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groups would need to be covered. By contrast, in a report on the legal aspects of European-Aboriginal relations, the audience's expectations would be narrower: the context of the report ('legal aspects') would exclude other reasons, which if we were to introduce them, might actually weaken our arguments because they would be

In summary, not only do we need to understand issues well, but we must also understand our audience and other contextual factors so that we can judge what should or should not be included in any argument or explanation.

Take any argument or explanation that you are writing at the moment or have recently written. Begin by establishing clearly in your own mind the context for your work, including its audience, and the sorts of constraints or requirements that the context places on you. Step by step, apply to it all of the issues discussed

Finally, we must consider the relationship between what we are claiming as our conclusion and the evidence used to support it, as expressed through the scope and certainty aspects of the claims. If the premises and conclusion are coherent in this respect, then our reasoning is more effective. Coherence of scope, while always important, is particularly significant in reasoning from specific cases. Here is an

John has met a few Aborigines who are alcoholics, and therefore he

The error John makes here is that the scope of his premise ('a few') is not coherent with the scope of the conclusion ('all'). Hence he has overgeneralised in his conclusion. Similarly, if John was to visit one Aboriginal community in which, say, a third of its members were alcoholics, he would also be wrong to conclude that 'A third of all Aboriginal people are alcoholics'. The scope of his premises (just one community) is not coherent with the conclusion about all Aborigines, since that community is most unlikely to be a representative sample of the entire Aboriginal population. However, if John were to continue his investigations and discover that, say, 70 per cent of Aboriginal people in outback areas suffer from poor health, he would be equally in error to conclude that 'Poor health is, thus, a small problem for outback Aboriginals'. Such a conclusion understates the extent of the situation and again reflects a lack of coherence between premise and conclusion. General conclusions are not, of themselves, the problem: we could not think and know without reasonable generalisations. Rather, we must always be sure that the generalisations are properly grounded in

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