Analyzing the Logic of an Article, Essay, or Chapter
The following exercise comes from The Thinker's Guide to Analytic Thinking by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul. While this assignment focuses on analyzing a reading, different disciplines can alter the assignment to have students analyze a problem, prompt, or other discipline-related assignment.
One important way to understand an essay, article, or chapter is through the analysis of the parts of the author's reasoning using intellectual standards (see Paul and Elder elements). Here is a template to follow:
- The main purpose of this article is______________________.
(Here you are trying to state, as accurately as possible, the author's intent in writing the article. What was the author trying to accomplish?)
- The key question that the author is addressing is ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________________.
(Your goal is to figure out the key question that was in the mind of the author when he/she wrote the article. What was the key question addressed in the article?)
- The most important information in this article is ____________________.
(You want to identify the key information the author used, or presupposed, in the article to support his/her main arguments. Here you are looking for facts, experiences, and/or data the author is using to support his/her conclusions.)
- The main inferences in this article are ________________________.
(You want to identify the most important conclusions the author comes to and presents in the article.)
- The key concept(s) we need to understand in this article is (are) ________________. By these concepts the author means ______________________.
(To identify these ideas, ask yourself: What are the most important ideas that you would have to know to understand the author's line of reasoning? Then briefly elaborate what the author means by these ideas.)
- The main assumption(s) underlying the author's thinking is (are) ________________.
(Ask yourself: What is the author taking for granted [that might be questioned]? The assumptions are generalizations that the author does not think he/she has to defend in the context of writing the article, and they are usually unstated. This is where the author's thinking logically begins.)
- If we accept this line of reasoning (completely or partially), the implications are _________________. (What consequences are likely to follow if people take the author's line of reasoning seriously? Here you are to pursue the logical implications of the author's position. You should include implications that the author states, and also those that the author does not state.)
- If we fail to accept this line of reasoning, the implications are _________________. (What consequences are likely to follow if people ignore the author's reasoning?)
- The main point(s) of view presented in this article is (are) ________________.
(The main question you are trying to answer here is: What is the author looking at, and how is he/she seeing it?)
If you truly understand these structures as they interrelate in an article, essay or chapter, you should be able to empathically role-play the thinking of the author. These are the eight basic structures that define all reasoning. They are the essential elements of thought.
Essay Analysis Assignment
In this assignments, students read an article on gender and analyzed each of Paul and Elder's elements as the students identified each in the article. Here is the handout provided to the students which later served as an assessment tool for understanding of the elements. (courtesy of Maureen Page).
- Essay: ________________________________________________________________________________
- Questions @ issue
- Inferences & Interpretations
- Concepts, Theories, Principles, Definitions
- Implications & Consequences
- Point of View
Sample Assignments and Rubrics
The following are sample assignments and rubrics used during the QEP and submitted to the GEOC. If you have assignments you would like to share here, please email them to me at email@example.com.
Мы почти приехали, мисс Флетчер. Держитесь. Скоростной карт фирмы «Кенсингтон» повернул за угол и остановился. Сзади, перпендикулярно туннелю, начинался коридор, едва освещаемый красными лампочками, вмонтированными в пол.