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Analysing an argument

There are two parts to the argument analysis: argument mapping and identifying and critiquing the assumptions.

The examples are from:

Rush, E 2006, ‘Skip dipping in Australia’, The Australia Institute Webpaper, February 1, viewed 11 October 2011, Weblink.

1. Argument mapping

Identify the argument and main claims

  • Read the introduction and conclusion again.
  • List the claims in your own words.

Identify the evidence

  • Is there evidence to support each claim?
  • What kind of evidence? (e.g. statistics, research, anecdote)
  • What evidence is most relied upon?

Identify assumptions

Assumptions are implied NOT stated.

Argument mapping process

Ask the following questions:

Identify main argument

What is the main argument of the article?

Identify claims

What are the supporting claims of this argument?

Evidence

What evidence is there for these claims?

Identify assumptions

What assumptions (beliefs) are they based on?

 

Example

Write notes to map the features of the argument.

Main argument Evidence (for claims) Assumptions

The main argument is...

Claims that support the main argument are...

What evidence is there for the claims?
What sources are used?
What assumptions or beliefs are they based on?
Does the author make any generalisations?
Claim 1: Skip dipping in Australia is ...................

Claims - support main argument

Claim 1: Skip dippers are motivated by ethical rather than financial concerns.

What sources are used?

1.Interviewees for this study and their friends (i.e. anecdotal evidence).

2.Information from a specific website.

What assumptions or beliefs are they based on?

  • Political motivation makes taking other people’s rubbish socially acceptable.
  • If something is politically motivated it is therefore good.
  • Skip dippers are therefore ‘principled’ and ‘ethical’.
  • Does the author make any generalisations?

  • Skip dipping can be seen a political movement.
  • 2. Identifying assumptions

    Iceberg metaphor: 
         - Claims are the tip of the iceberg 
         - Assumptions are base under water.

    Note: assumptions are NOT explicitly stated.

    Ask questions about the text

    Example 1: What is the main claim?

    A small but growing group of well-educated urban dwellers, often in well-paying jobs, is … engaging in ‘skip dipping’....They talk about this practice as a personal and political response to the … waste each year in Australia… These conscientious objectors to consumerism represent a growing informal movement across the industrialised world (Rush 2006, p. 1).

    Argument Summary

    Skip dipping is a growing global trend that can be politically motivated rather than motivated by need (or greed).

     

    Example 2: Locating assumptions

    Our interviews were confined to people who skip dip at least partly as a principled response to the mountains of waste produced in affluent societies (Rush 2006, p. 6).

    Our research shows that, contrary to stereotypes of skip dipping as an activity confined to those who are young and poor, skip dippers are found across a wide range of age groups, and include many people who are also professionally employed... our research also suggests that many of those who practise it (skip dipping) are motivated by genuine ethical concern... (Rush 2006, p. 13).

    Who was surveyed? Why?

    Why were these others excluded?

    What does this suggest:

    • about the people interviewed?
    • about the people not interviewed?

     

    Example 3: Locating assumptions

    The study ‘excludes people who skip dip solely on the basis of physical need.. (Rush 2006, p. 6).

    For most of the skip dippers, their practice had both personal and political dimensions... an objection to the overconsumption and waste of affluent societies, usually coupled with a clear awareness of the ecological and social consequences of such overconsumption and waste (Rush 2006, p. 9).

    Why does the author exclude this group?

     

    Why does the author specifically include this group?

     

    Activity: Locating an assumption

    1. Click on the assumption in the list below

    Our interviews were confined to people who skip dip at least partly as a principled response to the mountains of waste produced in affluent societies (Rush 2006, p. 6).

    Select the correct Answer

    Affluent societies produce waste.

    WRONG: This is not an assumption as it is stated.

    Waste is bad.

    CORRECT! This is an assumption.

     

     

    2. Locate the assumption in the paragraph and click on the answer in the list below

    Our research shows that, contrary to stereotypes of skip dipping as an activity confined to those who are young and poor, skip dippers are found across a wide range of age groups, and include many people who are also professionally employed.… our research also suggests that many of those who practise it (skip dipping) are motivated by genuine ethical concern …. (Rush 2006, p. 13).

    Select the correct Answer

    Skip dippers come from a range of backgrounds.

    WRONG: This is not an assumption as it is stated

    The young and poor are unlikely to be motivated by ethical concerns.

    CORRECT! This is an assumption

    Skip dippers from professional backgrounds are ethically motivated.

    WRONG: This is not an assumption as it is stated

     

    Examples of assumptions in this article

    Some underlying assumptions in this article (beliefs and values);
   - Political motivation makes taking other people's rubbish socially acceptable, 
   - Skip dippers are 'principled' and 'ethical', 
   - If something is politically motivated it is therefore good, 
   - Consumerism is wasteful, 
   - Waste is bad, 
   - The young and poor may not be 'principled' and 'ethical', 
   - It is acceptable to take things for political reasons without needing them, 
   - This small select group of interviewees represents all skip dippers in Australia, 
   - Taking out other people's rubbish without political motivation could be viewed as greedy and shameful.