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In almost every college class, we are asked to read someone else’s writing, explain what that person is arguing, and point out the strengths and weaknesses of their argument. This chapter offers tools for figuring out the structure of an argument and describing it. In later chapters, we will talk about responding to arguments and analyzing how arguments play on emotion and gain the audience’s trust.
So when you are just trying to get the barebones ideas about something you have read straight, how do you go about it? An argument is a swarming cluster of words. How do you get to the heart of it?
In this chapter we look at how to take notes not just on the meaning of each part of the argument but also on its relation to the other parts. Then we use these notes to draw a visual map of an argument. In the map we see the argument's momentum as the reason points us toward the claim. We see how each element implies, supports, limits, or contradicts other elements. Thus, we begin to imagine where the argument is vulnerable and how it might be modified.
In Chapter 3, we’ll discuss how to use this logical map to write a summary, and in Chapter 4, we’ll see how to follow up the summary with our own opinions.