Critical Thinking & Information Literacy
Across the Curriculum
Assignment 1: Identifying and Constructing Arguments
Students are asked to do the following:
1. Find an argument in any printed source. It can be from a newspaper, magazine,
book, or from the web. It does not have to be a good argument, or an argument that
you agree with, but it must be an argument. On a sheet of paper, identify the
conclusion that you take the author to be arguing for, and list the premises that
are being used to support the conclusion. Then, indicate whether or not you think
it a good argument, and explain your answer. Be sure that you make a photocopy of
the original argument to turn in with your assignment, and cite the source the
argument is from.
(HINT: The opinion page and letters to the editor is a great place to find arguments.
Other sections of newspapers that are simply reporting news do not usually contain arguments.)
2. Choose one of the following claims and write a brief (no more than a half a page)
argument for that claim. Your argument should be typed and double-spaced.
a) A constitutional amendment that outlaws flag burning should be adopted.
b) A constitutional amendment that outlaws flag burning should not be adopted.
This assignment allows students to practice distinguishing arguments from non-arguments,
identifying arguments, and constructing arguments. Some of the students arguments may
be read allowed and compared during class. The main point of the assignment, however,
is to give students a piece of work that they can use to judge their progress later in
the quarter. Instructors should keep copies of this assignment, and hand them back to
students later in the quarter after they have written the research paper. Students
can then be asked to do a self-evaluation of the progress they have made in identifying,
evaluating, and constructing arguments.