Critical Thinking

 A disciplined manner of thought
that a person uses to assess the
      validity of arguments
         Critical Thinking
• CT involves analyzing a discourse for
  the components of arguments and then
  evaluating those components relative
  to a set of criteria
• For now we will focus on analysis and
  use a simplified method for evaluating
  an argument
I. Analysis of an Argument
• An argument is a series of statements
  used to persuade someone to accept
  something (an opinion, idea, etc.)
• The core of an argument consists of two
  parts: claim (what the person is asked
  to accept) and its support (statements
  that provide a basis for the person to
  accept the claim)
  Analysis for Components of
• In the following passage,
• Circle the main claim (what you are
  being asked to accept)
• Underline with a solid line, reasons
  which directly support the main claim
• Underline with a dashed line, evidence
  which supports a claim in a sub-
              SAMPLE PASSAGE

We have tried to make our undergraduate
education second to none by asking our best
researchers to teach first year students. For
example, Professor Arnett, a member of the
National Academy of Science, has taught
Chemistry 83.
            Report Form
• Report form available on course web
  site as a MS-word-document, a pdf-
  document, or an HTML-document
• Complete the top section of the form
  containing general information
  Analysis Section of Report
• Indicate the main claim, reasons directly
  supporting the main claim,and the types
  of evidence (fact, statistic, etc)
  supporting claims of sub-arguments
• Label each reason as evidence, sub-
  argument, authority, assumption,
  shared belief, or explanation
We have tried to make our undergraduate
education second to none CLAIM 1
by asking our best researchers to teach first year
For example, Professor Arnett, a member of the
National Academy of Science, has taught
Chemistry 83 EVIDENCE 2.1
II. Evaluation of Argument
      Criteria for Evaluation
• Normally involves separately evaluating
  the claim, the support and the logic of
  the argument relative to standards
• For now, we will accept peer-review
  evaluations done prior to publication in
  a reputable journal
 Evaluation Section of Report
• Fill in information about peer-review and
  citations of sources
• Classify as acceptable all arguments
  that have been published in peer-
  reviewed journals
• Classify as provisionally acceptable all
  arguments that utilize evidence for
  which citations of sources are provided

• Classify as questionable all other
• Fill in section on breadth (the extent to
  which the main argument considers
  differing viewpoints of the issue)
• Viewpoint (perspective or orientation)- a
  frame of reference which determines
  how a person interprets new information

• Common past experiences which tend
  to shape one's viewpoint include race,
  religion, politics, environment, sports,
  employment, beliefs, and previous
  reasoned judgements
• Identify points of view that have not
  been adequately represented
III. Mini-Reports
• By January 23, select a proposed new
  technology as the topic for your final
  report - see list on web site or submit
  one of your own for approval
• During the period, January 23- March 6,
  five mini-reports will be due on the
  dates indicated on the course syllabus

• For each report, find a substantive
  article on your topic in a printed or web
  format (preferred) that presents
  argument(s) for/against the technology
  that you have selected as your topic
• Critically analyze and evaluate the
  arguments contained in the article
  following the procedure given earlier

• Select articles so as to maximize the
  number of different arguments so that
  by March 6, critically analyze at least 5
  arguments in favor and 5 opposed to
  your selected technology
• Your mini-reports analyzing these
  articles will be used to construct a final
  report during the last half of the course
Components of an Argument:
  Main Claim and Qualifier
• The main claim is the claim for the
  main argument - it asserts a conclusion
  such as: an idea, an opinion, a point of
  view, or a judgement
• A qualifier is a statement which
  modifies the main claim by reducing its
  scope of application- frequently starts
  with ‘if’, ‘as long as’, or ‘assuming’.
Components of an Argument:
• Reasons -statements that directly
  support the main claim- such as: other
  arguments, authority, definitions, shared
  beliefs, assumptions, or explanations
• Evidence- information that supports a
  reason- such as observations, statistical
  studies, eyewitness accounts, results of
  experiments, etc.
Partial Structure of a Main Argument that is
    Supported by Two Sub-Arguments
   Criteria for Evaluating the
• The claim must be clear (clear implies
  only one meaning, ambiguous
  implies two meanings; and vague
  implies more than two meanings)
• The claim must be precise (provides
  significant differentiation from all other
• The claim must be falsifiable and
      Criteria for Evaluating
• Qualifiers should make the claim more
  clear and precise
• Qualifiers cannot provide multiple outs -
  an inexhaustible series of excuses
  intended to discount evidence that
  would seem to falsify a claim
     Criteria for Evaluating
• Relevant - support must be directly
  related to the claim
• Comprehensive - non-selective: all
  available evidence must be considered
• Honestly interpreted - conclusion must
  be consistent with the preponderance of
  the evidence

   Criteria for Evaluating the
• Sufficient time should have elapsed
  since the publication of cited evidence
  to allow all interested scientists to
  establish that the results are
  reproducible and to design additional
  experiments to test conclusions
  Criteria for Evaluating Logic
• Logic must be sound - an argument is
  sound when it is valid and all its reasons
  are true (i.e., the claim and support are
  not in conflict with what you know to be
  true nor do they require you to believe
      other unsupported elements that are
  in conflict with what you know to be

    Format of Argumentative
• Introduction (General subject area,
  focus, thesis, assumptions, definitions)
• Main Body (Main Claim #1, reasons
  supporting main claim; claim #2,
  evidence for claim #2; claim #3,
  evidence for claim #3
• Conclusion
• Recommendations
   Criteria for Evaluating the
• Sufficient support to fulfill the burden of
  proof - enough support to persuade you
  to accept the claim
• The more extreme or unusual the claim,
  the greater the amount of support that
  should be required to meet its burden of

   Criteria for Evaluating the
• Depth refers to the extent to which the
  main argument deals with the
  complexities of the issue
• Breadth refers to the extent to which
  the main argument considers differing
  viewpoints of the issue

   Criteria for Evaluating the
• Evidence should be accurate and
  documented with citations (references
  to the original sources)
• Original sources should be from peer-
  reviewed publications ,i.e., those that
  authorities have reviewed and approved
  the methodologies and conclusions of
  the author(s)
  Criteria for Evaluating Logic
• Logic must be valid - in this course, the
  logic is valid if it utilizes either inductive
  reasoning or deductive reasoning
• Logic must be sound - an argument is
  sound when it is valid and all its reasons
  are true
• In this course logic is sound if published
  in a peer-reviewed journal
        Criteria for Relative
• Strong if argument is compelling
• Weak if inductive logic could result in
  more than one generalization
• Weak if deductive logic involves a
  generalization that does not clearly
  parallel the argument
     Criteria for Conclusion
• Accept as provisionally true if it meets
  all the criteria
• Reject if claim is not falsifiable or if
  support is not comprehensive, honest,
  replicable, and sufficient
• Suspend judgement if it meets all the
  criteria except soundness
        Mini-Report Form
• Available from Chemistry 83 web site
• Evaluate claim, support, and logic of
  each argument; and the breadth and
  depth of main argument, as instructed,
  on the form
• Attach a copy of the web article with
  claims, types of support, and types of
  logic labeled

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