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The term "analytic reasoning" refers to recognizing patterns and connections in a variety of information. Based on these patterns, individuals who are performing analytic reasoning can use those patterns and connections to further elaborate on the information itself and to make predictive statements. This information can be quantitative in nature, such as a series of numbers or large data set, or it can be qualitative in nature, such as an essay. The ability to apply analytic reasoning to either numbers or prose allows an individual to draw conclusions from the information that are not explicitly stated in the information itself.
Using analytic reasoning to interpret numbers and prose relies on the same principle: the individual first determines a pattern within the information he or she is analyzing, then makes conclusions that follow logically from the pattern that was found within the information. For numerical data, these patterns are quantitative relationships between the numbers, and for prose, they derive from the rhetorical structure that the author uses in presenting evidence and conclusions.
A simple example of applying analytic reasoning to numerical data is looking at a sequence of numbers that augments itself using a specific formula. After someone discovers this formula, he or she can determine what the number at any position in the sequence will be. A more advanced example of applying analytic reasoning to quantitative data is the use of statistical models, such as cluster analysis or linear regression, to discover complex patterns within large data sets. One such example would be applying these models to sales data to discover statistically valid trends in sales performance. Using these trends and their magnitudes as evidence, someone performing this analysis could then craft arguments to explain current product sales performance and to make predictions on the future performance of that product.
Performing analytic reasoning on prose involves recognizing the underlying rhetorical structure that the author uses. By recognizing the rhetorical pattern that an author is using, a reader can discern the author's evidence from both the author's speculation and the author's conclusion. After separating the evidence from the conclusion, the reader can evaluate for himself or herself whether the author's conclusion follows logically from that evidence.
The reader can apply further analysis to the author's argument by analyzing the evidence itself. By identifying the rhetorical structure of the prose, the reader can isolate the pieces of evidence that are most important to proving the conclusion. If the reader can disprove these pieces of evidence, then he or she can disprove the author's conclusion. The reader can also use the evidence the author of the prose used as his or her own evidence to elaborate on aspects or consequences of the argument that the author did not cover in the prose.