Critical Thinking Analysis: Analyzing the Logic of an Article

Below you have a rubric (a guided series of steps) to help you understand better what you read. Every piece of writing you’re given to analyze in this course has a purpose, seeks to answer some key question, uses information to support its argument, etc. The most important point for you to keep in mind as you do these analyses is that you are evaluating a historian’s writing, not the subject the historian is writing about. If, for example, you are doing the analysis in 1301 on Potter’s essay about the Loyalists and you get to the section on assumptions, you are concerned with any assumptions that Potter may have made, not any assumptions that the Loyalists were making about the Patriots. Thus, what you are doing is a meta-analysis, evaluating the quality of the writing assigned you. We genuinely hope that this may become habitual for you, with these questions coming naturally to you as you read all manner of things in the future. This is a very valuable skill, one that will serve you well the rest of your life.

NOTE: The questions in parentheses are not ones that you have to answer – they are there simply to help you understand what this particular point is about.

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  1. The main purpose of this article is: ________________ (Why might the article have been written? Was the probable audience others in the field, the average reader, students who have to read this stuff in an history class?!! It’s hard to imagine something written that isn’t trying to convince someone of something. What is that in this article? )
  2. The key question that the author is addressing is ______________. (This may look like the purpose, but it isn’t. Is there a question that the writing addresses and tries to answer? What is that question?)
  3. The most important information in this article is _______, _______, _______, ______. (This is always the longest part of your analysis because here you’ll be listing the support the author calls upon to convince you of what s/he is arguing. Think of the kinds of things that the author mentions in support of his/her position and list them briefly here.)
  4. The main conclusions in this article are _______, ______, _______, ________. (So what did it amount to? What are we to conclude now that you have read the article?)
  5. The key concept(s) we need to understand in this article is/are _______, _______. (Concepts are overarching ideas within the text, such as economic systems, i.e. capitalism – free markets, free labor, private ownership of land/means of production. Make sure to define.)
  6. The main assumption(s) underlying the author’s thinking is/are _______, _______. (What is the author taking for granted [that might be questioned]? Most of us make some assumptions when we write, even if it’s as simple as “My reader will understand this…” or “Everyone knows that….” Are there things that the writer seems to be taking for granted that we might question? Is there evidence that the writer was influenced by his/her climate of opinion?)
  7. What are the consequences of this author’s line of reasoning? (Let’s assume that we are convinced by what s/he says. Are there consequences to that? Maybe it will only shape how we see the past. Perhaps it will change how we see problems we face today. It might even change how we think of human nature or how people behave or how they organize themselves to accomplish common goals or respond the challenges and threats.)
  8. The main point(s) of view presented in this article is/are ___________, _________. (This is often the hardest part for students. You study POV in your English classes, and your insights there might help. What seems to be the frame of reference of the writer? Does s/he show respect or sympathy or disdain, etc. for those people described or the events portrayed? How does the author seem to look at what is presented?)



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