Kaplan GRE & GMAT Exams Writing Workbook, 3rd Edition (2008)

Chapter 8. GMAT Sample Essays

Here are sample top scoring essays for five of the sample Issue prompts and five of the sample Argument prompts found in the previous chapter. Remember that an essay does not have to be perfect to receive a top score. Review these essays and note which qualities earned them a score of 6.


Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated below. Support your position with reasons and/or examples from your experience, observations, or reading.

“Individual awards should not be used in youth activities—they will only cause children to think that there can only be one person who deserves praise in any given pursuit.”

The author of the statement above would have her readers believe that individual awards in children’s activities are counter-productive because they teach our youths to be overly competitive. While it should not be the aim of youth activities to promote hyper-competition between children, it does not follow that individual awards should not be used. In fact, individual awards have the benefit of teaching valuable lessons to children. Through the bestowal of individual honors, children will learn that notable efforts deserve praise, they will see role models in their peers in terms of how to perform, and they will also gain knowledge of how our competitive world works.

The first major benefit of individual awards in youth activities is that it teaches children that there are rewards for stellar efforts. Pavlov showed decades ago the power of positive reinforcement and everything from dog training to child psychology has adopted its tenets. If there is a positive prize, such as an individual award, children will learn to strive for better results, whether the activity is youth soccer or other activity. My eleven year-old niece has developed into a fine young poet primarily because of the praise and awards she received as a grammar school student in poetry exercises.

Another positive factor associated with individual awards in youth sports is that children will gain necessary role models in their peer group. If a child has dreams of being a star basketball player, he or she can always look to the professional leagues and model themselves after Vince Carter or Tim Duncan. However, young children cannot possible mimic the behavior of these international stars on the court. A child would be much better off trying to compete with the acknowledged star of the youth league in order to improve on his skills. When I was a young swimmer, I did not ever try to train to compete with the Olympic athletes. I simply tried to become the best on my team, then the best in my league, and so on. I benefited from watching the work ethic and strokes of the awarded athletes around me, not the stars that I could not possibly compare myself to.

The final benefit of individual awards is that it teaches children that we live in a competitive world. There is no reason that teachers, parents, and coaches should teach their children to cheat to get ahead. However, children must learn that there is a competitive world waiting on the other side of childhood where better performers are more successful.

Skeptics of this viewpoint might disparage these arguments by stating that children do learn to be cutthroat from individual awards or that individual awards kill a sense of team play. Even individual awards can be structured in such a way that these concerns will be moot. First of all, awards can be given in a variety of activities so that the individual talent of every participant is recognized. Young Jim may be the best basketball player, but Timmy can win for best acting skills. Second, multiple awards can be given for the same activity. Again, this will emphasize that everyone is good at something. Tina might win for best soccer defense while Alexis wins for best shooting. Finally, awards can be given for best spirit or best team player. Recognizing the ability to sacrifice for the common good and be a team player will only encourage this activity in the future lives of youths.

While individual awards may develop competition between children, they can be structured in a way to prevent children from becoming overly focused on competition. In addition, individual awards have a number of important benefits. Among these benefits are the behavioral effects of positive reinforcement, the granting of young role models, and the lessons provided in the way that the “real” world works.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated below. Support your position with reasons and/or examples from your experience, observations, or reading.

“Leaders of democratic countries need to rely on their own best judgment rather than following the will of the people.”

In representative democracies, voters select leaders to make decisions. This is in contrast to direct democracy, where voters make decisions directly. Although there are isolated examples of direct democracy, in local Swiss government, in referendums, and in petitions for change, direct democracy is difficult to practice, and elected representatives make most decisions in most democratic nations. In representative democracy, leaders must rely on their best judgment and not always follow the “will of the people.” Not only are leaders selected for this very role, but also they typically have more information upon which to make decisions, and more time to weigh the issues than do voters. Also, judging the “will of the people” is difficult.

Two advantages that elected leaders have over voting citizens are greater quantities of information and time. For example, the office of the President of the United States receives information from many parts of the executive branch, and has hundreds of researchers collecting and distilling information. Few voters would have the time or the expertise to distill and make use of such information. In addition, the President has a job where he or she is afforded the time to make important decisions, and where he or she must make decisions constantly. It would be impractical to expect American voters to similarly devote large portions of their time to ponder questions of foreign trade or domestic policy, and to make quick, important decisions when such decisions must be made.

A final reason that leaders should act on their own judgment is the difficulty in precisely determining public opinion. Much of the work in determining public opinion is currently done through polling small “representative” samples of the public. Polls, however, can be skewed by many factors including how a question is asked, and what time of day the poll administrator calls. Also, many respondents are unsure of their answers, and seek merely to please the administrators. When groups of individuals are placed in groups to discuss policies, or when respondents are presented with certain facts, the results can vary dramatically from poll results. Opinion poll results are also known to contradict each other, to move wildly in a short period of time, and, sometimes, to be inaccurate. On many issues, it would be very difficult to assess public opinion with a high degree of accuracy.

An elected leader has an obligation to act according to her best interest because he or she has more information, more time, and a defined role tailored for making decisions for the people. In addition, a leader has little chance of knowing the “true” will of the people at every moment because of the logistical difficulties inherent in measuring the opinions of people.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated below. Support your position with reasons and/or examples from your experience, observations, or reading.

“Government needs to regulate industry to ensure that the environment is protected. Without regulation, companies will always strive for profits at the expense of the natural world.”

It may not be true that companies will “always” strive for profits at the expense of the environment; however, government authorities should take an active role in policing the actions of corporate entities to ensure that commitment to the profit motive does not have deleterious effects on our environment. Some companies do show a serious concern for the natural world, but even a few transgressors can cause significant harm to the ecosystem. Regulators must lay down the primary line of defense in protecting the environment, making sure that a series of small offenses do not combine to have a major impact.

The primary concern of companies is to increase their profits and therefore the value of the enterprise. Because of this, companies are given a strong incentive to slash costs wherever possible. Examples may include putting runoff from a factory directly into a stream, river, or ocean without treating it first or allowing smoke from a coal burning power plant to flow unhindered into the atmosphere. Building treatment facilities or installing smoke stack scrubbers are almost never in the best interests of individual companies. Since companies do not face the costs of polluting streams or the atmosphere, they will increase profits by polluting.

In fact, some of the worst pollution industries have never voluntarily taken pollution control measures. Before recent legislation and enforcement that requires the use of smoke stack scrubbers in coal burning power plants, all the coal plants in the United States were letting SOx and NOx gasses flow directly into the atmosphere. Similarly, the mining industry never treated mine runoff before environmental regulations required them to do so. The oil refining industry is another that has had to make considerable changes against its will to improve its environmental track record.

Some may argue that the past thirty years or so have seen more and more companies displaying a “green,” or ecologically informed, sensibility in their decision-making and that therefore government regulation is no longer needed. This development, however, should not lull government leaders into a reduced degree of vigilance. Even if the majority of business concerns were environmentally responsible, it would only take one company’s negligence to bring about an ecological disaster. Most of the environmental tragedies of the last few decades—for example, Love Canal, the Exxon Valdez, and the real-life events depicted in “Erin Brockovich”—have been attributable to individual corporations. Even businesses that one might characterize as “environmentally aware” may choose to skirt environmental regulations by incremental degrees in the pursuit of greater profitability. If every company, however, were to sanction such small infractions, the collective effect could be considerable.

While it is not true that companies will always sacrifice the environment for increased profits, it is definitely true that government needs to regulate industry to protect the natural world. Without regulation, too many companies would be tempted by profits to slash the costs required for environmental cleanup or would never see a reason to improve their current polluting operations. Government watchfulness in matters of environmental protection will provide the requisite insurance against all manifestations of ecological disregard, from the single catastrophic event to the stealthy accumulation of cut corners.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated below. Support your position with reasons and/or examples from your experience, observations, or reading.

“Employees respond best to monetary compensation. No incentive will engender better performance than a raise in salary or a big bonus for a job well done.”

While compensation plays an important role in encouraging optimal employee performance, money is not the most effective incentive. Money works more at the foundational level of motivation, convincing an employee to accept a job. Other, less tangible methods must be employed to engender peak performance once the employee is at work. These methods may range from public praise for a job well done to greater degrees of responsibility in the decision-making process.

Less straightforward methods of reward can be very effective in fostering exemplary performance. Some of these methods may also retain a compensatory element. Many firms, for example, reward high-performing executives with the option to buy shares of the company’s stock at prices lower than the normal trading range of the stock. While money is still involved, the long-term aspect of this reward encourages a similarly long-term commitment to the employer, and a focus on years to come rather than on next week’s paycheck.

Many other types of incentives have no financial element. Simple words of praise, if delivered consistently and, when warranted, before the employee’s peer group, can do much to win a subordinate’s commitment to a higher level of performance. When I began my first job after college at a consulting firm, my manager got the most out of me by praising a job well done. I was always highly motivated to again earn her praise.

Promotions can also have positive effects, as long as the promotion is truly one of responsibility and not in title alone. Many motivated people dream of having the responsibility to make decisions for themselves at work and often wish to have their “boss’s job.” When a person gets a true promotion, they often feel that added responsibility deserves added efforts and put even more of themselves into their work.

Finally, employees can also be motivated is through inspirational leadership. Those that pour their hearts out for a political campaign are rarely doing so because of the financial rewards that they might reap. In fact, many volunteer their time and tireless efforts with no expectation of financial reward. They work so hard because they believe in the positive effect that their candidate or policy might have, if elected or enacted. This same motivation can also work in a company. Employees will often respond well to a hard-working, fair, and dedicated manager.

None of this is to say that money does not play a role in motivation. However, monetary compensation serves as what the eminent twentieth century motivational expert Frederick Herzberg termed a “dissatisfier.” According to Herzberg, if an employee perceived himself or herself to be underpaid, that perception worked to increase dissatisfaction and strongly reduce the motivation to perform beyond, or even at, expectations. Conversely, if the employee perceived himself or herself to be compensated fairly, or overpaid, this might have engendered some sense of personal satisfaction or comfort, but it wouldn’t have necessarily translated into outstanding job performance. The perception of insufficient compensation can dissatisfy an employee, but the perception of sufficient compensation is not a great driver to higher performance. On some level, the employee may feel naturally entitled to the higher rate of pay.

While it is true that remuneration is a necessary ingredient in the motivation of employees, it is not sufficient unto itself. Most people enjoy the sense of belonging to a winning team and of contributing to a worthy endeavor. They also may respond well to praise or increases in responsibility. Still other incentives involve longer-term financial compensation without a raise in salary or a big bonus.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated below. Support your position with reasons and/or examples from your experience, observations, or reading.

“The only history that we should teach our children is our own country’s history. This will boost their patriotic feelings.”*

The author of the opinion above would have his or her readers believe that schools in this country should only teach American history to students because this will increase their patriotism. There are, however, many negative effects of teaching only a unilateral view of history, including the inability to learn from the mistakes and successes of others, the lack of understanding of other cultures, and the feeling of over-importance that children may derive. It also remains unclear if teaching only American history would actually have the salubrious effect of increasing patriotism. Therefore, I do not agree with the opinion expressed above.

The first negative effect of teaching only American history is that it does not let our children, who are the future leaders of this country, learn from the mistakes of others. The study of history allows young people to see how difficult situations were handled in the past. Students might learn to avoid the mistakes of Neville Chamberlain in backing down to Hitler or the success of negotiated peace from Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin by studying foreign histories. If students studied only American history, they would miss out on many of these valuable lessons.

The second ill effect is that studying only American history does not allow students to gain an appreciation and understanding of foreign cultures. In this increasingly global marketplace in which we live, it is critical that our political and business leaders of tomorrow understand their counterparties in other nations. Without studying global history, our future leaders would not understand the critical and delicate situations in North Korea or the Middle East. If our leaders do not understand the background to these situations, there could be disastrous effects. It would also be very important for business leaders to understand the culture and history of the markets into which they hope to sell American goods.

The final negative factor is that our children might become overly intrepid if they believe that the only history worth noting is American history. Not only would our future political leaders not have an understanding of their counterparties as discussed above, but also they may develop into overbearing and unilateral negotiators. The situation of North Korea outlined above could be greatly compounded if our future leaders did not understand the situation, and as a result attempted to bully the North Koreans into acting a certain way. Similarly, our future business leaders would not be as effective if they tried to control partners in other nations.

Some might argue that the patriotic benefits derived from teaching only American history would outweigh the negatives as outlined. While I do not believe this would be the case even if the patriotic benefits were significant, I further believe that the benefits would not materialize under most circumstances. If our schools taught only American history, but taught it in a balanced and fair manner, there would be much for our young people to regret about the actions of our predecessors. This might actually hamper patriotism. For example, Americans are responsible for hundreds of years of slavery, for the massacre of indigenous peoples, for fighting a bloody civil war, for racial discrimination, for treating Vietnam War veterans as outcasts, and for supporting totalitarian administrations in other nations. While the history of the United States is full of laudable accomplishments, if it is taught in a balance manner, our students would not necessarily be more patriotic.

It does not make sense to teach our children only the history of this nation. There could be several negative effects, including the loss of important examples, of cultural understanding, and of proper decorum. In addition, the opinion that the main benefit of teaching only American history is increased patriotism is unsubstantiated. It does not follow that a fair and balanced portrayal of American history would augment patriotism.


Discuss how well reasoned you find the following arguments. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The following appeared in a memo to the president of Baby-And-Me Bread Company:

“Late last year we switched the supplier we use for bread bags in our Windy City bakery plant to AAA Plastics. This year we have seen over 5,000 defects in bags and each defective bag causes a need to throw out the loaf of bread. In our Bentonville bakery plant, where we use ZZZ Plastics, there have only been 1,000 defects in our bread bags. Even though AAA plastics charge considerably less for their bread bags, we should switch our Windy City plant to ZZZ Plastics in order to save money.”

The author of the memorandum to the President of Baby-And-Me Bread Company concludes that the company would save money if it switched its plastic bag supplier to its Windy City plant from AAA Plastics to ZZZ Plastics. To support this conclusion, the author cites the 5,000 defects in bags since the Windy City plant switched to AAA Plastics and the 4,000 fewer defects that are seen at the Bentonville plant, which uses ZZZ Plastics. The author makes several assumptions in this argument that are not supported by evidence, making his argument less effective. In addition, the author fails to properly define some vocabulary. These two facts make the argument weak.

The argument assumes that there is not a production volume difference between the Windy City and Bentonville plants which might explain the difference in bag defects. It may be that the Windy City plant uses one million bags per year and is experiencing only a 0.5% defect rate. If the Bentonville plant only uses one hundred thousand bags per year, then its defect rate would be double at 1.0% per year. Without information on the production volumes of the two plants, it is difficult to see if the defect rate at AAA Plastics is actually worse than the defect rate at ZZZ Plastics. The author also assumes that ZZZ Plastics would actually be able to effectively serve the Windy City bakery plant. The President of Baby-And-Me is not given any information on freight charges and the distance between ZZZ Plastics and the Windy City plant versus the distance between AAA and the Windy City Plant. It could be that the additional freight charges associated with shipping from ZZZ Plastics to Windy City would negate any savings from lower numbers of defective bags. In addition, the President is given no information on the volume that ZZZ can support. If Baby-And-Me is already purchasing all the production of ZZZ Plastics’ bags, ZZZ may not be able to supply the Windy City plant. Yet another assumption is that there is not a third plastics supplier that would be better than both AAA and ZZZ. Without information on pricing and defect rates from all potential suppliers, the President will not be able to decide the best way to save money.

To further weaken the argument, the author uses some confusing vocabulary. First, the author states that AAA Plastics charges “considerably less” for bags than does ZZZ Plastics. Without information on the actual prices charged by the two suppliers and how much is lost when a loaf must be thrown out, it is difficult to say if the switch should actually occur. If AAA bags cost so much less than ZZZ that it exceeds the cost of the lost bread product, then it certainly is not worth the switch. The second piece of confusing vocabulary is the phrase “bakery plant.” The author uses the phrase to describe both plants, but gives no information about similarities or differences between the two plants. It could be that Windy City produces more of a particular product that is susceptible to bag tears. If this is the case, switching bag suppliers would not necessarily help ameliorate the bag defect situation.

By failing to give evidence support assumptions made in his argument, the author of the memorandum to the President of Baby-And-Me fails to write a convincing case for switching bag suppliers at the Windy City bakery plant. The author also fails to clear up certain pieces of vocabulary, which make it even more difficult to believe the conclusion given. The author could write a stronger argument if he were to include more information about production volumes at the Windy City and Bentonville bakery plants, shipping costs, supplier ability to serve, supplier costs and defect rates, and similarities or differences between the products produced at the two plants.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following arguments. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The following appeared in a speech given by the new president of Lovelace’s, a major department store:

“I believe that good customer service is at the heart of good business. My first actions as president will be to increase the number of sales clerks in our stores, to open our stores earlier and close our stores later, and to offer free lollipops to all children in our stores. This emphasis on customer service will distinguish us from our many competitors, drive more business our way, and increase our profits.”

The new president of Lovelace’s Department Store concludes that certain improvements in aspects of customer service will increase the store’s profits by distinguishing the store from its competitors and capturing more business. However, the conclusion is decidedly difficult to evaluate given that there is little real evidence to back up the conclusion. The president only mentions the specific steps he will take, such as increasing staffing levels and store hours. The argument ultimately rests on a large number of unsupported assumptions. Without further evidence, the argument will remain unconvincing.

The first major assumption is that the specific actions to improve customer service will actually distinguish Lovelace’s from its “many competitors.” Since we are not given any specifics regarding Lovelace’s current hours and staffing levels or those of its main competitors, it is impossible to tell if improvements will actually distinguish the department store. For example, if Lovelace’s is open fewer hours than its competitors right now, an increase in store hours may only bring Lovelace’s in line with the industry. Similarly, it may be that Lovelace’s staffing levels have been lacking and that most competitors already offer free lollipops to children. In order to show that his actions will actually distinguish Lovelace’s, the new president must show that the improvements will be unique in the industry.

Whether the actions taken by the new president will actually drive more business to Lovelace’s is another example of an unsupported assumption. We are given no evidence that customers actually desire any of the customer service related improvements offered by the new president. It could be that customers are already happy with the current hours and staffing levels and will not be impressed by improvements in those areas. It also seems plausible that, while most children would disagree, many parents would not want their children consuming a sugar filled lollipop every time they go to the store. If the president were to offer evidence, such as customer surveys, that show a demand for these customer service improvements, his argument would be much more persuasive.

The final assumption is that the customer service improvements will increase profits. The new president offers no financial details, making this theory difficult to accept. Even if it is true that additional business—i.e., revenue—will follow the customer service improvements, it would not necessarily follow that profits would rise. It could be that the costs associated with the improvements, such as extra pay for staffing, extra utilities for staying open more, and the cost of lollipops, would actually negate the extra gross margin captured by selling more. Without a detailed cost/benefit analysis of the steps, the conclusion made by the new president is impossible to evaluate.

The new president of Lovelace’s focus on customer service may very well be the path to better performance for Lovelace’s Department Store. However, the argument made by the president is unconvincing as it now stands. The argument needs large amounts of additional evidence to be more credible. Specifically, the president should have included additional details about Lovelace’s current customer service levels relative to its competitors, data regarding the demand for additional customer service by customers, and financial details on the costs and benefits associated with the proposed changes.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following arguments. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The following appeared as part of a promotional campaign to sell advertising on channels provided by the local cable television company:

“Advertising with Cable Communications Corp. is a great way to increase your profits. Recently the Adams Car Dealership began advertising with Cable Communications and over the last 30 days, sales are up 15% over the previous month. Let us increase your profits, just as we did for Adams Cars!”

The promotional campaign by Cable Communications Corporation argues that all businesses would benefit from advertising with the cable television company in the form of increased profitability. As evidence to back up this assertion, the promotional campaign notes the experience of the Adams Car Dealership, a recent advertiser with Cable Communications Corporation. Over the last 30 days, Adams Cars has seen a 15% increase in sales over the previous month. The argument as it now stands is unconvincing because it is missing evidence that would make the argument more well reasoned and also suffers from poorly defined vocabulary, which makes the argument less easy to understand.

The argument presupposes that the example of the Adams Car Dealership is relevant for other businesses. It could be that there is a particular advantage from advertising for car dealerships because car buyers are willing to travel around to buy a car. The same may not be said, for example, of a dry cleaner. In general, people will take their dry cleaning business to the closest dry cleaner because it is a commodity service and a relatively small expenditure. Thus, advertising would be much more effective for a car dealership than a dry cleaner.

In order to convince business owners that they should advertise with Cable Communications, the promotional campaign should show additional evidence from a wide variety of business that have benefited by advertising with the company. The argument presupposes that the 15% increase in sales at Adams Car Dealership is a direct result of the recent advertising campaign with Cable Communications Corporation. It could be that the dealership had announced a sale for this month or that the previous month’s sales were seasonably low—for example sales in March might always be better than sales in February due to some exogenous factor. In order to better believe that Adams benefited from the advertising campaign with Cable Communications, business owners need evidence that there was not some other factor causing the 15% increase. Perhaps evidence could be shown comparing the last 30 days sales with the same period in the previous year, or the last time the dealership was running the same promotions.

The final area of presupposition is that business owners do not have a better option for advertising. A company may get a higher increase in profits by advertising in print media or the yellow pages. In order for business owners to make an informed decision regarding their advertising expenditures, they need to see a comparison between Cable Communication’s offering and the offerings of other advertising outlets.

The argument also suffers from poorly defined vocabulary. The first piece of such vocabulary is the word “recently.” From just this word, it is impossible to tell when the advertising began. If Adam’s advertising began three months ago, it would not be very impressive that sales increased 15% between month two and month three of the advertising campaign. Why would there not have been a boost before the most recent month? If the promotional campaign told business owners exactly when Adams began advertising, the owners would have a better ability to evaluate the argument’s conclusion.

The author should also clarify the phrase “increase your profits.” The promotional campaign’s argument gives no details on the fees associated with advertising with Cable Communications. If Adams Cars had to develop an ad and pay large sums to Cable Communications to run the ad, the total cost of advertising with the cable company very well may have exceeded the additional profits derived from increased sales. Without additional information in this regard, business owners cannot possibly evaluate the argument’s conclusion.

In order to craft a well-reasoned argument, the promotional campaign by Cable Communications needs to better define its vocabulary and offer more evidence. To better convince business owners of the benefits of advertising with Cable Communications, the company should provide additional details regarding the relevance of cable advertising to multiple business types, the exact nature of Adams’ increase in sales, the ability of cable advertising to outperform other forms of advertising, and the true costs of advertising with Cable Communications. With this additional information, the promotional campaign would be much more convincing when it concludes that advertising with Cable Communications is a great way to increase a business’s profits.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following arguments. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The following appeared in a regional fitness journal:

“A recent survey of this journal’s readers found that over 80% are or plan to be on a low-carbohydrate diet. This should serve as a warning to restaurants in our region. If they do not add low-carbohydrate meals to their menus, they could stand to lose 80% of their business.”

It appears that the low-carb revolution is affecting nearly every aspect of the food industry in our country. The author of this particular argument suggests that restaurants need to add low-carbohydrate meals to their menus or they could lose 80% of their business. As evidence to back up this conclusion, the author notes that a recent survey of the journal’s readers found that 80% are or plan to be on a low-carbohydrate diet. The conclusion is not valid, however, because the argument contains a serious flaw in logic—namely that the readers of a fitness journal are representative of all people in the region. In addition, the argument has a number of flaws in logic that need to be redressed with additional evidence.

The logical flaw in the argument revolves around the evidence used by the author. He or she cites a survey of the readers of a fitness journal in order to draw a conclusion about all restaurant patrons in the region. This is a problematic logical leap. There is no reason for restaurant owners to believe that fitness journal subscribers behave as the general population does. Just because 80% of the readers of the fitness journal are already on or are considering a low-carbohydrate diet does not mean that the same is true of the general population. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that 80% of restaurant patrons will be looking for low-carbohydrate meals. In order to correct this flaw, the author needs to show evidence that the readers of the journal do behave as the rest of the population does, or include other evidence showing that 80% of all restaurant patrons are looking for low-carbohydrate options. If the author cannot offer either of these pieces of information, he or she needs to qualify her conclusion.

The argument is also plagued by gaps in logic. Without further evidence to shore up the argument, it becomes difficult to evaluate the author’s conclusion. The first such gap is the implicit belief that the low-carbohydrate diet craze has not already affected the restaurant industry. Some portion of the 80% cited by the author is already on low-carbohydrate diets and presumably has been for some time. Restaurants may already have lost business due to this phenomenon and, therefore, do not stand to lose an additional 80% of business. In order to better evaluate the conclusion, the author should provide additional details on the breakdown of the 80%, and how long people have been on the diet.

A second gap in logic is the notion that restaurants do not already have a sufficient amount of low-carbohydrate options. It could be that subscribers to the low-carbohydrate diet are proficient at finding low-carbohydrate meals on just about any menu. Alternatively, the dieters could also be happy eating only the low-carbohydrate components of any standard entrée. To support her conclusion, the author should show evidence that the dieters are not satisfied with the low-carbohydrate options now offered and that this may prevent them from eating out.

Finally, the author needs to support the implication that low-carbohydrate dieters actually stick to their diets when they eat out. It could be that the dieters use restaurant experiences as a time to cheat on the diet. If this were true, then restaurants need not worry about losing business. The author needs to offer evidence that the dieters stick to their diets while eating out.

In summary, it is difficult to accept the conclusion that restaurants in the region risk losing 80% of their business if they do not add low-carbohydrate options to their menus given the current state of the author’s argument. In order to craft a better argument, the author should first eliminate her logical flaw by not drawing a conclusion regarding all restaurant patrons from evidence about only one sub-group of the population. The author also needs to provide additional evidence about the low-carbohydrate dieters and their needs in order to not leave large lapses in logic.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following arguments. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The following appeared in a memorandum to the Chief Executive Officer of Tasty-Ice, a company that manufactures and distributes ice cream:

“It is time to reintroduce our goat milk ice cream product that we took off the market 3 years ago. The only reason we stopped producing this product is that prices for goat milk three years ago were at 30-year highs. Now prices for the milk have fallen to more reasonable levels. Moreover, our major competitors have also stopped producing goat milk ice cream. This will allow us to position our goat milk ice cream as a premium product and to charge a premium price. Therefore, introducing a goat milk product now will greatly improve our profits.”

While goat milk ice cream may not be exciting to the average consumer, it is certainly possible that the author of this memorandum to the CEO of Tasty-Ice is correct that the reintroduction of goat milk ice cream will “greatly improve” the profits of Tasty-Ice Company. However, the argument is not well reasoned as written. The author supports his assertion by citing the lack of competition in the market place, which will allow Tasty-Ice to produce a premium product, and the reduction in goat milk prices over the last three years. In order to craft a better argument, the author needs to avoid questionable assumptions and offer better definitions for the vocabulary that he uses.

The first questionable assumption made by the author is that demand for goat milk ice cream has not changed over the last three years. The author states that the “only reason” that the company stopped making goat milk ice cream is that the input prices for goat milk had soared to levels that were unprecedented in recent history. From this fact we can gather that three years ago, the company was actually able to sell goat milk ice cream. However, there are no assurances that people still will want to buy the product. A counterexample could be that in the interim years, medical researchers had found negative health effects from consuming goat milk, or perhaps the palate of the consumer has changed in that time period. The author should have shown evidence that demand remains intact, such as a survey of consumers.

Assuming that the lack of competition will actually allow Tasty-Ice to position the goat milk ice cream as a premium product is questionable at best. A counterexample could be that goat milk ice cream has always been viewed as an inferior good, and consumers will not buy premium goat milk ice cream. Another possibility is that the Tasty-Ice brand is viewed as a down-market brand and consumers will not accept a premium product from Tasty-Ice, even if it is made in a premium way. In order for the CEO of Tasty-Ice to believe that the company can produce a premium goat milk product and charge a premium price, he or she needs evidence that shows that goat milk ice cream can be a premium product and that Tasty-Ice can be seen as a premium brand.

The final questionable assumption is that the margins associated with the goat milk product will be sufficient to “greatly improve” profits at Tasty-Ice. The argument does not include any financial data on how much it will cost to produce goat milk ice cream, what price the market will bear for the product, and how many units can be sold. Without this information, it is impossible to tell if the introduction of a goat milk ice cream line will vastly improve profits.

The assumptions are not the only reason the information in the memorandum does no present a strong argument. The author of the memorandum states that goat milk prices have fallen to “more reasonable” levels over the last three years. The CEO can properly deduce from this statement that prices are no longer at 30-year highs, but he or she does not know how far they have fallen. It could be that the company only had a highly profitable goat milk ice cream line when goat milk was at $2 per gallon, then the milk went to a thirty year high of $4 per gallon, and now is at $3 per gallon. If this were true, the phrase “more reasonable” would be deceiving. By actually telling the CEO the facts behind goat milk pricing, the author would have a more compelling argument.

The author also states that Tasty-Ice will be able to charge a “premium price” for the new goat milk line. Based on this phrasing, the CEO does not know specifically how much the company will be able to charge for a gallon of ice cream. Related to this point, if a premium price will not deliver a profit because of the costs of inputs, then the company certainly should not bring back the product line. Again, more information on this topic would make the argument better reasoned.

The author the argument sent to the CEO of Tasty-Ice Company is not well reasoned because of its questionable assumptions and unspecified terms. The CEO will not be able to properly evaluate the conclusion that the reintroduction of a Tasty-Ice goat milk ice cream will greatly improve the profits of the company. If the author were to include more evidence on market demand, the premium nature of a new product, and financial information on pricing, inputs and margins, the CEO would better be able to evaluate the conclusion.