This is my brother. He and I, like any other siblings argue. I never win. He’s just really good at winning an argument. He has his ways and I can’t reveal his secrets (if I knew them I would not let him win) and even though we are both adults, we still argue like we’re kids. That’s my segue into this post.
We all know how to argue. We all know how to form arguments because we do it every day when we want to get our point across, but what we struggle with is analysing how an argument is put together and why it impacts or encourages an audience to do something. Think about it this way, when you try and convince your parents that you want something, how do you do it? What words do you say to them to sway them to give in to your request? This is arguing, not necessarily in an aggressive way, but you are persuading them to do something – to let you get your way. How did you do it? Did you suck up to them a little bit? Compliment them? Promise to do something in return? Or did you take a more aggressive approach?
We all have different methods to persuade others to get what we want and we know how to target our specific audience, so why is it when you read a persuasive text that you’re not able to recognise these strategies in other people’s arguments? Probably because they’re topics that don’t actually interest you, but you do have to write a SAC about it, so let’s get started.
In my previous post about argument analysis, I went through how to annotate an article and promised you that another post about how to write the essay will be published. I’ve finally done it and hopefully, it helps you to write your argument analysis essays. This method has been successful for my students and even though it is pretty structured, again, remember that you should be listening to how your teacher wants you to structure your essay, this is just the way that I teach my students how to do it.
The SAC requires you to analyse and compare arguments. I’m going to use the block structure as I find that it allows students to analyse in more depth and also make more meaningful comparisons when you’re writing about the second text, instead of some superficial comparisons throughout. Remember that the exam doesn’t require you to compare. Even if there is more than one text you say how it complements the primary text, the marking criteria do not stipulate any comparison, but the SAC does. I don’t want to teach my students different ways of writing, as this just confuses them and this method is effective for the exam.
This is probably the easiest part of the essay, but most important. This is where you identify the issue, the writer’s contention, the audience, and the intention of both texts. There can be a formula to it and the one I use goes as follows
- Issue statement – avoid generic issue statements. Don’t say ‘The recent debate of cancel culture has been discussed heavily in the media.’ This does not show me that you have understood the issue. You’ve identified it but haven’t explained why it is an issue that is ‘currently being debated in the media’ (this is a phrase that grinds my gears, so avoid using it). Instead, you should write – ‘The rewriting of the language that is deemed offensive in Roald Dahl’s children’s books questions how far cancel culture has gone when it comes to classic literature and its value to children today’. Keep it to a sentence. Avoid vague phrasing.
- State the details of the first text and the contention.
- Identify the overall audience and intention
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the second text.
Remember that this doesn’t have to be long. Be as concise as possible. You don’t need to include the tone as the tone changes in an article and therefore it would be more appropriate to identify these tonal shifts when talking about how an argument develops in your actual analysis. Also, it isn’t necessary to include the dates – irrelevant
What does an introduction look like?
I’ve used two articles about Vaping Laws and will be referring to them in my analysis. You can find the two articles here https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/australians-support-calls-for-tougher-vaping-laws-report-finds/news-story/9c0b09ce9bac846771541cba296d4d0c and https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/editorials/blowing-vape-cant-hide-the-law/news-story/e190bb8d3647b73f94096855343c9b76
This is the analysis part of your essay. This is where you have to show that you understand how the writer has structured their argument, how they have developed it, and the impact it has on the audience. How many body paragraphs you write depends on the article and how the writer has developed their argument. The usual rule of thumb is to write three if you’re not sure, there will always be an opening, body, and closing of an article so you can’t lose.
When writing your paragraphs you need to consider the argument as a whole and always think about how the writer is supporting their overall contention and intention throughout. Each section has a different purpose, but the overall purpose is to present their point of view.
Each paragraph can be structured in the following way
- Topic sentence – identifies the section being analysed, the main idea being argued, and the strategy adopted by the author to engage with the audience.
- Analysis – what is being said to support the supporting argument identified in the topic sentence, what language has the writer employed and what is the intended impact on the audience?
How many points of evidence you chose is up to you, but you need to be selective. You can’t write about everything, so choose the most appropriate evidence and language. The examiner’s report was very clear about this because overdoing evidence leads to a summary. You need to analyse.
When you identify the strategy used in each section consider the following table to help you. This is also an effective way of helping you section the article whilst annotating. (Adapted from the Ticking Minds Senior English Writing Handbook)
Sample Body Paragraph
Where do you talk about the visual? Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the visual. You need to include the visual as part of your language analysis and how the visual supports an argument. Remember when you annotated the text, you identified where the visual would best fit within your analysis. When you analyse that particular section, make sure you include a short visual analysis, but DO NOT analyse the visual on its own, in its own special paragraph. It is a strategy used to support the argument, not a whole argument on its own.
Except – Disclaimer – If you are given a cartoon as a separate text, then you do analyse that separately but you would also need to say how the intention and arguments compare.
Sample analysis with visual
Writing the comparison
When writing this part of the essay, you still need to analyse the second text, but compare how the arguments are similar or different to the first text.
Sometimes the contentions of the texts are the same, but the writers may just be presenting a different perspective and have a completely different intention. The texts that I have chosen have similar contentions; however, their intentions and audience are different. You need to identify and discuss this in the analysis. Firstly in your introduction, but also in the paragraphs where you are analysing the second text.
To start you need to make a transition from the first text to the second. After you have finished writing about the closing of the first text, you will start a new paragraph with a topic sentence that makes a comparative point about the first text then move to the main point about the second text.
You will then start your analysis by working through each section again, but focus on how the arguments compare to the first. Is the point the same or different from the ideas being discussed in the primary text? The key here is to be concise, you don’t need to go into too much detail when making reference to the first text. Be subtle about it.
Sample Comparative Paragraph
You don’t need to write a conclusion. The analysis concludes with your analysis of how the second text closes. This is enough to conclude. I’ve been advising my students not to write one and they have done well in their exams without it. Some teachers like it, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary, but as I always say, listen to your teacher. Don’t compare how the texts conclude though!
What not to do!
This is my list of pet hates and may seem somewhat controversial amongst some teachers, but it’s been tried and tested and like I’ve said, I’ve had some great success with my method, but if I’m not your teacher, do what your teacher tells you to do. My students, however, do as I say, I’m marking your SAC. 😉
- Don’t use generic or vague language – be specific to the article.
- When discussing the audience, don’t say ‘the audience feels like they trust the author because they know what they’re talking about’ or ‘it makes the audience want to read on’ or ‘it makes the image stick in the reader’s head’. I am sure I am not the only teacher who bangs their head on the table when they read those statements. Be specific about the impact the language has on the audience and the intended purpose of the author towards their specific audience (consider stakeholders)
- Don’t discuss the image separately
- Don’t provide a shopping list of persuasive techniques and their definitions – that went out with the old old study design and even then they didn’t want you doing that.
- Don’t ask how many techniques per paragraph
- Don’t forget to mention BOTH texts in your introduction
- Don’t compare the images
- Don’t compare the structure – instead, compare the argument
- Don’t summarise – analyse
- Don’t refer to the author/s by their first name, use their surname. If you’re not provided with a name then it’s probably an editorial, or use the name that has been provided (like a user name in an online comment)
Like always, listen to the advice that your teacher has given you, this is just my way of teaching this area of study.
If you wish to read the full essay and accompanying PowerPoint please go to my teachers pay teachers page where you can download them for a small fee to support this little side project of mine.
I hope this has helped and that you write zesty essays. As always feel free to reach out via Instagram or LinkedIn or via the comments.
Keep it zesty
Long time teacher of Year 12 English. New to your posts. Loving them. Thank you.
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Thank you! Really appreciate it.