Schema:

Overview of the article to be analyzed (author, title, publication)
Overview of the analysis’ thematic focus (gun control, violence in media, types of punishment, etc.)
Statement of thesis/argument
Summary of article
Should be no more than ½ page or one paragraph
Should summarize main point and supporting points only
“Before beginning my analysis, it is important to summarize X’s argument…”
Body Paragraphs
Each paragraph should focus on a particular logical dimension or rhetorical aspect of the essay’s argument
**Use citation from text as evidence to support your analysis**
Begin with strong points first, if you choose to do so
Conclude body of analysis with a thorough focus on what you find problematic, unconvincing, and/or appealing about your essay.
Remember to always back up your claim with a reason (“I think Z, because of X and Y)
Use strong topic sentences to help guide readers through the main ideas of your analysis/evaluation.
Should reiterate thesis statement
Might indicate why your agreement/disagreement is important in a larger argumentative context
Paper #3: An Analysis of an Argument

The goal of this assignment is to help you understand and evaluate the persuasive/logical nature of another author’s argument–regardless of whether or not you agree with it. As a result, you should improve your ability to read and think critically about argumentation and rhetorical strategies. By being able to evaluate argumentative/rhetorical strategies of other writers, you should be better able to write your own arguments.

Evaluate and analyze how well an author rhetorically presents his/her argument. That is, convince a group of readers that an essay either is or is not argued logically and/or effectively as a whole. Do not assume that your readers have read the essay you evaluate. Evaluate the same essay you summarized for Paper #2. Complete the assigned prewriting, and write a draft to discuss with your group.

Remember that EH 102 focuses on critical thinking skills—not merely on the ability to persuade by using emotional appeals. Thus, this paper should focus on both the logic and the pathos of the essay. That is, you should build your essay’s own thesis statement around the question of why you, as an informed reader, did or did not find another author’s arguments logically sound and/or rhetorically convincing. In other words, you are not agreeing or disagreeing with the author’s arguments; rather you are trying to show what it is about the author’s arguments you found unconvincing and why.

Papers will primarily be assessed based upon the “Shared Criteria” (see Resources for Composition). For this assignment, development/support means more than simply repeating the essay you evaluate; in fact, merely summarizing the essay will lead to a failing grade.

Failure to bring drafts or other work on the date due for such work will lower the paper’s grade. Papers turned in late will be lowered by half a letter grade for each day they are late.

The best papers will:
· avoid needless commentary as to your opinion of the topic that the author discusses,
· not be dominated by a mere summary of the essay you evaluate,
· support each evaluative statement with evidence taken from the essay, and
· have a clear, consistent evaluation of the essay as a whole.

The final copy should be 1000 – 1250 words (4-5 pages). At the top of the paper, provide a word count. Turn in your final copy in a folder; include the initial draft and the final draft along with your reflective essay.

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