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2.5: Finding the Reasons

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    Audio Version (October 2021):

    Once we know what the main point of the reading is, we can ask ourselves what reasons the author gives. We can go through our annotations to look at the other claims and see how some may be used as reasons for the main claim or as reasons for one of the reasons.

    We can write the claims in a map and use the arrows to show which claim works as a reason supporting which other claim. Each claim moves our mind from one idea to the next in the direction the writer wants it to go. The claim farthest to the right, the one that the others point toward, is the main point. Such maps might take a few different forms, such as these:

    Reason → Claim

    Reason A Reason B Claim

    Reason A Claim
    Reason B

    How can we tell where to put each claim on the map and where to point the arrows? It can help to remember that particular words and phrases in academic and professional writing basically act as arrows. They signal that one idea is supposed to lead to another. Here are some such phrases:

    • Because_____________, _____________.
    • Because of this, _____________.
    • If_____________, then _____________.
    • Since_____________, _____________.
    • For this reason,_____________.
    • We can conclude_____________.
    • Therefore, _____________.
    • So_____________.
    • Consequently, _____________.
    • As a result, _____________.
    • Hence_____________.
    • Thus_____________.
    • It follows that _____________.

    For example, in the above argument, “If_____________, then _____________.” connects two claims in the following sentence:

    “If most of us, under desperate circumstances, would cross the border without permission and feel no moral qualms about doing so, then we must recognize this crossing as an ethical, reasonable act.”

    We could write a short version of the first half of the sentence, put it in a box, and point it toward a short version of the second half:


    A sample reason points to a sample claim.
    Text description of claim and reason argument map


    The following sentence sets up another If_____________, then _____________ statement: “ If it is ethical and reasonable, then how can either a wall or a detention center be on the side of justice?”

    We could add this on thus:


    One reason points to another, which points to a claim.
    Text description of two reasons argument map


    If border walls and detention centers are unjust, there must be a need for an alternate approach. The next sentence claims, "We must find a policy that treats migrants as we would want to be treated--with empathy, respect, and offers of help." We can offer a short version of this sentence as the final implication.


    One reason points to another, which points to another reason, which points to a claim.
    Text description of three reasons argument map



    Practice Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    1. Choose an argument you are reading for class or one of our suggested readings. You may want to focus on a short excerpt of one or more paragraphs.
    2. Read your text closely and identify any reasons given to support the main claim and any reasons for those reasons. 
    3. Then map out the author's reasons as in the examples above. Describe each reason in your own words. You can handwrite your map or copy this Google Drawings template and insert the reasons. Later, you will add other elements of the argument to the map.

    2.5: Finding the Reasons is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills.