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Saint Francis DeSales
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Teaching Your High School Student About Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast and Reasoning by Generalization

Last week we discussed Reasoning by Cause and Effect. This week we will look at two more ways of making an argument, Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast and Reasoning by Generalization. 

Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast

Comparison takes two ideas and reasons that since they are alike in this way, they will be alike in another way as well. Similarly, contrast takes two ideas and reasons that if they are different in this aspect, they will be different in at one other way.

Students can look for key words in an article that indicates that there is this type of reasoning being used: like, similar to, same as, greater or less than,  better or worse than, increased or decreased. But not all comparisons are stated, but instead implied. For these instances, the student has to look closely to determine what is being compared and how they are compared. Often the student has to ask himself the question, "compared to what?"


Reasoning by Generalization

Writers often make generalizations, which are sometimes backed by statistics and sometimes have nothing to back it up. Statistical generalizations arguments what is true for some of a group will be true in roughly the same way for the whole group. Your student can find statistical generalizations by looking for the cue words all, none, some, most, a majority, few, plural nouns. A hard generalization can be disproved by a counter-example. A soft generalization is applied to some of a group and are thus harder to disprove. It can be countered only as the counter-examples add up. Your student should ask the questions:
How large is the sample? (The larger the better.)
How representative is the sample?

The warning should be to look out for over-generalization. Over-generalization can occur if the conclusion is based on too small a sampling or by stereotyping, which is applying preconceived notions to a group. These can be countered by making sure the writer has plenty of proof to back up his claims, gives examples and backs up his claims with materials from someone who has authority in the subject mentioned. Students can look for this by searching for the cue words for example, for instance, according to, authority and expert.


What is the difference between middle school level and high school level level learning?

In high school students should be able to identify which level of reasoning is used in an article and be able to look for the possible fallacies with each of the types of reasoning. In this way, he can evaluate the article on a higher level than the middle school student who may or may not be convinced by an article's reasoning, but not know why or why not. The high school student can then write his own paper, using a particular article to back up his claims or to refute the claims of the article. This is practice for a college-level paper.

To sum things up, in the past two weeks we have looked at three ways writers make arguments in articles:
Reasoning by Cause and Effect 
Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast 
Reasoning by Generalization 

Next week we will look at two more ways writers make arguments in articles:
Reasoning by Proof 
Reasoning by Debate 

1 comment:

  1. You know, I have never really sat done and thought through my exact arguments on things formally. This is quite informative for me (I wasn't in debate in high school, so didn't learn all of these terms).

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