When writing a paper, it is a common desire to express your innermost thoughts and cherished beliefs. However, if you want to sound professional, it is necessary to follow the logic, unless you are a politician, of course.
Jokes aside, conforming to the rules of logic can be decisive in your academic success. No matter how clever or innovative your ideas are, if you do not structure or fail to substantiate them, it is unlikely you get a good grade.
Logical fallacies occur not only in writing. In fact, they are deeply interwoven into the fabric of society. People’s daily communication teems with fallacies; that is why it is so hard to avoid them in writing. People on TV employ fallacies all the time to prove their point. They are so natural, but at the same time so wrong.
So, what are those parasites that people so comfortably ignore? Let’s find out together.
It happens when you rush to conclusions with little information available. For example, you went to ask your classmates if they prefer science or literature. Maybe, you won’t be that boring, and your question would examine Spiderman versus Batman. Maybe, you would even go to other schools with a survey.
Let’s imagine your peers chose science and Batman. If you then conclude that high school students in the US choose science over literature and Batman over Spiderman that would be a hasty generalization. This is because your sample size was not big enough to draw such bold conclusions.
Of course, in an academic paper most likely you won’t have to write about Batman. However, it is a possibility if you are a media student. Anyways, the point stands. Always make sure you have asked enough people or that the scholar you are referencing asked enough people. Otherwise, you will plunge right into your first pitfall.
It is yet another form of generalization. It ambushes you when you are trying to prescribe universal value to your deductions. The latter may not even be wrong. However, it is always important to remember the conditions in which your experiment, survey or whatever occurred.
Basically, imagine rivers sweeping over the embankment in spring. Not a nice picture if you are living near one. When you commit a sweeping generalization, you are trying to sweep over the whole world with your argument. However, the world is not a homogeneous place, and what is good for one area, is disastrous for the other.
Here it is worth mentioning some funny localization failures. When one American company tried to launch its baby food product in Africa, they put a baby face on it. However, in Africa many people assume that the picture on the can signifies what’s inside it. So, the product failed until they changed the label.
It is a sweeping generalization when you assume that your way of writing that was praised in the middle school is going to be as successful in high school. You need to learn about logical fallacies before you can be a good writer!
You’re going to love this one! It is also called the black or white fallacy. It occurs when a speaker or a writer puts you in a fake either-or situation, when you are only given two options. It is a common rhetorical device politicians employ to scare the gullible population.
Give me Liberty, or Give me Death! – Patrick Henry allegedly used to say. It’s me or him! – You would say to your friend who, in your opinion, spends too much time with her fiancée. Whatever the context, the reader is presented with only two alternatives, which is far from the real world.
If you want to be a good writer, you need to avoid such extremes. The thing is that even if you believe that the cost of education prevents Americans from choosing college, there can be multiple factors responsible. Explore the grey areas. The world is not a simple place.
If you want to come off as open-minded, you need to consider different scenarios. False dilemmas are a sign of populist rhetoric, and you should try to avoid them in your writing, and in your life.
This is one more popular rhetorical device, or a logical fallacy, depends on your profession. It happens when you are trying to be especially emotional about the subject. Value claims are not necessarily bad, but they are not commonly accepted in academic writing.
For instance, writing about Donald Trump you can state: If we are not going to impeach him shortly, we will end up with a devastated country at the end of his term. This is not automatically untrue. However, by formulating your thoughts like this, you sound raving mad. Seriously, this is not the end of the world. It was in 2012. It’s high time you reconcile with the new reality.
In any case, you have to always take other alternatives into account. I have already mentioned open-mindedness. It is important to look at the issue from different perspectives. Otherwise, you will be trapped on a single track.
Keep Your Eyes Open and Your Mind Sharp
There are plenty more fallacies to be discussed. We will leave them for better times. As for now, hopefully, you understand better how to think like a smart member of society. If you practice it long enough, it will become your second nature.
Do not feel discouraged if you still commit them. Logical fallacies are something we are exposed to on a daily basis. It is hard to discard such an intrinsic part of your socialization so easily. Hopefully, your teacher will help you along with this change. This is what school is for after all – teaching how to think.