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GRE Analyze the argument: Lavender pillows for sleep

"An ancient, traditional remedy for insomnia – the scent of lavender flowers – has now been proved effective. In a recent study, 30 volunteers with chronic insomnia slept each night for three weeks on lavender-scented pillows in a controlled room where their sleep was monitored electronically. During the first week, volunteers continued to take their usual sleeping medication. They slept soundly but wakened feeling tired. At the beginning of the second week, the volunteers discontinued their sleeping medication. During that week, they slept less soundly than the previous week and felt even more tired. During the third week, the volunteers slept longer and more soundly than in the previous two weeks. Therefore, the study proves that lavender cures insomnia within a short period of time.

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."

The writing topic can be found among the complete list of topics at PrepScholar. Below is my model essay, which I composed under mock exam conditions as seen in the video above.


The study in this trial of the use of lavender pillows as a remedy for insomnia lasted a period of three weeks, and claims terrific results within that time period; however, the findings do not include any discussion of the limitations of the study, of which there are several.

As all clinical trails do, this study was conducted in a controlled setting where the volunteers were monitored at night time. Controlling the room’s temperature and having standardized accommodations for all the participants would be a minimal expectation. However, lighting and darkness for set times would be one aspect of the study that could significantly improve sleep conditions compared to the participants’ bedrooms at their homes. These situational aspects stand apart from the one modification that was targeted, the lavender pillow. Bringing us to the pillow itself–apart from the scent, how might the pillow be different from standard pillows in size or firmness?

Another major detail that is not presented in the synopsis of the study is whether or not there was a control group in addition to the 30 participants who received the sleep modification of the lavender pillow. Any scientific study of merit would make a point of comparing the targeted modification against a placebo, which in this case would be a substitute for lavender. Perhaps this could be a pillow with a different scent, no scent or an imitation lavender. The aim of testing alternatives and/or an imitation could potentially strengthen the findings of this study significantly if the results support the claim of the researchers.

The three-week time period is a third detail that calls into question the claim that the lavender pillow “cured” the participants’ insomnia. Insomnia, the condition of chronic sleeplessness, is on-going over periods of time much longer than three weeks. Extending this study to a period of several months could greatly support this claim if the results are sustained.

Finally, as sleep enhancers are many in type, the fact that all the participants had already been taking a medication to improve sleep does not make for a good case either. While the three week time period includes gradual adjustments to take the participants off their medications, the fact that the medications continued to be administered at the same time as the introduction of the lavender pillow makes for a weakened argument. Perhaps, commencing environmental changes at the same time prior medications are stopped would strengthen the findings. Combining medications and a secondary aid, like the lavender pillow, present a completely different solution to treating sleeplessness that could be valid. However, it would make a much better argument for this particular study by beginning with the claim that eliminating the need for medication was the main aim of testing the effect of the lavender pillow.

In conclusion, the findings of the study could be strengthened by including in the report exactly how the room was controlled, other details regarding the pillow and by comparing the results to those of a control group that had been given a placebo.

(505 words)

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