Questions To Ask When Evaluating An Argument

About the Author:

  1. What are his/her credentials? What kind of education and training has the author had? Is he/she and expert in the area? What kind of reputation does he/she have? What other works has the author produced and what was the content of these works? Is there a consistent theme or pattern to his/her work?
  2. What group affiliations and loyalties does the author have? Does he or she belong to a group with strong opinions on this issue? What is the groups position the issue? Is the author simply expressing the groups position? Is the author pushing the groups agenda, or do his/her arguments seem more personal and individualistic?
  3. What beliefs and assumptions underlie the authors arguments? What kind of things does he/she take for granted? Are these beliefs derived from a broader ideology? What ideologies does the author seem to accept? What values does he/she seem to be expressing or advocating? What is the source of these values? How are these values connected to his/her beliefs? What are the author's prejudices and biases? Where do these come from and how do they affect his/her argument?

About the Argument:

  1. Does the author present empirical evidence to support his/her argument? What type of empirical evidence is presented? Research by others? Research by the author? Personal observations? Are those cited affiliated with the author or the groups or organizations with which he/she is affiliated? How much evidence is presented? One study? Seven? How valid is the evidence presented? Does it seem unbiased and methodologically sound? Is it relevant and up-to-date? Is it well documented? Does the author rely on primary or secondary sources?
  2. How reliable are the data being presented, particularly the statistical data? Are the data reported fully, or selectively? What is not being reported? Is the source of the data revealed? How reliable is the source? Does the author give specific statistics or simply make vague references? Does the author try to slant the reading of the statistics by using qualifying words and being selective in the numbers presented?
  3. What cause/effect relationships are proposed? Does the author state that certain things or conditions cause other things or conditions? Do these cause and effect relationships make sense? Are they logical? Are the cause and effect correlated such at as one changes the other also changes? Could this association be spurious? When the cause changes, does it always lead to change in the effect, or just sometimes? Under what conditions does the cause have an effect? What other factors, if any, might influence the relationship between the cause and the effect? Does the cause precede the effect, or could it be the other way around?
  4. What is fact and what is opinion in the authors argument? Does the author make statements that can be proven, tested, or evaluated; or does he./she simply state how they feel about the issue or what they think is true? Are the facts presented based on empirical evidence? (See #1 above). Does the author distort facts, or attempt to merge fact with opinion to create new facts?
  5. Does the author use or make logical errors? Does the author draw logical conclusions based on the evidence? Does the author over generalize from a limited number of observations? Does he/she base their argument on faulty assumptions? Does he/she make faulty analogies? Is the author guilty of the ecological fallacy or reductionism? Does he/she use "the gambler's fallacy" or "the exception proves the rule" argument? Does the author rely on "mythical" explanations?
  6. Is propaganda being used by the author? Does the author make generalizations and state them as fact? Does he/she use name calling or insults to discredit opponents? Does the author use emotions, beliefs, or values to be persuasive? Does he/she use slogans or catch phrases or propose pseudo solutions? Is he/she intentionally vague? Does the author make presuppositions and present them as fact? Does he/she over simply the argument?