104 Argument Analysis

Due Tuesday, February 17, in class.

Step One:

Find an article which contains an argument.  The simplest way to do this is to browse the opinion section of any major newspaper.  Letters to the editor are often arguments as well.  Be sure that the argument that you select is a good fir to the requirements of the assignment.  Be warned that very bad arguments, or very badly written arguments are more difficult to analyze than arguments that are well-formed.

Step Two:

Write your analysis in the following way:

  1. Isolate the MAIN argument of the article.  Beware: there are often several arguments in one article.
  2. Put that argument into standard form, filling in any unstated premises. (You will be evaluated on the following criteria: The standard form argument should be straightforward, should be faithful to the author’s intent, should include necessary unstated premises, should not include unnecessary premises; should include only premises, and not support for premises.)
  3. Discuss what kind of support the author provides for their premises, and whether that support is adequate for the author’s purpose.  Clarify key terms if required.
  4. Identify what use the author makes of Assuring, Guarding, and Discounting terms, and how such usages are important to the presentation and/or support of the argument. If any uses of the above are abusive or illegitimate, explain the impact that this has on the effectiveness of the argument’s presentation.
  5. Mention use of evaluative language in the premises and/or conclusion of the standard form argument and how the presence of those terms affects the argument. Hint: virtually all arguments contain at least one crucially important evaluative term. Watch closely for this and be prepared to discuss what standards are either stated or implied for this term.


  • Start on this assignment soon so that you may have time to ask questions about it in class.
  • Use the textbook as a guide.  It provides several excellent examples of how to do this kind of work. (See specifically Chapters 4 and 5)


For scoring purposes I will place equal value on each of the aspects of the assignment (reflected in the numbered list above).  Of most importance to me is clarity in communicating that you have learned how to effectively identify and isolate an argument encountered in daily life and understand the functions of language that often accompanies that argumentation.

Word Max: 1000 words.