You’ll probably need to know how to analyze an argument properly at some point in your academic career. Here, tutor Andrew P. shares his guide to success…
If you’re a high school or college student or you’re studying for your GRE, you’ll probably be expected at some point to understand, restate, comment on, or discuss an author’s position assertion (strongly stated position).
In this guide, I will go over analyzing an argument example and give you step-by-step directions for successfully completing this task.
How Do We Analyze an Argument?
Learning these straightforward points and steps will help you understand how to analyze an argument in no time.
An argument is a reason(s) for a conclusion.
- He is dense (reason); therefore, I won’t talk with him (conclusion).
- I won’t talk with him (conclusion) because he is dense (reason).
When asked to analyze an argument, you need to explain how and why something works or does not work.
- My car will not start. I realize that I left the interior lights on overnight (“you stupid idiot”)—no analysis necessary.
- My car will not start. The battery is fairly new, and the engine started right up yesterday. So, I open the hood. As soon as I begin probing to search for the reason, I am analyzing (whether or not I find the answer).
How to Analyze an Argument in 4 Steps
To analyze an author’s argument, take it one step at a time:
- Briefly note the main assertion (what does the writer want me to believe or do?)
- Make a note of the first reason the author makes to support his/her conclusion
- Write down every other reason
- Underline the most important reason
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Let’s take a look at an analyze argument essay example with an analysis of the argument:
Part of my philosophy is that a life worth living involves taking reasonable risks, whatever that may mean to a person. Without that openness, responsiveness, a person sees very little possibility for change and can sink into a rut of routines.
I have known many who define themselves by their routines–and little else. These are the people an American educator spoke of when he said, “Many people should have written on their tombstones: ‘Died at 30, buried at 60.'” How sad! I think that one of the most horrible feelings a person must have is to be on the deathbed, regretting the many things never tried, and many things done that cannot be undone. I live my life to minimize possibilities of regrets, as I hope you do.
Did you ever see the Sandra Bullock movie 28 Days? She plays an alcoholic in a destructive relationship with a guy who wants only to have fun. A staff person at the clinic where she is sentenced to spend 28 days for rehab explained: “Insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting different results.” Maybe more people should watch that movie.
The world may not go out of its way to help you–the world does not owe us fairness–but the world is there with more possibilities than most of us imagine. If we are responsible to ourselves–and response-able, we can continue growing in directions that are good for us. We do not need to understand the future, which, after all, does not exist, has not yet been created.
Main assertion: Worthwhile life = taking reasonable risks
- Being open to possibilities vs rut of routines
- Dying with regrets for actions and inactions is horrible
- Repeating same behaviors will prevent change
- Ability to respond to new possibilities, including risks, results in growth
Want to improve your reading comprehension? Learn some strategies that really work.
Final Thoughts on Analyzing an Argument
You can now summarize the author’s position and, if required, agree or disagree in part or in whole, offering examples from your own experiences.
Complicated, huh? Yes, it is, until you practice and get used to developing such a reaction paper. A writing tutor can be very helpful in guiding you through this process of how to analyze an argument, step by step, until you feel confident working with this important college skill.
Andrew P. teaches English and writing in Milton, VT, as well as through online lessons. He taught English courses at colleges and universities in five states for 35 years before retiring in 2013. Learn more about Andrew here!
Photo by LOLItsLloyd