The critical reader must be able to evaluate arguments. When you evaluate an argument (a set of claims), you determine its value or persuasiveness. To be able to do a good job evaluating arguments, you need to know what an argument is and how an argument is put together.
An argument is a claim that is supported by reasons or evidence. When an author tries to persuade the reader that something is true or correct by presenting supporting reasons or evidence, an argument is being made. This means that an argument is different from a statement.
An argument presents logical reasons and evidence to support a viewpoint
Parts of an Argument • ISSUE - problem or controversy about which people disagree • CLAIM - the position on the issue • SUPPORT - reasons and evidence that the claim is reasonable and should be accepted • REFUTATION - opposing viewpoints
Persuasion The author is trying to convince the reader that a claim is true by giving supporting reasons or evidence.
The Claim The claim of an argument is the point of the argument. When an author makes an argument, it’s the claim that the author is trying to persuade the reader to accept as true.
Types of Claims • CLAIM OF FACT - statement that can be proven or verified by observation or research • “Within ten years, destruction of rain forests will cause hundreds of plant and animal species to become extinct.”
Types of Claims • CLAIM OF VALUE - states that one thing or idea is better or more desirable than another. • “Requiring community service in high school will produce more community-aware graduates.”
Types of Claims • CLAIM OF POLICY - suggests what should or ought to be done to solve a problem. • “To reduce school violence, more gun and metal detectors should be installed in public schools.”
Analysis To evaluate an argument, you need to analyze it. When you analyze an argument, you break it down into its parts and examine them by themselves and in relation to the other parts of the argument.
Types of Support • REASON - a general statement that supports a claim. • EVIDENCE - consists of facts, statistics, experiences, comparisons, and examples that show why the claim is valid. • EMOTIONAL APPEALS - ideas that are targeted toward needs or values that readers are likely to care about.
Inductive and Deductive Arguments • INDUCTIVE - reaches a general conclusion from observed specifics. • “By observing the performance of a large number of athletes, you could conclude that athletes possess physical stamina.”
Inductive and Deductive Arguments • DEDUCTIVE - begins with a major premise and moves toward a more specific statement or minor premise. • “Athletes possess physical stamina. Because Anthony is an athlete, he must possess physical stamina.”
Strategies for Reading an Argument • What does the title suggest? Preview! • Who is the author, and what are his or her qualifications? • What is the date of publication? • What do I already know about the issue? Think Before You Read
Strategies for Reading an Argument • Read once for an initial impression. • Read the argument several more times. • Annotate as you read. • Highlight key terms. • Diagram or map to analyze structure. Read Actively
Strategies for Evaluating Arguments • Evaluate Types of Evidence - Is it sufficient to support the claim? • Personal Experience - may be biased, so do not accept it • Examples - should not be used by themselves
Strategies for Evaluating Arguments • Statistics - can be misused, manipulated or misinterpreted. • Comparisons and Analogies - reliability depends on how closely they correspond to the situation. • Relevancy and Sufficiency of Evidence - is there enough of the right kind to support the claim?
Strategies for Evaluating Arguments • Definition of Terms - should be carefully defined and used consistently • Cause-Effect Relationships - evidence that the relationship exists should be present • Implied or Stated Value System - are they consistent with your personal value system?
Strategies for Evaluating Arguments • Recognizing and Refuting Opposing Viewpoints • Question the accuracy, relevancy or sufficiency of the opponent’s evidence. • Does the author address opposing viewpoints clearly and fairly? • Does the author refute the opposing viewpoint with logic and relevant evidence?
Strategies for Evaluating Arguments • Unfair Emotional Appeals • Emotionally Charged or Biased Language • False Authority • athletes endorsing underwear • movie stars selling shampoo • Association • a car being named a Cougar to remind you of a sleek animal • a cigarette advertisement featuring a scenic waterfall
Strategies for Evaluating Arguments • Unfair Emotional Appeals • Appeal to “Common Folk” • an ad showing a product being used in an average household • a politician suggesting he is like everyone else • Ad Hominem - attack on the person rather than his/her viewpoint • “Join the Crowd” Appeal or Bandwagon
What emotional appeal is being used? • Come early so you won’t have to stand in line – because everyone knows you can make a deal with Dave and save. • As a test pilot, Susan Gibbs knows performance. “That’s why I drive a Mustang,” she says. • Olson’s pizzas are lower in fat and calories. Other pizza makers don’t care about your health.
Emotional appeals continued… • “We can work magic with your children,” says Eileen of Eileen’s Day Care. “Call upon us, and your children will be happy you did.” • Liberty Bell Airlines flies anywhere in this great land, from sea to shining sea. • As a young man, Candidate Alan Wilson learned what it means to work hard by spending long hours lifting boxes and sweeping floors working in a department store.
Errors in Logical Reasoningcommonly called logical fallaciesinvalidate the argument or render argument flawed • Circular Reasoning/Begging the Question • “Female police officers should not be sent to crime scenes because apprehending criminals is a man’s job.” • Hasty Generalization - conclusion derived from insufficient evidence • “Because one apple is sour, all of them in the bowl must be sour.”
Errors in Logical Reasoning • Non Sequitur (“It Does Not Follow”) • “Because my doctor is young, I’m sure she’ll be a good doctor.” • False Cause • “Because I opened the umbrella when I tripped on the sidewalk, the umbrella must have caused me to trip.” • Either-Or Fallacy • “Because of the violence, TV must be either allowed or banned.”
For Each Argument: • Identify the claim. • Outline the reasons to support the claim. • What types of evidence are used? • Evaluate the adequacy and sufficiency of the evidence. • What emotional appeals are used? • Does the author recognize or refute counter arguments?
Step 1: Identify the Author’s Assumptions • An author’s assumptions consist of things the author takes for granted without presenting any proof (in other words, what the author believes or accepts as true and bases the argument on). • Ask yourself, “What does the author take for granted?” • If the author’s assumptions are illogical or incorrect, the entire argument will be flawed. Readers may be misled unless they identify the author’s assumptions. Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Step 2: Identify the Types of Support • Types of support refers to the kind of evidence the author uses to back up the argument. • Ask yourself, “What kind of support does the author present to back the argument?” • Support can include research findings, case studies, personal experience or observation, examples, facts, comparisons, expert testimony and opinions. Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Step 3: Determine the Relevance of the Support • Relevance means the support is directly related to the argument. • Ask yourself, “Is the support directly related to the argument?” • Unless the author is an expert, his or her opinion or personal experience may not be particularly relevant. Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Step 4: Determine the Author’s Objectivity • The author’s argument has objectivity when the support consists of facts and other clear evidence. • Ask yourself, “Does the author present facts and clear evidence as support?” Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Step 5: Determine the Argument’s Completeness • An argument is complete if the author presents adequate support and overcomes opposing points. • Sometimes authors do not give enough support. • Sometimes they leave out information that would weaken their argument. Their argument would be stronger if they presented it and countered it. Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Step 6: Determine if the Argument Is Valid • An argument is valid (has validity) if it is logical. • Ask yourself, “Is the argument logical (well-reasoned)?” Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Step 7: Decide if the Argument Is Credible • An argument has credibility if it is believable (convincing). • Ask yourself, “Is the author’s argument believable?” • Validity and credibility are closely related since an argument that is not valid will not be credible. Chapter 11: Evaluating an Author's Argument
Analyzing an Argument • What issue is presented? • What is the author’s argument? • What are some author’s assumptions? • What type of support (facts, experts’ opinions, research, observations, personal experiences, etc.) do the author/s present? • How relevant (directly related to the issue) is the support? • Is the argument objective and complete? • Is the argument valid(logical) and credible (believable)?
Comparing the Arguments: • Compare the types of evidence used. • Which argument did you find more convincing? Why? • What further information would be useful in assessing the issue?