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  5. Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking


This print textbook is available for students to rent for their classes. The Pearson print rental program provides students with affordable access to learning materials, so they come to class ready to succeed. 

For courses in argument, linguistics, and composition — or in any course where critical thinking is key.


Think critically, analyze objectively, and judge soundly when you know the right questions to ask.

Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking bridges the gap between simply memorizing or blindly accepting information, and the greater challenge of critical analysis and synthesis. Authors M. Neil Browne and Stuart Keeley teach readers to think critically by exploring the components of arguments — the ͭissues, conclusions, reasons, evidence, assumptions, and language — ͭand showing how to spot fallacies, manipulations, and faulty reasoning. They demonstrate how to respond to alternative points of view and make the best personal choices about what information to accept or reject.


Now in its 12th Edition, this current and concise book greatly extends the understanding of critical thinking to writing and speaking. Additionally, the updated practice passages and exercises, as well as an enhanced visual program, add to this book’s appeal in a variety of courses and disciplines.




Table of contents


1. The Benefit and Manner of Asking the Right Questions

The Noisy, Confused World We Live In

Experts Cannot Rescue Us, Despite What They Say

The Necessity of Relying on Our Mind

Critical Thinking to the Rescue

The Sponge and Panning for Gold: Alternative Thinking Styles

Weak-Sense and Strong-Sense Critical Thinking

The Importance of Practice

Critical Thinking and Other People

Primary Values of a Critical Thinker

Keeping the Conversation Going

Creating a Friendly Environment for Communication

Writing and Speaking as Critical Thinkers

2. What Are the Issue and the Conclusion?

Kinds of Issues

Searching for the Issue

Searching for the Author’s or Speaker’s Conclusion

Clues to Discovery: How to Find the Conclusion

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

3. What Are the Reasons?

Initiating the Questioning Process

Words That Identify Reasons

Keeping the Reasons and Conclusions Straight

Reasons First, Then Conclusions

Writing and Speaking as Critical Thinkers

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

4. What Words or Phrases Are Ambiguous?

The Confusing Flexibility of Words

Locating Key Terms and Phrases

Checking for Ambiguity

Determining Ambiguity

Context and Ambiguity

Ambiguity, Definitions, and the Dictionary

Limits of Your Responsibility to Clarify Ambiguity

Writing and Speaking as Critical Thinkers

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

5. What Are the Value and Descriptive Assumptions?

General Guide for Identifying Assumptions

Value Conflicts and Assumptions

From Values to Value Assumptions

Typical Value Conflicts

The Communicator’s Background as a Clue to Value Assumptions

Consequences as Clues to Value Assumptions

More Hints for Finding Value Assumptions

The Value of Knowing the Value Priorities of Others

Values and Relativism

Identifying and Evaluating Descriptive Assumptions

Illustrating Descriptive Assumptions

Common Descriptive Assumptions

Clues for Locating Assumptions

Writing and Speaking as Critical Thinkers

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

6. Are There Any Fallacies in the Reasoning?

A Questioning Approach to Finding Reasoning Fallacies

Evaluating Assumptions as a Starting Point

Discovering Other Common Reasoning Fallacies

Looking for Diversions

Sleight of Hand: Begging the Question

Summary of Reasoning Errors

Expanding Your Knowledge of Fallacies

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

7. The Worth of Personal Experience, Case Examples, Testimonials, and Statements of Authority as Evidence

Fact or Opinion?

The Need for Dependable Evidence

Sources of Evidence

Personal Experience as Evidence

Case Examples as Evidence

Testimonials as Evidence

Appeals to Authority as Evidence

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

8. How Good Is the Evidence: Personal Observation and Research Studies?

Personal Observation as Evidence

Biased Surveys and Questionnaires

Research Studies as Evidence

General Problems with Research Findings

Generalizing From the Research Sample

Generalizing From the Research Measures

When You Can Most Trust Expert Opinion

Research and the Internet

Writing and Speaking as Critical Thinkers

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

9. Are There Rival Causes?

When to Look for Rival Causes

The Pervasiveness of Rival Causes

Detecting Rival Causes

The Cause or a Cause

Multiple Perspectives as a Guide to Rival Causes

Confusing Causation with Association

Confusing “After This” with “Because of This”

Explaining Individual Events or Acts

Evaluating Rival Causes

Rival Causes and Your Own Communication

Exploring Potential Causes

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

10. Are Any Statistics Deceptive?

Unknowable and Biased Statistics

Confusing Averages

Measurement Errors

Concluding One Thing, Proving Another

Deceiving by Omitting Information

Using Statistics in Your Writing

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

11. What Significant Information Is Omitted?

The Benefits of Detecting Omitted Information

The Certainty of Incomplete Reasoning

Questions That Identify Omitted Information

But We Need to Know the Numbers

The Importance of the Negative View

Omitted Information That Remains Missing

Writing and Speaking as Critical Thinkers

Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

12. What Reasonable Conclusions Are Possible?

Dichotomous Thinking: Impediment to Considering Multiple Conclusions

Grey Thinking: Two Sides or Many?

Productivity of If-Clauses

The Liberating Effect of Recognizing Alternative Conclusions


Practice Exercises

Sample Responses

13. Speed Bumps Interfering with Your Critical Thinking

The Discomfort of Asking the Right Questions

Thinking Too Quickly


Mental Habits That Betray Us

Halo Effect

Belief Perseverance

Availability Heuristic

Answering the Wrong Question


Wishful Thinking: Perhaps the Biggest Single Speed Bump on the Road to Critical Thinking  

Final Words



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