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Nelson Education > Higher Education > Invitation to Critical Thinking, First Canadian Edition > Student Resources > Writing Exercises

Writing Exercises

Chapter 1: Critical Thinking
Chapter 2: Language
Chapter 3: Argument Identification
Chapter 4: Argument Analysis I: Representing Argument Structure
Chapter 5: Argument Analysis II:  Paraphrasing Arguments
Chapter 6: Evaluating Deductive Arguments I: Categorical Logic
Chapter 8: Evaluating Inductive Arguments I: Generalization and Analogy
Chapter 9: Evaluating Inductive Arguments II: Hypothetical Reasoning and Burden of Proof
Chapter 10: Evaluating Premises: Self-evidence, Consistency, Indirect Proof
Chapter 11: Informal Fallacies I: Language, Relevance, Authority
Chapter 12: Informal Fallacies II: Assumptions and Induction

 

 

Chapter 1: Critical Thinking

Title: Writing Exercise


Instructions: Freewriting is a technique for liberating your creative mental energy. Don't worry about editorial problems or about spelling. Simply get your ideas flowing on paper. Start writing and don’t look back until you are finished. Use your freewrite as a brainstorming technique.

  1. What do you think you can gain by studying critical thinking?

    • Freewrite: what did you hope to get out of a course in critical thinking before you started this course?
    • Freewrite: what did you expect to get out of a course in critical thinking before you started this course?

    Reflection: move from freewrites to writing paragraphs to writing a brief essay.

    Have your hopes or expectations changed since the time you started this course?

    • Based on your readings?
    • Based on your experiences?

    In a paragraph, compare your initial hopes and expectations with your hopes and expectations now.

    • How are they similar?
    • How are they different?

    Develop your thoughts from your paragraph into a brief essay.

    • Develop your freewrite into a short essay of one to two pages based on your reflection freewrite. Discuss the ways in which your hopes and expectations have changed, and why.

  2. What do you believe?

    • List your top ten beliefs.
    • Do they all strike you as true?
    • Write “NEED EVIDENCE” next to any belief that you need evidence to believe.
    • Write “ACCEPT WITHOUT EVIDENCE” next to any belief that you do not need evidence to accept.
    • What can you conclude from your list?

  3. Are your beliefs true?

    • Try writing, “Some of my beliefs are not true.”
    • Do any beliefs come to mind? Jot them down.
    • Do you notice a problem with saying that something you believe is not true? Why or why not? Add you answer to your list.
    • Do you find it reasonable to say that you may believe something that is not true? Why or why not?
    • Does this exercise change how you think about your beliefs? How so? Why?
    • What would do if you became aware of evidence indicating that one or more of your beliefs is not true?

  4. Role Model

    • Who is the best critical thinker you know?
    • Describe this person.
    • What makes you think this person is a great critical thinker? Give an example.

  5. Naming Issues

    • List five issues that if resolved would make life better.
    • Pick three issues and write an issue statement for each one.
    • Choose your best issue statement and trade issue statements with someone in class.
    • In class, trade papers and peer review each other’s work
    • On the Discussion Board in Web-Tutor, post issue statements and peer review each other’s work

 

Chapter 2: Language

Title: Writing Exercise

Select from the list below.

 

Title: Writing Definition Paragraphs

Instructions: Exercise 2.14: Write a definition paragraph in which you explain both the conventional meaning and the current emotional connotations of one of the following terms. Also offer readers ostensive definitions to illustrate your discussion of the term.

  • New Democrat
  • New Right
  • liberal
  • welfare queen
  • Barbie
  • high technology
  • higher learning
  • ivory tower
  • free trade
  • free market
  • free world
  • fundamentalist
  • extremist

 

Title: Types of Paragraphs

Instructions: Exercise 2.13: Write three paragraphs: 1) Informative 2) Entertaining 3) Persuasive


Spend a few (5-10) minutes observing what happens in some open public area, like a busy intersection, or the campus quadrangle, or a shopping mall. Write a paragraph that contains a strictly factual descriptive account of what you observed. Next write a paragraph that, besides being informative, is also entertaining. Next write a paragraph that uses the information in a persuasive way.


Exchange persuasive paragraphs with another student and rewrite their persuasive paragraph so it is only informative. Also remove any language that indicates bias or uses emotionally loaded language. When you are finished, compare this paragraph to the other student’s original informative paragraph.

 

Title: Freewrite or Brainstorm

Instructions: Exercise 2.1 Uses of Language


Use your imagination. How many distinct uses of language can you think of in five minutes?

 

 

Chapter 3: Argument Identification

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: Analysis: preparation


A. Look at the opinion/editorial page of your newspaper or your Internet news site (e.g. cnn.com). Select from an article a passage that is not argumentative. Discuss the author’s purpose is: is it an explanation, or entertainment, definition, etc.


B. Next, select from an article a passage that is clearly argumentative. List indicator words (signal words or signal expressions,) if any. Finally, name the conclusion as well as the claims (premises) offered in support of the conclusion.


Analytical writing


C. Write a paragraph in which you discuss the results of your analysis.

 

Chapter 4: Argument Analysis I: Representing Argument Structure

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: After you have completed the Term Project Exercise of mapping and casting one of the arguments you located for your issue statement, use that map or casting to guide you as you write a summary of the argument. Include in your summary the author’s name and the name of the article, the conclusion or thesis, and the premises. In your summary, distinguish premises that hidden from those that are clearly presented.


Your summary should be about one page long (about 250 words).

 

Chapter 5: Argument Analysis II: Paraphrasing Arguments

Title: Writing Exercise

Select from the list below.

 

Title: Multiple Meanings

Instructions: Rewrite the following titles in order to reveal the various possible meanings. Remember, the humor in them is due to ambiguity—multiple meanings.

  1. Police Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
  2. Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted
  3. Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case
  4. Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents
  5. Farmer Bill Dies in House
  6. Stud Tires Out
  7. Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
  8. Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
  9. Soviet Virgin Lands Short of Goal Again
  10. British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands
  11. Eye Drops off Shelf
  12. Teacher Strikes Idle Kids
  13. Bush Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead
  14. K9 Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
  15. Stolen Painting Found by Tree

 

Title: Paraphrasing Arguments

Instructions: Following the examples and directions in Chapters 4 and 5, paraphrase the following two arguments in 100-200 words. Be sure to do research and find out who people are, what concept terms mean, and discover the most plausible context for each argument. Then map the argument before you write your paraphrase of it. Focus your paraphrase on the conclusion or thesis and the premises leading to it.

Media

 

Chapter 6: Evaluating Deductive Arguments
I: Categorical Logic

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: The term project assignment for chapter 6 asks you to design an argument in support of your issue position and another opposed to your position using deductively valid argument forms discussed in Chapter 6.

Take any position on the issue you have been working with so far, and design an argument in support of that position, using any of the deductively valid argument forms discussed in Chapter 6. Then take an alternative or opposed position and design an argument in support of it using any of the deductively valid argument forms discussed in Chapter 6.


After you have written out the standard forms and standard form sentences for your two arguments, convert the argument for your issue position and the argument opposed to your issue position into well-developed paragraphs.


Next, do the Peer Review Exercises.

Take any position on the issue you have been working with so far, and design an argument in support of that position, using any of the deductively valid argument forms discussed in Chapter 6. Then take an alternative or opposed position and design an argument in support of it using any of the deductively valid argument forms discussed in Chapter 6.


After you have written out the standard forms and standard form sentences for your two arguments, convert the argument for your issue position and the argument opposed to your issue position into well-developed paragraphs.

 

Chapter 8: Evaluating Inductive Arguments
I: Generalization and Analogy

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: Creating Analogies

In this exercise, attempt to develop a practical solution to specific predicaments using analogical reasoning. This exercise is intended to give you practice developing analogical arguments while reinforcing your understanding of the concepts (e.g. analogue, target, relevant similarities, etc.) related to reasoning by analogy.

Instructions

Break groups of four to five students. Then, choose a question from the list below. You must resolve your problem by constructing an argument by analogy, the conclusion of which, prescribes the best course of action. You should then identify the analogue and target of your analogy and then explain which relevant similarities between the analogue and the target allow you to draw the conclusion you have chosen to assert.


After your group has resolved the problem by using an analogy, each member of the group should write a one-page argument in support of the group’s resolution of the problem. Include in your paper discussion of the problem, the analogy (discussing the analogue and target), and then discuss the similarities and differences between the analogue and target that allow you to draw your conclusion.

  1. While walking through the park you spot a lumpy mud-colored nest hanging from tree branch. You are very intrigued by the object and wish to know what lives inside. Should you investigate further by grabbing the nest and breaking it open?
  2. While reading the Wall Street Journal, you notice that the stock for an Internet based company, Superdata, has steadily increased for three weeks straight. You are currently looking for promising ways to increase your retirement account and find the idea of investing in a cutting edge technology based company exciting. Should you commit a significant portion of your savings to invest in Superdata?
  3. While hiking in the mountains, you realize you are lost. After hours of walking you become very hungry. You notice a shrub covered with bright red berries. You have no idea when you will have another opportunity to eat. Should you eat the berries?
  4. While writing a term paper, you experience writer’s block. After days of frustration and anxiety, you are unable to finish your paper. The more you try to focus on the paper, the more frustrated you become. What should you do?

 

Chapter 9: Evaluating Inductive Arguments II: Hypothetical Reasoning and Burden of Proof

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: The following is an argument from businessman (and former presidential candidate) H. Ross Perot. Write a short essay in which you explain Perot's argument using the concepts discussed in this chapter. What hypotheses is Perot considering? What evidence does he present? Explain how the evidence is being used by Perot to confirm or disconfirm the hypotheses he's considering.


“We have unfairly blamed the American worker for the poor quality of our products. The unsatisfactory quality is the result of poor design and engineering -- not poor assembly. If you take a car made in Japan by Japanese workers and place it alongside a Japanese car made in a U.S. plant by U.S. workers (led by Japanese executives) there is no difference in quality. The Honda cars made in this country by U.S. workers are of such high quality that Honda intends to export them. Obviously the American worker is not the problem. The problem is failure of leadership.”

 

Chapter 10: Evaluating Premises: Self-evidence, Consistency, Indirect Proof

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: Write a short essay in which you explain your position on the following issue.


One of the principles on which the American system of criminal justice is theoretically based is that it is worse to punish innocent people than to let guilty people escape punishment. This principle can be understood to express a value judgment.

Do you agree with this principle and the value judgment it expresses? If so, formulate three distinct justifications for them.

If not, construct three distinct justifications for rejecting them.

 

Chapter 11: Informal Fallacies I: Language, Relevance, Authority

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: Is gender relevant? Perhaps an even better question would be "When is gender relevant?" Do you think Susie commits a fallacy in the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon above (figure 11.7)? Write a short essay in which you explain why. Are there any circumstances in which you think gender is relevant? Why?

For this exercise see EXERCISE 11.20 /FIGURE 11.6 Calvin and Hobbes "delicate heinies".

 

Chapter 12:

Title: Writing Exercise

Instructions: In our experience, the best way to study the material in this and the previous chapter is in conversation with other people—in a facilitated discussion section, or in a small autonomous study group, or with a study partner. Exercise 12.09 asks you to engage in these types of conversations, taking turns critically examining examples of situations that require critical thinking and using the tools and terminology covered in chapter 12. Doing Exercise 12.09 would be a good way to prepare for this writing exercise.


Essay Assignment: For this writing exercise, create a dialogue based on this type of conversation in which you portray two speakers discussing an issue such as those listed in Exercise 12.09. One of the speakers should portray someone who lacks critical thinking skills and the other speaker should guide that person toward better critical thinking skills by helping that speaker to see the issue more clearly.

Your dialogue should help readers to weigh the issue and understand which aspects of critical thinking would help the novice think more clearly. Perhaps the knowledgeable speaker could ask leading questions so as to guide the novice without offending. Or perhaps you could show what happens when two speakers butt heads over an issue.

Your dialogue should be 1-2 pages long. It should quickly focus readers on the issue and the problems inherent in discussing the issue with another person.

 
 
 
   


 

Student Resources

Test Yourself Quizzes

Critical Thinking Exercises

Writing Exercises

InfoTrac Exercises

Term Projects

Peer Review

Glossary

Flashcards

PowerPoint slides

Fields of Philosophy

Philosophers and Their Works

Philosophy Timeline

Student Survival Skills

Corrections


Instructor Resources