English & EAL

Analysing Argument - what, when, how, why method

Joanna Laymen

February 19, 2019

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Whether you’re analysing at one article or two, there are plenty of things you can write about. In this, we’ll look at the structure of articles, the placement of different arguments and rebuttals, and other things you can use to nail your essay!

There are four main parts of an article:

What: The arguments that support the contention

When: Their placement in the article

How: The language techniques used to support them

Why: The overall effect on the reader

Try to address all these elements of the article in your essay, as it’ll ensure you’re not leaving anything out.

WHAT: Arguments

The arguments an author uses can usually fall into one of three categories - ethos, pathos, or logos.

Ethos arguments are about credibility, for example, using quotes from credible sources or writing about a personal anecdote.

Pathos arguments target the emotion of the reader. Anything that might make them feel happy, angry, sad, distressed and more can be classified as this kind - for example, an argument about patriotism when discussing the date of Australia Day.

Logos arguments aim to address the intellectual aspects of the issue, and will often have statistics or logic backing them up.

It’s important to mention the different arguments used in the article and it can be useful to take note of the category you think they fit into best. It’s also helpful to mention the interplay between these elements.

WHEN: Structure

Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them.

Rebuttal:

If an author places their rebuttal at the beginning of the article, it can set up the audience to more readily accept their following opinions, and separates them from contrasting views from the get go. You can see this in the 2013 VCAA exam, where the author argues against opposing views early on in their article. In it, the author references the opposition directly as they say ‘some people who objected to the proposed garden seem to think that the idea comes from a radical group of environmentalists’, and rebut this point by proposing that ‘there’s nothing extreme about us’.

The placement of a rebuttal towards the end of the article can have the effect of the author confirming that their opinion is correct by demonstrating why opposing opinions are not, and can give a sense of finality to the article. It’s sometimes used when the author’s contention is a little controversial, as it’s less aggressive than a rebuttal placed at the beginning.

In some articles, the author won’t include a straightforward rebuttal at all. This can imply that their opinion, and theirs alone, is correct and must be supported - as it’s the only opinion that exists. Check out the 2018 VCAA exam for an example of this kind of article.

Contention:

An author’s contention is the main claim they’re trying to prove throughout their article.

Placing their contention at the beginning is the most direct method, and has the effect of positioning the reader to the author’s beliefs from the outset.

A contention placed at the end of an article can have the effect of seeming like a valid, logical conclusion to a well-thought through discussion. To see this in effect, you can look at the 2014 VCAA exam, where the article leads up to the author’s final contention that the governments needs to ‘invest in the next generation of technology’.

The contention can also be repeated throughout the article. The author may have chosen to present it in this way in order to continue reiterating their main point in the audience’s minds, aligning them to their views. An article that uses this technique is on the 2016 VCAA exam, as the author repeats multiple times that a ‘giant attraction’ must be built to encourage visitors and put the town ‘on the tourist map’.


Arguments:

The different ways an author orders their arguments is also something worth analysing.

A ‘weaker’ point might be one that the author doesn’t spend much time discussing, or that isn’t backed up with a lot of evidence. In comparison, a ‘stronger’ argument will generally have supporting statistics or quotes, and may be discussed in detail by the author.

If an author starts with their strongest point and ends with their weakest, they may be attempting to sway the reader’s opinions to align with their own from the beginning so that the audience is more likely to accept their weaker points later on. Take a look at the 2017 VCAA exam to see this kind of technique, as the author’s arguments - that ‘superfluous packaging’ will cause irreversible environmental damage, that the changes they want to implement are easy, and that students should prepare their own snacks rather than have takeaway - get less developed as the article continues.

On the other hand, ending with their strongest point can give the piece a sense of completion, and leave the reader with the overall impression that the article was strong and persuasive.

HOW: Language

This refers to the different persuasive language techniques used in the article and their effect on the reader.

The main thing to remember is that the study design has changed from Language Analysis to Analysing Argument. This means you’ll need to focus on the language in relation to the argument - such as how it supports the author’s contention - rather than on the language itself.

If you’re after some more resources, you can look at some Quick Tips or .


WHY: Effect

There are many different ways you can describe what the author is trying to do through their article, but they all come down to one thing - persuasion, that is, the writer of the article is trying to get their audience to agree with them. Linking different arguments, their placement and the language that supports them to the overall authorial intent of the article is a great way to enhance your essay.

For some more information on this area, check out this blog post!

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