How to Apply Critical Thinking and Logic in Argumentative Essays

Whatever subject youΓÇÖre studying in college, your professors are likely to ask you to write an argumentative essay, also referred to as a persuasive essay. Critical thinking is essential for writing academic papers, particularly when writing an essay that requires you to demonstrate that one idea is better and more legitimate than other ideas. Of course, when we refer to critical thinking we donΓÇÖt mean criticizing from emotion or prejudice, but using logic to analyze and argue your case to support your position.

The Definition of Logic

When youΓÇÖre tasked with writing an argumentative essay, youΓÇÖre expected to use logic and reason. This is the basis and foundation of critical thinking. But how is logic defined? The Greek philosopher Aristotle developed the most common formula for logic, called a syllogism. It is as follows:

Premise 1: All men are mortal.
Premise 2: Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.

The first statement is a foundation of fact and the second statement is another fact. When the second statement is tested against the first statement, it proves the conclusion in the third statement. You may use more than two premises to prove your conclusion. When you have your logical premises and conclusion, the conclusion becomes the thesis of your argument, and the premises become the supporting points. If your argument doesnΓÇÖt work using this concept, it isnΓÇÖt considered logical and, therefore, isnΓÇÖt considered proven.

Logic can be misleading if part of it is based on a fallacy. This is an example of how a logical statement can appear accurate but is actually completely false even though the syllogism is logically true.

Premise 1: People who wear yellow are bad drivers
Premise 2: John wears a yellow shirt
Conclusion: John is a bad driver

For a syllogism to work, you must make sure your facts are facts and not assumptions or some other form of fallacy.

When youΓÇÖre writing your argumentative essay, be careful to avoid the use of illogical statements and fallacies, such as:

  • Hasty Generalization: when an incorrect conclusion is reached through a limited number of premises
  • Circular Argument: when an argument is just restated rather than proven
  • Ad Hominem: when the writer attacks the person rather than the facts
  • Ad Populum: when the writer appeals to the readerΓÇÖs emotions rather than using facts
  • Red Herring: when a writer makes the reader pay attention to something other than the facts
  • Either/Or: when the writer oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices

Additionally, your argumentative essay should also avoid the use of emotional and colloquial language.

To produce evidence to support your argument, you will need to gather your facts carefully. DonΓÇÖt make the mistake of confusing facts with so-called truths, which are ideas believed by people, but not proven. Instead, you should always use sound reasoning and solid evidence by stating facts, giving logical reasons, using examples and statistics, and quoting experts and utilizing any other provable resources.

Be sure that you cite your sources carefully using the correct formatting style. This will enable your reader to check the sources behind your assertions. Your professor will indicate which formatting style you should use for your argumentative essay. If you are not assigned a formatting style and you are unsure which one to use, consult your professor.

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. 

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).


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