Essay topics: GMAT essay Lesson 3- Analysis of Argument (I)
What is an Argument?
A strong argument attempts to persuade the reader to accept a point of view. As such, it consists of a proposition, a declarative statement which is capable of being argued, and a proof, a
reason or ground which is supported by evidence. The evidence, in turn, is composed of relevant facts, opinions based on facts and careful reasoning. If you are analyzing an argument, you should
look for both of these: a proposition and the evidence supporting the proposition.
In the same way that an analysis of issue essay must start with a thesis, so also an essay that analyzes an argument must start with a topic sentence which provides for the analysis of a
proposition. Every argument should have a proposition, and the identification of this proposition is crucial to the writing of an analysis of an argument. For instance, the following could appear in the analytical writing section of the GMAT:
The two clauses beginning with since provide evidence in support of the proposition. In turn, the proposition itself is framed by the second sentence.
Since the world population will double to 11 billion people by the middle of the 21st century and since food production will not show a corresponding increase, efforts should be made to limit population growth. Governments must institute population
control policies to insure an adequate food supply for future generations.
One aspect of argumentation that needs special attention is the use of terms. In an argument, all of the terms should be clear and well-defined. If the terms are unclear, proof is likely to be
impossible, creating a weak argument. One type of weak term is the emotionally loaded term. Terms such as "socialized medicine" evoke emotional responses and, thus, obscure the argument.
Thus, anyone who writes an analysis of an argument should examine the terms used and be sure that the writer avoids emotive, subjective terms. To the extent of your ability, make sure that the writer defines terms clearly and objectively.
In addition, the people who write and grade the analysis of an argument section for the GMAT expect the following:
i) They want an essay that analyzes the several aspects of the argument with critical insight.
ii) They want a cogently developed essay that is logical.
iii) They want a coherent essay with well-chosen transitional devices.
iv) They also expect an essay that uses varied sentence structure and vocabulary.
v) They expect an essay that is free of mechanical errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization,grammar and errors in the use of standard written English.
As in the case of the analysis of the issue, the topic sentence must contain the germ of the idea that permeates the entire paragraph. Each example or illustration must be connected to that
idea with transitional markers such as for example, furthermore, therefore, thus or moreover.
ASSUMPTION HUNT: On Analysis of Issue questions you try to answer grand issues such as "Should China be in the WTO", or "Should parents have vouchers to send children to the school of their choice". The questions are different than Analysis of Argument, where you look for badly flawed reasoning. The difference between Analysis of Issue and Analysis of Argument is that reasonable people could differ on Analysis of Issue, but no reasonable person would absolutely support something in an Analysis of Argument question. When you are doing Analysis of Argument questions, look for reasoning fallacies.
In the first part of the Analysis of Argument topic, the writer tries to persuade you of their conclusion by referring to evidence. When you read the "arguments" in these questions, be on the
lookout for assumptions and poor logical reasoning used to make a conclusion.
The Question Stem
Question stems will ask you to decide how convincing you find the argument. You will be asked to explain why an argument is not convincing, and discuss what might improve the argument. For this task, you'll need to: first, analyze the argument itself and evaluate its use of evidence; second, explain how a different approach or more information would make the argument itself better (or possibly worse).
A question stem might look like this:
In many countries, including the USA, the postal service is a quasi-governmental organization whose primary mission is to deliver mail to individuals within the borders of the country. Since, it is argued, mail delivery to rural addresses where the population is sparse cannot be done economically under any acceptable circumstance; the postal service is given a monopoly on mail delivery. Actually, however, mail delivery could be done economically by private corporations as long as each corporation were given a monopoly to service any given area where sparsely populated areas were balanced against densely populated areas.
How would you address this argument?
1) Explain how logically persuasive you find this argument... analyze the argument's line of reasoning and use of evidence.
Translation: You should critique the argument. Discuss whether you think it's convincing or not and explain why.
2) Explain what, if anything, would make the argument more valid and convincing or help you to better evaluate its conclusion.
Translation: Spot weak links in the argument and offer changes that would strengthen them.
Attack the Argument
Each argument's stimulus has been intentionally "loaded" with flaws (fallacies) that you should acknowledge and discuss. If you fail to see the more fundamental problems in the argument, you will not get a high score.
The purpose of the essay is for you to critique the reasoning in the argument (the stimulus will tell you to make this evaluation). Your personal opinions are not relevant. Your essay needs to
focus on flaws in the argument. While in the Analysis of Issue you write your opinion on a subject, in the Analysis of Argument you write a logical critique of a flawed argument. Thus, the
approaches to the two essays should be different.
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