Logic and Critical Reasoning
short paper #1

Due in class Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

For the first short paper, you will locate an argument in an online source (like a blog post, an op-ed piece, or a letter to the editor) and write a short (500 words) paper that reconstructs and evaluates that argument. The first short paper will count for 10% of your course grade.

Locating an argument: The blogosphere is awash with pieces that people have written given reasons to support their views. The discussions section of our class Desire2Learn shell contains a forum called "Arguments in the wild." Create topics in this forum to share online sources with arguments (and to discuss these arguments with your classmates). Be sure to include links to the sources you share!

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

You don't need to find a perfect argument, or an argument you agree with. But, make sure you find a source that really presents an argument!

Reconstructing the argument: 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. (I'm not asking you to diagram the argument! Listing the premises and conclusions should be enough.)

Note that it may end up being easier to put the premises and conclusions in your own words -- so try to do that!

Evaluating the argument: 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?

Cite your sources: For this paper, since you are reconstructing an argument from a single source, you will probably only need to cite that one source. Here is a guide for the proper citation of online sources.


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