This sort of general information helps us think about where and how to search for more detailed information, and to settle upon an aspect of the topic on which to concentrate. For example, in a report to a marketing firm about what people see on television, the main focus would be on the former question, rather than the latter. The context of, for example, a short lecture to high-school students would require that we keep the information in our argument or explanation consistent with their expectations and needs; if, on the other hand, we were writing a scholarly article about television advertising, then the different context would require more advanced and complex arguments. We need to gather background information in order to gain a good understanding of the context in which our reasoning takes place.
Whatever we may think of a particular issue, we are also looking in our research for different opinions and conclusions. For any particular topic, a range of ideas will already have been expressed, and whatever we are doing needs to take account of them. Reasoning involves acknowledging what others have done and integrating our contribution (no matter how small) with the body of knowledge already assembled. We need to criticise conclusions that we oppose, ponder those that are interesting, and add to any with which we agree. In the advertising example, we find that some critics argue that nationalistic television commercials promote unhealthy competition and suspicion of 'foreigners'. If we agree, then we should seek to substantiate this claim further. On the other hand, if, as part of our analysis, we are seeking to establish a different conclusion, we would not simply ignore this opposing' view, but would seek information or give arguments that refute it. We need to consider these 'other' conclusions in relation to what we are concluding in our own reasoning.
Most of all we need to base our reasoning on premises and further support for those premises. We might think of these premises as evidence or 'the facts' (even though we must understand that most 'facts' are only interpretations—claims that, depending on one's perspective, may become more or less doubtful). This information is usually what we produce through our own direct research, seeking to answer specific questions that we have established to guide our activities. As always, we need to be confident in the accuracy and acceptability of this information and be able to demonstrate it convincingly in our reasoning (for example, through appeals to authority). Referring back to our continuing example, we could use the following as evidence:
• Telecom spent over a billion dollars on all advertising in 1994, and most of the commercials had a nationalist theme.
• QANTAS consciously seeks to establish itself as a national Australian airline.
• Australians see themselves in the mould of Crocodile Dundee and other 'bush' heroes.
Yet we could also gather evidence to support any claims we make about the ways that intellectuals have previously written about advertising. For example, if our investigation includes a critique of marketing theorists' conclusions that television commercials are effective, we would need evidence, first of all, that these
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