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Conclusions

In most cases, successfully analyzing an argument hinges on determining the conclusion of the argument. The conclusion is the main idea of the argument. It is what the writer is trying to persuade the reader to believe. Most often the conclusion comes at the end of the argument. The writer organizes the facts and his opinions so that they build up to the conclusion. Sometimes, however, the conclusion will come at the beginning of an argument. Rarely does it come in the middle. And occasionally, for rhetorical effect, the conclusion is not even stated.

 

Example

The police are the armed guardians of the social order. The blacks are the chief domestic victims of the American social order. A conflict of interest exists, therefore, between the blacks and the police—Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice

 
Here the first two sentences anticipate or setup the conclusion. By changing the grammar slightly, the conclusion can be placed at the beginning of the argument and still sound natural:

 

A conflict of interest exists between the blacks and the police because the police are the armed guardians of the social order and the blacks are the chief domestic victims of the American social order.

 

The conclusion can also be forced into the middle:
The police are the armed guardians of the social order. So a conflict of interest exists between the blacks and the police because the blacks are the chief domestic victims of the American social order.
 

 

It is generally awkward, as in the pervious paragraph, to place the conclusion in the middle of the argument because then it cannot be fully anticipated by what comes before nor fully explained by what comes after. On the rare occasion when a conclusion comes in the middle of an argument, most often either the material that comes before it or the material that comes after it is not essential.
 
When determining the meaning of a conclusion, be careful not to read any more into it than what the author states. For example, many people will interpret the sentence
 

"Every Republican is not a conservative"

 

to mean that some republicans are not conservative. MCAT passages are typically taken from academic journals, and the writers in those journals do not use grammar (logic) that loosely. On the MCAT, the above sentence would mean what it literally states—that no Republican is a conservative.

To illustrate further, consider the meaning of
some in the sentence “Some of Mary’s friends went to the party.” It would be unwarranted, based on this statement, to assume that some of Mary’s friends did not go to the party. Although it may seem deceiving to say that some of Mary’s friends went to the party when in fact all of them did, it is nonetheless technically consistent with the meaning of some.
 





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