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Create argument grid

Identify the common points amongst authors


This technique will show you how to create a grid of common points of authors' positions.

You have to figure out what the common points of agreement and disagreement between authors as a first step to creating a full map of the debate. 

Creating a grid of common points involves identifying the points of the authors, locating points of agreement and disagreement and revising the analysis to completely cover the issue.






For this technique, you will need a means of sorting and grouping points to create a table.  You might want to use sticky notes on a board or a program like omnigraffle.


1. Form clusters of points

To cluster the authors' points from your notes around small set of common topics, you can use 3 strategies:

  • Cross-citations -- look for points in the text where authors cite each other.  These cross-citations indicate that authors are speaking about same topic. 
  • Systematic review -- look through your notes and rearrange points into common groups.

  • Anchored review -- Choose an anchoring author, define clusters around authors point and then cluster other authors' points around this author.  Note that this won't work if the anchoring author doesn't provide comprehensive view of issue.

2. Formulate tentative common points

Start creating common points for the clusters by stating a claim that 2 or more authors disagree with each other.

For example, a common point on an environmental issue might be: "We should open up our wilderness areas."

3. Draw a grid of common points

Create table with authors as rows and points for columns.

4. Fill in author's responses

Figure out authors basic position

For each author,  fill in the cells of the table by stating the author's position on that common point.  Start by figuring out if the author:

  • agrees - e.g.: "we should  open up our wilderness areas as much as possible"
  • disagrees - e.g.: "we should NOT open up our wilderness areas."
  • qualifies - e.g.: "we should open up our wilderness areas in accordance with the variety of American recreational tastes."
  • makes no comment - e.g.: "no comment"

Rephrase common point
Revise the common points so that it is accurately and fairly represents the authors' position.

For example, maybe you unfairly characterized an author's position as "we should NOT open up our wilderness areas" but it would be more fair to state the author's position as: "we should LIMIT access to our wilderness areas."

Elaborate common points
Add elaborations to each other to capture their unique position.

For example, "we should limit access to our wilderness areas" might become: "we should limit access to our wilderness areas to preserve them from destruction."

5. Revise for coverage

Using your notes, work across authors to make sure that you have completely represented the author's position. Also work across columns to make sure you have covered the entire issue. Add additional comments to grid as needed.



A grid of common points

Critique questions

Does the grid...

  • cover the entire issue?
  • fully and fairly represent each author's position?
  • specify whether each author agrees, disagrees, qualifies or makes no comment on the point?
  • elaborate what is unique about each author's position?


Kaufer, D. S., Geisler, C., & Neuwirth, C. M. (1989). Arguing from sources: Exploring issues through reading and writing. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, (pp 134-148).