Analyzing the Logic of an Article

Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Minor Revision November 11, 2005

Based on The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, The Foundation for Critical Thinking, I have revised it at few points.

For a sample analysis, using this template, of the excerpt of J. S. Mill On Liberty in the Social Ethics textbook, see Analysis of Mill on Liberty. For an explanation of the terms "argument," "premise," "conclusion," etc., see Logical Terms or Argument Analysis. (The latter is chiefly designed for a History of Philosophy course.)

Title: The Logic of (name of the article)

1) The main purpose of this article is ________________________

(State as accurately as possible the author's purpose for writing the article.)
2) The key question that the author is addressing is _________________________
(Figure out the key question in the mind of the author when s/he wrote the article.)
3a) The main conclusions in this article are _____________________
(Identify the key conclusions the author comes to and presents in the article.)
3b) The intermediate conclusions (if any) in this article are _______________
(If the author is using some points to support his main conclusions, but those points in turn are supported by additional premises stated in the article, then they are not basic premises but intermediate conclusions as well as premises in relation to the final conclusion.)
4) The most important (basic) premises in this article is _________________________
(Figure out the facts, experiences, data the author is using to support her/his conclusion. [This would be the place to list the most important premises stated by the author, especially if he supplies no further evidence for them, taking them to be obvious facts not needing support. If he did give reasons for them, they would be intermediate conclusions.--JG])
5) The key concept(s) we need to understand in this article is (are) ______.

     By "[term for concept]" the author means ___________. (One such sentence for each key concept.)

(Figure out the most important general ideas you would have to understand in order to understand the author's line of reasoning. See What Is a Concept Anyway? For a list of important concepts associated with the various articles see Key Concepts for Social Ethics articles.)
6) The main unstated assumption(s) underlying the author's thinking is (are) ___________.
(Figure out what the author is taking for granted and not openly stating. If the author openly states a reason for his or her conclusion but does not further back it up, that should go under premises--see question #4--not here.)
7a) If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ______________________.
(What consequences are likely to follow if people take the author's line of reasoning seriously?)
7b) If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ______________.
(What consequences are likely to follow if people ignore the author's reasoning?)
8) The main point(s) of view present in this article is (are) _______________________.
(From what perspective is the author looking at the question at issue--rights, justice, social consequences, liberalism, feminism, libertarianism, sentientism, virtue ethics, morality of aspiration, perfectionism?--JG)