How To Improve Your Argumentative Writing
Just like the Analysis of an Issue section for the GMAT, the Analysis of an Argument has a pretty basic formula. And yes, we’re going to walk you right through it.
This is the second of two writing prompts, and you’ll have 30 minutes to complete it. But, instead of arguing your belief (like you would in the Analysis of an Issue prompt), here, you are critiquing another author’s point.
But, it still requires a similar, 5-paragraph setup. In the first paragraph, you have to take a stance (the author’s argument is logical or illogical), then use 3-4 paragraphs of points to confirm your stance and a strong conclusion to sum it all up.
See more from Varsity Tutors on how to increase your GMAT Analytical Writing score.
Example prompt: The Awesome Energy Riders have become an extremely popular toy line for the ACME Co. Management at Hollywood Pictures thinks that this success will translate to the silver screen, and have bought the rights of the Awesome Energy Riders to make four pictures.
Directions: Discuss how well reasoned you find the plan of Hollywood Pictures. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusions.
Stop: Before you jump into writing, try to come up with 3-4 high-level reasons why this argument is logical or illogical. Here is a very solid guide for your essay. In fact, this could be used for nearly every Analysis of an Argument essay.
First paragraph = argument illogical
Second paragraph = argument makes false assumptions
Third paragraph = argument ignores necessary factors
Fourth paragraph = argument based on emotional, not rational appeals
Fifth paragraph = conclusion
First paragraph: Firmly state if you find the argument logical or illogical. For example: The argument to produce four, Awesome Energy Riders pictures is very poorly reasoned. Based on the information given, it is nearly possible to conclude that the toy line’s success will translate into film success…especially the success of four films.
Second paragraph: Remember—you are not arguing if these films will be successful (although that can come into play), but rather you are arguing if prompt given can determine if the films will be successful. In this paragraph, you could make the point that the prompt makes false assumptions, the most obvious of which is the assumption that toy success leads to film success.
You could write about how the G.I. Joe toy line was one of the most successful and popular toy lines. But, the movie was a gigantic flop. Additionally, many popular toy lines are derived from movies (like Disney films), but rarely do Hollywood studios base films off toys. Toy Story is a prime example because the toys were derived from the film and not vice versa, which led to success on both fronts. The prompt falsely assumes its success can translate, but previous history indicates it will not.
Use of examples vs. points: “This argument makes false assumptions” is a point. The terrible G.I. Joe film is an example to support that point. Make sure you have three points and a couple examples to support each point. You could write an entire 5-paragraph essay, outlining how G.I. Joe did not translate in one paragraph, Toy Story in another and a third similar example to all support the false assumption point. But, that’s not nearly as creative as having 3-4 legitimate points and examples to prove them – all of which prove that the prompt is illogical.
Third paragraph: The argument ignores critical factors. Sure, if James Cameron is writing this film, it has a $500 million budget and a star-studded cast featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Natalie Portman, yeah it might be successful. But, the argument given completely ignores any film production details, which can determine success. (You could use any successful films these people played a role in as examples).The argument also ignores its intended audience. It can be assumed these toys are popular with children, but how often do children make decisions to go to movies? Also, will these movies be appropriate for kids? These factors need to be considered.
Fourth paragraph: The argument is based on emotional, not rational appeals, which makes it even more illogical. It does state that these toys are extremely popular; however how long have they been popular? Most toys are only popular for a short period of time (Tickle Me Elmo). The most popular toys are always the hottest, latest, have-to-have-it thing, and toy manufacturers know that. So, they aggressively try to squeeze every dollar they can out of them before the fad is over. And the Hollywood studio is trying to ride this fad while it’s hot. But, it won’t be hot for long, and they are letting their emotions impact sound business decisions.
Fifth paragraph: Now, just wrap it all up. This argument is illogical because it makes false assumptions, ignores critical factors and bases decisions on emotional, not rational appeals.