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STEP TEN: Taking a Stand

Analyzing and understanding other peopleʹs texts and pictures is only the first half of critical thinking. The other half is being able to present your own thoughts in a way that is clear, accurate, thorough, and makes sense. To do this, you need to turn the preceding nine steps on their head: instead of asking questions to see if a document embodies good critical thinking, you need to express your own ideas that way.

Select a proposition or a claim advanced in a historical document: ʺslavery should be abolished,ʺ ʺschools should teach classes only in English,ʺ ʺgovernment authority comes from the consent of the government,ʺ ʺwomen should not be allowed to vote,ʺ etc. Or take a controversial issue in the news today: ʺgay couples should be allowed to marry,ʺ ʺabortions should be outlawed,ʺ ʺthe U.S. should withdraw from Iraq,ʺ ʺsmoking should be prohibited in public places,ʺ etc.

Phrase your claim as a simple proposition and then do the following:

1. Prepare a short paragraph that puts the issue in context ‐ ‐ explaining ʺwho, what, where, when, and whyʺ ‐ ‐ in a very concise way, not more than a short sentence on each of the five Wʹs (all five may not be applicable).

2. What will be the key terms and concepts in your discussion of this topic? Write a very brief definition of each.

3. For your conclusion to be true, what premises must be true? List the premises, including any underlying assumptions, beliefs, desires, and values you have about the issue (examples: ʺabortion should be outlawed because: 1, abortion is murder; 2, murder breaks one of the Ten Commandments; 3, Iʹm a Christian who believes in thoseʺ)

4. How do you know youʹre right? What evidence might you need to collect in order to discover if your premises are true?

5. How does your conclusion follow from your premises? Do the premises *logically prove* the conclusion is inescapable (deductions)? Or do the premises *only suggest* the conclusion is likely (inferences)?

6. What other points of view, evidence, and conclusions might be possible on this topic? List them. What would make you choose one point of view rather than another?

7. If your conclusion is correct, what would happen next? What implications does your argument suggest?


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