CHALLENGE: Identify an Argument’s Structure

Describe the Argument questions are identifiable by their distinct questions stems:

  • The argument proceeds by…
  • The advertiser employs which of the following argumentative strategies?
  • Which of the following is a technique of reasoning used in the argument?
  • Which one of the following is an argumentative strategy employed in the argument?
  • Marco responds to Gaston by… (These questions feature contradictory arguments from two different people).

How to solve

  1. Identify the premises and the conclusion and how they relate to each other.
  2. Avoid trap choices:
    a) Avoid choices that are generic argumentative techniques, but not relevant to the question.
    b) Trap answers may describe part of the argument correctly and the other part incorrectly.
  3. Try to get a tight handle on critical reasoning terminology (premises, assumptions, and conclusions) because they’ll be in the answer choices. We wouldn’t include these terms in our course if it weren’t absolutely necessary to have them down cold for test day.
  4. It helps to diagram these questions so that you can visualize the argument structure. You can look for keywords that signal premises and conclusions (but don’t over-rely on them).
  5. Like the prior lesson, Conclusions, we’re not terribly concerned with logical flaws in the argument, just describing the argument. We’ll get to flaws later.

Common Argument Styles

On these Describe an Argument questions, the focus is not on the validity of the argument. Rather, you’re trying to find the premises and the conclusion. So you’re not worrying much about false assumptions. Here are common arguments made in these questions:

1. Make an analogy
2. Ignore or focus on possible causes
3. Use an example or counterexample
4. Use reasoning to draw an absurd example (argument ad absurdum).
5. Undermine a premise or a conclusion
6. Appeal to a general principle or authority

Argument Keyword Indicators

Learning to skim the passage to detect keywords is a vital skill.


  • Because
  • Since
  • Due to
  • For instance
  • For example
  • Given that
  • Clear/Evidenced from the fact that
  • Supported by the fact that
  • In that
  • Can be seen from
  • For the reason that
  • In as much as
  • Derived from
  • After all
  • Above all
  • Indeed
  • Seeing that

Secondary Premise

  • And
  • At the same time
  • In addition
  • Moreover
  • Furthermore
  • Also
  • What’s more
  • Besides
  • Additionally


  • But
  • Yet
  • In contrast
  • However
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • On the other hand
  • Though
  • Even though
  • Although
  • While
  • Despite
  • In spite of
  • Admittedly
  • Granted
  • Of course
  • May be right
  • Is true that
  • Unlike
  • Whereas


  • Therefore
  • Conclude that
  • Can be concluded that
  • Accordingly
  • Thus
  • Consequently
  • Clearly/Obviously
  • Strongly supports that
  • Hence
  • So
  • For this reason
  • In view of this
  • As a result
  • Clear that
  • Can infer that
  • Follows that
  • Shows that
  • Implies that
  • Seems that
  • Means that
  • Must be that
  • Should be noted that


Identify an Argument questions are looking to identify the organization of the premises and the conclusion.

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