We now have had some experience with summarizing an argument—charting out schematically the process by which an author has attempted to persuade us of their stance on an issue. Now, we will take the next step in the reading process, by making (and documenting) judgments about the effectiveness of the author’s argumentation.

This is called critical analysis.

Critical analysis involves breaking down the author’s argument into its component parts—this is the literal meaning of the word analysis—and then questioning whether the components actually support one another as they are supposed to. Does the evidence supplied by the author support their claims? Do the claims, even if they are supported by evidence, actually lead to the argument?


Provide a summary of the distributed article, and then a critical analysis of the quality and persuasiveness of its argumentation.

Your summary (5 marks) should:

  • Restate (in your own words) the author’s argument (first sentence)
  • Identify (in your own words) the major claims the author provides to support their argument
  • Briefly identify (in your own words) the major pieces of evidence, or major kinds of evidence (be specific), that the author provides in support of their claims
  • See in-class summary assignment sheet for further details about summarizing!

Your critical analysis (10 marks) should:

  • Assess whether the evidence provided by the author for their claims is successful at supporting those claims, and whether their claims support their argument as a whole. Be sure to explain why you think the author’s logic is persuasive or unpersuasive. Some questions to consider in critical analysis:
  • Does the author’s argument rely on logical fallaciesor red herrings?
    • See my handout, Analysis foundations: spotting logical fallacieson the course website, under Learning Materials -> Course Readings, for a list of common logical fallacies.
  • Does the author provide sufficient (enough) evidence for their claims? (Are they perhaps relying on hasty generalizations, appeals to the majority, appeals to emotion, etc.?) Where?
  • Could any of the author’s evidence be interpreted differently, or used to support different claims or a different argument? (Have they fallen victim to confirmation bias?) How so?
  • Is the logic leading from a particular piece of evidence to the claim it supports reasonable? Is the logic leading from the author’s claims to their larger argument reasonable? Be specific!

REMEMBER: Be specific about which logical fallacies the author’s argument relies on, and where in their argument they occur! Alternatively, you must point to specific examplesof claim-evidence relationships (or claim-argument logic relationships) in order to assess whether the author’s argumentation holds up!

ONE LAST NOTE: You can present your summary and critical analysis as separate sections, or use an alternating structure (e.g., Claim 1 -> Evidence for claim 1 -> Critical analysis of claim 1 -> Claim 2, etc.). Whichever structure you use, remember to provide an accurate APA-style citation of the source essay.

First grading category: SUMMARY (5 marks)   [_] 5 marks: Accurately and fully articulates the author’s central argument, major claims, and types of supporting evidence, in own words (without overreliance on quotation or close paraphrase). Demonstrates solid reading comprehension and clear expression.   [_] 4 marks: Communicates aspects of the author’s argument, major claims, and supporting evidence, but not completely accurately or fully. Demonstrates either [_] solid reading comprehension or [_] clear expression, but needs improvement on the other one. Potentially [_] misrepresents or [_] omits one or more of the author’s major claims. [_] Could communicate more clearly the supporting ideas’/claims’ relationship to the argument.   [_] 2 or 3 marks: Communicates aspects of the author’s main argument, major claims, and/or supporting evidence, but significantly misrepresents them—perhaps due to [_] serious omissions. [_] Needs to communicate more clearly supporting ideas’/claims’ relationship to the argument. [_] Needs to distinguish more carefully between claims and the evidence supporting them. Needs improvement in [_] reading comprehension, [_] clarity of expression, or [_] both. Student is strongly encouraged to make an appointment with the campus Writing Centre.   [_] 0 or 1 mark: Does not articulate the author’s argument, major claims, and/or supporting evidence. Serious problems with reading comprehension and clarity of expression.
Second grading category: CRITICAL THINKING (10 marks)   [_] 9 or 10 marks: Rigorously examines the sufficiency, quality, and logic of the author’s use of evidence to support their claims and argument. Demonstrates active, thoughtful, and accurate critical reading, as well as clear expression. Clearly attributes ideas to the person who originated them (i.e., the author), distinguishing own views from others’.   [_] 7 or 8 marks: Demonstrates serious effort to examine the validity and sufficiency of the author’s argumentation—but [_] overlooks some important strengths or weaknesses of the author’s use of evidence, or [_] mischaracterizes some aspects of how the author makes or supports their claims, or [_] could express more clearly why the author’s use of particular pieces of evidence or logic are persuasive or unpersuasive. [_] Needs to take greater care in explicitly attributing ideas to author, and distinguishing own ideas from others’.   [_] 3, 4, 5 or 6 marks: [_] Demonstrates some effort to examine the validity of the author’s argumentation, but makes some questionable assertions—perhaps [_] because of lack of clarity about what evidence-claims relations are being assessed or [_] based on misrepresentation of the author’s argument (see summary grade, above). [_] Needs to express more clearly why, and on what basis, the author’s use of evidence or logic is persuasive or unpersuasive. [_] Needs to explicitly attribute ideas to the author, and thus distinguish own ideas from others’. Potentially, [_] problems of expression make it hard to assess the student’s critical logic (Writing Centre visit is advised).   [_] 0, 1, or 2 marks: Either [_] little effort to examine the validity of the author’s evidence or the conclusions drawn from it is apparent, or [_] serious problems of reading comprehension and/or expression make it difficult to determine if critical analysis has been attempted. Student may not be ready for this course.
Potential penalties: [_] -1 mark or [_] -2 marks: Deviation from instructions (see below); -2 if serious [_] -1 mark: Serious APA citation error or [_] APA citation absent [_] -1.5 marks/day: Late penalty in effect – [_] x1 (-1.5) [_] x2 (-3) [_] x3 (-4.5) [_] x4 (-6)   TOTAL / 15: [          ] (see additional comments, if any, below)

.Trudeau’s ‘plastic ban’ won’t help the environment. It could actually harm it instead

Alternatives have a significantly higher total impact on the environment, while inflating costs for consumers

By David Clement, Financial Post (14 June 2019) [edited by AYH]

Editorial comment by AYH: This article is a discussion of the impact of plastic pollution on the environment, and the kinds of steps countries like Canada should or should not take to reduce it. On the surface, it’s a persuasive-looking article because of the way that it seems to use logical reasoning, by pointing to evidence in support of most of its claims – often external evidence from fairly authoritative sources. However, there are several places where the evidence cited by the author doesn’t seem to support the claim the author is making, or where the author makes comparisons between situations that aren’t necessarily comparable. Sometimes the author seems to be motivated by an assumption and seems to be manipulating his evidence to support that assumption.

I’d like to see you criticize the author’s reasoning: What evidence does he provide for each of the claims he makes, and why isn’t this evidence always sufficient to support those claims and make them convincing? Which claims are poorly supported in this way? Good luck! –AYH

This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government will seek to ban many single-use plastics starting in 2021. Although the final list of banned items is still undetermined, it will likely include plastic bags, food containers, cutlery and straws. To justify the ban, the government pointed to marine wildlife being injured or killed as a result of plastic in our oceans.

It’s a hard-to-resist idea. No one wants to contribute to marine deaths as a result of plastic, and most of us don’t like the idea of plastic items taking over 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. These concerns ultimately stem from worries about climate change, and the environmental problems that could arise as a result.

Unfortunately, a ban on single-use plastics does almost nothing for the issue of plastics impacting ocean marine life, and does very little in terms of environmental impact. Canadians are not significant polluters when it comes to marine litter. Up to 95 per cent of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world.

Canada on average, contributes less than 0.01 MT (millions of metric tonnes) of mismanaged plastic waste. In contrast, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines contribute 10.1 per cent and 5.9 per cent of the world’s mismanaged plastic, which is upwards of 300 times Canada’s contribution. China, the world’s largest plastics polluter, accounts for 27.7 per cent of the world‘s mismanaged plastic. Canada, when compared to European countries like England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France, actually contributes four times less in mismanaged plastic. The only European countries on par with Canada are the significantly smaller Sweden, Norway and Finland. A plastics ban might sound productive in terms of plastics pollution, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that Canada is actually a significant contributor of mismanaged plastic, which means that a Canadian ban will do little to aid marine life devastatingly impacted by plastic pollution.

However, proponents of the ban will say we should still support the ban on the basis of trying to reduce climate change. Although noble, banning plastics doesn’t necessarily equate to better environmental results. In fact, some alternative products, although branded as green alternatives, have a significantly higher total environmental impact once the production process is factored in.

Take plastic bags for example. Conventional thinking suggests that banning single-use plastic bags will result in people using reusable bags, and that this reduction in plastic use will have a positive impact on the environment. Research from Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment actually challenged that conventional wisdom when it sought to compare the total impact of plastic bags to their reusable counterparts. The Danes found that alternatives to plastic bags came with significant negative results. For example, a paper bag needed to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact on the environment as a plastic bag. [If it was used less than 43 times, it would have a larger negative impact than a plastic bag.] When it came to cotton alternatives, the numbers were even higher. A conventional cotton bag alternative needed to be used over 7,100 times to equal a plastic bag’s negative impact, while an organic cotton bag had to be reused over 20,000 times. We know from consumer usage patterns that the likelihood of paper or cotton alternatives being used in such a way is incredibly unlikely. These results were also largely confirmed with the U.K. government’s own life-cycle assessment, which concluded that these alternatives have a significantly higher total impact on the environment.

While Canadians might support the idea of a plastics ban, they don’t want to pay for it. A Dalhousie University study showed us that 89 per cent of Canadians are in support of legislation to limit plastics. However, that same study also showed that 83 per cent of Canadians were not willing to pay more than 2.5- per-cent higher prices for goods as a result of plastic regulations. This creates a significant problem for Trudeau’s ban, because higher prices are exactly what we’d see.

There are simple solutions available to us that don’t involve heavy-handed bans. First, we could focus more strictly on limiting how plastics end up in our rivers, lakes and streams. Better recycling programs and stricter littering prohibitions could go a long way to reducing the plastic Canada does contribute. For those single-use products that otherwise end up in landfills, we could follow Sweden’s lead, and incinerate that waste. Doing so creates a power source for local communities, while capturing airborne toxins, limiting toxic runoff, and significantly reducing the volume of waste.

Good public policy should address a real problem and should make a meaningful impact on the said problem. Unfortunately, Trudeau’s proposed single-use plastics ban would have little to no impact on overall ocean waste, while promoting high-impact alternatives, and inflating costs for consumers. All three of these factored together create a fairly toxic policy mix.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center [a lobby group that advocates for less regulation of corporations such as alcohol, tobacco, and food producers by governments]

APA citation for original version:

Clement, D. (2019).Trudeau’s ‘plastic ban’ won’t help the environment. It could actually harm it instead. Financial Post. Retrieved from

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