An “evaluation of the argument” question is one that asks you to identify what would useful to know if you were to evaluate a particular. (These questions are also called “evaluate the argument questions.”) The question stem for an evaluation of the argument question might read:
- Which one of the following would it be most useful to know in evaluating the argument?
- The answer to which one of the following questions is most relevant to evaluating the argument above?
- The answer to which of the following questions would be most relevant for evaluating the merits of the argument?
We solve these questions by following four steps:
- Identify the argument’s conclusion.
- Identify how the conclusion is supported.
- Identify the main problem with the argument.
- Choose the answer that would most help you evaluate the argument’s merit.
Let’s take a look at each step.
Identify the Conclusion
The main conclusion of the argument is supported by everything else in the argument; it’s what the rest of the argument is attempting to convince you is true. If you struggle with identifying conclusions, take a look at the Identify the Conclusion Questions lesson.
Identify How the Conclusion is Supported
Make a note of the premises. What supports the conclusion? Why does the author think we should believe the conclusion? Silently paraphrase the support to yourself, trying to understand why the author finds the premises to be so convincing.
Identify the Main Problem with the Argument
In evaluation of the argument questions, we are always given imperfect arguments. Your task is to identify how someone could potentially critique the argument. How might the argument be vulnerable to criticism?
Choose the Answer
Each answer choice will be a question, but the correct answer will be a question that highlights the problem in the argument. The argument has overlooked a possible objection, and the correct answer choice will subtly point out that objection. Thus, the question contained in the correct answer choice will create an interesting situation: One answer to the question will weaken the argument by confirming the truth of an objection, but the opposite answer will strengthen the answer by overcoming an objection. So you want to choose the question that (depending on how it is answered) could either make or break the argument.