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Argument Diagramming: Beginner to Advanced

Learn to robustly analyze and fully diagram arguments with a powerful systematic diagramming method.
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Last updated 12/2015
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  • 5.5 hours on-demand video
  • 2 Articles
  • 2 Supplemental Resources
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A map tells you the lay of land, and how to get from one place to another without getting confused, or even outright lost. Learn how to fully map evidence-based reasoning and arguments from any source -- popular, professional, or academic -- using argument diagrams. In this course, I apply the latest research from specialized modeling languages, engineering diagrams, and philosophy of language to teach you how to "find the lay of the land" within another thinker's writings. As distinguished from courses in Symbolic Logic or Critical Thinking, argument diagramming falls under a third area of evidence-based reasoning called Informal Logic -- the discipline which, in my opinion, is the most interesting!

Who is the target audience?
  • This course assumes you have no previous knowledge of logic or analytical diagramming techniques. It is constructed as a foundational course.
  • It presumes a (U.S. equivalent) High School education level of reading and a desire to use argument diagramming techniques for evidence based reasoning and analysis.
  • As the course develops, intermediate techniques are geared toward the cognitive level of upper-division, college undergraduates.
  • In the last stages of the course, advance techniques are applied to full analysis of academic- and professional- level papers, which is appropriate for a graduate school level of engagement with the issues.
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What Will I Learn?
By the end of this course, you will be able to do the following:
1. Identify arguments and their parts within written prose.
2. Recognize words which function as premise and conclusion indicators within and between sentences.
3. Classify and analyze various prose locutions which are not arguments, such as sentences which make unsupported assertions or contain excess verbiage.
4. Apply a mark-up coding method to prose so as to readily restructure a writer's ideas into well crafted arguments.
5. Construct argument sequence diagrams and argument class diagrams to model the underlying connections of a thinker's central ideas.
6. Employ computer assisted diagramming tools to build informative and practical argument diagrams.
7. Discover and integrate Enthymemes (hidden claims) within arguments into a thinker's overall argument structure.
8. Organize separate and related arguments into larger package and frame structures.
9. Analyze professional and academic essays for evidence-based reasoning structures pertinent to their author's overall conclusions.
View Curriculum
  • You should have good reading comprehension skills in the English language. You should also feel comfortable using a computer, since this course will utilize free and commonly available software tools to draw diagrams.
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 57 Lectures Collapse All 57 Lectures 05:37:55
Prologue: Welcome to the Course!
1 Lecture 02:36

In this lecture, you will learn the purpose and structure of the course. Each section will be briefly summarized so as to give you a general overview of the topics covered.

Preview 02:36
Preliminaries: What is an Argument?
4 Lectures 05:26

An introduction to "Preliminaries: What is an Argument"

Preview 00:32

This lecture will introduce you to the important components of an argument.

Preview 04:05

Ok, now try applying what you've learned by doing some exercises. You will also find a supplemental .mp3 audio file in the downloads section which walks you through the solutions to the exercises.

Preview 2 pages

Concluding remarks for "Preliminaries: What is an Argument?"

Preview 00:49
Prose Analysis
9 Lectures 46:49

An Introduction to "Prose Analysis."

Preview 01:18

Learn how to identify the underlying structure of an argument by attending to special indicator words showing the location of premises and conclusions.

Preview 07:19

Learn how to identify the underlying structure of an argument by attending to special logic keywords within the statements of an argument.

Preview 08:10

In this video, you will learn to analyize prose for identifying common patterns of arguments. You will learn to distinguish inductive from deductive arguments, and you will learn the names and structure of some of the most common argument forms. This will help train your eye to identify arguments situtated in natural language selections.

Analyzing prose for common patterns of arguments

In this lecture you will learn to analyize prose as a way of finding unsupported assertions. These include reports, illustrations, explanations, and conditionals.

Analyzing prose for unsupported assertions

In this lecture you will learn to analyze prose to identify excess verbiage. You'll cover discounts, repetitions, assurances, and hedges.

Analyzing prose for excess verbiage

Ok, now try applying what you've learned by doing some exercises. You will also find supplemental video files in the downloads section which walk you through the solutions to these exercises.

3 pages

A video on the Theory of Pragmatics

Deeper reflections

A synopsis of what was covered in the prose analysis section.

Marking Prose
5 Lectures 28:27

An introduction to the template on Marking Prose.


In this lecture you will gain an overview of the various mark-up indicators which get applied to a selection of prose. This pre-analysis of the prose is independently effective for understanding an argument and also of substantial use in preparing for clearly diagramming the argument.

Below are three videos by PhilHelper on fallacies, both formal and informal. They are well done, and will be helpful for seeing common forms of mis-functions of reason.

An overview of the marking method

In this lecture, we’ll go through some prose examples, step by step, applying the marking method that you can get a feel for how it works for entire arguments. Note that we have also included in the supplimental materials section a 'Marking Prose Summary Sheet' that you can refer to when marking your own arguments.

Applying the marking method

Five exercises which allow you to test your prose marking skills.

Concluding Remarks on how to Mark Prose

Argument Sequence Diagrams
7 Lectures 40:52

An Introduction to Argument Sequence Diagrams


This lecture introduce the components, value, and basic layout of an argument sequence diagram. A sequence diagram captures the linear flow of explicit reasoning within the text while purposely omitting elements of prose not directly applicable to the embedded logical arguments at hand.

Components of an argument sequence diagram

This lecture shows you various examples of how the structure of a sequence diagram reflects the structure of some argument already located in a prose selection. Example videos are provided for you in the 'downloadable materials' area.

Structuring an argument sequence diagram

[ pull the soundtrack off this, and at least remix it for similar levels throughout. ]

Using a tool to draw argument sequence diagrams

In this lecture, we’ll go through different arguments, step by step, applying the marking method to prose so that you can get a feel for how the marking technique applies to producing sequence diagrams for entire arguments.

Moving from marked prose to an argument sequence diagram

Exercises in marking and sequence diagramming arguments.


Concluding Remarks on Sequence Diagrams.

Argument Class Diagrams
6 Lectures 41:55

You have earlier encountered the argument sequence diagram. In this lecture, you will now be introduced to another important tool for analysis, known as the argument 'class diagram'.

Components of an argument class diagram

In this video, we take a few minutes with our favored too, umlet, to draw a simple class diagram.

Using a tool to draw argument class diagrams

Learn how to build a class diagram by looking at how a sequence diagram is structured.

Moving from a sequence diagram to a class diagram

In this video, I present 4 arguments. You'll need to mark up the text, convert the text to a sequence diagram, and from that, create a class diagram. I'll present the questions first, then you'll need to pause the video and work on the questions by yourself for maximum effect. Once completed, unpause the video and see how I work through it.

Some concluding remarks on Class Diagrams.

Identifying and Diagramming Enthymemes
6 Lectures 39:47

A few introductory remarks concerning enthymemes.


In this lecture, we introduce the concept of enthymemes, and we discuss how to appropriately analyze them.

What is an enthymeme?

In this lecture you will learn how to use sequence diagrams to analyze enthymemetic arguments.

Diagramming enthymemes in a sequence diagram

In this lecture you will learn how to use class diagrams to analyze enthymemetic arguments.

Diagramming enthymemes in class diagrams

Three exercises in supplying hidden statements into enthymemes.


Concluding remarks on Enthymemes

Diagramming Rebuttals
7 Lectures 50:19

A few introductory remarks concerning Rebuttals and how to Diagram them.


This lecture will introduce the two types of rebuttals that are used in argument diagramming -- namely, propositional rebuttals, and inferential rebuttals.

Types of rebuttals: propositional and inferential

In this lecture, we're going to offer some tips and examples of how to spot rebuttals in prose. We will also cover different kinds of meta-indicators which bring attention to various kinds of rebuttals.

Locating rebuttals within the prose

In this lecture, we'll look at how to map arguments that contain rebuttals onto argument sequence diagrams.

Mapping rebuttals in argument sequence diagrams

In this lecture, we'll look at how to map arguments that contain rebuttals onto argument class diagrams.

Mapping rebuttals in argument class diagrams

Five progressive exercises in diagramming rebuttals.


A few concluding remarks about Rebuttals.

Basic Package Diagrams and Frames
7 Lectures 31:41

A short introduction to the section on package diagrams and frames.


In this lecture we examine the basic components and uses of package diagrams.

Components of package diagrams.

In this lecture you will see how parts of a complex class diagram can be compressed into packages as a way of focusing attention on its most important components.

Moving from argument class diagrams to package diagrams

In this lecture we examine the 'frame', a space-saving device used in sequence diagrams.

Components of frame diagrams

In this lecture we take a large sequence diagram and use frames to compress some of the sub-arguments into frames.

Moving from argument sequence diagrams to frames

In this lecture, we learn how to structure arguments and propositions into packages.

Structuring packages for arguments

A synopsis on what was covered in the section on basic package diagrams and frames.

Intermediate Argument Diagramming
5 Lectures 44:51

In this lecture, we introduce a teaching assistant, Ben Smith, who along with Prof. Montgomery work through the first way of the Cosmological Argument for God, as recounted by medieval philosopher/theologian Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument (The First Way)

In this lecture, we continue looking at Thomas Aquinas' arguments with the Second Way.

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument (The Second Way)

In this lecture, we continue looking at Thomas Aquinas' arguments with the Third Way.

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument (The Third Way)

In this lecture, we continue looking at Thomas Aquinas' arguments with the Fourth Way.

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument (The Fourth Way)

Diagramming the fifth and final way of Aquinas' Cosmological argument.

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument (The Fifth Way)
About the Instructor
5.0 Average rating
3 Reviews
374 Students
1 Course
PhD., Professor of Logic and Philosophy

Hello, and welcome everybody. My name is Brint Montgomery. I am a tenured professor of Logic and Philosophy at a liberal arts university in the Southwestern part of the United States. I teach both classroom and online courses, and have done so for over 20 years. In this lecture, I want to present myself to all of you who take time, energy, and interest to be here with me in this course.

As your instructor, I've made sure you'll get the best practices for argument diagramming and analysis out of this course experience. I am an undergraduate instructor and have taught a range of classes to many students over the years. As a professional philosopher, I have created, designed, and implemented new argument diagramming techniques here for you to use. These techniques are useful for both students and professionals to get at the heart of how people use evidence in their reasoning.

As a philosopher, I'm drawing on knowledge from my professional background in analysis, analytic approaches and language research. I have carefully worked groups of students through the rigors of argument analysis so they can make the best, evidence-based decisions for whatever discipline or career they find themselves within.

In this course, I have created a whole systematic and diagrammatic approach for assessing how ideas are connected to justify the conclusions of arguments. I've used this system myself to gain insight into what I read and hear in everyday discourse -- both in the common course of my day and in heavyweight academic environments. That's a good reason why I'm the best instructor for you in this class -- I've taught these techniques and seen them work. Since I'm both the creator and instructor of these new techniques, you have a truly unique chance at the best, firsthand experience of learning them. So get ready to use the newest, most powerful application of a modeling language for your needs!

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