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First, think about the conclusion, which is a specific statement of what we are going to be reasoning towards. It will relate to the general topic with which we are concerned but must be much more precise. Ask yourself:

• What is the conclusion?

• What are its specific elements (meanings of words, key ideas, values, scope, and certainty)?

• Does it require an argument or an explanation?

• How does it relate to existing 'conclusions' about this topic: is it opposing them? supporting them? extending them?

• Is the conclusion well formed?

• What sorts of evidence will be required to support such a conclusion?

• Is there more than one conclusion involved here, and can they be combined in some manner?

In particular, be clear about the following question:

• Is this conclusion directly about some event, decision, or issue, or is it about the way others think and write about such events, decisions, or issues?

Take, for example, the following conclusion:

1. The Olympic games are organised and run for the profit of the large corporations who televise, sponsor, and advertise the games.

This conclusion is distinctly different from the normal' conclusions we draw about the games but is not completely new'. There are some important 'issues' here, for example, issues relating to how these corporations might have gained control over an apparently 'international' event. Another issue would involve considering why the profit aspect seems to be ignored by much reporting on the games. Much evidence will be needed to explore and explain these issues; the claim will definitely require an argument to support it because (as far as I can tell) this claim is not widely accepted. It will necessarily involve discussion of others' opinions but is not, of itself, a conclusion about someone else's view.

Second, think about the main reasons. Make some initial statements of these reasons, answering questions such as:

• Why does or should the event or idea under discussion occur or be believed?

• What does it mean that this event or idea occurs or is believed?

• What are or should be the consequences?

Then, considering each reason in turn, think about the complexities of the reasons, expanding them into a chain of premises that not only expresses the reason fully but also clearly explicates how the premises relate to the conclusion. Ask yourself:

• Do the reasons need any definitions or framing premises?

• Is the relevance of the premises to the conclusion well established?

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