Want to maximise your scores of your written assignments? Here are five tips that are sure to help.
One would say that it is not enough to have good reasons which support your conclusion. How you layout your argument is also quite important and can help a great deal, especially if you want to show consideration for the time of those who read your argument, by creating a clear, logical consistent line of reasoning which can be followed easily and efficiently. To achieve this, there are specific guidelines you should follow.
You should aim to adopt a logical order in your writing. A good critical thinker makes sense of chaotic reasons and puts order where before there was none.
Logical order can be achieved with a good structure that follows a logical line of thinking. Here are the main points to consider for your argument’s structure. Each of these are further detailed in the next sections.
1. Start your writing with a paragraph which contains a clear conclusion where you state your position.
2. Group similar reasons together and make a good case which supports your position before moving to any counter-arguments. You can do this by including all the relevant reasons that support your conclusion first, as well as backing (evidence) to assist these.
3. Consider opposing reasons only after you have built a good case for your position. Do not ignore opposing reasons, but do show why these are not significant or less powerful. As such, put forward evidence to show why they are not relevant.
4. Include intermediate conclusions if necessary.
5. Close the argument by drawing a logical conclusion from the supporting reasons to your overall position. Be aware of the concept of summary or summative conclusion as opposed to logical conclusion.
Critical Thinking Checklist for a Good Structure with Logical Order:
- Stating the Point in the first paragraph and/or at the end of the writing
- Opposing Arguments
- Logical Consistency
1. Starting the Argument with a Clear Position
Including a clear position at the beginning of your writing helps focus the minds of your readers in the direction you wish to take for your argument. How many times have you gone through a newspaper article fighting your way through to the end and still not being able to grasp the point the author was trying to make? This is what we’re trying to avoid by being clear from the get go. Include a clear statement of your position with regards to the issue and your readers will be thankful. Don’t be vague and don’t let things be implicitly understood. You want to be as transparent and as precise as possible, since the opening paragraph will set the tone for your whole written material.
Making Your Position Visible Throughout the Entire Material
Depending on the complexity of the issue you are tackling, you might want to consider including your point several times in your paper. Author Stella Cottrell recommends making use of the following means in order to state the point clearly:
- The introductory sentence
- The final sentences
- The conclusion
- The overall line of reasoning
- An overall summary of the argument
- Careful selection of facts so the argument is not lost
Here are some examples of what you should be avoiding:
-author’s position is not clear- can be clarified by using opening statement to introduce argument or final words to sum it up
-author uses too many questions without providing answers
-there are many facts but these do not help clarify the position
-the writing moves back and forth between different standpoints
-the author does not assume a position
-the author doesn’t agree or disagree with the positions and does not offer alternatives
2. Grouping Similar Reasons Together
Any writing which scores high on critical thinking criteria will contain reasons that support the main argument and which are themselves supported by evidence (backing). If you are including multiple supporting reasons in your writing, it’s always best to group them together. This means that you shouldn’t be jumping from a reason that supports your position to a reason that is a counter-argument and back to another supporting reason. Keep them together based on their goal.
Here is an example below which I modelled from a sample argumentative essay published here.
In the narrative of your argument DO group similar reasons together:
DON’T mix and match different types of reasons within the text of your argument:
3. Consider Counter-Arguments Only after Building a Good Case for Your Position
Opposing reasons should not be ignored and should be considered only after there are enough points presented to support the main argument. Otherwise, readers could get confused regarding the author’s main position. Mixing and matching arguments and counter-arguments will also hurt the logical consistency of the material and will make it quite hard to follow.
Once an opposing reason has been included, make sure to also address it: this means that you should present the reasons for which this counter-argument is not necessarily very strong or relevant. Note this example below, where there is a counter-argument included to the counter-argument against the main position.
4. Include Intermediate Conclusions if Necessary
Intermediate conclusions are sometimes needed if the overall argument is rather complex and contains several layers of reasons.
As such, you could have an intermediate conclusion drawn from a number of reasons, which represents a reason for the main conclusion of the argument. I can imagine how confusing this sounds, so let’s take a look at an example:
All the elements circled above represent sub-conclusions for the elements under them, but reasons for the conclusion above them. Including such sub-conclusions is necessary in order to keep the argument structure neatly organized and easy to follow.
5. Close the Argument by Drawing a Logical Conclusion
In line with logical consistency and stating the main point, the final part of your writing should include a section where there is a logical conclusion drawn from the reasons previously provided.
This should not represent just a summary of what was already stated, but it should include a logical deduction following the line of reasoning from contributing arguments to the position proposed. It should follow from the analysis of the contributing reasons and the evidence presented to support these.
Scoring high for critical thinking in your writing takes some work: you need to be organized and create a clear structure when you present your argument. I encourage you to start applying these guidelines in your next written assignment.
But in the meantime, here’s a tip you can use right away. You’ll have practical experience in 20 minutes by following these two simple steps:
- Choose a past written assignment that you’d like to review.
- Assess it and change it according to the guidelines laid out in this article.
Come back here and tell us about the before-and-after. I bet you’ll have something to say!