We’re in the midst of a particularly argumentive era. As arguments over everything from politics to Looney Tunes cartoon characters have taken over the web, so has the importance of our ability to understand the arguments of others.
If you’re reading an argument a writer has made and find it difficult to determine their point, you might need a few tips and tricks on how to analyze an argument. Argument analysis can be tricky to learn but incredibly helpful to have in your toolbelt as you go through life.
What are some key tips and tricks to help you analyze an argument like a pro? Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
1. Understand the Main Point
An argument can take many different forms in the modern era. It might be a lengthy essay published in the op-ed of a local newspaper, or it might be a series of informal tweets posted online.
It could be a Youtube video, a TikTok, an e-mail, or a full novel that you pick up at your local library. With all of these different mediums (and all of these different arguments), it can be difficult to determine how to get started with your analysis.
The best thing you can do is take the matter one step at a time. Before you dive into the myriad of details on display, try to ascertain the big picture. That’s an important first step.
At the end of the day, what is the author of this argument trying to get you to walk away from the situation with? Usually, they are either trying to get you to believe in a certain idea or take a certain action.
It might be to see things from their point of view, or it could be to spur you into some sort of decisive action, such as cutting meat from your diet.
Once you have this big idea in your grasp, you’ll be able to break it down more easily. This is an essential first step in analyzing an argument and not one that you’d want to skip.
2. List Out The Supporting Reasons
When a person makes an argument, they will use a wide variety of smaller arguments to support their larger belief. We all come to our beliefs in different ways, after all.
If a person told you that the moon was made of cheese, you likely wouldn’t believe them unless they had a number of smaller facts and arguments to support this kind of assertation.
The same goes for any kind of argument. Making a bullet-point list of the individual’s reasons and arguments can help you get a handle on why it is they believe what they believe.
Depending on the length and form of the argument, this can get quite complex. There could be a great many arguments and facts involved in their diatribe. Even some of these smaller, supporting reasons might have supporting arguments of their own.
It can get to be quite a lot to handle, which is why making a list is so helpful and important. Once you’ve listed out as many of the supporting arguments and reasons as you can, look over the list.
It can be helpful to make a few classifications. What is the very first reason that an individual brings up to support their claim? This is usually, though not always, the reason the arguer thinks is the strongest.
Now, use your own judgment. What is the most important reason of the many you’ve listed out? Underline this one and make note of it.
3. Summarize the Argument & Respond
If you want to get a true handle on the argument the other individual is making, you can use what you’ve done in points one and two to help get a grasp. Combine what you’ve found the main point of the argument to be with some of the reasons you’ve pulled.
Put all of this together in a brief two or three-sentence paragraph that summarizes the writer’s likely much-longer argument.
For example, you might say something like:
The moon is made of cheese. We know this because astronauts that have traveled to the moon have tasted the ground and agreed that it tastes like cheese. It also appears to the human eye as cheese if you look up to the night sky.
Looking over this summary can help you cut through the noise and see clearly what the person is trying to argue. This puts you in a position to better respond to the argument from your own point-of-view.
You could do this in a variety of ways. You might find that you don’t agree with one or more of the supporting reasons. In this instance, for example, you could point out there is no supporting evidence that any astronaut actually tasted the moon.
You might argue that despite the appearance of the moon, there is a lot of evidence and research done to indicate why it appears this way. Breaking down a person’s argument in this manner allows you to better respond to their points with your own.
This can make a healthy dialogue easier for everyone involved.
Tips on Analyzing an Argument
Everyone needs a little reading or writing help from time to time. If you’re looking to learn more about analyzing an argument, the above tips and tricks should provide all the information that you need.
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