Critical reasoning/StudyDesk

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Readings for Critical Reasoning

Topic 1: Introduction to critical reasoning

In Topic 1 you are given the opportunity to explore what critical reasoning is and what it means to think for yourself. This topic sets the foundation for everything that follows and should take about 10 hours to complete.

Resources Activity Time
Create a microblog account (you can choose one of three options):
  • Create a WikiEducator account to post WEnotes on WikiEducator, or
  • Create an account, or
  • Create a Twitter account.
Introduce yourself and provide a short 100-word description of a situation you recently experienced which could have been avoided or simplified if the participants had reasoned more critically. Comment on the microblogs of two other course participants 30 - 60 minutes

Introductory reading

Topic 1

 "New Boy" (11 min 46s , 17 mb)

  • In your journal, jot down your current working definition of critical reasoning
  • Read the course and topic introduction and attempt Activity 1 in Topic 1 
  • Watch the YouTube video "New Boy" (link on left under resources).
Jot down some advice to the teacher in this short video. Ask two friends/colleagues to do the same. Compare your responses. In what ways were your responses similar or different? What does this activity suggest about the nature of critical reasoning in the field of human and social sciences? Update your working definition of critical reasoning.
  • Complete Topic 1 and visit the University of Michigan and University of Hong Kong websites making notes on the nature of critical reasoning in relation to questions formed from the topic objectives e.g.
    • What does it mean to think for myself?
    • How can I think in a more informed way?
    • How can I practise critical self-reflection?
7.5 Hours
Reflection Now create your own set of guidelines for everyday more critical thinking. Post your guidelines in the form of a blog. Comment on the blogs of two other course participants. 1.5 Hours

Topic 2: Obstacles to clear thinking

Topic 2 gives you the opportunity to gain insight into a number of common faults (fallacies) in reasoning; you will begin to understand what they are and why they should be avoided. You will get the opportunity to reflect on your own thinking and will start on your journey to develop a critical attitude towards all kinds of stereotypes and biases. Topic 2 should take about 20 hours to complete.

Resources Activity Time

Introductory reading 

Topic 2

Work through Topic 2.

Record responses to activities in your journal.

This will provide you with an overview of two common barriers to critical thinking: preconceptions and fallacies.

6 Hours

OER resources
These resources can be used and remixed with acknowledgement:

Copyright reserved
These resources are, or are assumed to be, copyright reserved.

You can look at them but if you wish to cite them or use the material

in your presentation, you would need to write and ask for copyright permission first.

Providing definitions and examples of common logical fallacies.

Providing contemporary examples of ways in which information, particularly statistical information, can be accidentally or wilfully misinterpreted.

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. The site contains definitions and examples of a wide range of logical fallacies.

Stephen Downes' Guide to the Logical Fallacies.  

A poster summarising common fallacies with examples.

  • Now that you have a broad sense of the issues, visit some of the websites we have identified to the left. Identify, and in your journal make a note of, examples of common preconceptions and fallacies that build on the introduction provided in Reading 2. Remember to create a bibliography of your sources. Spend about 6 hours on finding additional information and examples.

  • Now imagine that you need to teach a class of first year students about common obstacles to critical thinking.

  • Create a presentation based on your notes. (This could comprise a series of slides, with or without an audio narrative or something more complex, like some of the videos you will find on youTube if you search under fallacies, for example.)

  • Spend about 6 hours on developing your summary presentation (including any additional searches you might find necessary).
13 Hours
  • Post your summary presentation and invite feedback.
  • Find and comment on the examples from two other students. 
1 hour

Topic 3: Analysing arguments

Topic 3 is designed as an active space where you can try out your newly acquired skills in identifying and analysing arguments. You will be given the opportunity to deconstruct the components of an argument, discuss the structure of an argument and analyse simple and complex arguments. You need to spend about 25 hours on Topic 3.

Resources Activity Time

Warm up
  • In your journal, write down what you think is the nature and purpose of an argument.
  • Now visit the two websites at left. Skim through the sketch and then follow the link to the Simulation-Argument paper and skim through the paper.
  •  In what ways, if at all, do these examples challenge your thinking about the nature of ‘arguments’?
1 hour

Introductory reading

Topic 3

  • Work through Topic 3.
    Record responses to activities in your journal. This will provide you with an overview of how to identify and analyse arguments.
21.5 Hours

OER resources
These resources can be used and remixed with acknowledgement

Critical reasoning for beginners


You might like to revisit: Module C Critical Thinking

Optional resources
How arguments are contructed

Useful resources
A useful audio-based introduction to the role and use of argument in the social sciences.
unknown resource check original material

Quiz 1
Quiz 1

  • Now that you have a broad sense of the issues, you can begin to engage with a wider range of examples. We suggest you begin by visiting Marianne Talbot’s course at the University of Oxford. The course can be accessed directly through the OU website or via the jorum website (a portal also to other OER). You will see that the Oxford course comprises documents, audio and video options. The documents are much smaller files. We suggest you work through these first. There are related audio and video files that explain the slides in the documents. However, some of these files are very large and you may be able to access them only if you have very good bandwidth.
  •  Also revisit the HKU website and add to your examples.
  • You might also like to visit the UKOU audio resource on the role of argument in the social sciences.
  • When you are ready, work though Quiz 1 (link is on the left).
1.5 Hours
  • Post your suggested quiz answers online and invite feedback.
  • Find and comment on the responses from two other students. Initiate a dialogue to clarify any questions for which you have different responses.
2 hours

Topic 4: Evaluating arguments

In Topic 4 we look at different types of arguments and you will be given ample opportunity to practise your competence at evaluating different kinds of arguments. You need to spend about 25 hours on Topic 4.

Resources Activity Time
  • Visit the website to the left (Braingle) and try to solve the problem.
    • Were you able to solve the problem quickly?
    • With the help of a hint only?
    • Not at all?
  • Try one or two other problems.
  • Now reflect on your thinking process.
  • Make a list of steps that you typically follow in tackling these kinds of logic problems.
30 minutes

Introductory reading

Topic 4

Revisit OER resources
These resources can be used and remixed with acknowledgement.
Critical Reasoning for Beginners

Critical Reasoning

Module C Critical thinking

Also look at:
Argument mapping tools:
Argument diagramming tools

And also:
Copyright reserved online resources
Critical Reasoning: A User’s Manual

Critical Reasoning: A User’s Manual, Version 3.0 by Chris Swoyer.
The first two chapters of this text deal with basic concepts of critical reasoning and the nature of reasons and arguments which overlap with the current course. Subsequent chapters then extend the thinking. Note that the text is copyright to Chris Swoyer so if you wanted to adapt or download and share this resource, you would need to seek permission first.

Resources on argument mapping, include:
Argument Mapping Tutorials

  • Work through Topic 4.
    Record responses to activities in your journal. This will provide you with an overview of how to evaluate arguments.
  •  In order to complete the activities in Topic 4, you will need to revisit some OER resources, as well as visiting some new recommended sites AND you may need to conduct some of your own additional searches.
  •  You need to be able to explain and give examples of:
    • Empirical arguments
    • Value arguments
    • Deductive arguments
    • Inductive arguments (based on statistics, analogy, cause and effect)
    • Valid vs sound arguments
    • Valid vs invalid arguments
    • Definitions (and their role in arguments)
    • Counter examples
    • Counter arguments
    • Evaluating good and bad arguments
    • Analysing and mapping arguments

21.5 Hours
  •  Evaluate two of the examples from Activity 4, Topic 4.
  • Also find a similar example of your own and evaluate it.
  • Post your three examples and evaluations online for comment.
  • Find and comment on the responses from two other students. Initiate a dialogue to clarify any differences of interpretation. You might need to agree to disagree!
3 Hours

Topic 5: The use of arguments in different kinds of writing

In Topic 5 we consider how arguments are constructed. As an initiate, you will construct your own arguments. We will also explore key aspects of writing good critical essays. The competencies acquired here will be of great value to you throughout your studies. On Topic 5, you need to spend about 20 notional hours.

Resources Activity Time
Writing resources/Types of writing Warm up.
  • Brainstorm to see how many different kinds of writing you can think of and provide a brief description of the purpose and nature of each type.
  •  Visit the website on the left of this block (under resources).
    • Did you come up with similar types?
    • Were your descriptions similar?
    • What different ideas did you have?
  •  Now reflect on your typical writing process.
  • Make a list of steps that you follow in tackling a formal written task.
1 hour

 Introductory reading

Topic 5

Handout on Argument

Copyright reserved
Analyzing scholarly articles

How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay: Logical Structure
(10 minutes duration)

Critical and creative thinking

Work through Topic 5.

Record responses to activities in your journal. This will provide you with an overview of types of writing suited for different purposes and some insight into writing argumentatively in particular.

Summarise what you think are the main things to consider when writing a formal argumentative essay for academic purposes.

Compare your summary with the UNC and TAMU guidelines in the references to the left (the video is optional; it lasts about 10 mins).

  • What is similar or different?
  • Update your own guidelines accordingly.

6 Hours

Consolidation and reflection
Quiz 2

  • Complete Quiz 2 to consolidate your understanding. If you are unsure about any of the responses, post a request for help online.
  •  During this course we have asked you frequently to engage with postings of other students. We now want you to identify three other students to work with. Assign yourselves the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Each of you must start an argumentative essay on a topic of your choice – providing an introduction and the initial thesis or main argument. Post it on google docs and invite your fellow students to the site.
  •  The next step is to develop the argument of the two essays you did not initiate. Add the most likely counter-argument or example and refute it and add at least one additional idea to support the main thesis – regardless of whether or not you agree with it.
  •  Now write a suitable conclusion for the essay that you did initiate and which your fellow students have helped to develop.
  •  Reflect on what you have learned from the exercise, update the guidelines you developed earlier, share with your fellow students and try to reach agreement on a common set of criteria.
  •  Now write an argumentative essay on a topic of your choice that you consider meets these criteria and avoids the kind of thinking weaknesses that we have discussed in this course.
  •  Share your essay with your fellow students. Ask them to provide feedback to you, and you provide feedback to them, using the guidelines you have agreed.
  •  Finally, in your journal, write a short account of what you have learned from this exercise.
6 hours total

Topic 6: Preparing for formal recognition at Unisa (optional)

Topic 6 is optional. Having worked through Topics 1 to 5 you will have acquired knowledge and skills that you could use in a variety of situations. Topic 6 is targeted at students interested in further studies with Unisa. It provides guidelines on how to prepare for formal recognition of your critical reasoning studies for credit towards a Unisa qualification. It will take about 20 hours to complete.

Resources Activity Time
Topic 6 Open Reading 6 and work through the suggested activities.
20 hours