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If we are uncertain about the argument we are responding to, we can still add to the conversation by pinpointing what makes us uncertain. What is it we need to know in order to form our opinion of the argument? Does the writer need to clarify what they mean? Or do we need more information that could come out of research or new studies?
Call for clarification
If one of the problems is vagueness or ambiguity, we probably want to call for greater clarity. We can suggest that the writer specify what they mean by a particular word or phrase. Or we may want to ask that they explain a murky point further.
We can call for clarification with phrases like the following:
- X should specify whether they mean _____________ or _____________.
- X should explain what they mean by _____________.
- X should elaborate on the concept of _____________.
Call for additional support or study
The process of analyzing the argument will often lead us to see what it is that we do not know. It may expose areas of uncertainty or contradiction that are intriguing. If we have called into question a reason or an assumption, we may want to recommend further research or support. Perhaps we are not ready to accept something without more evidence. In that case, we might describe the kind of study or investigative journalism that could uncover a reason.
If we have thought of exceptions, then maybe the reason needs more support to show that the exceptions are not common. For example, we might suggest that the writer should present some statistical evidence, like a survey, to show what the norm is, rather than just a few examples. The following sample sentence summarizes and assesses an argument and then moves on to recommend additional support:
While Swigart is right that porous borders pose a security risk and that illegal immigration challenges the rule of law, her argument would have been strengthened if she had added statistics linking gang violence to human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border.
We can call for support and research with phrases like the following:
- Further research on _____________ could show us _____________.
- A study of _____________ might show whether _____________.
- Is it really the case that _____________? We need more information about _____________.
- An investigation of _____________ could help us determine the role of _____________ in _____________.
Choose an argument about immigration that you think needs further development, such as “The Weight of the World” by Saramanda Swigart, “Wouldn’t We All Cross the Border” by Anna Mills, or another of your choosing. Write down a call for clarification, additional support, or further study. Consider using a phrase suggested in this section.