Evaluating Arguments

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Part A—Reading and Analysis

Read Monticello’s “Thomas Jefferson, A Brief Biography” to provide a historical context, https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/thomas-j…

Use the S.M.E.L.L. process to read and annotate Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence,https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs . Keep in mind that it consists of three parts: the preamble, the list of grievances, and the conclusion.

After you have finished reading the Declaration of Independence, answer the questions on the Evaluating Arguments worksheet. Use complete sentences and evidence from the text to support your answers.

This is the S.M.E.L.L. process :

  • S—Sender/Receiver. Ask these questions:
    • Who is the writer?
    • Who is the audience?
    • What knowledge does the audience need coming into the argument?
    • What are the audience’s expectations?
    • What is the writer’s purpose?
  • M—Message. Ask these questions:
    • What is the overall issue, problem, and/or subject?
    • What is the claim?
    • What is the counterclaim?
    • What is the historical context surrounding the issue?
    • How is the counterclaim addressed?
    • Where is the counterclaim addressed?
  • E—Evidence. Ask these questions:
    • What evidence is used to support the writer’s claim?
    • What evidence is used to refute the opposition’s position?
    • Can the evidence be verified?
    • Are the sources credible?
    • Has ample evidence been provided?
    • Does the writer use more facts, quotes, examples, or anecdotes?
    • Which audience would find the evidence persuasive?
  • L—Logic. Ask these questions:
    • Is the writer’s claim reasonable?
    • Are the writer’s reasons logical?
    • How is the argument structured? Which argument styles does the writer employ?
    • What is the effect of syntax (sentence structure)?
    • How has the writer connected the evidence and his or her claim?
    • Has the writer used qualifiers like “some,” “many,” “most,” etc.?
    • Do you see any logical fallacies?
    • What types of appeals are being made?
    • Where are the holes in the writer’s argument?
  • L—Language. Ask these questions:
    • What type of diction (formal, informal, scientific, etc.) is used?
    • Which words have denotative or connotative significance?
    • What is the writer’s tone?
    • Which stylistic elements are employed?
    • Which rhetorical strategies are used?

Part B—Evaluate Student Responses

Now that you have analyzed Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, you are going to put your analytical skills to work by evaluating student responses from a previous AP Language and Composition Exam. Use the Evaluating Student Responses worksheet


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