Analyzing an AWA Argument:

by on October 28th, 2010

studying hardIn a previous article, we talked about how to structure an essay in general: how many paragraphs, how to formulate a thesis statement, what kinds of examples to discuss, and so on. A student has asked for specific examples of these essays, so that’s what we’re going to do today: construct a sample Analyze the Argument essay. (If you haven’t already read the previous article, you may want to do so first.)

First, we need an essay prompt. We’ll use a ManhattanGMAT prompt:

The following appeared in an article in a human resources magazine:

“Six months ago, in an experiment aimed at boosting worker productivity, Company Z started providing free gourmet lunches to its employees. The Company hoped that these office lunches would encourage employees to remain in the building during lunch-hour and motivate employees to work harder throughout the day. A survey found that soon after the lunch program was implemented, the average number of hours worked by most Company Z employees increased dramatically. During this same period, the Company’s profits also increased substantially. Thus, in order to keep reaping these benefits, Company Z should make the program permanent.” ©MGPrep Inc

Task #1: brainstorm flaws in the argument. I need at least two. Here’s what I think:

  • conclusion is to make the program permanent in order to keep productivity and profits at a higher level
  • assumption: free lunch → more hours worked → increased productivity → increased profit. Are those assumptions valid? For example, does “more hours worked” actually result in “increased productivity?” No evidence given to support these links.
  • argument also says that the free lunches were to encourage employees to remain in the building during lunch; is there actual data to support this? What if, before, people mostly brought their own lunches and ate at their desks already?
  • Finally, the survey took place “soon” after the program was launched; does the data still hold today?

Okay, I feel like I’ve got enough. My second and third bullets represent fairly similar thinking, and I like the second bullet better, so I’m going to use my second and fourth bullets as my examples. I’m ready to start writing.

First Paragraph

In this paragraph, I need to:

  • summarize the issue
  • state a thesis
  • acknowledge that the other side does have some merit
  • introduce my examples

Here’s my paragraph:

(1) The argument outlines a particular sequence of events, each of which causes the subsequent event: the free lunch program leads to more hours worked, which leads to increased productivity, which leads to increased profits. (2) The author then concludes that the free lunch program should continue in order to continue reaping the subsequent benefits. (3) While there is certainly merit to the idea that the free lunches might result in all of these benefits, the author’s conclusion is undermined by the lack of data to support causal links between these events. (4) Specifically, the author does not illustrate that the increased number of hours worked resulted from the free lunches or translated into higher productivity, nor does the author establish that gains observed “soon after the program was implemented” are still present today.

Sentences 1 and 2 summarize the situation. Sentence 3 acknowledges the “other side” and then states my thesis. Sentence 4 introduces my two examples.

Body Paragraph #1

In this paragraph, I need to:

  • introduce one flaw
  • explain why it is a flaw
  • suggest ways to fix the flaw

Here’s my paragraph:

(1) Productivity is a measure of the amount of work completed during some standard measure of time. (2) Working for an increased number of hours does not necessarily mean that productivity, or the amount of work completed per hour, changes at all. (3) The author indicates only that the employees are working longer hours; no evidence is given as to why or whether productivity itself has altered. (4) Perhaps the company entered an especially busy period soon after the free lunch program began (e.g., several months before the holidays at a toy company), and employees would have worked longer hours no matter what, while producing the same amount of work per hour. (5) The author’s conclusion would be better served by establishing that the observed change (an increase in the number of work hours) both resulted from the free lunch program and resulted in a change in productivity.

Sentences 1 and 2 define a specific term necessary to the understanding of a flaw. Sentence 3 introduces the flaw (no evidence to support the causal connection). Sentence 4 illustrates more clearly why the flaw is a flaw (something else could have caused the same result). Sentence 5 suggests a way to fix the flaw (provide evidence to support the claim).

Body Paragraph #2

In this paragraph, I need to do the same things I did in my first body paragraph.

(1) The author provides evidence from a survey conducted “soon after the lunch program was implemented.” (2) Was the survey a one-time affair that lasted for just one or a few days? (3) Has the situation stayed the same since then; are the employees still working a greatly increased number of hours? (4) If we further the hypothesis discussed in the last paragraph (a busy season results in more hours worked), then perhaps the average number of hours worked has dropped back down to its pre-free-lunch levels. (5) In order to solidify the conclusion, the author would need to demonstrate that the survey results are still true in the present-day situation and haven’t altered for the worse.

Sentence 1 reminds the reader of a particular part of the argument. Sentences 2 and 3 introduce the flaw (is the data still valid today?). Sentence 4 illustrates more clearly why the flaw is a flaw (the data may not still be valid today, especially if there was a different cause for the observed phenomenon in the first place). Sentence 5 suggests a way to fix the flaw (demonstrate that the data does still apply today).

Conclusion Paragraph

In this paragraph, I need to:

  • re-state my thesis (using new words)
  • re-acknowledge the other side (using new words)
  • briefly summarize how my examples supported my thesis (using new words)

Here’s my paragraph:

(1) While the author does present the beginnings of a case for turning the free lunch program into a permanent benefit, there are some flaws in the argument that weaken the author’s position. (2) As we saw in our first example, the author has not provided evidence to establish that the free lunch was the primary factor in the observed increase in average number of hours worked, nor has the author established that the productivity levels themselves changed. (3) Further, while the author did present some evidence to demonstrate that the average number of work hours increased at one point in time, the author fails to demonstrate that this data still applies to the present-day situation; it’s possible that those gains have eroded. (4) Certainly, there’s more to explore here, and the author may be correct in indicating that the free lunch program resulted in the benefits claimed; the author just needs to provide some additional evidence to establish his claims.

Sentence 1 re-acknowledges the other side and re-states my thesis. Sentence 2 summarizes the first example. Sentence 3 summarizes the second example. Sentence 4 summarizes the entire situation (and is not that different, conceptually, from sentence 1 in this paragraph).

Key Takeaways for Analyze the Argument essays:

  1. Know your template before you go in (see the previous article linked at the top for more discussion on templates).
  2. Brainstorm a few examples; then choose the best two that are not too closely related.
  3. Make your points as clearly and concisely as you can. Writing more doesn’t do much; writing better does. Make sure that your sentences are cleanly structured and that your overall organization flows well; basically, make it easy for the reader to understand the points you’re trying to make.
  4. Watch out for spelling errors, typos, and so on. Know whether you like to check your work paragraph by paragraph (in which case you don’t need to leave a lot of time at the end for a final review) or whether you like to review everything at once at the end (in which case you do need to leave about 5 minutes for a final review).


  • Thanks
    as usual great one
    Know your template before you go in
    I once read in score guides may be OG(Components of 1 or 0 score essay...) that
    You may receive 0 if
    It seems that you have just filled in the text and structure is found to be much similar to others.
    I think thousand of students have read this articles.So for eg if i use it as a template,is it a dangerous thing to do?
    or do we need to develop our own specific(may be non public) templates?
    Just curious.

    • What I wrote in this article is an actual essay, not a template. A template is the structure discussed in the first article (linked in the very first sentence of this article). If you take a look at that, you'll see that the template doesn't have such a standard structure that even your own essays would "feel" exactly the same each time. The template is really about: what kind of information do I need to have in each paragraph? That way, you make sure you don't forget anything. Take a look at that first article and you'll see what I mean. :)

  • Can Someone please post the link to that previous article i didnt found it even after searching the same.

  • Guys , i got it...

    • Good! For anyone else who's searching, start with the first sentence of this article. The link is embedded in the words "previous article." :)

  • Great articles! Really helped me organize my essay ..for the first time I didn't run out of time to review!

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