Why is it important to understand the structure of an argument?

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LR Perfection Free Preview: Chapter 2 Part I

In the previous chapter, we discussed the five most important questions to ask ourselves when facing a challenging Logical Reasoning question. By asking ourselves these questions, we are developing the habits crucial to LR success: 

How is the stimulus structured, or what are the author’s premises and conclusion?

What kind of argumentative technique or type of logic is used?

Are there any gaps or logical leaps in the author’s reasoning? Does the author make any assumptions in the argument? 

Are there keywords (nouns, verbs, adjectives/adverbs) in answer choices that seem unclear or suspicious?

If there are no seemingly perfect answer choices, how would you rank them?

For most LR questions, we need to follow these five steps in linear fashion. We cannot try to identify gaps in the author’s reasoning if we don’t know what is the reasoning employed; similarly, we cannot be sure of the type of logical reasoning/argumentative technique the author used to go from premise to conclusion if we don’t know which sentence is the premise or which sentence is the conclusion. So, to answer question 3, we must have already answered question 2, and to answer question 2, we must have already answered question 1.

To solve Find the Conclusion/Main Point Questions, all we do is determine the argument’s structure

That’s why we start our journey by looking at Find the Conclusion/Main Point questions.

For the student who already has an intermediate grasp of Logical Reasoning questions, we know that LR questions can be divided roughly into the following types: 

  • Find the Conclusion/Main Point
  • Role
  • Method of Reasoning 
  • Sufficient Assumption
  • Necessary Assumption
  • Flaw
  • Strengthen
  • Weaken
  • Parallel (Parallel Argument + Parallel Flaw)
  • Principle (Principle Justify + Principle Example)
  • Must be True/Must be False
  • Most Strongly Supported
  • Explain a Result/Explain a Difference
  • Point of Agreement/Disagreement

Out of these questions, only Must be True, Most Strongly Supported, Explain a Result, and Point of Agreement/Disagreement questions are not dependent on structurally analyzing the stimulus.

In other words, in most LR question types, your first and foremost job is to determine the author’s conclusion, and the support provided for it.

Understanding an argument’s structure basically means knowing which statement is the conclusion, and which statements are the premises.

Success in Find the Conclusion/Main Point Questions, and to a lesser extent, Role and Method of Reasoning Questions, are so heavily dependent on having a solid grasp of the structure of the stimulus that in all my tutoring sessions, I’ve always started with these. Not only do they force us to get into the habit of systematically looking at each question’s structural makeup, but they also lay the foundation for having a coherent method for tackling the most challenging LR questions down the road.