International Debate Education Association
READ THESE INSTRUCTION FIRST
The instructions ask you to critique an argument. Critiquing an argument means the following. The focus should not be on whether the conclusion of the argument is correct. Rather, the focus should be on whether the reasons given in the argument are correct and whether they well support the conclusion (regardless of whether you think the conclusion is right). Perhaps the reasons are not correct (in which case they also don’t well support the conclusion). If so, point this out. Or perhaps the reasons are correct but they don’t provide adequate support for the conclusion. To that extent, the argument is again flawed. So point out in what ways the reasons don’t well support the conclusion.
Make sure your critique (which is itself an argument) has a clear and clearly stated conclusion – a conclusion that is appropriate for your argument. For example, don’t conclude the author’s conclusion is wrong if all you can do is raise questions about the author’s conclusion. For example, if the author’s reasons are inadequate to support the author’s conclusion, it may not be safe to conclude the author’s conclusion is wrong. To be safe, conclude no more and no less than that the author’s reasons are inadequate for supporting the author’s conclusion. Arguing that the conclusion in the author’s argument is right or wrong is not the point. The point is to decide whether the author’s reasons are correct and whether the author’s conclusion well follows from the reasons. That should be the focus of your critique – not whether you believe the author’s conclusion is correct.
Pesticides have been used for over fifty years in our valley to protect fruits and vegetables from insects. If pesticide sprays were harmful, it would be evident in the medical records in our valley. But there is no evidence of such harm. In addition, my family has lived in this valley for thirty years and we are all perfectly healthy. It’s safe to eat fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides.
Source: Johnson, R. H. & Blair, A. (2006). Logical self-defense. New York: International Debate Education Association.
A. State the argument’s main conclusion or thesis. (Note that this conclusion or thesis may be implied rather than stated explicitly.)
B. Draft a critique of the argument. (Suggested length between three-quarters of a page and a full page, single spaced.)