Analysis of an Argument

An argument is written by author to persuade the reader to accept a point of view. Broadly it consists of a proposition and a proof.. The proposition is a declarative statement which is capable of being argued. The proof is supported by evidence, which, in turn, is composed of relevant facts, opinions based on facts and careful reasoning. The identification of the proposition and proof is crucial to the writing of an analysis of an argument.

IT’S NOT A HEATED DEBATE!

GMAT gives you a list of all Issue and Arguments topic which they ask. You can download them here. Let’s see what it looks like :

ARGUMENT: “Over time, the costs of processing go down because as organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient. In color film processing, for example, the cost of a 3-by-5-inch print fell from 50 cents for five-day service in 1970 to 20 cents for one-day service in 1984. The same principle applies to the processing of food. And since Olympic Foods will soon celebrate its 25th birthday, we can expect that our long experience will enable us to minimize costs and thus maximize profits.”

QUESTION STEM: Discuss how well-reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

Before we see what a good response to this question should look like, we must know what is expected from you.

  1. An essay which analyzes several aspects of the argument with critical insight.
  2. Logical flow of ideas and each paragraph connected to the main argument.
  3. An essay with well-chosen transitional devices and markers such as for example, furthermore, therefore, thus or moreover.
  4. An essay that uses varied sentence structure and vocabulary.
  5. They expect an essay that is free of spelling, punctuation, capitalization & grammatical errors.

UNDERSTAND – 1 MINUTE

Read the question carefully and make sure you understand exactly what you need to do.

ATTACK THE ARGUMENT – 5 MINUTES

Pick out flaws in the argument by identifying its weaknesses:

  • What is the argument’s conclusion?
  • What is the basis of the author’s conclusion?
  • Do you find the argument persuasive? What makes it persuasive or not persuasive?
  • What could be done to strengthen the argument?
  • What assumptions does the argument rely upon? (there should be several)

STRUCTURE & ORGANIZATION – 2 MINUTES

If you can straight away do this on the screen, that’d be great. Otherwise you can do it on the scratch pad.

  • Make each heading correspond to a paragraph.
  • Make sure that there are at least five paragraphs.
  • Make sure that each heading corresponds to a topic sentence.
  • Be sure that there is a beginning and ending paragraph, which tie the essay together.

TYPE! – 20 MINUTES

Introductory Paragraph (2-4 sentences)

  • Briefly restate the argument.
  • Briefly trace the argument’s line of reasoning.
  • Indicate the extent to which the argument is logically convincing.
  • If possible, sum up your arguments in one sentence (or two brief sentences).

First Body Paragraph (3-5 sentences)

  • Critique one of the reasoning / premise / assumptions of the argument


Second Body Paragraph (3-4 sentences)

  • Same as above

Third (and optional Fourth) Body Paragraph

  • Same as above

Final Paragraph (2-3 sentences)

  • Summarize your critique of the argument

REVIEW – 2 MINUTES

Check for spelling and grammar errors. Make sure you are happy with the essay.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Watch your time. Make sure that you will be able to finish it on time. Finishing is of prime importance. Keep looking at the clock once in a while.
  • Avoid extreme opinions.

SAMPLE RESPONSE

Citing facts drawn from the color-film processing industry that indicate a downward trend in the costs of film processing over a 24-year period, the author argues that Olympic Foods will likewise be able to minimize costs and thus maximize profits in the future. In support of this conclusion the author cites the general principle that “as organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient.” This principle, coupled with the fact that Olympic Foods has had 25 years of experience in the food processing industry leads to the author’s rosy prediction. This argument is unconvincing because it suffers from two critical flaws.

First, the author’s forecast of minimal costs and maximum profits rests on the gratuitous assumption that Olympic Foods’ “long experience” has taught it how to do things better. There is, however, no guarantee that this is the case. Nor does the author cite any evidence to support this assumption. Just as likely, Olympic Foods has learned nothing from its 25 years in the food-processing business. Lacking this assumption, the expectation of increased efficiency is entirely unfounded.

Second, it is highly doubtful that the facts drawn from the color-film processing industry are applicable to the food processing industry. Differences between the two industries clearly outweigh the similarities, thus making the analogy highly less than valid. For example, problems of spoilage, contamination, and timely transportation all affect the food industry but are virtually absent in the film-processing industry. Problems such as these might present insurmountable obstacles that prevent lowering food-processing costs in the future.

As it stands the author’s argument is not compelling. To strengthen the conclusion that Olympic Foods will enjoy minimal costs and maximum profits in the future, the author would have to provide evidence that the company has learned how to do things better as a result of its 25 years of experience. Supporting examples drawn from industries more similar to the food-processing industry would further substantiate the author’s view.

GMATing Top Picks!

1 Comment

  1. My mother is a huge music fan and introduced me to a huge selection of
    music ranging from the 1920s onwards, including jazz
    (Peggy Lee, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald etc).
    You will need either a credit card or a Pay Pal account.
    The Eagles released its representative work Take It Easy
    in the summer of 1972 and the album soon swept the whole
    American country.

Say something!