Module 1: What are the Issue, Conclusion, and Reasons?
The issue can be defined as the controversy or the topic.
The conclusion can be defined as the thesis or the point that the communicator is trying to make.
Before you can evaluate a communicator’s message, you must be able to identify the structural components of their argument. If a structural component of an argument is absent, you can dismiss the argument as flawed.
The issue and the conclusion go hand in hand. One technique that you may use to determine if you have correctly identified the issue and the conclusion is to rephrase them in question and answer form. If you rephrase the issue into the form of a question, the conclusion that you have identified should answer that question.
TYPES OF ISSUES
* Descriptive Issues
Descriptive issues raise questions about the accuracy of descriptions of the past, present, or future. These issues, or arguments, tell us something about how the world was, is, or is going to be.
* Prescriptive Issues
Prescriptive issues raise questions about what we should do or what is right or wrong, good or bad. Consider the analogy of a doctor prescribing medicine to solve a medical problem. A prescriptive issue, or argument, attempts to solve a tangible problem with a solution that advocated how things ought to be.
Searching for the Issue
Ideally, the issue should be easy to find. The communicator should explicitly state the issue in obvious places, such as the title, introduction, or the thesis statement. However, for many reasons, the issue is not explicitly stated but rather implied. In order to identify the issue you must first find the conclusion.
Searching for the Conclusion
The conclusion is the thesis of the argument, the point that is being communicated; it is the thing that the communicator wants you to accept and to believe. Ask yourself, “What does this person want me to believe”, “What is this person trying to prove?” The answer to these questions will be the conclusion. Another helpful hint is to search for inferences. Inferences are examples of deductive reasoning. This happened because of that. This refers to the conclusion and that refers to the support for the conclusion.
HOW TO FIND THE CONCLUSION
*Ask what the issue is.
The issue and the conclusion go hand in hand. The conclusion is a response to the issue. If you know what the issue is, you should be able to determine the conclusion.
*Look for indicator words.
When conveying a conclusion a communicator will use certain words to alert you to it. When someone says, “In conclusion”, or “In the final analysis”, you should realize that the conclusion will be following.
*Look in likely locations.
Conclusions should be found in at least two locations. First, the conclusion should be in the thesis statement at the beginning of an argument, where it is introduced for the first time. Second, the conclusion should be at the end of an argument, where it is summarized and supported.
*Remember what a conclusion is not.
Many people confuse the conclusion with other things. The most common mistake is to confuse the conclusion with examples, statistics, definitions, background information, and evidence. These items are not conclusions but rather are the support used for them.
What are the Reasons?
Reasons are beliefs, evidence, metaphors, analogies, and other statements offered to support or justify a conclusion. When a communicator has a conclusion that they want you to accept, they must present reasons to persuade you that they are right and show you why.
Even though you may have identified the issue and the conclusion, you cannot begin to evaluate a communicator’s message until you have completely identified the final structural component of an argument, the reasons. An unsubstantiated statement, or a conclusion with no reasons, is not an argument but merely an opinion.
The function of a reason is to support the conclusion. To be able to identify a reason and understand how it supports the conclusion is all that is required for now. Later on, we will spend more time on assessing the quality of reasons.
TIPS ON FINDING REASONS
*Initiating the Questioning Process
The first thing a critical thinker must do in order to identify reasons is to ask a series of “why?” questions. “Why does the communicator want me to believe this?”, “Why should I believe them?”, “What proof would I need in order to accept this conclusion?”
Just like conclusions, communicators use indicator words that signal you that they are about to provide you with a reason. Remember the brief review of inferences in chapter two? When you encounter a statement like “as a result of”, or “because of that”, you can be assured that a reason is about to be revealed. A phrase such as “first…second… third”, tells you that there a number of reasons that are going to be provided.
*Types of Reasons
Chapters eight through eleven will go into extensive detail on all of the various types of evidence and reasons. For now, let us keep things simple. Descriptive arguments usually require evidence. Prescriptive arguments require either prescriptive statements or descriptive statements. Later on, we will learn how to judge the quality of an argument by its reasons.
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Discussion Module 1: What are the Issue, Conclusion and Reasons?
Please read the article entitled “A Case for the Death Penalty” and identity the Issue, Conclusion, and Reasons. A case for the Death Penalty(1)(1).docx
We shall use the Death Penalty article to answer the critical questions in Chapters 1-7 in Browne and Keeley.
This week we will answer: What are the Issue and Conclusion in the Death Penalty article?
That is: What is the stimulus for what is being said (Issue)? The issue can be phrased as a question and the Conclusion as the answer to that question.
What is the Conclusion? That is: What is the message the writer wants you to accept?
After reading Chapter 4,”Reasons”, see how many reasons you can identify in the article, “A Case for the Death Penalty”. The process of critical thinking is to attempt to falsify a claim (reasons). If we cannot, then we must accept it. Can you falsify the claims and reasoning of the writer with quality evidence? All claims can be challenged with a simple Goggle Search for evidence.