Evaluating an argument

Do you want to evaluate the effectiveness of a writer's argument and how language shapes meaning? Consider what position you are taking in your analysis.

YES/DEFEND (Very Effective)

Even if you agree, you are still evaluating his argument. You have to construct a defense of his opinion. You need to examine his argument and his evidence closely, pointing out specific elements that establish credibility and validity to his argument.

Cite the reasons why the argument is valid or has merit.

  1. Strong, substantial evidence is used with accurately documented results and research

  2. Clearly organized showing a depth of knowledge on the subject

  3. Use of rhetorical strategies and language

Guiding Questions

What specific ideas do you see as logically sound? What specific point or points of this argument do you find valuable or convincing?

Sentence Stems for YES/DEFENDING:

  • Gladwell provides a convincing argument because __________________.

  • The evidence of Gladwell proves his point by ______________.

  • Few readers will argue with Gladwell’s theory that _________ because of ___________.

  • Gladwell argues that _________, and he is correct because _____________. However, when he later states _________, he misses an important point that _________.

  • Gladwell is insightful in that he illustrates _______ and supports his argument with ________.

MAYBE/QUALIFY (Partially Effective)

Guiding Questions

With which specific points do you agree, and with which do you disagree? What evidence could the author interject that would convince you fully? Which elements of the argument seem valid and what elements seem invalid?

Cite the reasons why the argument is uncertain regarding the author’s perspective.

  • Convincing argument presented but the writer needs to cite more evidence to support it

  • Interesting argument presented but the validity and credibility of the evidence cited remains in question

  • Inadequate documentation of results or evidence

  • Central thesis with interesting points but much of the work is confusing and difficult to understand or follow

  • Argument is oversimplified or overgeneralized.

Sentence Stems for MAYBE/QUALIFY:

  • Gladwell’s findings of __________ are accurate; however, his presentation of ________ is not because ________.

  • Though Gladwell makes an excellent point that ___________, his evidence on _________ lacks credibility because of __________.

  • Though Gladwell makes a noteworthy point that ___________, his evidence on _________ lacks logical reasoning because of __________.

  • Gladwell’s argument of _________ stands up to scrutiny as he rightly points out that _________________. However, later on, he states, “XXX,” which illustrates that he fails to consider __________-.

  • Gladwell’s point may be valid; however, he neglects to consider _________.

  • Gladwell’s point may be valid; however, he fails to _________.

  • Although Gladwell rightly points out _______, his overall argument of ______ fails to convince because ______-

  • Gladwell’s argument about ________, though interesting, remains unconvincing overall because he neglects to address _________.

  • While _________ was insightful, the discussion seems to veer off topic because of _______.

  • Although Gladwell had a valid point about _______, he lost credibility when he discusses _________.

  • It is difficult to take a clear stand on Gladwell’s work because __________-.

NO/CHALLENGE (Not very effective)

Guiding Questions

What doesn’t make sense to you and seems erroneous? Is their an idea or argument that you think lacks merit or validity? What specific elements of the argument do you find flawed? What evidence lacks credibility or reasoning?

Cite the reasons why the argument flawed:

  • Failure to present a convincing argument

  • Weak, insubstantial evidence to support the argument

  • Lack of or inaccurate documentation of the results

  • Lack of or inaccurate citation of sources

  • Lack of central thesis

  • Poorly written work that fails to illustrate the depth of knowledge on the subject

  • Unclear, confusing language throughout the work

Sentence Stems for NO/CHALLENGE:

  • The argument Gladwell presents fails logically because ___________.

  • Gladwell’s argument remains unconvincingly because _____________.

  • The evidence Gladwell presents lacks credibility because _________.

  • Gladwell first argues ________; however, he then argues ___________. This contradiction shows his thinking on _________ is erroneous or flawed because of ____________-.

  • Gladwell’s argument cannot be trusted as he vacillates on the issue of ___________. He first states, “XXX,” but later, he states, “XXX.”

  • Gladwell attempts to argue ___________, but in fact __________ has been widely discussed by _____, _______, and _______.

  • What Gladwell neglected to examine is ________.

  • What Gladwell fails to discuss is the more important issue of _______.


Your thinking comes through more clearly through paraphrasing and using in-text citations. Readers want to see your words to see your understanding, than by using a lot of quotes.

Guiding Question

What is the main person’s point? What are some specific ways he supports that point?

What to paraphrase:

  • Referring to an overall point or assertion of a text

  • When referring to a specific event in the text

  • Details or examples

  • When summary is sufficient


Only quote what you can explain and defend. Always have a reason for why you chose a particular quote to cite. All quotes must directly and clearly relate back to your claim. You must explain the significance of the quote.

Guiding Question

How relevant is the quote in supporting my specific point in this paragraph?

What to quote:

  • Language that is particularly eloquent or significant

  • When specific phrasing matters

Sentence starters for elaborating

  • The author’s claim asserts _______ in order to _________.

  • ______ shows how ___________.

  • _____ makes the point that ___________.

  • According to _____, ________ makes logical sense since _________.

  • Based on the claim that ________, then __________.

The author states that _________ in order to __________.

Language: How does the author's language shape meaning?


How does the author appeal to the audience?


How does the author use strong, connotative language that incites a reaction making an emotional appeal (pathos)?


How does the author use a logical appeal (logos) through facts, statistics, examples, organizational strategies, etc?


How does the author create an ethical appeal (ethos)through his or her experience and credibility in order to gain the trust of the audience?


How is the piece ordered e.g. compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution, analogies, narrative, description, etc? What rhetorical tropes and schemes are used such as extended metaphor, hyperbole, anecdotes, examples, antithesis, anaphora, litotes, analogy, symbolism, irony, paradox, rhetorical questions, etc? How would you describe the word choice and its effect to convey the message?

Types of Evidence

  1. Analogical Evidence

    1. How does the author compare two things that are similar in order to show the reader parallels and make a point to support his/her argument? What is persuasive or enlightening about using analogies to support an argument?

    2. How can the use of an analogy draw an insightful connection between a well known phenomenon to a less known phenomenon?

  2. Anecdotal Evidence

    1. How does the author use anecdotes to tell a story in order to prove a point?

    2. How does the author’s storytelling of anecdotes coupled with statistical or testimonial effective help build an argument?

  3. Observations

    1. How does the author use his or her own observations to form conclusions and support his/her argument?

  4. Statistics

    1. How does the author use numbers and percentages from verified sources to support his claim using reasoning? How do these statistics lend credibility to his/her argument?

    2. Are the statistics being dramatized or manipulated for a specific effect?

    3. How valid are the statistics in supporting the argument?

  5. Quotes or Testimonials

    1. How does the author use quotes from leading experts and authorities in order to support his/her position?

  6. Facts

    1. Are there facts that can't be disputed and can be accepted as true? How do these facts help support the argument?

Organizational Strategies

When analyzing an author’s style for a non-literary text such as an editrial, determine what organizational patterns he or she uses:

  • Exemplification: specific examples, brief

  • Illustration: examples in more detail

  • Description: concrete, sensory diction

  • Narration: use of stories e.g. anecdotes

  • Cause/effect: clear reason/result

  • Compare/contrast: similarities/differences

  • Process: how to do something...

  • Classification: how something is classified e.g. science

  • Extended definition: how to define an abstract concept e.g. patriotism, democracy, love, faith, etc.

Rhetorical tropes

    • How do rhetorical tropes and schemes affect how the text is read?

      • Rhetorical tropes

        • Hyperbole, analogy, metaphor, rhetorical questions, irony, symbolism

Rhetorical schemes

Syntactical devices

        • Repetition, anaphora, antithesis

See a more extensive list at https://www.mrsmacfarland.com/dp-curriculum/literary-terms

Word Choice


  1. FORMAL: elevated, learned, pretentious, ornate, flowery, archaic, scholarly, pedantic, elegant, dignified, impersonal, elaborate, sophisticated, formal, cultured, poetic, abstract, esoteric (hard to understand), colorful, eloquent, euphonious

  2. INFORMAL: candid, detached, plain, simple, straightforward, informal, conversational, concrete

  3. COLLOQUIAL: abrupt, terse, laconic, simple, rustic, vulgar, slang, jargon, dialect, simple


  1. Denotative language: authentic, actual, apparent, literal, journalistic, straightforward, concrete, precise

  2. Connotative language: poetic, lyrical, symbolic, metaphoric, sensuous, grotesque, picturesque, abstract, whimsical, euphemistic, figurative, obscure, allegorical, suggestive, idyllic, emotive


  1. POSITIVE TONES: cheerful, eager, lighthearted, hopeful, exuberant, enthusiastic, complimentary, confident, cheery, trusting, optimistic, loving, passionate, amused, elated, sympathetic, compassionate, proud, wistful, longing, romantic, humorous

  2. NEGATIVE TONES: bitter, angry, outraged, accusing, incensed, turbulent, furious, wrathful, inflammatory, irritated, disgusted, indignant, irate, caustic, condescending, cynical, pompous, satiric, critical, grotesque, melancholic, mournful, apprehensive

  3. NEUTRAL TONES: objective, nostalgic, candid, restrained, detached, instructive, learned, factual, informative, authoritative, disinterested, judicial, impartial, frank, aloof, calm, imploring