Common question applicable to all sample topics

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

Sample Topic #1: The following appeared in the health section of a magazine on trends and lifestyles:

"People who use the artificial sweetener aspartame are better off consuming sugar, since aspartame can actually contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss. For example, high levels of aspartame have been shown to trigger a craving for food by depleting the brain of a chemical that registers satiety, or the sense of being full. Furthermore, studies suggest that sugars, if consumed after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, actually enhance the body’s ability to burn fat. Consequently, those who drink aspartame-sweetened juices after exercise will also lose this calorie-burning benefit. Thus it appears that people consuming aspartame rather than sugar are unlikely to achieve their dietary goals.”

Sample Topic #2: The following appeared as part of an annual report sent to stockholders by Olympic Foods, a processor of frozen foods:

“Over time, the costs of processing go down because as organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient. In color film processing, for example, the cost of a 3-by-5-inch print fell from 50 cents for five-day service in 1970 to 20 cents for one-day service in 1984. The same principle applies to the processing of food. And since Olympic Foods will soon celebrate its 25th birthday, we can expect that our long experience will enable us to minimize costs and thus maximize profits.”

Sample Topic #3: The following appeared in the editorial section of a corporate newsletter:

“The common notion that workers are generally apathetic about management issues is false, or at least outdated: a recently published survey indicates that 79 percent of the nearly 1,200 workers who responded to survey questionnaires expressed a high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of
benefits programs.”

Sample Topic #4: The following appeared as a part of an advertisement for Adams, who is seeking re-election as governor:

“Re-elect Adams, and you will be voting for proven leadership in improving the state’s economy. Over the past year alone, 70 percent of the state’s workers have had increases in their wages, 5,000 new jobs have been created, and six corporations have located their headquarters here. Most of the respondents in a recent poll said they believed that the economy is likely to continue to improve if Adams is re-elected. Adams’s opponent, Zebulon, would lead our state in the wrong direction, because Zebulon disagrees with many of Adams’s economic policies.”

Sample Topic #5: The following appeared as part of an article in a magazine devoted to regional life:

“Corporations should look to the city of Helios when seeking new business opportunities or a new location. Even in the recent recession, Helios’s unemployment rate was lower than the regional average. It is the industrial center of the region, and historically it has provided more than its share of the region’s manufacturing jobs. In addition, Helios is attempting to expand its economic base by attracting companies that focus on research and development of innovative technologies.”

Sample Topic #6: The following appeared in the editorial section of a local newspaper:

“This past winter, 200 students from Waymarsh State College traveled to the state capitol building to protest against proposed cuts in funding for various state college programs. The other 12,000 Waymarsh students evidently weren’t so concerned about their education: they either stayed on campus or left for winter break. Since the group who did not protest is far more numerous, it is more representative of the state’s college students than are the protesters. Therefore the state legislature need not heed the appeals of the protesting students.”

Sample Topic #7: The following appeared in a memorandum issued by a large city’s council on the arts:

“In a recent citywide poll, 15 percent more residents said that they watch television programs about the visual arts than was the case in a poll conducted five years ago. During these past five years, the number of people visiting our city’s art museums has increased by a similar percentage. Since the corporate funding that supports public television, where most of the visual arts programs appear, is now being threatened with severe cuts, we can expect that attendance at our city’s art museums will also start to decrease. Thus some of the city’s funds for supporting the arts should be reallocated to public television.”