A significant part of critical thinking is the argument. However, in order to work with an argument, it is important to be able to identify an argument and its key components and learn how to work with them. To characterize an argument, it can be useful to examine what an argument is, and what an argument is not.
- A position or a point of view
- An attempt to persuade others to accept that point of view
- Reasons given to support the point of view
- A disagreement.
Even though you disagree with the argument that is made in a source, it is not an argument on your part to say that you disagree. Instead, you should find one or more counterarguments in other sources that can back up your disagreement. Based on these counter-arguments, you should point out the reasoning behind your disagreement.
- A description.
Descriptions can be mistaken for critical arguments since both describe what something is about, or how something is done. However, a description merely state the facts, whereas critical arguments contain a point of view and evidence to support this view as described above.
- Explanations and summaries.
Explanations may seem to be structured as arguments, meaning that they can include statements, reasons and conclusions, just as an argument can. But the difference between an argument and a explanation is that explanations 'do not attempt to persuade the reader of a point of view'. Similar to explanations, summaries do not impose any point of view on its reader, but simply outlines the main points of a text or theory.
From Cottrell "Critical Thinking" (2011)
The arguments of your assignment
When writing an assignment, it is a good idea to think about what argument your assignment has. To help you with this, you can use the assignment pentagon. The pentagon forces you to ask yourself a handful of questions that, if used correctly, will ensure an academic angle to your assignment.
From Rienecker & Jørgensen "Den gode opgave"