Logical Argument in College Writing

As a fully-fledged member of twenty-first-century society, you will often be asked to make (and defend) difficult choices among complex alternatives. This web collection introduces the concept of logic in complex arguments.

  1. The Basics: Building an Argument
  2. Components: The Temple Metaphor
  3. Fallacies: Avoid Common Logical Mistakes
  4. Exercise

 

In high school, you probably earned an A if you paper was correctly spelled and convinced your teacher that you did the assigned readings (or at least watched enough of the video that you could fake it).

But college-level writing fluency requires much more than correct grammar.  You will be called upon to demonstrate critical thinking skills, which can help you no matter what your major or future plans.

Why is logic important?

One day, you may be called upon to fire one of your three equally qualified assistants in order to save your department money.

  • Do you fire the one with the least experience, but whom you personally recruited away from his previous job, with a promise that ditching to his other job would be good for his career?
  • Do you fire the one who brought in the least money this year, but who just had a baby with a serious medical condition?
  • Do you fire the one who is hardest to get along with, but who has been with the company for thirty-five years and plans to retire in 18 months?

Maybe someone else will tell you whether experience, earnings, or personality is the most important factor. Maybe you will have to decide on your own -- and convince others that your decision is sound.

One day, you may find that your home is in the path of one of two proposed routes for a new highway, and you may have to give a speech at a city council meeting to encourage them to choose the other path.

One day, your spouse may convert to a religion that you find morally reprehensible.

Unlike high school, in the real world the "correct" answers won't be in the back of the book

Sprinkling the words "therefore" and "thus" throughout your writing does not automatically make it logical.  Sometimes, students reach for logical-sounding words for the same reasons that an untrained mechanic might reach for a roll of duct tape -- to patch together shoddy work


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