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Tips on Arguing: Inductive Reasoning

Brandon T. Bisceglia

April 11, 2012


Filed under Features

In ancient Greece, philosophers and thinkers invented a process for arriving at truths about the world that we know today as deduction. These processes relied on taking general statements about the world and applying various logical rules to them in order to answer particular questions. Deduction was en...

Tips on Arguing: Tautologies

Brandon T. Bisceglia

April 4, 2012


Filed under Opinion & Editorials

Ever wonder why people call it a PIN number or an ATM machine? Ever hear someone say, "Wherever you go, there you are," and think to yourself, well, duh? If you have, then you’ve already stumbled upon some common tautologies. A tautology is, roughly, the act of saying the same thing twice. It is a ...

Tips on Arguing: Stay Detached

Brandon T. Bisceglia

March 28, 2012


Filed under Features

Andrew Brody, host of the Princeton Review podcast, LSAT Logic in Everyday Life, ends every episode with a reminder for his listeners: "don’t get emotionally involved with the subject matter."  Brody’s advice applies to any situation in which you must apply critical thinking – that is, almost...

Tips on Arguing: Correlation versus Causation

Brandon T. Bisceglia

March 21, 2012


Filed under Opinion & Editorials

When two events are shown to be related in some way, they are said to correlate. When one event makes the other happen, the first is said to cause the second. These two terms may at first appear to be similar, and they are. But the distinction is vital: two events can be related without having any kind o...

Tips on Arguing: Use Qualifiers Carefully

Brandon T. Bisceglia

February 29, 2012


Filed under Features

A qualifier is any word or phrase that provides a "reference point" for a claim. Knowing how to use them can both increase the strength of an argument and shield it from attacks. English is full of qualifiers for different situations. They’re generally divided into two groups: absolute and relativ...

Tips on Arguing: Argument from Authority

Brandon T. Bisceglia

February 22, 2012


Filed under Features

If someone told you that alchemy must be a legitimate science because Isaac Newton practiced it, would you start trying to turn lead into gold? Of course not. Yet that is exactly how the argument from authority works – by replacing logic and evidence with the name of a respected or powerful person...

Tips on Arguing: Formal Debates

Brandon T. Bisceglia

February 15, 2012


Filed under Features

Formal debates take many forms. Some are sponsored through national or international organizations, but they may also be conducted in an impromptu fashion within high school and college classrooms. The venue may consist of a town hall or a television studio. The topics can also be diverse, from philos...

Tips on Arguing: Active Versus Passive Voice

Brandon T. Bisceglia

February 8, 2012


Filed under Features

The way you phrase a sentence can influence its meaning. The choice between using active and passive voice is one of the more common examples of how sentence structure matters. The difference is subtle, but can have profound ramifications that arise from the order in which you place the actors and the...

Tips on Arguing: Admit When You’re Wrong

Brandon T. Bisceglia

February 1, 2012


Filed under Features

We’d all like to win our arguments. We’d all like to believe that our positions are the "right" ones. We’d all like to have the facts on our side. But life isn’t that simple. Circumstances change. New facts are discovered, and sometimes they challenge even the staunchest of beliefs. "Truth" rarely r...

Tips on Arguing: Margin of Error

Brandon T. Bisceglia

January 25, 2012


Filed under Features

Have you ever noticed that news organizations will pelt you with polling data during an election cycle, and then wonder why the actual results defy the polls? There are a lot of reasons this happens, but one of the most pervasive is due to a misunderstanding about something called the margin of error. ...

Tips on Arguing: The Internet is Forever

Brandon T. Bisceglia

December 14, 2011


Filed under Features

Almost everyone these days has an account on some social media website, whether it be Facebook or Twitter. Most of us don’t think twice about sharing information with our friends, including pictures from parties and comments about our lives. But our friends are not the only people we’re sharing with when...

Tips on Arguing: Tu Quoque

Brandon T. Bisceglia

December 7, 2011


Filed under Features

"Tu quoque" means "you too." This tactic relies on shifting the focus of an argument from its independent merits to the number of people who subscribe to it. There are two ways to misrepresent an argument with this method. A recent commercial encouraged people to take nutritional supplements. It showed ...

Tips on Arguing: Absolute and Relative Risk

Brandon T. Bisceglia

November 30, 2011


Filed under Features

There are several ways of measuring risks. Two of the most commonly confused are absolute risk and relative risk. They are easily explained, however, and being able to recognize what they mean can help you interpret all kinds of scientific data, especially medical studies. Absolute risk is the overall propor...

Tips on Arguing: Quote Mining

Brandon T. Bisceglia

November 9, 2011


Filed under Opinion & Editorials

Quote mining is altering the meaning of a person’s quote by taking it out of context or removing sections of the quote. It is a deceptive way to make it look like something someone said supports your position when, in fact, it does not. Quote mining is easy to do if you’re creative about it. Consider ...

Tips on Arguing: Primary and Secondary Sources

Brandon T. Bisceglia

November 2, 2011


Filed under Features

When you’re conducting research for an essay, a debate, or a report, you will often come across multiple sources of information about the same event or topic. How can you tell which of these to use? One of the most tried-and-true methods for "ranking" information is to distinguish between primary a...

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Tips on Arguing