Critical thinking revision
What is an argument?
- An attempt to persuade someone of a point of view by using reasoning. It is made up of three parts:
- Reason – a cause that makes something happen & answers the question ‘why…?’
- Conclusion – a result or judgement that has been caused by the reason. It doesn’t always mean the final point in a written passage.
- An element of persuasion – something that tries to influence you into believing or doing something.
DON’T BE MISLEAD – other forms of language can sometimes be included to confuse you:
- Opinion – a statement of what someone thinks or believes. It is not based on fact that can be tested.
- Assertion – an attempt to persuade but doesn’t include reasons. It is an opinion with an element of persuasion, e.g. ‘you should do this.’
- Explanation – a statement that includes at least one reason and a conclusion but doesn’t include an element of persuasion, e.g. ‘my critical thinking class has both sexes in it because my teacher wants us to have discussions from both perspectives.’
- Indicator words and phrases – help the reader to identify a particular part of an argument.
- Conclusion indicator words – act like a signal to tell us which phrase or sentence is the conclusion of the argument. E.g. therefore, so, as a result, consequently, which proves that, this means that, it follows that, thus, hence, etc.
- Sometimes indicator words are not present so you need to:
- Find the phrase or sentence that you think represents the overall point of view the writer wants you to accept.
- Try putting an indicator word like ‘therefore’ or ‘so’ immediately before this phrase or sentence to see if it makes sense.
- A reason is a rational statement that aims to persuade the reader to accept a conclusion
- Reason indicator words include:
- For the reason that, seeing that, as, because, in view of the fact that, seeing as, since, given that, etc.
- Indicator words that link reasons include:
- In addition, also, as well as, etc.
Counter assertions and counter arguments
- Counter assertion - a statement (or claim) that goes against the main conclusion of the argument
- Counter argument – a complete mini-argument that opposes the main conclusion of the argument – it includes all three elements of an argument.
- The main difference between counter assertions is that counter arguments include a reason / some reasons
- Counter arguments and counter assertions are included so that they can be made to look weak. This, in turn, strengthens the whole argument.
- Evidence – used to develop, strengthen or support a reason in an argument. It is usually in the form of numbers and the data can be from research, surveys, statistical calculations, etc.
NOTE: the numerical reference can be qualitative, e.g. ‘in a survey most people preferred to shop at Tesco’ – this is still evidence even though…