Effective Public Speaking
Effective Public Speaking

Effective Public Speaking

Lead Author(s): George Griffin and Contributors

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Designed to teach the skills and build the confidence your students need to become effective public speakers.

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Key features in this textbook

Effective Public Speaking gives students the confidence and competence in preparing and presenting speeches with real student videos, a comprehensive glossary, up to five in-class activities per chapter, and a full chapter on controlling speech anxiety.
Using Bongo for Top Hat, students can practice their oral communication skills and get feedback from instructors or their peers.
Built-in assessment questions embedded throughout chapters so students can read a little, do a little, and test themselves to see what they know!

Comparison of Public Speaking Textbooks

Consider adding Top Hat’s Effective Public Speaking textbook to your upcoming course. We’ve put together a textbook comparison to make it easy for you in your upcoming evaluation.

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

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Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

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$121.80

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$99.29

Hardcover print text only

$114.52

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

$121.80

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

$99.29

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

$114.52

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

George Griffin, Professor of SpeechKeiser University

George Griffin earned his degrees at the University of West Florida and Auburn University. He has been teaching college, business seminars and workshops for over 30 years, while still doing public speaking engagements for non-profit organizations. Currently, he is serving as the Professor of Speech at Keiser University, Orlando, and as Adjunct Professor at Stetson University. George is also the author of “STAGE FRIGHT! A Student-Friendly Guide to Managing the Jitters.”

Contributing Authors

Wade CorneliusNew Mexico State University

Kathryn DederichsUniversity of St. Thomas

Morgan GintherInstructional Designer at Texas A & M

Luke GreenSt. Cloud Technical and Community College

María Elena BermúdezGeorgia State University

Daryle NaganoEl Camino College

Wendy YarberryFlorida State College at Jacksonville

Allen DavisIndiana University

Jasmine RobertsOhio State University

Krista MacDonaldDoña Ana Community College

Explore this textbook

Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.

Chapter 12: Argumentation and Fallacies

The New York Court of Appeal [1]


“He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is                 weak.”
 - Michel de Montaigne

Table of Contents

 Learning Objectives

  •  To define an argument and explain the benefits of studying argumentation.
  •  To differentiate the goals of an argument.
  •  To describe the reasoning process and distinguish between different types of reasoning.
  •  To compose a persuasive argument.
  •  To identify common fallacies and explain why fallacious reasoning should be avoided.


Introduction

Think about the last disagreement you had with a friend or roommate. Maybe it sounded something like this:

It's hard to construct an argument that best fits your topic, but it is the backbone of your speech. [2]​

Catherine: “Hey AJ, how are things going?”

AJ: “Pretty good, I’m trying to study for my math exam tomorrow.”

Catherine: “Yeah, I have a couple of projects due at the end of the week. My sociology group is coming over to work on our assignment later tonight. I noticed that we have a lot of dirty dishes in the kitchen and your clothes are all over the living room. Do you think you’ll have time to pick them up before 7 p.m.?”

AJ: “I’m not sure, my math exam is really going to be tough so I need to spend all my time studying. Maybe you could just do it, since you’re the one having people over.”

Catherine: “True, but they’re not my clothes or dirty dishes, and you’ve left them out for days. The kitchen is starting to smell…”

AJ: “Catherine, this seems like a ‘you’ problem.”

Q12.01

What might be the best course of action if you were Catherine?

A

Ask to switch rooms (your next roommate will be better).

B

Yell at your roommate (she will get the hint).

C

Dump your roommate’s dirty dishes on her bed (your roommate will surely do the dishes next time).

D

Create a chart that lists each person’s room chores and keeps track of when tasks are completed.

E

None of the above


Living with another person can be difficult especially if you have different viewpoints on how things should be organized, who’s responsible for what, and so on. What should you do if the person you are living with doesn’t see things the same way you do? Can you see how the opening scenario could be headed in a variety of directions (some with potentially bad outcomes)? Disagreements can happen, but how you handle them is what is really important. In this situation, creating an argument is a more effective approach.

This chapter will help you understand the basics of a challenging topic, argumentation and fallacies. In your public speaking class, you will be asked to incorporate your understanding of argumentation in your persuasive speech assignment. You should keep in mind that understanding argumentation is a process, and it takes time to get the hang of it. By focusing on common questions and concepts, you can think of each section as a building block to deeper learning. Similar to building a house, you need to start by laying a strong foundation, and from there, you can build upward. In this chapter, we will discuss:

  • What is an argument?
  • What is argumentation and why should you study it?
  • What is reasoning and what are the most common types of reasoning?
  • What is the process for creating a persuasive argument?
  • What is fallacious reasoning and why should you avoid it?

What is an Argument?

Let’s begin our discussion by looking at two persuasive arguments about who is the better basketball player, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant?

Click here to see the script for Video 12.01.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.02.

Q12.02

After viewing these video clips, which argument was more persuasive to you? Why? Did their approach or delivery style affect your thinking about this topic?


The answer to these questions depends on a variety of factors that determine the success (or failure) of an argument.

How would you define an argument? What words come to mind? Would you describe it as a verbal disagreement? Does it involve yelling? Is it productive? Is an argument passionate or detached? Do you see an argument as synonymous with debate? Many people describe arguments as negative disagreements between people that can involve yelling (and in many cases doesn't resolve anything).

Pause. Do an online search for “argument,” then do a second search for “academic argument.” What did you find? Were the definitions different when you added the word academic?

Q12.03

In academic terms, what is an argument?

A

Two (or more) people yelling at each other because they don’t agree.

B

An emotional disagreement that isn’t resolved.

C

Statements that express a point of view on a subject and support it with evidence.

D

A verbal contention that could lead to a physical altercation.


A quick search of several online dictionaries shows words like “oral disagreement,” “altercation,” “opposition,” and “contention” as commonly used to describe an argument. To me, this sounds negative (maybe it does to you as well). Are these the words that come to mind when you think about an argument? What about differing points of view, a debate, or reasoning? So, what exactly is an argument?

An argument is central to the study of argumentation and logic. An argument is not meant to carry the emotional weight we often associate with it. Such as when a person says “I got into a huge argument with my parents about my grades” or “My roommate argued with her boyfriend for two hours last night.” Simply stated, an argument is a set of statements (also called claims or premises) that offer reasons to believe or accept the conclusion given. To understand this definition, let’s look at a quick example.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.03.

Q12.04

Write the following statement in standard form: A Granny Smith is a fruit because it is an apple.


Typically we don’t go to the trouble of writing or speaking arguments in such a formal way, but this technique is helpful when the argument is more complex. 

Q12.05

In the fields of argumentation and logic, an argument should be emotional.

A

True

B

False


What is Argumentation?

Argumentation is the cooperative, back-and-forth process that includes two aspects. On one side, we can develop/advance our own arguments, and on the other side, we can respond to the arguments of others. Instead of thinking about argumentation as adversarial (I’m right and you are definitely wrong), we see people working together to think more carefully and clearly about a topic.

For example, let’s take the topic: Should student athletes get paid? Think of all the different perspectives that could be explored for this topic (i.e. a student athlete’s perspective may be different from a student’s perspective, a college professor’s perspective, an administrator’s perspective, or a union representative’s perspective). If people with different perspectives and ideas came together to discuss this topic cooperatively, think about how much fuller and more developed our arguments could be. This is not to say that we would have to agree on everything, but when we “walk around in another person’s shoes,” our understanding can grow beyond our own ideas and experiences.


In general, people engage in argumentation to support, modify, challenge, or defend their positions on topics that are important to them and their audience. It’s a give-and-take process, and we should always remember that the successes (as well as the failures) of an argument help us to refine our ideas and make them stronger. With that said, there are several applications to the study of argumentation. An arguer may want to: (1) test out a well-developed argument, (2) try out new ideas (to see if they work), and/or (3) find weaknesses in an argument (so that corrections can be made).


Why Should You Study Argumentation?

The short answer is that argumentation is a better way to make decisions because the process offers us the opportunity to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence provided and draw our own conclusions. We are also exposed to persuasion every day, and the more we know about argumentation the better we can be at understanding and evaluating those messages.

Q12.06

How many persuasive messages do you think you are exposed to each day? Which are the ones that stick out in your mind?


Think about this. Estimates vary, but researchers generally believe that we are exposed to between 300 and 3,000 persuasive messages each day (Rosselli, Skelly, & Mackle, 1995, p. 163).

Persuasive messages have even made their way onto sports uniforms. [3]​

Do you agree with this estimate? Think about all the persuasive messages you see every day in commercials on television and your computer, billboards and signs you pass by on your way to school or work, internet advertisements that seem to be geared toward your latest Google searches, text messages, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr…you get the idea. While we may not pay attention to every single message that comes our way, the point is that we are bombarded with persuasive messages every day.

With this in mind, there are several benefits we can gain from studying argumentation:

We can become more aware of persuasion in our daily lives.

If we recognize when we are exposed to persuasive arguments, we have more choices about how and when we consume messages. Awareness is the first step to having more control of the persuasive situations around you.

We can be more efficient and effective when we compose arguments.

Have you ever watched a movie and thought an actor became the character they played? What makes the actor believable? Why does it seem like some actors assume the characters they play better than others? One might say that the best actors are the ones who become “students of the art.” Said another way, a great actor studies the character and story to deliver a powerful performance. This might include interacting with the person the character is based on, talking with the writer, or practicing lines.

The point is you have to study and prepare if you want to be good at something, whether it’s acting or composing an argument. The more we pay attention to persuasive arguments around us, the more we can learn about what works (and what doesn’t). In turn, we can use that information to become better at creating and delivering persuasive messages.

We can be better at evaluating the arguments of others.

Have you ever argued with another person, and you know that you don’t agree with their position, but you can’t figure out why? The more we understand argumentation (the strategies that work and don’t work), the audience's influence on an argument, and the structure of a strong argument, the better we can be at evaluating the arguments of others.

At this point, we hope that you are at least somewhat convinced that studying argumentation can be valuable to you. What are the potential goals of an argument? Let’s take a closer look at four basic goals of arguments:

1. Arguments can help us to discover truth. Arguments can help us to discover truth through the reasoning process. To understand how this works, let’s look at a claim:

The moon is made from cheese.

To test this claim, we might look at reports by astronauts who have traveled to the moon or scientific studies conducted by researchers. There is a lot of evidence to support that the moon is made of rock, so we know that the claim is false. This example shows how an argument can help us to discover truth by testing out a claim.

2. Arguments can help us to communicate effectively. Arguments can help us communicate effectively because they help us to organize our ideas in a logical way. Here’s an easy way to think about it:

If a friend said to you, “Knock, knock.” You would respond, “Who’s there?” Your friend might say, “Lettuce.” Then you would say “Lettuce who?” Your friend would finish the joke saying, “Lettuce in, it’s cold outside.”

How did you know what to say in that situation? The short answer is: you have been familiar with that communication pattern since you were a child. The same is true with arguments. Once we learn the patterns arguments usually follow, we can communicate more effectively.

3. Arguments can aid us in resolving disagreements or misunderstandings.Think back to the opening story about two roommates in a disagreement over dirty dishes in a dorm room. How might an argument resolve this issue? If the roommate that is upset about the dirty dishes created an argument that explained the reasons why dirty dishes in the room for days is a problem, do you think the two roommates might be able to compromise and resolve the issue? In many disagreements, misunderstandings arise when those involved do not take the time to understand the other person’s perspective or situation. Arguments can help to resolve disagreements because the structure of an argument and the give-and-take of argumentation can help us understand the other person’s point of view.

4. Arguments can assist us in formulating solutions to problems. This may be the most applicable purpose for public speaking students in the sense that many persuasive speeches are structured in a problem-solution pattern of organization. Using this organization, the speaker would first claim that a problem exists and is worth our attention. We need to explain up front why the audience should care if we want them to listen to us. Once that is accomplished, the speaker needs to offer a solution to the problem. The solution offered is also an argument because there are many potential solutions to any given problem, but the speaker is choosing one for specific reasons. Let’s look at a couple of examples to clarify how this works.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.04.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.05.

Notice that the problem in both videos is the same: the cost of textbooks is too high. But the solution offered is different in each video. In the first video, the student argued that textbooks should be free. While in the second video, the student argued that digital textbooks are a better alternative. Which student provided a more convincing argument? What if these students worked together, do you think each student’s argument may have been stronger?

Note: I focused on the problem/solution structure in this part because it is a persuasive structure we are familiar with (a quick viewing of a national news program will show how frequent the problem/solution structure is used). However, I don’t want you to think it is the only structure. If a speaker wanted to argue in favor of universal health care or legalizing marijuana, they could structure their arguments in a number of other organizational patterns, as we saw in Chapter 10, rather than using the problem/solution structure.


What is Reasoning?

We previously defined argumentation as the cooperative back-and-forth process that includes two aspects. On one side, we can develop/advance our own arguments, and on the other side, we can respond to the arguments of others. Another way of thinking about argumentation is a message (or a set of messages) that attempts to persuade listener(s) through reasoned judgment. What is reasoned judgment? Reasoning is the logical process of forming conclusions or judgments from the evidence stated. Said another way, reasoning is the glue that holds the argument together.

Types of Reasoning

You may be wondering at this point, how you use reasoning when creating a persuasive argument. There are five common forms of reasoning: deductive, inductive, causal, sign, and analogical. Let’s look at each of them.

Deductive reasoning is the logical (thinking) process that starts with easily understood general knowledge and works its way down to an undeniable specific conclusion. There are three parts to a deductive argument: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. If we assume that the major premise and minor premise are true, then the conclusion is necessarily true. This means that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.
To make sense out of this let’s look at an example.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.06.

If we assume that the major and minor premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. Remember our example about Max being a dog and an animal (from earlier in this chapter)? That is another example of a deductive argument:

Major Premise: All dogs are animals (easily understood general knowledge).

Minor Premise: Max is a dog.

Conclusion: Therefore, Max is an animal (undeniable specific conclusion).

Here’s a real-life example of how we might instinctively use deductive reasoning: If Carlos was just clocked going 60 mph in a 45 mph zone on his way to class, you can conclude that he is going to get a speeding ticket. How?

Major Premise: People who are caught speeding get tickets.

Minor Premise: Carlos just got caught speeding.

Conclusion: Therefore, Carlos will get a speeding ticket.

Q12.07

Organize the following statements into a deductive argument:

A

This angle is 40 degrees.

B

This is an acute angle.

C

Acute angles are less than 90 degrees.



Inductive reasoning is the logical (thinking) process that takes specific information to make broader generalizations that leads to probable conclusions. Conclusions are probable in inductive reasoning because they may not be totally accurate. Let’s look at a couple of examples.


Click here to see the script for Video 12.07.

In this example, the major premise is specific (the ice is cold). The probable conclusion is a general statement (all ice is cold). How do we get from the first statement to the second? Through what is called an inductive leap. An inductive leap is needed because the conclusion moves beyond the stated evidence. In this example, we would probably agree that all the ice we’ve ever touched was cold, and so it’s not too big of a jump to say all ice is cold.

Here’s another way to think about inductive reasoning: Suppose you like Pizza Hut pizza, but you also like Papa John’s and Domino’s pizza. It’s probably safe to say that you like pizza. In this example, you moved from specific information (you like Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s pizza) to a broader generalization (you like pizza). From this information, we could say it is probable that you will also like Little Caesar’s Pizza.


Q12.08

Organize the following statements into an inductive argument.

A

Henry is an excellent swimmer.

B

Henry’s sister Elizabeth is probably an excellent swimmer also.

C

Henry’s family has a swimming pool.


Causal reasoning is a third type reasoning that attempts to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between two events. This type of reasoning is based on the logical process that connects one event to another event. When causal reasoning is strong, we can alter (or prevent) the result by controlling the cause. Here’s a quick example:

If a (typical) baseball is thrown through a (typical) window, then the window will break.

In this example, the action of throwing a baseball at a window causes the window to break. We can see that by understanding this causal relationship, we could prevent the window breaking by making sure that our baseball doesn’t go through it.

Please keep in mind that just because one event precedes another event doesn’t necessarily mean that one event caused the other event. For example, let's say my university’s football team lost their first three games. On the fourth game, I wore my blue t-shirt with the school logo on it, and they won! If I said that my t-shirt must be lucky, then I might say that I need to wear the same t-shirt for the rest of the season, so my team will keep winning. Superstition is common in sports, but the fact that I wore a specific t-shirt did not cause my team to win.

Sign reasoning is a fourth type of reasoning where a relationship between two things is inferred. Where causal reasoning attempts to connect two events by saying that one event caused another event, in sign reasoning, we attempt to connect two events by saying that one event indicates another. An easy example of sign reasoning is: the rising sun indicates that it is morning. Another example is: where there is smoke, there is fire. The smoke didn’t cause the fire instead it’s an indication that there is a fire burning. This example shows us that sign reasoning is the opposite of causal reasoning. In a speech, sign reasoning might look more like this: “If you follow the financial news, you’ll see that the stock market dropped significantly this morning. This is a clear indication that investors are uncomfortable with the new regulations the president announced yesterday.”

Analogical reasoning is the fifth type of reasoning. It attempts to prove that what is true in one case must be true in another. This reasoning uses an analogy or comparison to reach a conclusion. When you took a standardized test and you were asked, “A glove is to a hand as a shoe is to a ______.” If you answered “foot,” you showed the ability to reason analogically.

Picture It: Let’s say that you are a local school board member who is trying to persuade the community that they should vote in favor of a school bond referendum that would support the school district, but would also raise their taxes. How would you create an argument if your audience consisted of the parents of children who currently attend schools in the district? How would you adjust or change your argument if your audience were older, retired community members who were concerned about how they would afford a tax increase on a fixed income?

Knowing your audience is an important part of the reasoning process. The argument you use with a group of parents would fall flat with a group of retired people.


Q12.09

Match the following items:

Premise
Response
1

Deductive reasoning

A

Is the type of reasoning that takes specific information to make broader generalizations that leads to probable conclusions.

2

Inductive reasoning

B

Is the type of reasoning that attempts to prove what is true in one case is true in another.

3

Causal reasoning

C

The type of reasoning that starts with easily understood general knowledge and works its way down to an undeniable specific conclusion.

4

Sign reasoning

D

Is the type of reasoning that attempts to establish a cause and effect relationship between two events.

5

Analogical reasoning

E

Is the type of reasoning where a relationship between two things is inferred.


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What is the Process for Creating a Persuasive Argument?

Step 1: Take a position on a topic.

You can’t sit on the fence when creating a persuasive argument. You need to take a position on your topic. The more focused your position, the better. A clearly focused position will help you to make a strong argument.

For example, my position could be: Obesity is a disease. Now you may be thinking that you agree with this statement (or you may not). But most of us will need more information to be convinced that obesity is a disease. This is where an argument begins.

Step 2: Collect evidence to support your position.

What evidence would convince you that obesity is a disease? Your first question might be: what is a disease? This seems like a straightforward question, but it’s actually more complicated than it might appear because professionals within the medical and scientific fields don't agree on one definition. Click here for an interesting link on the topic.

Let’s say for the sake of our discussion that I find a definition from a reputable medical source that defines “disease” in a way that supports my position, what other evidence should I look for? Would you be more likely to be persuaded by statistics and facts, examples and stories, or the testimony of others (say experts in the medical field)?

My advice is: use a variety of sources and evidence. Think of it this way, in your public speaking class, there are certain similarities you share with your classmates, but there are also differences. It’s difficult to know how your entire audience will react to your topic and what type(s) of evidence will be persuasive to each person. It is better to cover your bases by using a wide variety of sources and evidence.

Returning to my example, here’s some information that I could use to build my argument:

  • According to a study published in the Journal of American Medicine, “More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese” (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014, p. 806).
  •  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) states, “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.”
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) also states, “Obesity is higher among middle-aged adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults 60 or above (35.4%).”
  •  According to the American Heart Association (2015), “doctors should consider obesity a disease and more actively treat obese patients for weight loss.”
  •  According to the World Health Organization (n.d.), “In 2013, 42 million infants and young children were overweight or obese.”
  •  Pollack (2013) reports in a New York Times article, “One reason in favor [of labeling obesity as a disease is that it] would reduce the stigma of obesity that stems from the widespread perception that it is simply the result of eating too much or exercising too little. Some doctors say that people do not have full control over their weight.”
  •  According to the Let’s Move (n.d.) website, “In addition to suffering from poor physical health, overweight and obese children can often be targets of early social discrimination. The psychological stress of social stigmatization can cause low self-esteem which, in turn, can hinder academic and social functioning, and persist into adulthood.”

While this list of evidence and sources is not exhaustive, it should give you an idea of how you might approach finding evidence for an argument. The key is finding quality information. If your evidence is faulty or inaccurate in any way, it will take away from the argument you are trying to make.

Step 3: Use reasoning to connect the evidence to the conclusion.

Earlier in this chapter, we defined reasoning as the logical process of forming conclusions or judgments from the evidence stated. It’s not only what information you find (how accurate/reliable the information is), but also how you use it (whether the information was used in an ethical way). For example, looking at the list of evidence discovered regarding obesity, which of these points are the strongest to support the idea that obesity is a disease? Which are related to the topic, but don’t directly connect the evidence to the conclusion?

Step 4: Think about counterarguments to your position and how you will address or overcome those objections.

A counterargument is an argument that is offered in response or opposition to the original argument. You are essentially playing devil’s advocate. What would someone who doesn’t agree with your argument say? What type of evidence would they use? Would they question your evidence? By thinking about the objections someone might have to your position, you can address those concerns within your argument and make your argument stronger.

Returning to my example about obesity being a disease. Another person could counter-argue that obesity is not a disease, but a social or environmental problem. What kind of evidence would a person use to support this position? Or what if a person counter-argues that classifying obesity as a disease could lead people to think that the only way to solve the problem is through medication and surgery instead of implementing a healthy lifestyle? What if a person raises a question about how medical insurance companies will react to the classification of obesity as a disease and how that could hurt people in the long run? These are just a few objections that could be developed into counterarguments to my position. By thinking about it in advance, I can adjust my argument to address those concerns (or adjust my position, if I become convinced that it isn’t quite right).

Step 5: Draw the conclusion to your argument.

The conclusion is the main point (or position) the argument is trying to prove. In my example, my position is: Obesity is a disease. This would also be the conclusion I’m trying to draw through my argument.


Q12.10

______ is the process that connects the claims of an argument together and leads the listener(s) to the conclusion.


Q12.11

Put the steps for creating a persuasive argument into the correct order:

A

Take a position on a topic

B

Draw the conclusion to your argument

C

Use reasoning to connect the evidence to the conclusion

D

Collect evidence to support your position

E

Think about counterarguments to your position and how you will address them


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What is Fallacious Reasoning?

A fallacy is a mistaken belief based on shaky reasoning. Therefore, fallacious reasoning is an error in the reasoning process that may be intentional or unintentional. If the audience catches the use of fallacious reasoning, the argument is dead in the water. Unfortunately, fallacies tend to be effective because they are not always easy to identify.

There are a tremendous number of fallacies, but for the purposes of our discussion, we will focus on eight: the red herring, ad hominem, straw man, either-or, bandwagon, slippery slope, hasty generalization, and circular reasoning.

1. Red herring fallacy occurs when the arguer diverts attention away from the subject of the argument (to another topic that is somewhat related), and then draws a conclusion about the related subject (instead of the subject of the argument).

When you tell me you think I need to eat healthier or exercise, that says to me that you think I’m fat. I think I look just fine. Don’t you think that a comment like this one is the reason so many girls have issues with body image?

This is an example of the red herring fallacy because the topic shifts from eating healthier and exercising to girls’ body image. The way the statements are weaved together, a person might not notice this shift, but the conclusion drawn is not about the original subject of the argument, which is why it’s fallacious.

2. Ad hominem fallacy occurs when an arguer attacks the person instead of the argument.

Thomas couldn’t write an essay if his life depended upon it. He’s so stupid; I don’t think he could even put three words together to form an intelligent sentence.

This is an example of the ad hominem fallacy because Thomas is being personally attacked (instead of the argument he made).

3. Straw man fallacy occurs when an arguer distorts an opponent’s argument for the purposes of more easily attacking it.

Chelsea says, “Teens should be taught about contraception methods in health classes so they can practice safe sex if they choose to have intercourse.” Erin responds, “Chelsea just wants to give our kids a license to have sex without understanding the consequences.”

This is an example of the straw man fallacy because Erin distorts Chelsea’s original statement to make it easier to attack.

4. Either-or fallacy occurs when an arguer gives only two choices when more than two choices exist. The arguer ignores the additional choices because they are not favorable to the arguer’s position.

You are either pro-life or pro-choice.

This is an either-or fallacy because the statement suggests that you can only be pro-life or pro-choice. In reality, most people are somewhere in between the two extremes. By not presenting all the options, the statement is fallacious.

5. Bandwagon fallacy occurs when you accept an idea as being correct because it is popular (and you don’t want to be left out).

The idea that soda is unhealthy is ridiculous. 90% of Americans drink soda.

This is an example of the bandwagon fallacy because “90% of Americans drink soda” has nothing to do with whether or not it’s unhealthy. The statement is meant to convince you to drink soda because it’s popular with Americans.

6. Slippery slope fallacy occurs when the conclusion of an argument relies on the alleged chain reaction, and there isn’t sufficient reason to think that the chain reaction will actually take place.

It’s never a good idea to allow your kids to have a sip of champagne on New Year’s Eve. Next thing you know they’ll be drinking beer when they watch sports on TV. Then they’ll want wine with dinner each night and Blood Mary’s in the morning. Soon they’ll be alcoholics and headed to rehab.

This is an example of the slippery slope fallacy because it relies on a chain reaction that is unlikely to occur. At any point, the chain reaction suggested could be wrong and the outcome would be different.

7. Hasty generalization fallacy occurs when there is a reasonable likelihood that the sample is not representative of the group.

Joseph, Michael, and Anthony all outlived their wives even though their wives were younger than they were. It must be the case that men live longer than women these days.

This is an example of the hasty generalization fallacy because three instances of husbands outliving their wives is not a large enough sample to say that all men will outlive their wives.

8. Circular reasoning fallacy occurs when the arguer says A is true because of B, and B is true because of A. Since B is evidence for A being true, A cannot also be evidence for B being true. So the reasoning is fallacious because it goes in a circle.

I believe the Bible is the word of God because God tells me so in the Bible.

This is an example of circular reasoning because the argument literally goes in a circle.

Examples of fallacious reasoning in public discourse are numerous. We only need to look at politics or the media to see fallacies at work. Here are a few examples.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.08.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.09.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.10.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.11.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.12.

Click here to see the script for Video 12.13.

Q12.12

Match the type of fallacy with the correct definition.

Premise
Response
1

This fallacy occurs when an arguer distorts an opponent’s argument for the purposes of more easily attacking it.

A

Hasty generalization fallacy

2

This fallacy occurs when the arguer diverts attention away from the subject of the argument and then draws a conclusion about the new topic.

B

Straw man fallacy

3

This fallacy occurs when an arguer attacks the person instead of the argument his/her opponent had stated.

C

Ad hominem fallacy

4

This fallacy occurs when there is a reasonable likelihood that the sample is not representative of the group.

D

Red herring fallacy


Why do people use fallacies if they are wrong? As we mentioned earlier in this section, fallacies can be effective. If an arguer uses a fallacy and the audience doesn’t catch it, then the argument can appear to be a strong one even though it’s not. This can lead the audience to accept the conclusion offered without further investigation of the argument. Sometimes speakers use fallacies without even realizing it. In the Hasty Generalization example above, the speaker may actually believe that those three examples are sufficient to draw a general conclusion. That is where critical listening becomes essential – as well as our ability to identify and expose fallacies that are misleading others.

Even though fallacies can work if the audience isn’t paying close attention that doesn’t mean we should use fallacies. Why should you avoid fallacies?

To answer this question (in the form of an argument, of course) you should think about the goals of an argument. As we previously learned, arguments can help us to: (1) discover truth, (2) communicate effectively, (3) resolve disagreements or misunderstandings, and/or (4) formulate solutions to problems. When an arguer uses fallacious reasoning, they undermine the goals of an argument. How can any of these goals be met if you are taking a short cut in the reasoning process? Another thing to think about is how fallacies can affect your credibility as well as your relationship with the audience. If your audience knows that you used fallacious reasoning in your argument, they won’t be able to trust you or what you say, and your effectiveness as a speaker will be negatively affected.


Q12.13

Why are fallacies sometimes effective?


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Summary

As we previously discussed, understanding argumentation is a process that takes time to learn. In this chapter, you learned the foundational concepts of argumentation. As you develop your persuasive speech, create an argument that is clear and logical. Simple arguments that are well done are more effective than complicated arguments that are difficult to follow.

End of Chapter Checklist

After reading this chapter, you should be able to: 

  • Define an argument and explain the benefits of studying argumentation.
  • Differentiate the goals of an argument.
  • Describe the reasoning process and distinguish between different types of reasoning.
  • Compose a persuasive argument.
  • Identify common fallacies and explain why fallacious reasoning should be avoided.
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Video Scripts

Video 12.01

Who is a better basketball player? It’s obvious that Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James. Going into the 2016 season, Kobe has played in more playoffs (15) to LeBron’s 10. He played in more all-start games (18) to LeBron’s 12. Kobe has more NBA championships (5) to LeBron’s 2. Beyond that Kobe has more total points, total rebounds, total steals, and a higher free throw percentage. To me the best basketball player is the person who can score, play good defense, and be an impact player, and it’s clear that Kobe Bryant is that person. In the end, it all comes down to championships, and Kobe has LeBron beat on that one.

Statistics found here

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Video 12.02

LeBron James is a better all-around player. Kobe’s played more seasons and has been on better teams. But LeBron beats Kobe as a rebounder, passer, and scorer. The bottom line is: LeBron James dominates on the court. He’s played fewer seasons on teams with less talent. Imagine how many championships LeBron James would have won if he could have played with the caliber of talent Kobe played with.

Statistics found here

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Video 12.03

Max is an animal because he is a dog. This seems like a pretty straightforward statement, but let’s look at how we arrive at the conclusion. If we agree that all dogs are animals, and we know that Max is a dog, then it’s easy to deduce that Max is also an animal. In standard form this is what the argument looks like (written out on the white board behind the student):

Premise: All dogs are animals.

Premise: Max is a dog.

Conclusion: Therefore, Max is an animal.

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Video 12.04

An article published by USA Today reported, “the average [college] student in this country spends around $1200 a year on books and supplies. A single book can cost as much as $200.” In a study published by the Government Accountability Office, “the price of college textbooks rose 82%” between 2002 and 2013. According to a website called Priceonomics, which looked at the average cost of books per class at the University of Virginia, the most expensive college majors for books is (show chart).

How many of us have a major on this list? I’m guessing most of us. Considering a full time student takes between 12-18 credit hours per semester. We can easily see how buying textbooks can become very expensive, and that’s why I think that textbooks should be free.

You might be asking yourself: how is this possible? The answer is the university library. Since the library is where we got to check out books or gain online access to academic resources, why can’t it also be the place we go to get textbooks for our classes? After enrolling in classes we could check out textbooks for the semester. Once finals were complete, we could return the books and that would be it. If a student damaged a textbook or did not return it, the library could apply fines to the student’s account. It seems like a win-win to me.

[Statistics found here, here, and here.

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Video 12.05

As college students, I think we can all agree that the cost of hard copy textbooks is too high. Maybe you’ve even chosen not to buy a textbook because of the cost. But saying that textbooks should be free is just not practical. If the university library borrowed textbooks to us for “free,” we’d just be charged more in student fees to make up the cost.

To really grasp this problem, we need to understand why textbooks are so expensive. The short answer is: hard copy textbooks cost publishers more money to produce, which they pass on to us, their customers, and publishers have financial incentive to produce new editions of textbooks frequently because new editions bring in more money. If our goal is textbooks that are more affordable, then I think we need to make a distinction between hard copy and digital texts.

My solution is one you are already familiar with: I think professors should require digital instead of hard copy textbooks. Digital textbooks cost less to produce and are usually less expensive to buy. We can choose the type of access we want by selecting just the semester or longer depending upon our needs. Digital textbooks are more convenient because we can access them on our laptops, tablets, or smart phones. Think about how light your book bag would be if you didn’t have to carry your books! Also, textbooks would be current, since updates to the texts could be made more frequently for less money. For me, the answer to the high cost of textbooks is clear: we should have digital textbooks instead of hard copy ones.

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Video 12.06

Deductive reasoning moves from general knowledge to an undeniable specific conclusion. To understand what this means, let’s look at a classic example (written out on the white board behind the student):

Major Premise: All men are mortal.

Minor Premise: Socrates is a man.

Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

If we agree that the general statement (the major premise) is true: All men are mortal, and we agree that the minor premise is true: Socrates is a man. Then, the specific conclusion has to be true: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

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Video 12.07

Inductive reasoning takes specific information to make generalizations that lead to probable conclusion. Let’s look at an example to see how this type of reasoning works (written out on the white board behind the student):

Major Premise: This ice is cold.

(Inductive Leap: All the ice I’ve ever touched was cold.)

Probable Conclusion: Therefore, all ice is cold.

If we are holding a piece of ice and can feel that the ice in our hand is cold, we could make the statement: This ice is cold. If we then wondered: is all ice cold? How could we know? For deductive reasoning we’d have to touch every piece of ice to be certain that all ice is cold, but this is obviously not feasible. So instead we would use inductive reasoning. The inductive leap: All the ice I’ve ever touched was cold, leads us to believe the probable conclusion: Therefore, all ice is cold. 

Click here to return to video.


Video 12.08

There are many examples of fallacies being used in ordinary conversations, politics, and the media. Here are a few examples.

You can’t believe anything this man says, because he’s a liar! (This is an example of an ad hominem fallacy.)

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Video 12.09

If we let gay people marry, what’s next? Legalizing polygamy? (This is an example of a slippery slope fallacy.)

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Video 12.10

9/11, the Boston Marathon attack, the shooting in Chattanooga, the San Bernardino attack are just a few examples of terrorism on U.S. soil. We should monitor or close all mosques because obviously, all Muslims are terrorists. (This statement uses a stereotype based on a few examples, so it’s an example of a hasty generalization fallacy.)

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Video 12.11

My friend is arguing that we need to raise the minimum wage. How can we even CONSIDER that, when we haven’t fixed our problem with the national debt? Let’s look at the trillions we owe now… (This is an example of a red herring fallacy.)

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Video 12.12

My opponent thinks everybody on campus should be walking around with a loaded six-gun on their hip. He wants to take us back to the Wild West, with shoot-outs at high noon! (This is an example of a straw man fallacy.)

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Video 12.13

Illegal immigration is a problem in the U.S. We need to either build a wall to keep them out or let them continue to take our jobs and smuggle drugs into our country. (This is an example of an either-or fallacy.)

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References

American Heart Association. (2015, August 18). Treating obesity as a disease.

Barlow, R. (2013, June 20). Is obesity a disease? American doctors vote yes, BU profs

weigh in on debate. BU Today. Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/is-

obesity-a-disease/

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, September 21). Adult obesity facts.

Government Accountability Office. (2013, June). College textbooks: Students have

greater access to textbook information. Report to Congressional Committees.

Land Of Basketball. (n.d.). Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James comparison. Retrieved from

Let’s Move. (n.d.). Health problems and childhood obesity. Retrieved from

Ogden, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., & Flegal, K.M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood

and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of American Medicine,

311(8), 806-814. Retrieved from

Pollack, A. (2013, June 18). A.M.A. recognizes obesity as a disease. New York Times.

Priceonomics. (2015, August 24). Which major has the most expensive textbooks?

Rosselli, F., Skelly, J.J., & Mackle, D. (1995). Processing rational and emotional

messages: The cognitive and affective mediation of persuasion. Journal of

Experimental Applied Social Psychology, 31(2), 163-190.

Scully, J.L. (2004). What is a disease? EMBO Reports, 5(7), 650-653. doi:

10.1038/sj.embor.7400195

Stoner, L., & Cornwall, J. (2014). Did the American Medical Association make the

correct decision classifying obesity as a disease? The Australasian Medical

Journal, 7(11), 462-464. doi: 10.4066/AMJ.2014.2281

Weisbaum, H. (2014, February 2). Cost of college textbooks out of control, group says.

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Commission on ending childhood obesity. Retrieved


Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy ofTracy Collins under CC BY-SA 2.0.

[2] Image courtesy of OpenClipartVectors in the Public Domain.

[3] Image courtesy of Lulís under CC BY 2.0.

Argument - noun
A set of statements that offers reasons to believe or accept a conclusion.
Argumentation - noun
The process of presenting your arguments while also listening, and responding to, the arguments of others.
Reasoning - noun
The process of thinking about or understanding something logically, including all the facts and evidence that you’ve learned.
Deductive Reasoning
A form of reasoning that works from general information down to a specific conclusion. It uses a three step process: general premise, minor premise and specific conclusion.
Inductive Reasoning
A form of reasoning that uses specific pieces of information to come to a general conclusion.
Causal Reasoning
A form of reasoning that explains a cause/effect relationship, or showing that one set of circumstances causes something else to happen.
Sign Reasoning
A form of reasoning based on one thing indicating, or being a sign, that something else is probably true.
Analogical Reasoning
The use of comparisons, or analogies, in reasoning.
Fallacious Reasoning
Faulty reasoning that is based on a fallacy, or incorrect or misleading idea.