Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking
Browne and Keeley, 2010
The Right Questions… | Critical Question Summary… |
What are the issues and the conclusions? | Before you can evaluate an author’s argument, you must clearly identify the issue and the conclusion. How can you evaluate an argument if you don’t know exactly what the author is trying to persuade you to believe? Finding an author’s main point is the first step in deciding whether you will accept or reject it (p. 27). | What are the reasons? | Once you have identified the issue and the conclusion, you need to understand why an author has come to a certain conclusion. Reasons are the why. If the author provides good reasons, you might be persuaded to accept her conclusion. However, right now, we are simply concerned with identifying the reasons. Identifying reasons is the next step in deciding whether you should accept or reject the author’s conclusion (p. 36). | Which words or phrases are ambiguous? | Once you have identified the author’s argument, you need to identify key words or phrases within that reasoning that might have alternative meanings. More importantly, you need to determine whether the author explicitly uses one of those definitions. If she does not, and if one of those meanings alters your acceptance of the conclusion, you have indentified an important ambiguity. Identifying ambiguous words and phrases is the next important step in determining whether you will reject or accept the conclusion (p. 52). | What are the value and descriptive assumptions? | When you identify assumptions, you are identifying the link between a reason and the author’s conclusion as well as ideas that must be taken for granted for certain reasons to be believable. If the linkage assumptions are flawed, the reasons do not necessarily lead to the conclusion. Consequently, identifying the assumptions allows you to determine whether an...