Critical Thinking A-Level Notes

Critical thinking revision

What is an argument?

- An attempt to persuade someone of a point of view by using reasoning. It is made up of three parts:

  • Reason – a cause that makes something happen & answers the question ‘why…?’
  • Conclusion – a result or judgement that has been caused by the reason. It doesn’t always mean the final point in a written passage.
  • An element of persuasion – something that tries to influence you into believing or doing something.

DON’T BE MISLEAD – other forms of language can sometimes be included to confuse you:

  • Opinion – a statement of what someone thinks or believes. It is not based on fact that can be tested.
  • Assertion – an attempt to persuade but doesn’t include reasons. It is an opinion with an element of persuasion, e.g. ‘you should do this.’
  • Explanation – a statement that includes at least one reason and a conclusion but doesn’t include an element of persuasion, e.g. ‘my critical thinking class has both sexes in it because my teacher wants us to have discussions from both perspectives.’

Identifying conclusions

  • Indicator words and phrases – help the reader to identify a particular part of an argument.
  • Conclusion indicator words – act like a signal to tell us which phrase or sentence is the conclusion of the argument. E.g. therefore, so, as a result, consequently, which proves that, this means that, it follows that, thus, hence, etc.
  • Sometimes indicator words are not present so you need to:

-Find the phrase or sentence that you think represents the overall point of view the writer wants you to accept.

-Try putting an indicator word like ‘therefore’ or ‘so’ immediately before this phrase or sentence to see if it makes sense.

Identifying reasons

  • A reason is a rational statement that aims to persuade the reader to accept a conclusion
  • Reason indicator words include:

-For the reason that, seeing that, as, because, in view of the fact that, seeing as, since, given that, etc.

  • Indicator words that link reasons include:

-In addition, also, as well as, etc.

Counter assertions and counter arguments

  • Counter assertion - a statement (or claim) that goes against the main conclusion of the argument
  • Counter argument – a complete mini-argument that opposes the main conclusion of the argument – it includes all three elements of an argument.
  • The main difference between counter assertions is that counter arguments include a reason / some reasons
  • Counter arguments and counter assertions are included so that they can be made to look weak. This, in turn, strengthens the whole argument.


  • Evidence – used to develop, strengthen or support a reason in an argument. It is usually in the form of numbers and the data can be from research, surveys, statistical calculations, etc.

NOTE: the numerical reference can be qualitative, e.g. ‘in a survey most people preferred to shop at Tesco’ – this is still evidence even though…

As critical thinking revision notes

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As critical thinking revision notes

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