Try to make something good come of everything you do. For instance, last night you read online about the Kennedy assassination again. That isn’t what you wanted to do when you left Emily’s room. You wanted to play the piano briefly, then take a bath and go to bed. Instead you eat, and read the latest theory about the murder, that Jackie fired the fatal shot that killed her husband.

Write about the things you know well. How do you know this article is not believable. Why are you willing to listen to other theories, but not this one? Write a primer!

  • Who is the source? Who is the author of the argument?
  • Internal consistency?
  • Consistent with other things you know?
  • Audience definition? Who does the author want to persuade, and for what purpose?
  • What is the source? Who backs the author?

To guard against:

  • Immediacy effect. The argument in front of you right now has a much stronger effect than arguments removed from you in time and distance.
  • Wishful thinking.
  • Jumping to conclusions.
  • Hearing what you want to hear, and disregard the rest. (Related to wishful thinking.)
  • Overlooking clear weaknesses in the argument: logical fallacies, misuse of statistics, begging the question.

Originally published on Blogger, September 2, 2009.