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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Analysing an argument: key steps


This page will take you through the key steps of analysing an argument. What do we need to look for when we start reading for an assignment?

Read 'Universal basic income ignores the value of work' by Emma Dawson.

What is the argument?

An argument is the position or claim that the writer is putting forward.  An argument can be recognised via language, evidence, and text comparisons. An argument will assume an audience’s awareness of the topic and also consider their assumptions, prior knowledge and interest.

See also Critical reading skills

Identifying the bias

Bias can be recognised via language, sentence structure, evidence used (including quality of evidence) for supporting claims, lack of evidence for refuting claims, repetition of themes and language.

Example of bias: 'The UBI is perhaps the most widely supported idea in fashion on the progressive side of the political debate, so it's no surprise to see the Greens jump on board' (Dawson 2018:18).

Who is the audience?

The audience is the assumed readership that the author wants to persuade or influence.

How does the author influence the audience?

Selected vocabulary (which could include colloquial or slang words), language techniques and sentence construction are used to appeal to a particular audience. Arguments are carefully considered to ensure they are convincing to the target audience.

Critically analyse: Identify claims, evidence, assumptions

Critical analysis starts with these questions:

  • What is/are the overall claim/s of the author?
  • Is the claim backed up by credible evidence?
  • Is the claim based on assumptions?

What is the evidence?

Evidence includes information or data from elsewhere to support the claims the writer makes, or refute the claims made by others. Evidence can be judged for quality by the credibility of their origins. Evidence needs to come from a source that has authority and is up-to-date and objective.

Is the evidence credible?

Credible evidence comes from sources that readers can believe are factual and valid, based on the sources: To understand if evidence is credible, the key things to look for are:

  • author (who does the author work for/write for? What other publications have they been involved in? What is their area and level of expertise in the topic?)
  • date (is the information current, given the topic?)
  • source (is the publication source well known or respected in the industry? Peer reviewed? Relevant to the topic?)

See also Critical Thinking: Evaluate the evidence