One important skill for understanding an essay, article or chapter is through the analysis of the parts of the author’s reasoning. Once you have done this, you can then evaluate the author’s reasoning using intellectual standards. Here is a template to follow.
1) The main purpose of this article is ______________________.
2) The key question that the author is addressing is __________________________.
3) The most important information in this article is ___________________________.( Here you are looking for facts, experiences, data the author is using to support her/his conclusions).
4) The main inferences/conclusions in this article are ________________.
5) The key idea(s) we need to understand in this article is (are)_______________ . By these ideas the author means ________________________________. (To identify these ideas, ask yourself: What are the most important ideas that you would have to understand in order to understand the author’s line of reasoning? Then elaborate briefly what the author means by these ideas).
6) The main assumption(s) underlying the author’s thinking is (are)________ (Ask yourself: What is the author taking for granted (that might be questioned). The assumptions are generalizations that the author does not think s/he has to defend in the context of writing the article, and they are usually unstated. This is where the author’s thinking logically begins).
7) If a) we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ___________. (What consequences are likely to follow if people take the author’s line of reasoning seriously? Here you are to follow out the logical implications of the author’s position. You should include implications that the author states, if you believe them to be logical, but you should do your best thinking to determine what you think the implications are.) If b) we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are _____________. (What consequences are likely to follow if people ignore the author’s reasoning?)
8) The main point(s) of view presented in this article is are)_____________________.