Answered By: Suzanne Schriefer, Education & General Education Librarian
Last Updated: Mar 06, 2019     Views: 9

Taking a position on an issue and supporting that position with valid evidence is often required in academic writing.  Having an awareness and understanding of logical fallacies - arguments that appear valid but are based on faulty reasoning or inaccurate facts leading to false or misleading conclusions - can ensure that your argument is strong and based on a sound foundation.

In the study of logic, an argument is composed of the:

  • premises - the reasons for a claim in the argument
  • conclusion - a statement that the claim is true

Sound arguments often use deductive reasoning to reach a valid conclusion.  Deductive reasoning includes a premise (argument or position) and evidence supporting the premise presented in a way that leads to a plausible conclusion. (For example, a syllogism: A is B. C is A. Therefore, B is C.)

Use these tips when developing a position on an issue and presenting evidence that your position is valid and true:

  • Choose an premise/position that you think is reasonably true
  • Provide valid evidence to support your position
  • Include all significant and relevant issues relating to your position
  • Avoid broad claims that cannot be proven

Consider using the grid below to evaluate the logic of your argument and the validity of the facts used to support your position.  Aim for the green square!

Berquist, P. (n.d.) Facts vs logic [Image]. Hampton, VA: Thomas Nelson Community College.

Logical fallacies come in a variety of forms.  Some of the most common are:

  • Ad hominem - A personal attack; not a form of rational argument
  • Straw man - Attacking a position that an opponent does not hold
  • False dichotomy - Limiting options to two when there are more options to be considered
  • Circular argument - Repeating an argument that was already assumed beforehand
  • Hasty generalization - General statements with no evidence to support them
  • Red herring - A distraction from the argument with a topic that seems related but is not relevant
  • False cause - Drawing a cause and effect relationship using faulty logic
  • Appeal to Authority - Misusing authority by citing false, poor, or irrelevant authorities
  • Ad populum - Using people's desire to fit in to accept an argument
  • Appeal to pity - Using an emotional appeal to get an audience to accept a conclusion
  • Slippery slope - Starting an argument with a benign point, then running through several scenarios to an unrealistic conclusion

References

  • Fallacy. (2019). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://academic-eb-com.ezproxy.rasmussen.edu/levels/collegiate/article/fallacy/33643
  • Ferrer, D. (2019). 15 logical fallacies you should know before getting into a debate. Retrieved from https://thebestschools.org/magazine/15-logical-fallacies-know/
  • The Writing Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (n.d.) Fallacies. Retrieved from https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/fallacies/
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