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Analyzing Arguments

Learn to Argue / Persuade

Task 1

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LitLang Recommendations:
Title: Analyzing an Argument
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AnalysisArgue.doc

Below is a stated argument and an assignment that asks students to analyze the quality of the argument.  Below is an example of an analysis.
Good for getting students to think critically, having students assess themselves, or a good write and reflect activity.

Sample:
 

This has appeared on a petition to sent to residents of Youngtown by an environmental protection group.

 

 

“The Smith Corporation should not be permitted to develop the land that is now part of the Youngtown Wildlife Preserve.  This sanctuary is essential to the survival of the 300 bird species that live in our area.  Although only a small percentage of the land will be sold to Smith, the proposed development will have disastrous consequences for our area.  The company plans to build a small hotel on the land.  Although they have promised to ensure the preservation of the sanctuary, there is no way that their plans will do anything but harm the sanctuary.   There are no circumstances under which this sale will benefit the community which relies on tourists who visit primarily to see our magnificent bird populations.”

 

Your task is to supply an analysis of the argument.

Analysis of Argument:
This petition's argument is mediocure overall.  The major strength here is that the argument states the issue clearly, which is the the Smith Corporation's infringement upon the Youngtown Wildlife Preserve.  As readers, we clearly see what may be at stake which is the 300 bird species which Smith has promised to preserve but which their very presence in the area could harm. 

 

A major weakness of the piece is it does not define what the Smith Corporation could do that would harm the environment thus the reader never sees the possible severity of the issue.  The mention of a hotel simply does not sound threatening to the average.  It is up to the residents to make us see why a hotel would damage the environment.  Knowing more about Smith's attributes as a company would also allow readers to decide for themselves if it would benefit the community.  Wouldn't a hotel want to capitalize on the beautiful vistas of the Wildlife Preserve rather than destroy it?  From the argument currently displayed readers will be unsure of how Smith is exactly bad for the wildlife preserve and this uncertainty works against the credibility of the residents.

 

This argument would benefit from a more rhetorical writing style.  Raising the level of semantics would be a start.  Instead of saying "should not be permitted," saying "must not be permitted" would give the writing greater passion and strength.  Overall, the argument concedes too much to the other side allowing Smith to look relatively responsible in their plans to develop the land.  The argument also needs to discuss the "promise" Smith has made to ensure the preservation of the sanctuary.  Was this done voluntarily?  Is this a legal promise attained in a court of law?

 

The residents of Youngtown should be more proactive in assembling data as to why Smith Corporation will infringe upon the 300 bird species.  Including facts about rates of pollution would be helpful along with facts about how rare the birds are, how many other preserves exist in the area, how much the birds have suffered in recent years.  Supplying an example from another place where a hotel ruined an environmental reserve would serve the argument in two ways: the readers would see how hotels can be detrimental and it would also make the issue more real as what is being discussed really did happen.

 

Task 2

Quick INFO Box
What is it?
LitLang Recommendations:
Title: Analyzing an Argument
Download!

AnalysisArgue2.doc

Below is a stated argument and an assignment that asks students to analyze the quality of the argument.  Below is an example of an analysis.
Good for getting students to think critically, having students assess themselves, or a good write and reflect activity.

Sample: A letter to the editor:

 

“If we want to save money on municipal garbage disposal fees, we need to encourage our residents to recycle more.  Law last night, our neighboring town, Hayesworth, passed a law requiring that all households recycle paper and glass, or pay a fine.  Since that time, Hayesworth has seen its garbage disposal costs significantly decrease.  If we implemented an advertising campaign encouraging our residents to recycle, Masontown would also save money on disposal of waste.”

Analysis of Argument:

 

This argument is not well reasoned and the writer makes two major assumptions in its argument that may make the argument less convincing to some readers.

 

The first assumption the writer makes is that recycling costs nothing.  The author clearly makes the argument that an increase in recycling reduced the municipal garbage disposal fees.  This is a logical argument as not all of the garbage is going to the Masontown's municipal dump.  The paper and glass are going to a recycling center.  However, how much will is cost Masontown to recycle?  Is the recycling center close or will it have to be shipped? Is it possible that recycling will cost more then just disposing of municipal garbage?

 

A critical reader would examine the text and draw the conclusion that the town may be saving on municipal garbage fees for incurring recycling fees instead.  What would combat this assumption and make it clear to the reader that an increase in recycling will - in fact - save money would be to include the cost of recycling so that readers could see the financial benifit.  This could be linked to the fact presented about Hayesworth's cost decreasing.

 

The second assumption the writers makes is in relation to the advertising campaign that would encourage Masontown residents to recycle.  Would an advertising campaign be forceful enough to increase recycling in Masontown and what would such a campaign cost?  We can deduce from what is written that a major reason Hayesworth's garbage costs went down was because Hayesworth implemented a law that fined its citizens and forced them to recycle.  At this point it would strengthen the argument is the author argued for a fine instead of an advertising campaign or presented evidence as to the effectiveness of advertising campaigns focused on recycling.  The author's overall goal is to save money, thus he/she must show that an advertising campaign would be affordable and effective.

 

In conclusion, the author needs to present more information so the readers of Masontown see the value of the action taking in Hayesworth.  Masontown readers must see that money will be saved through taking on a recycling initiative.

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