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Here are some questions to consider each in relation to the argument you are analyzing. Unless your teacher specifically asks you to cover all of these questions, you will eventually want to pick and choose what you discuss in your argument analysis essay. (The essay would likely read like a list rather than a cohesive group of connected paragraphs if you did include everything.) However, it will probably help you to consider each of these before you start your rough draft to see what might be most important or interesting to focus on in your analysis.
Analyzing the Ideas
Chapter 2: Reading to Figure out the Argument describes how to map out the core ideas in the argument you are analyzing in order to write a clear summary as part of your analysis. Here are some specific questions to brainstorm on:
- What are the key claims?
- What are the reasons given for each of these key claims?
- Are the reasons ideas that are generally agreed upon, or do any of these reasons need additional support?
- What kind of evidence does the writer provide, and how convincing is it?
- Does the reader make assumptions that should be questioned or supported?
- What limits does the writer place on the key claims?
- Can we imagine exceptions or limits that the writer has not noted?
- What counterarguments, if any, does the writer refer to?
- Does the writer describe any counterarguments fairly?
- Does the writer miss any important counterarguments?
- How does the writer respond to any counterarguments mentioned?
- Are the responses convincing? Why or why not?
- Are there any places where the writer's meaning is unclear?
- Are there any fallacies or problems with the logic?
Analyzing the Emotional Appeals
Chapter 8: How Arguments Appeal to Emotion describes what to look for. Here are some specific questions:
- How would you describe the tone of the argument? Does the argument change tone at any point, and if so, why?
- How does the argument establish a sense that it is important, urgent, relevant or somehow worth reading?
- Does the argument choose words with particular emotional connotations to further the argument?
- Does the argument use powerful examples to affect readers' emotions?
- Does the argument appeal to readers’ self-interest?
- Does the argument appeal to the readers’ sense of identity?
- Will different groups of readers likely respond to the argument in different ways?
Analyzing Appeals to Trust and Connection
Chapter 9: How Arguments Establish Trust and Connection describes the many ways an argument might do this. Here are some questions to brainstorm on:
- What makes the writer qualified to make the argument?
- Does the writer have credentials or professional training which make them an authority?
- Does the writer point to relevant personal experience?
- How does the writer show goodwill and respect toward readers?
- How does the writer attempt to convince us of their good moral character?
- Does the argument appeal to any particular shared values to establish trust?
- How does the writer try to create the impression that they are reasonable?
- Do they succeed in appearing reasonable?
- How does the argument seem to imagine the relationship between writer and reader?
- Does the writer take a more formal or informal approach to creating trust?
- To what extent does the argument depend on a shared sense of identity for trust?
- Does the argument attempt to undermine trust in an opposing group?
- What point of view ("I," "we," "you," or an impersonal point of view) does the writer use most frequently?
- How does this point of view affect the reader?
- When does the writer switch to a different point of view, and why?