During this season of high octane exam stress students are considering how to argue critically and structure a logical argument. One of the best blogs (and certainly one of my favourites) to investigate with this in mind is Maria Popova’s brilliant Brain Pickings which covers book reviews and discusses philosophical ideas (and a blog one can only aspire to). You can also follow Maria on @brainpicker on Twitter or her enlightening blog on @brainpickings. In How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently post Dennett suggests how to compose a successful critical commentary:
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way”.
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
Moreover, Daniel also has suggested seven famous tools for thinking available at: http://schoolofthinking.org/2013/06/daniel-dennetts-seven-tools-for-thinking/ which include use your mistakes, respect your opponent, don’t waste your time on rubbish and Employ Occam’s Razor (you’ll have to select the link for an explanation better than I could ever attempt)…
Daniel, critically voyaging into consciousness
How do you learn new words and especially use academic language suited to a university? Expanding your vocabulary can make writing assignments easier and more enjoyable. Here are a couple of tips:
- Firstly it is important to read as extensively as you can; absorb the language used in a scholarly journal article. Get into the ideas the author (s) is expressing and learn how to convey an academic argument.
- When searching a scholarly database like Science Direct take note of the language used and how the paper is written. Investigate the themes and how they are threaded together to deliver a convincing argument, or not (!).
- Buy a good quality dictionary and an extensive thesaurus to identify synonyms and antonyms. Remember to always keep them at your side when you are drafting your assignments.
- Read a quality newspaper like the Guardian or Independent regularly. Newspapers are subsidised at the SU shop in the Main Building.
- For the slightly more ambitious reader fine literature penned from literary masters like Donne, Faulkner, Montaigne, Tolstoy, Zola or Flaubert to name just a few would be worth delving into, and get inspired to write more fluently.
- For anyone interested in the power of the written word it is certainly worth regularly visiting Maria Popova’s well-crafted Brain Pickings blog and particularly her piece on Kurt Vonnegut called ‘How to Write with Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word‘.
screenshot of the most renowned thesaurus available….