Logic and Critical Reasoning
longer paper

Due Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, by 12 noon.

In the longer paper, you will develop an argument and defend it against possible objections.

To start, you will locate two arguments on different sides of your topic. You should give a concise reconstruction of each of these arguments (i.e., explain their conclusions and the reasons they give to support them). You should also evaluate each argument (i.e., explain its strengths and weaknesses).

Then, give your own argument (i.e., explain the conclusion you come to on the topic and your reasons for coming to this conclusion). Describe at least one reasonable objection someone might raise to your argument, and answer that objection.

Be sure to include a brief introduction and conclusion explaining why this topic matters (i.e., why we should care about these arguments in the first place).

Finally, be sure to cite your sources. You can find a guide to citing online sources here, and a guide to citing other sources of various sorts here.

The longer paper should be about 1000 words, and it will count for 20% of your course grade.

Possible paper topics:

Is it fair to make the rich pay a higher income tax rate?

Are enhanced security measures at airports an appropriate way to deter terrorists or an invasion of our privacy?

Should it be illegal to use any kind of cell phone while driving a car?

Should California cut or eliminate public employee pensions?

Is file sharing of music and movies that are under copyright fair?

Should plagiarism be treated as a serious academic offense or not?

Should Twitter, Facebook, or internet service providers turn over private user information to the government if the government asks for it?

Should Congress pass the DREAM Act?


* * * * *

Locating arguments:

If you're having a hard time finding arguments online, you might try:

Make sure you find sources that really present an argument!

Reconstructing the arguments: You can find a detailed discussion of how to reconstruct an argument here. Your goal is to spell out the premises and the conclusion, and to be able to explain the logical connections between the premises and conclusion. It's a good idea to present the steps of the argument in a numbered list and in your own words (rather than quoted from the original argument).

Evaluating the arguments: Here, you are discussing whether the argument succeeds. Is it a valid argument? Is it a sound argument? Does it commit any logical fallacies? Does it fail to address an obvious (or subtle) objection someone might raise to it?




course home course information handouts assignments instructor information announcements