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GRE Argument task: Anthropologist studies. What specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument


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I wrote the below in about 40 minutes - exceeded the clock by 10 mins oops. But basically the problem I have is that my mind tends to get distracted and I have many ideas, and to tie them down into a coherent thought and into three paragraphs is hard for me. Any help is appreciated! Thank you in advance.




The following appeared in an article written by Dr. Karp, an anthropologist.


"Twenty years ago, Dr. Field, a noted anthropologist, visited the island of Tertia and concluded from his observations that children in Tertia were reared by an entire village rather than by their own biological parents. However, my recent interviews with children living in the group of islands that includes Tertia show that these children spend much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults in the village. This research of mine proves that Dr. Field's conclusion about Tertian village culture is invalid and thus that the observation-centered approach to studying cultures is invalid as well. The interview-centered method that my team of graduate students is currently using in Tertia will establish a much more accurate understanding of child-rearing traditions there and in other island cultures."


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


This argument makes a strong claim that the observation-based method of research is invalid due to conflicting results gathered from an interview-based method. However, in coming to this conclusion, Dr Karp fails to address several key factors that is necessary for evaluation and has made many assumptions and displayed poor reasoning. Hence the argument has several flaws and more evidence is needed to evaluate it.


Firstly, we need a common definition of what ‘rearing’ is to even have a basis of comparison for the results of the various research methods. Without definition of this terminology, we cannot measure the extent of ‘rearing’ regardless of what method we use. Child rearing can comprise feeding, teaching, nurturing, discipline, staying together, celebrating etc. Perhaps the village has a centralised system for most of this function but not discipline, which is carried out by the biological parents. We then have to define if this is considered being reared by the entire village. This argument could have been more convincing if it has stated the concept of ‘rearing’ explicitly.


Secondly, we need more information and details about the two different approaches used by Dr. Field and Dr. Karp. For example, how complete was the observation-based method? Was the children observed all day and all night, and was every interaction taken down? Perhaps they engage more with the entire village in the day but retreat to quality family time in the night, which would lead to a flawed conclusion for Dr. Field’s results. For Dr. Karp’s interview method, there are even more unknowns such as the validity of the sample group and the neutrality of questions asked. He has interviewed children from a group of islands including Tertia. We need evidence that children from Tertia even makes up a good proportion of his sample, otherwise his results are completely invalid, as they are put together from data from another group of people. We also need to know if his questions were neutral and if it was rigged to prompt the children to talk about their parents. Perhaps in the interview, nine out of ten questions were questions relating to the children’s parents, leading to the children spending a lot of time talking about their parents and conveying a distorted view of the situation. Until these facets can be elaborated upon, the validity of the studies is called into question.


Lastly, even if the evidences above for Dr. Karp were supported, we need to know if there were any other underlying reasons behind the children’s verbosity of their biological parents. Perhaps it was not because they were being raised by their parents, but due to the opposite reason, that they were so distanced from their parents that they spoke more about them out of curiosity.  Hence, to jump to the conclusion that their parents reared these children just because they spoke more about them is a logical fallacy. More contexts need to be given in order to make proper judgment.


In closing, the argument is flawed for the above-mentioned reasons and is unconvincing. If the above evidences and relevant facts such as the definition of key terms, research details and context were given, the argument can be strengthened considerably. Without this information, the argument remains unsubstantiated and open to debate.

Edited by Sandysum
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Everyone operates and thinks differently, so take this advice with a grain of a salt- spend a decent amount of time (I allotted three minutes on test day) just sitting there reading the information given. Don't feel the need to rush into typing; once you get comfortable, 30 minutes will seem like a lifetime. Indeed, my argument analysis response on the GRE was probably over 600 words.

Second, really try to focus on the big picture of the argument. Identify:

1) What fundamental pieces of information make this argument logically coherent and

2) The assumptions upon which the argument relies.

On point number 2, even if the prompt doesn't specifically tell you to identify the assumptions, you're still going to want to find them. Why? Well, for example, the easiest way to weaken an argument is to negate the assumption. Conversely, the easiest way to strengthen the argument is to affirm the assumption. In short, ID assumptions. Next, find the link between the assumptions and the conclusion, being sure to not fall into the trap of intermediary conclusions [if you want me to explain this part a little more, feel free to PM me. Getting kind of late :) ]

Here, I see a few:

A) There are no significant changes (e.g. cultural childrearing patterns) that occurred between 20 YA and Dr. Karp's recent research.

B) Vocalization regarding biological parents is indicative of the childrearing habits of a culture.

C) The big one- generalizability. Even if we grant that Dr. Field's research was spurious, it does not necessarily mean that his methodologies are flawed.

As I mentioned above, feel free to PM with any questions. I'd be happy to discuss :)

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