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Chapter 3 Overview

Critical Thinking

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Chapter 3 Overview The argumentative essay is the kind of writing that most demands critical-thinking techniques. An argumentative essay aims at defining and defending a position; and principles of critical thinking help us keep the essay focused on its subject, with arguments that genuinely support its position. Thus Chapter 3 will first devote itself to organization, which can help your writing overcome the illogicality and irrelevance that often plague argumentative essays. We then turn to clarity in communication, and the threats to clarity from ambiguity, vagueness, and generality. 1. The argumentative essay tries to support a position on an issue. a. Our purpose is to produce essays that persuade people, not by tricking them, but by presenting claims that support their conclusions. b. A good argumentative essay is well organized and clear: It is then both easier to understand and more persuasive. 2. Good argumentative writing is organized. Clarity of structure is most often threatened by eccentric organization of material; lack of clarity is best prevented through reliable writing practices. a. The writer of an organized essay will focus its issue, stick to that issue, arrange the parts of the essay logically, and be complete. i. An organized essay begins with a clear statement of the issue to be addressed and the position taken on that issue. ii. Every claim made in an organized essay bears on the issue. iii. The parts of the essay follow a logical sequence. Normally the position being defended comes first and then the supporting reasons, with additional material as the need for it arises. iv. A good essay is as complete as space permits. Every argument referred to gets developed; every disputable claim comes with some defense. b. Good writing practices make it easy to stick to these guidelines. i. After completing a draft, outline the essay. Evaluate your outline for coherence and focus. ii. Revise an essay repeatedly. iii. Get comments on the essay from someone else. iv. Read the essay out loud to catch problems with grammar or punctuation.
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v. After finishing, set the work aside for a while and return to it for more revisions. c. Another good general writing practice is the avoidance of certain common pitfalls of the argumentative essay. Watch out for these. i. Windy preambles waste time with broad opening remarks about the importance of the issue to be discussed, the centuries that have been spent debating it, and so on. ii. Stream-of-consciousness rambles are found in disorganized essays that simply list thoughts as they come to the writer's mind.
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Chapter 3 Overview - C hapter 3 Overview The argumentative...

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