Arguments are rarely as simple as premise + assumptions = conclusion. Method of Reasoning questions ask you to identify the elements of complex arguments.
CHALLENGE: Identify an Argument’s Structure
Method of Reasoning 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
- Identify the premises and the conclusion and how they relate to each other.
- Try to get a tight handle on Logical Reasoning terminology (premises, assumptions, and conclusions) because they’ll be in the answer choices. We wouldn’t burden our dear students with such heavy and intimidating terms if it weren’t absolutely necessary to have these terms down cold for test day.
- Look for keywords that signal premises and conclusions.
- 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.
- Avoid trap choices:
a) Avoid answer choices that are generic argumentative techniques, but not relevant to the question.
b) Other trap answer choices may describe part of the argument correctly and the other part incorrectly.
Common Argument Styles
On these Method of Reasoning 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 upon 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
Next LSAT: January 13th
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Felicia: Internships are a waste of time and energy. In the time you spend working for free, you could be temping or taking classes or pursuing employment that not only fulfills your interests but also compensates you for your hard work.
Nitesh: The purpose of internships isn’t compensation; it’s preparation for a future career. With an internship, you can secure connections within your field of choice and also gain experience that looks great on a resume.
Nitesh objects to Felicia’s argument by:
- correcting a common perception.
- pointing out an error of logic.
- refuting a previously agreed-upon conclusion.
- objecting to an unstated premise.
- suggesting an alternative definition.
This question asks you to identify the reasoning in Nitesh’s response to Felicia’s argument, which proposes that internships are not, in fact, a waste of time, as Felicia has suggested. Felicia’s argument begins with her conclusion (“Internships are a waste of time and energy”) and is followed by support for her conclusion. Nitesh’s argument responds to Felicia’s unstated premise that the purpose of all work is compensation by suggesting that internships are a form of preparation, not employment per se. Choice D correctly identifies Nitesh’s method of objection. Choice A is inaccurate; while he may be correcting a common perception, that’s not the point of his objection in context. Choice B is correct in a sense because Nitesh is objecting to Felicia’s failure to secure her premises, but he does not say that she failed to do this; he simply states his objection. Choice C is inaccurate because we don’t know the content of their previous discussion. Choice E is incorrect because they are not debating a definition. Choice D accurately states Nitesh’s method of objection and is the best answer. Difficulty: Hard
Argument Keyword Indicators
Learning to skim the passage to detect keywords is a vital skill.
- 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
- Seeing that
- At the same time
- In addition
- What’s more
- In contrast
- On the other hand
- Even though
- In spite of
- Of course
- May be right
- Is true that
- Conclude that
- Can be concluded that
- Strongly supports that
- 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
Next LSAT: January 13th