Critical Thinking Overall

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 23-04-15 10:46

Argument Indicators

Argument Indicators Examples:

  • Indicating a reason; because, as, since, due to, such as.

  • Indicating a conclusion, therefore, so, thus, it follows that, consequently, should, and ought.

Using argument indicators:

  • The because test- insert 'because' to check for reasons.

  • The therefore test- inserts 'therefore' to check for the conclusion.

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Counter – assertions, counter-arguments

  • Counter-argument - an additional argument that is against, or counter to, what the conclusion seeks to establish. This writer normally presents the counter-argument in order to dismiss it.

  • Counter-assertion - If the writer presents a reason that support an opponent's argument, rather than a counter argument, then the writer is making a counter-assertion/claim (It is the part of the argument that shows another point of view disagreeing with the conclusion of an argument. A author show then show we it is wrong)

Counter-argument or counter-assertion examples: although, despite this, however, it has been said, it has been suggested that, contrary to this, on the other hand, some may argue

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Hypothetical Reasoning and Assumptions

Hypothetical claim - a claim in the form ‘if this happens …. then that will happen...’ This looks at the consequence that might occur if something were the case. Hypothetical claim indicator words and phrases include:  if, provided that, on condition that, given that...then… A hypothetical claim within an argument may be a reason or a conclusion.

Assumption - this is a missing reason in an argument. The writer accepts the assumption, but has not stated it. The assumption is essential for the conclusion to be drawn. This can within a reason. They are not stated in the passage. There may be more than one and it is a necessary part for an argument to work. It will be easier to identify once the conclusion is identified.

Reverse test - a strategy for checking whether an assumption is needed by an argument, by asking yourself if the argument would work with the assumption reversed.

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Identifying Evidence and Examples

  • Example - something which is used as evidence because it is characteristic of the same kind of things or because it can serve to illustrate a principle.

Evidence can be in the form of: statistical or numerical data, an estimate, a factual claim, a personal observation, a statement from a source or witness.

More formal methods of collecting research data include:

  • Taking measurements e.g. recording weight and blood pressure of patients visiting the local health centre

  • observation e.g. watching and recording information about the behaviour of animals in the wild

  • Asking questions through questionnaires e.g. asking customers about the customer service they receive at the supermarket

If the data is collected properly it will have a good representation of the population. Percentages and proportions are a valuable tool for presenting data. The ‘average’ or mean is an example that misleads in more than one way.

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Analysing and Evaluating Reasoning

Distinguish the difference between reasons and evidence and examples. Find it and write it out as it is presented in the passage’. You cannot gain marks just by writing: ‘the evidence may not be true’. You need to focus on whether it is relevant, representative and reliable.

If the ‘if’ can be followed by a ‘then’, then hypothetical reasoning is present.

Some argument indicators lead into the writer’s point of view. Some lead into a counter-assertion or counter-argument that is being dismissed. When looking at a passage, break it down and look for the missing step. Be precise

Assess the reasonableness of assumptions - Concentrate on being precise about small, common words; you are more likely to misunderstand or lose mark if you don’t pay attention to words like ‘some’, ‘all’, ‘only’, ‘always’ and ‘never’ than if you don’t know what a long word means.

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Credibility - Whether someone’s claims or evidence can be believed. Plausibility - Whether or not a claim or piece of evidence is reasonable. Witness - a person who saw (or heard) an event.

In the examination you may be asked to access evidence in the form of statements or personal observations by people who have specialist knowledge of a topic.

  • Source - a person, organisation or document providing information or evidence

  • Witness statements - a report by someone who has actually seen (or heard) an event.

  • Criteria - standards, measures or benchmarks, against which something can be measured

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Credibility Criteria

Credibility Criteria:

  • Consistency

  • Reliability

  • Ability to perceive

  • Vested interested

  • Expertise

  • Neutrality

Ability to perceive -  a source’s ability to use any of the five senses to access an event or situation (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell). Neutrality - being impartial: having no reason to favour either side in a dispute or difference of opinion. Vested interest - personal interest , usually financial, in a state of affairs or in an organisation leading to the expectation of personal gain from a favourable outcome.

Expertise - skills, experience and training that give someone specialist knowledge and judgement

Reputation - what is generally said or believed about the character of a person or an organisation. (Past experience)


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Identifying arguments, explanations or description

The main characteristics of an argument is that there is an attempt to persuade you through the use of reasoning. An argument will always have a conclusion, which will be supported by one or more reasons and may also include evidence, examples etc. However there are other forms of language that you will come across that may appear, at first glance, to be argument, e.g. opinions, explanations and description (accounts)

  • Explanation - is a reason given to show how or why something is the way that it is, but which does not attempt to persuade the reader to accept the conclusion. Conclusion Indicator words e.g therefore, so, thus, hence, it follows, consequently.
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Applying and Extending Analytical Skills

Analogies - are a form of argument which use parallels between similar situations to persuade the audience to accept a conclusion. This analogy is a special form of comparison which suggests that the situation are significantly similar and work in the same way. When you identify an analogy, you need to:

  • 1.identify precisely the situations being compared

  • 2.identify the conclusion being supported by the analogy

Step 1.Identify precisely the situations being compared: You need to make sure that you are very clear and precise about the situations being compared.
Step 2.Identify the conclusion being supported by the analogy: Analogies in everyday writing are often used without a stated conclusion, leaving the audience to work out which conclusion is implied. However, in the AS exam, it is most likely that the conclusion will be stated and you will have to identify it. If the conclusion is not stated, you could be asked, ‘what conclusion can be drawn from the analogy?’ or ‘What conclusion is the analogy intended to support?

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Principle - is a guide to action which can be applied in a range of circumstances, beyond the immediate context of the argument. There are different kinds of principles e.g. ethical principles, legal rules, medical ethical guidelines, business or working practices. principles may be used in an argument as reasons, conclusions or assumptions.

It is useful to know that principles can appear as reasons, intermediate conclusions or a main conclusion. In the AS Unit 2 exam, you are likely to be asked to identify a principle, but not say whether it is a reason or conclusion.

Principle Indicator words

Principle are often expressed using the word ‘should’ e.g.

  • You should be kind to other people

  • You should clear up after yourself

  • We should consider the needs of others

So, when you are identifying principles:

  • check that it is a general statement which acts as a guide to action

  • check that it applies to lots of different situations

  • look for words such as ‘should’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘unfair’ - but double check as you may come across should as a conclusion indicator.

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Identifying inconsistency and contradiction

Inconsistency - inconsistent parts of the argument cannot both be the case at the same time, or they would support different conclusions. There may be two pieces of evidence in different paragraphs which cannot both be true, or a reason and a piece of evidence which would support different conclusions.

Contradiction - is a special form of inconsistency. Ideas or facts which are contradictory say exactly the opposite things.  In short passages the contradiction can clearly appear to be nonsense. In a longer passage the contradiction may not strike you as quickly, but it is still nonsensical.

  • Inference - is the logical link between reasons and conclusions.

  • Refute - means demonstrate to be wrong. So if you refute someone’s arguments, you show that their argument do not work - you have to highlight the weakness in the arguments, perhaps by showing them to be inconsistent

  • Repudiate - means disown, condemn an opinion, reject as unfounded or inapplicable. Re pudiate has a sense of rejecting without showing why.

  • A necessary condition is something that must be the case. For example, talent is necessary if you wish to become a professional footballer or musician

  • A sufficient condition is something which is enough to ensure that something will be the case. For example, being convicted of murder is a sufficient condition for a stay in prison.

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Appeals - a reference to something or someone, in order to persuade an audience to accept a conclusion. An appeal can be strong. Our feelings of concern for the survivors of a natural disasters can be a good reason to offer help.

Appeal to authority - referring to an expert witness or recognised authority to support a claim. Appeal to popularity - A form of argument which justifies a conclusion by its popularity. Appeal to tradition - A form of argument that supports a conclusion by saying it is traditional or has always been done this way. Appeal to history - A form of argument that supports a prediction about the future with a reference to the past. Appeal to emotion - A form of argument that works by referring to things that make us feel very emotional, and attempts to persuade the audience to support the conclusion because they feel strongly about it, rather than by using good reasons.

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Flaws - Reasoning and Generalisation

Reasoning from wrong actions

  • ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ - a flaw that attempts to justify one farmful thing on the basis of another, different harmful things

  • Tu quoque - an attempt to justify an action on the basis that someone else is doing it


  • Hasty generalisation: draw a general conclusion from insufficient evidence. For example: ‘Refi is a good critical thinking student. Refi is a tall good, so all good critical thinking students are tall girls.
  • Sweeping generalisation: a generalisation that moves from some or many to all, creating a stereotype. It may sometimes move back to one individual again. For example: ‘They’re all single mothers on benefits in Brook Park’.  There probably single mothers who live in Brooke Park and work; or married/cohabiting mothers, or women who are not mothers or men
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Flaws - Unwarranted assumptions

  • Unwarranted assumption of a causal relationship/casual flaw - reasoning that assumes a causal connection without good reason, oversimplifies causal relationship or confuses cause and effect.

  • Confusing correlation and cause - Assuming that because one thing happens before another, or two things happen together, one causes the other. However there may simply be a correlation - a relationship between two things which happen at the same time but where neither causes the other.

  • Post Hoc is a special form of confusing correlation and cause. In a post hoc flaw the reasoning follows the pattern. A happens before B. Therefore A causes B.
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Other logical flaws

  • Restricting the options - presents a limited picture of choices available in a situation in order to support one particular option

  • Slippery slope - reasons from one possibility, through a series of events that are not properly or logically linked, to an extreme consequence

  • Circular argument - an argument in which one of the reasons is the same as the conclusion, or an argument in which you have to assume that the conclusion is right in order for the reasons to make sense.

  • Confusing necessary and sufficient conditions - An argument that assumes that a necessary condition is also sufficient, or that assumes a sufficient condition must also be necessary.
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Misleading Language

  • Attacking the arguer/ad hominem -  is a form of reasoning that dismisses an opposing view by attacking the person putting forward that view, rather than by addressing the reasoning used to support that opposing view.
  • Straw person - Isa flaw misrepresents or distorts an opposing view in order to dismiss it. Sometimes this means picking on a weak part of the argument and misrepresenting the whole argument as weak. A straw person flaw often misses the point and attacks something which does not exist.
  • Conflation - This flaw is bringing two or more different concepts together and treating them as the same thing. This can fail to support a conclusion because of the confusion between terms.
  • Arguing from one thing to another - Sometimes an author might make a point about one thing and use it to supporta conclusion about something different. This is a special case of using reasons which can not relevant to a conclusion, and which therefore do not support the conclusion. We can call this arguing from one thing to another.
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Evaluating analogy

For example: it is unfair to keep teenagers in school. It deprives them of freedom, self-esteem and purpose in life. We may as well send them straight to prison.

  • Step 1: This analogy compares the restriction situation of sending teenagers to prison with the restrictive situation of keeping them in school.

  • Step 2:  This analogy is used to support the conclusion that it is unfair to keep teenagers in schools.

  • Is it a good comparison between the situations

  • Does this comparison five strong support to the conclusion being drawn?

  • Step 3: Consider significant similarities between the situations

  • Step 4: Consider significant difference between the situations

  • Step 5: Evaluate whether the difference outweigh the similarities

  • Step 6: Decide whether the analogy helps support the conclusion

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Evaluating Hypothetical Reasoning

Hypothetical reasoning

  • A hypothetical claim is a claim in the form ‘If...then’

  • A hypothetical claim within an argument may be a reason or conclusion

  • Hypothetical claim indicators: ‘If, provided that, on condition that, given that...then’

  • Hypothetical reasoning looks at the consequences that might occur if something were the case.

Evaluating hypothetical reasoning

  • is the condition likely?

  • do the consequences follow?

  • does the reasoning support the conclusion?
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Evaluating Principles


A general, rule-like statement that applies beyond the immediate circumstance and act as a guide to action. A principle can be a reason, intermediate or main conclusion in an argument.

Evaluating the use of principles in argument

  • how generally does this principle apply?

    • does the principle to the situation in question?

    • in what other situation does the principle apply?

    • are there any situation in which the principle doesn't apply?

  • does this principle support the author’s conclusion?

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Developing your own arguments

  • Offering alternative explanations
  • Writing a developed explanation
  • Including evidence and example to support your explanation

REMEMBER: That you are not being asked to write an argument with reasons supporting a conclusion, but to give a developed explanations with examples and/or evidence in support.

  • Give a principle that would support the author’s argument

REMEMBER: A principle is a general, rule-like statement, which applies beyond the immediate circumstances and acts as a guide to action. A principle can act as a reason, intermediate conclusion, assumption or conclusion in an argument.

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Writing an argument

  • The process of writing your own argument
  • Clearly stating the conclusion
  • Keeping a close link between reasons and conclusions
  • Include several reasons in your argument
  • Responding to other arguments - counter argument/assertion

Writing your own arguments in the exam

  • Make sure that you have a clearly stated conclusion

  • make sure that you have an intermediate conclusion

  • make sure that you have several reasons that support an intermediate conclusions and a further reason that supports the main conclusion independently. There should be at least three reasons overall

  • make sure all of these support the main conclusion

  • make sure that you have a clear structure

  • make sure that you include example or evidence to illustrate the reas


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Developing your argument

Avoiding weakness in your argument

  • not supporting a precise conclusion

  • flaws and irrelevant appeals

  • assumptions

Avoiding flaws and irrelevant appeals

  • generalisation

  • appeal to authority

  • appeal to popularity

  • slippery slope

  • rhetorical questions

Use principles, hypothetical reasoning and counter arguments

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