Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole purpose of education.
—Harold Macmillan, Former British Prime Minister
Using our class readings and discussions as your guide and following the outline presented below, write a 2500- to 3000-word essay that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of an argument.
Choose one of the following arguments as the subject of your analysis:
It’s not important whether you agree with the writer’s conclusion or not—your personal opinion about the issue is not the focus of this assignment. Instead, your challenge is to evaluate objectively whether and in what ways the argument is strong or weak, is convincing or not convincing. An analysis is not a chance to indiscriminately poke holes, and it doesn’t mean you only point out what’s wrong with something. Rather, an analysis gives credit where credit is due and calls into question things that ought to be questioned.
The following is the exact outline your paper should follow. Your paper should have every one of these sections, in this order, and it doesn’t need anything extra that you don’t see here.
Write a 250-word formal summary of the argument you have chosen to critique. The Formal Summary assignment includes pointers on how to get it right.
Identify the primary audience of the argument (and possibly a secondary one if its important to your analysis) and justify your identification with evidence from within and without the text. Define the audience in these terms, if applicable:
For each section below you should follow the pattern that we discussed in class. This means you must
Failing to hit all three points of the pattern for each section below will result in an inadequate analysis. Here are the sections:
Analyze and evaluate the use of ethos in the argument, answering the following questions:
Analyze and evaluate the use of pathos in the argument, answering the following questions:
Analyze the clarity of definitions in the argument, focusing on key terms and concepts and answering these questions:
Analyze the use of value (prescriptive) assumptions in the argument, answering these questions:
Analyze the use of evidence given to support the argument, answering these questions:
Analyze the logic of the argument, answering the following questions:
In a final section, state your overall conclusion about the argument you’ve analyzed and summarize your reasoning, considering the following questions:
Several sample Argument Analysis papers have been posted for your use, including an analysis of Bazelon's "Hitting Bottom" by Bro. G himself.
A complete draft of your paper will need to be written by Friday, May 24 for an in-class peer review.
For instructions about turning in the final draft of your paper, which is due at or before 9:00pm on Friday, May 31, consult this page about the Argument Analysis Grading Conference.
If you choose, you can revise your paper after it's been graded and turn it in again for a higher grade. Follow the instructions on the Revise the Argument Analysis page.