Argument and Evidence: Critical Analysis for the Social Sciences

Argument and Evidence: Critical Analysis for the Social Sciences

Argument and Evidence: Critical Analysis for the Social Sciences

Argument and Evidence: Critical Analysis for the Social Sciences

Synopsis

Phelan and Reynolds' book is for anyone who needs to evaluate arguments and interpret evidence. It deals with the most fundamental aspects of academic study: * the ability to reason with ideas and evidence * to formulate arguments effectively * to appreciate the interplay between ideas and evidence in academic and media debate Argument and Evidence presents aspects of informal logic and statistical theory in a comprehensible way, enabling students to acquire skills in critical thinking which will outlast their undergraduate studies. Ideal as a companion for courses on methodology or study skills, Argument and Evidence will also be useful for other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities.

Excerpt

Context and convention provide clues which are helpful and sometimes essential when interpreting argument and evidence. the perspective from which a situation is observed influences the selection of words used to describe it. For example, the military groups in Nicara-gua, known as the ‘Contras’, are described by some as terrorists and by others as freedom fighters. the different impressions arise because the words have a contrasting emotive content; the one of disapproval and the other of approval. the acknowledgement of conventions helps one to interpret verbal expressions as they are intended. Students of people and society pay attention to body language for this reason. Conventions also set the protocol for critical appraisal by influencing the ways in which discourse is conducted. Context and convention have an important bearing on how argument and evidence are to be understood and on the effectiveness of communication.

context

Context is relatively straightforward. the setting in which discourse takes place suggests what might be going on. What appears in a book of poems is different from the contents of a motor vehicle manual. a law court is a place in which disputes are settled by the presentation of argument and evidence. Understanding the context helps observers to follow the proceedings. This is also required at cricket matches. Priests chanting proofs and wielding cricket bats in churches is strange precisely because the behaviour is incongruous in these surroundings. This could not be appreciated without a sense of context. Reading a situation correctly is frequently a matter of familiarity with a setting. Those who fail to acknowledge the context are often the ones who do not understand a joke.

Academic subjects are contexts which affect how terms are under-

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