How to analyze an argument (Halpern, 1996):
Definition of argument: One or more
statements that support a conclusion. The
statements are called reasons or premises.
1. Make sure it IS an argument--needs to have
premises and a stated or implied conclusion.
2. Diagram the argument, identifying premises
and their relationship to the conclusion(s),
plus any counterarguments, qualifiers, and
Counterarguments are statements that refute
the conclusionthe author favors.
Qualifiers indicate restrictions on the
conclusion--conditions under which the
conclusion is or is not supported.
Assumptions are statements (may be stated or
implied) for which no support is offered.
Multiple Premises may be arranged in a
convergent or a chained structure. If chained,
premises support other premises. Weak links
undermine the whole chain.
3. Evaluate whether the premises are acceptable
(seem to be true),consistent with one another,
and relevant to the conclusion.
4. If premises appeal to authority or experts,
evaluate the credibility of these experts. Are
they biased? Expert in the field? Evaluate the
credibility of any evidence (such as research
results) that is presented.
5. Ask: What is missing? What counterarguments have not been considered?