Revising a Logical Argument

"Assess"For a logical argument, in addition to applying the usual essay revision processes, you’ll need to evaluate your logical argument draft for the quality of your evidence, and the logic of your reasoning. You don’t, for example, want to make the claim that elementary schools should institute honors programs based mostly on the evidence of your neighbor, whose child benefited from a special program while in elementary school. However, evaluating your draft for the quality of your evidence and logic of your reasoning is often difficult to do (because, of course, your argument will make sense to you!).

The best way to evaluate your draft as preparation for revising is to set it aside for a while and then come back to it, trying to apply a new reader’s perspective.

Identifying and Evaluating Claims

Identify your overall claim – your thesis – in the argument. Then evaluate it by asking and answering the following questions:

  • Am I making a claim or assertion about an actual issue – something about which there are two (or more) ways of thinking?
  • Am I making a claim that is supportable by evidence?
  • Does my claim (thesis) have a clear topic and angle or assertion?
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Evaluating Support

 Use the STAR method to Assess Appeals to Logic

Mapping or diagramming arguments in your draft may help you judge whether an appeal is adequately supported. Applying the STAR Criteria—Sufficiency, Typicality, Accuracy, and Relevance—is one such technique for assessing whether an argument has sufficient depth and clarity.

Measure  Question  Examples & Notes
Sufficiency Is there enough evidence cited to support the conclusion? Generally, only “strongly” and not “weakly” supported conclusions should be accepted. The more controversial a claim is, the more evidence authors should provide before expecting an audience to accept it. If the evidence is not sufficient, the author may need to modify or qualify the claim, by stating that something is true ‘sometimes’ rather than ‘always’.
Typicality Is the cited evidence typical or representative? If an author makes a claim about a whole group but the evidence is based on a small or biased sample of that group, the evidence is not “typical.” Similar problems stem from relying just on personal experiences (anecdotal evidence) and from “cherry picking” data by citing only the parts that support a conclusion while ignoring parts that might challenge it.
Accuracy Is the cited evidence up to date and accurate? Authors using polls, studies and statistics must ask whether the data were produced in a biased way and also ask whether the sample was large and representative of its target population so that results were outside the “margin of error.” (Margin of error: If a sample is too small or not well chosen, results may be meaningless because they may represent random variation.)
Relevance Is the cited evidence directly relevant to the claim(s) it is being used to support? An author may supply lots of evidence, but the evidence may support something different from what the person is actually claiming. If the evidence is not relevant to the claim, the author may need to modify or qualify the claim—or even to acknowledge that the claim is indefensible.

Also, as you revise, evaluate your draft for common logical fallacies, or errors in logic that need to be addressed and eliminated or corrected.