Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts

These 'key terms' summarise and draw together various points and concepts discussed in the text. Each includes a reference to the chapter in which they are first discussed; many are generally applicable throughout the book.

analogy, reasoning from

The conclusion is established by comparing similarities between like objects in the premises. The key questions to ask are about the similarities and differences between the known case and the case under discussion. (See chapter 7.)

The process of thinking through the connections and interrelations between individual 'bits' of information (be they facts, values, opinions, possibilities, predictions, or whatever). Arguing and explaining are about communicating your considered view of these connections (in relation to a particular topic). Analysis is the process of finding out about, thinking through, and reflecting upon the connections in preparation for communicating. Compare with analytical questions and analytical structure. (See chapter 8.)

analytical questions

Any questions designed to guide our research or reasoning by suggesting possible relations between claims. Questions can either relate primarily to our own text or to its connections with the surrounding context. (See chapter 8.)

analytical structure

The essential structure of claims and of the links between them, which lies behind the narrative expression of arguments and explanations, and which can be represented as analysis a list of claims and a diagram. The primary use of the analytical structure format is as a planning tool before or during writing and research. (See chapter 3.)

appeal to authority

A special form of reasoning in which a claim is supported by reference to an authority on that subject. Authority may stem from academic qualification, experience, or special knowledge, but in each case, the authority must be relevant to the claim being supported. References and footnotes are two of the most common forms in which we encounter appeals to authority. Theoretically, an appeal to authority is itself an argument that establishes the credentials of the authority and its relevance. However, in practice, it is an accepted convention simply to refer to the authority concerned. (See chapter 5.)

Reasoning that seeks to establish the truth of a doubtful claim (which is its conclusion). It does not, in this context, mean a disagreement. But the process of arguing tends to involve assertions and counter-assertions. Arguments are required where the proposition claimed in the conclusion is in doubt or is presumed doubtful for argument's sake' (as we often say). An argument is not the same as a theme or topic: themes or topics are the broad areas of interest and investigation within which arguments (or explanations) occur. Compare with explanation. (See chapter 2.)


In relation to the particular structures of reasoning, any claim or link that is not explicitly expressed can be said to be implied or assumed. These implications are the result of our assuming that the claim or link is obvious'. Such assumptions impede our ability to think clearly about the possibility that we might be wrong, or that other connections or claims are involved. More generally, an assumption is any unconscious or unexamined idea in the context of reasoning. Compare with context. (See chapter 2.)

In relation to reasoning, the audience' is that group of people who we wish to convince of the correctness of our argument or explanation. The expectations, understandings, and assumptions of audiences form part of the context of our reasoning and are central to decisions about the effectiveness of that reasoning. The audience should be thought of as consisting both of people and of the knowledge on which those people will draw when responding to our arguments and explanations. Compare with context and subject. (See chapter 2.)

breadth of reasoning

Good, effective arguments and explanations reason broadly, including a number of alternative and distinct 'reasons'. (See chapter 6.)

argument audience

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