Chapter 3 How Do We Read Arguments

Reading Strategies

  • Have a clear, specific purpose in mind every time you read
  • You shouldn't read everything the same way
  • Repetition enhances memory (the more times you think about information or ideas, the better they stick)


  1. Before you read something, scan the table of contents, headings, tables, images, and key words so that you can formulate tentative answers to questions relating to the main ideas, intent of the author, and connection to the course you're taking.
  2. Skim quickly through the whole text


  1. If you encounter a confusing paragraph, stop and try to work out what the author is saying
  2. Take notes while reading
  3. Write down your reactions to the argument


  1. Stop reading and recall what you just read (repetition needs to happen in fairly quick succession after you first learn new material)
  2. Improve concentration by limiting distractions

Identifying the Controversy

  • Arguments are designed to resolve controversies.
Controversy Category Questions These Arguments Answer
Existence or fact Is it true? Did it happen?
Definition of interpretation Does this case fit the definition? How do we interpret this information?
Cause, consequence, or circumstance What caused this? Was it intentional? Are there extenuating circumstances?
Evaluation Is it right or wrong? Is it serious enough to warrant our attention?
Jurisdiction, procedure, policy, or action to be taken What, if anything, should we do about it?
Identifying and Interpreting a Scholarly Argument's Elements
Element Questions to Ask Yourself Places to Look
Catalyst What gap, problem, or unanswered question prompted the writer's attention? Why did this problem or question matter to this writer? The introduction
These or central claim What is the potentially controversial, overarching idea that requires support and directly responds to the catalysts? What is the title of the article? The title, introduction, and conclusion
Support What evidence, verification, and/or illustrations hold up the thesis? The body paragraphs
Linkage Where does the writer explicitly discuss the connection between a claim and support, in order to tie up any loose ends? Where does the writer correct potential misunderstandings that readers might have about the link between the claim and support? Near the end of all paragraphs and in the conclusion
Implications What are the consequences, effects, or larger significance of the argument (stated or implied)? Is there a call to action? The conclusion

Responding to Arguments

  • Summary, analysis, and evaluation enable you to dig deeper into understanding your sources in ways that can yield something fresh to say.
  • "Believing and Doubting Game"
  • Minding the gap means watching out for logical holes, missing examples, discrepancies, questions, etc.
  • Once you find a gap, you can mine it: dig deeper, excavate the argument, and search for new ideas "gold"
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