Find a recent (within the past three years) news article, news clip or short video that focuses on poverty in the US. State the argument is the news item is making. You’re not being asked to make an argument of your own here. Your assignment is to analyze an argument put forth by the news item you found. In order to do this, you must pay close attention to the “what” and the “how” dimensions of the argument you have chosen. “What” in this sense means the content of the argument you have chosen—what the author claims, what is the argument about. “How” means the moves, strategies and techniques of persuasion deployed in the argument—how it works, how it is constructed, how it functions rhetorically. In your paper, you should do the following four things: 1. Briefly summarize the argument. (Put the “what” in a nutshell.) 2. Describe the manner in which the argument is put forth. (Trace out the “how.”) 3. Analyze the argument. (Examine the reasoning and rhetoric closely.) 4. Evaluate the argument. (Point out its strongest and weakest feature; suggest a next step.)
Further Suggestions Regarding items 2-4 in the Argument Analysis assignment (see above), you might want to consider some of the following questions. However, keep in mind that these are suggestions. You are not required to address all such questions listed below. (In fact, if you tried to do that, your paper would be much too long.) The questions listed below are simply meant to help you focus your thinking. Look for a question or questions that seem most appropriate for your particular analysis and make that a point of emphasis. 5. Describe the manner in which the argument is put forth. (Trace out the “how”.) What types of evidence are emphasized—inductive, deductive, anecdotal, analogical? Do appeals to emotion play a prominent role? What sort of audience does the author seem to have in mind? What seems to have necessitated the argument’s presentation? 6. Analyze the argument. (Examine the reasoning and rhetoric closely.) If there are deductions involved, how do they work? If there is inductive reasoning involved, is it in tune with proper procedures? (I.e., How solid are any probabilities? What of any samples or experimental procedures? What of empirically derived information or witness testimony?) Are there underlying assumptions involved? If so, what are they and how do they stand up to scrutiny? Are fallacies or propaganda techniques being used? 7. Evaluate the argument. (Explain strongest and weakest features; suggest a next step.) Do any perceptual filters significantly affect the author’s thinking? What is the argument’s strongest feature? What is the argument’s weakest feature? What is one further thing that might be done to improve the argument or help resolve a troubling issue raised in the argument?
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