Unit 1: Critical Thinking

Introduction to Critical Thinking

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  • Created by: Dulcie
  • Created on: 06-01-11 15:00

The Language of Reasoning


Candidates should be able to explain the purpose of the following elements of an argument:





evidence in the form of survey/research data, statistics (percentages or proportions) and statistical representations and other numerical information;


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The Language of Reasoning

Candidates should be able to evaluate evidence used in arguments by considering issues such as:


the size of any survey sample quoted;


the representative nature of any sample quoted;


how and when the evidence was collected;


the potential ambiguity of findings;


alternative interpretations of statistics.


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The Language of Reasoning

Candidates should be able to identify instances where reasons offer limited support to conclusions; and instances where reasons offer stronger support to conclusions.

 Candidates should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the importance of the link between reasons and conclusions, by giving explanations of why a reason does or does not support a conclusion or by giving reasons that would support a given conclusion.

 Note: When candidates are asked to identify parts of an argument they are expected to understand the need for accuracy in using the author’s words, rather than producing a paraphrase or a summary. When candidates are asked to evaluate reasoning they are expected to make reference to the stimulus material in their answers.

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Candidates should be able to identify and assess different ‘claims’ in source material, for example by considering the plausibility of the claim and the evidence which supports or undermines the claim.

 In the context of a simple scenario, candidates should be able to identify, demonstrate an understanding of, and apply appropriately, the following criteria for judging credibility:

plausibility of claims or evidence;

corroboration (e.g. of witness accounts);

(in)consistency (within a witness account and inconsistency or conflict between different accounts);




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vested interest, when there would be a clear gain from telling the truth or misrepresenting the truth;

ability to see or perceive, including an understanding of the relative reliability of primary sources (eye-witness testimony) compared to secondary sources, and a consideration of factors that could distract, disorientate or confuse an observer;

neutrality, when a balanced account is given or when a person has no known connection to parties involved in the scenario;

reputation (negative or positive), which could come from past performance and behaviour, or from commonly held opinion, in cases such as the police, doctors and broadcasters e.g. the BBC.

bias in situations where a one-sided account is given or when a person’s background/experience disposes them to a particular point of view;

expertise or experience of sources or witnesses;

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Candidates should be able to assess the credibility of evidence from individuals or organisations by:

assessing the plausibility, extent and reasonableness of claims;

giving reasons why a particular claim may or may not be plausible

explaining how any claims are strengthened/weakened by particular credibility criteria;

identifying and explaining what other information would be needed in order

to reach a judgement about the credibility of a particular document or source.

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Candidates should be able to compare and contrast the relative credibility of individuals or documentary evidence within a given scenario, by selecting and applying a range of credibility criteria.

Candidates should be able to make informed judgements about the most/least credible source within a scenario.





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Q1 Example

The question will be phrased something like this: “Consider sports commentaries in general. State three weaknesses in the credibility of such reporting.” There will be three marks available, one for each weakness correctly identified.


The way to approach this question is to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Will reporters have access to evidence?
  2. Will reporters be able to interpret the evidence correctly?
  3. Will reporters report their interpretations accurately? 

Ability to see, vested interest, neutrality, expertise and reputation could also be important factors.

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Q2 Credibility of documents

The question will look something like this: “Consider the credibility of Documents 1, 2, and 3. For each document make two points of assessment, each of which should: identify a relevant credibility criterion; use this to assess the credibility of the document; support your assessment with reference to the text.”

You must: Quote, choose a credibility criteria and assess the credibility of the documents as a whole, rather than the witnesses within them. This applies even if the document is written by a single author.

 Eg: “[Document #]’s credibility is [strengthened / weakened by credibility criterion] [explanation of relevance]; [supporting quote from text].”..

.“Document 2’s credibility is strengthened by a good ability to see, as it contains several eye-witness reports; ‘Keith Fear was at the event…’, ‘… the stadium announcer.’”

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Q on Specific Witnesses

The question should look something like this: “Consider witnesses A and B. Assess the credibility of evidence relating to them. For each, make two points of assessment, each of which should: identify a claim made; assess how this is strengthened or weakened by any relevant credibility criterion; state what you must suppose to be true in order to reach your assessment.”

You must:

identify a relevant claim that the witness makes

apply a relevent credibility criterion and say whether it strengthens or weakens - be explicit; eg If you think that their credibility is weakened by vested interest, say what the vested interest is (e.g. “Gary’s claim that the other driver caused the accident is weakened by his vested interest to avoid being blamed himself and having to claim on his insurance”). -  There is one mark available for a correct application of a credibility criterion.

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Q on Specific Witness

The third and final part of this question is crucial. It asks you to identify what assumptions you must make in order for your point of credibility to hold. ( 2 marks for one assumption.)

The point about Gary holds “… assuming that the accident caused enough damage that it’s worth getting an insurance company involved.”

Q7 Credibilty Comparisons (2marks) - The question will be worded like this: “Use one credibility criterion to demonstrate which source, A or B, is more credible than the other.”

You should structure your answer in the following way: “A is more credible than B due to [criterion of credibility]. A’s credibility is strong because [explanation]. B’s is comparatively weak because [explanation].”

Eg: Or: “Amy is more credible than Barbara due to her greater expertise. Amy’s credibility is strong because she is a qualified vet with twenty years of experience in the profession. Barbara’s credibility is comparatively weak because she’s allergic to all animals so hasn’t been near any since she was 4.”

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thnkss this is really gud :P


when answering the 16 mark question regarding cred and plaus, how many sources do you need to write about?


chloe > you need to write a point about crediblity and plausability of three sources on both sides of the arguement :D

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