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CRITICAL READING AS REASONING

Identifying Assertions
Assertions are declarative sentences that claim something is true about something else. Simply put, it is a sentence that is
either true or false.
Read the following examples:
The sampaguitas roots are used for medical purposes, such as an aesthetic and a sedative.
The sampaguita belongs to the genus Jasminum of the family Oleaceace.
The popularity of sampaguita flowers is most evident in places of worship.
Sampaguitas are the most beautiful and most fragrant of all flowers.
Four common types of assertion:
1. Fact It is a statement that can be proven objectively by direct experience, testimonies of witnesses, verified observations,
or the results of research.
2. Convention It is a way in which something is done, similar to traditions and norms. Conventions depend on historical
precedent, laws, rules, usage, and customs. Thus, their truthfulness is verified by how commonly held definitions and
beliefs are interpreted.
3. Opinion It is based on facts, but is difficult to objectively verify because of the uncertainty of producing satisfactory proofs
of soundness. Opinions result from ambiguities; the more ambiguous a statement, the more difficult it is to verify.
4. Preference It is based on personal choice; therefore, they are subjective and cannot be objectively proven or logically
attacked.
Formulating Counterclaims
To be an effective critical thinker it is not enough just to be able to identify claims and assertions. The ability to analyze an
argument is essential to understanding the text more deeply, but understanding the claim is not the only facet of the argument. You
must also learn how to analyze the counterclaims and evidence provided by the text.
Being able to recognize and formulate counterclaims in reaction to an argument is a characteristic of a good critical reader.
Counterclaims are claims made to rebut a previous claim. They provide a contrasting perspective to the main argument.
By being able to locate and provide counterclaims to an argument, you show a deep competence and familiarity with the
writers topic. It shows that you are examining different perspectives and not just passively accepting the writers claim. It shows
that you have thoroughly considered the topic, and are willing to engage different viewpoints from your own, thus remaining
objective. It also helps you clarify what your personal position is on the topic.
The following questions will help you formulate a counterclaim:
What are the major points on which you and the author can disagree?
What is their strongest argument? What did they say to defend their position?
What are the merits of their view?
What are the weaknesses or shortcomings in their argument?
Are there any hidden assumptions?
Which lines from the text best support the counterclaim you have formulated?
Determining Textual Evidence
Evidence is defined as the details given by the author to support his/her claim. The evidence provided by the writer
substantiates the text. It reveals and builds on the position of the writer and makes the reading more interesting. Evidence is crucial
in swaying the reader to your side. A jury or judge, for example, relies on evidence presented by a lawyer before it makes a decision
regarding a case.
Evidence can include the following:
Facts and statistics (objectively validated information on your subject);
Opinion from experts (leading authorities on a topic, such as researchers or academics); and
Personal anecdotes (generalizable, relevant, and objectively considered).
The following are some questions to help you determine evidence from the text:
What questions can you ask about the claims?
Which details in the text answer your questions?
What are the most important details in the paragraph?
What is each ones relationship to the claim?
How does the given detail reinforce the claim?
What details do you find interesting? Why?
What are some claims that do not seem to have support? What kinds of support could they be provided with?
What are some details that you find questionable? Why do you think so?
Are some details outdated, inaccurate, exaggerated, or taken out of context?
Are the sources reliable?
The following are the characteristics of good evidence:
Unified;
Relevant to the central point;
Specific and concrete;
Accurate; and
Representative or typical.
REFERENCE: Reading and Writing Skills, pp. 23-26