Academic writing calls for a clearly defined line of arguments. Moreover, all your process of thoughts you display in a college essay should be perfectly logical. So, how to order your claims and supporting evidence in such a manner that proves for your thesis statement to be true? Because you might gather well-recognized authoritative sources, and might even form a compelling thesis statement new to the scholar audience in your field of study. But if you fail to prove it right, all the academic paper falls apart, and you won’t receive an A+ that you’ve been reaching for. However, the secret to a good essay is as old as the world itself. And it’s all about logical writing. Know this, and you’ll be a winner always, whatever is the discipline.
Here’s an easy guide to improving your logical thinking and writing skills.
Achieving Logic in Writing and Thinking
Your thoughts and beliefs seem pretty straightforward. Meanwhile, they may not be understood as well by other people. We see that often in our daily lives, and such a misunderstanding creates a difference in opinions. It is quite a difficult task to deploy your argument in a college essay by using logical writing. Consider going for the course of Logic in your college or university - this might help. For now, let’s talk about what the logic really is and how to use it in academic writing.
The Logic Definition
Logic - the word derives from Ancient Greek λογική, which originally means “what is said” or “the word.” However, later this term came to mean words like “reason” - a statement made in respect to general laws of truth, due to Frege, “Logic” (1897).
The subject of logic studies valid and invalid relations between statements concerned with common sense and conclusions drawn on their basis. The logic operates statements, arguments, premises, and conclusions.
Logical statement - you will use this one as a claim in your essay in need to be proved by evidence. For example - “Recycling saves our planet.”
Logical argument - is a collection of claims and their supporting evidence (statements and premises) that follow from one another and let you form a logically correct conclusion.
Logical premise - a statement providing evidence and reason for a generalization (conclusion). Your statements count valid in an essay only if you prove them to be true regarding their premises.
Logical conclusion - is a proposition you make using the information given in premises. It’s a thesis in an argument.
The logical argument is considered valid only in a case when both a premise and conclusion are accurate and cannot be disproved. However, if you dig deeper, it is not required for premises to be generally true, but they should guarantee the validity of the related inference (conclusion, statement). Your essay argument would also appear valid only if the truth of the premises that you state directly leads to the truth of its conclusion. Additionally, every logical operation and all the sub-arguments on each step don’t contradict one another or themselves.
Logical Reasoning: Inductive and Deductive Inference
The process of discerning statements out of logical premises and conclusions is called logical reasoning. As a result of logical reasoning, you get your argument, which forms the body of the evidence line of your essay. Thus, the most important part of every college essay is to construct a logically valid argument.
Logical reasoning explains why you prefer a certain point of view and why you believe it’s true compared to other opinions. The conclusions drawn from a step-by-step argument eventually make your scientific hypothesis, which appears to be your primary purpose of writing an academic paper.
Inductive Inference - Specific observation leads to a general conclusion. Basically, you take a piece of data you received, then use it as supportive reason for broader generalization. Note, in case of inductive thinking, a conclusion based on a valid premise may or may not be true.
All chickens we have seen have been brown; so, all chickens are brown.
My girlfriend is quiet when she’s angry with me. All girlfriends are quiet when they are angry.
Deductive Inference - General fact leads to specific observation using logical reasoning. Supposed that the general statement is correct, you make conclusions, which cannot be disproved. In this case, premises may not be actually true, but the conclusions, which you infer must be logically valid (even if they appear to be generally untrue). Usually, deductive reasoning is a step-by-step process.
Premise 1: Monkey is a mammal.
Premise 2: Some monkeys eat meat.
Conclusion: Therefore, some mammals eat meat.
Premise 1: Every time I take a test in math, I fail it.
Premise 2: I am taking a math test today.
Conclusion: I will fail my test today.
Examples above represent syllogisms - a basic form of deductive thinking. In syllogisms, two premises - major and minor one, - lead to a logical conclusion. Let’s say if no A is B, and every C is A, therefore, this C is not B. If you want to make sure the argument you came up with will be logically valid to use in an essay, you may use syllogisms to test whether it is true. Knowing what is logical reasoning in writing allows you to write essays faster comparing to times when you were lost in excessive amounts of data and couldn’t figure out how to arrange it.
Logical Thinking Definition
Logical thinking - is a process where you justify your claims by using reasoning and lines of reasoning. This process has a sequential nature, in which one uses facts, theories, conclusions to construct a chain-like order.
Logical Writing Definition
Logical Writing - is when your thoughts in the form of clear sentences and paragraphs come one after another in a logically valid sequence. Also known as logical flow. Thus, every paragraph should include premise (the main statement), reasoning, and support. Then, every other paragraph should be linked with the previous one and the overall structure as well.
Logical Flow Principles
For appropriate academic essay writing, you need to master how to combine logic and critical thinking. If logical writing allows you to display a step-by-step thought process, critical thinking comes next. The latter is about evaluating the results of your logical journey. Strictly speaking, you either consider the results right or wrong. In college essay writing, you are encouraged to suggest probable ways of improving the situation, furthering research, altering approach.
Logical flow is a complex thing because you have to put together dozens of basic syllogisms we mentioned above, in an intricate scheme to address your argument. To make your brainstorming session more straightforward, try using logical flow diagrams. They are nothing new but mind maps that you draw to see the overall picture of your argumentation line. You can also employ a pyramid principle - draw a section with your thesis statement on top and then branch it off in a few directions, coming sequentially. These directions would be your Argument 1, Argument 2, etc. Trail every argument by evidence. Then discern them to a single conclusion. The simplest scheme of an academic essay is done! Though, your essay’s logical writing structure may develop in other forms different from such a simple structure. For instance, one premise may lead to many conclusions and vice versa.
What are Logical Fallacies and How to Avoid Them in College Essays?
Faulty reasoning is a nightmare for every student. It is when you spend lots of sleepless nights putting together that essay, writing and revising it, and then again rewriting it. Hunting for every piece of authoritative evidence in the depths of a library. And what you get when you receive your essay back are striking-red professor’s notes like “misses the point” or “contradicts itself”. No doubt, relevant argument and evidence are key to academic recognition. So, what stands in the way of your perfectly crafted logical sequence? For sure, it’s about logical fallacies in writing.
What Are Logical Fallacies?
Logical Fallacy - is false reasoning causing an argument to be invalid. In other words, a fallacy is a confusing conclusion being not the logically justified outcome of the premise declared before it.
Common Logical Fallacies
The list of all logical fallacies is enormous, that’s why we’ve collected some of the most common ones made by other students in their college essays. Logical fallacies are also divided into a few groups, depending on the type of essay writing. For example, formal and syllogistic fallacies appeal to propositional logic. Thus, knowing and avoiding them would be useful for those who write formal types of academic essays, especially while reaching logic in argumentative writing. Nevertheless, informal, as well as a number of other fallacies, relate to psychological manipulation; hence, you could think about using them for logic in persuasive writing where it’s allowed to appeal to emotions and morality.
Types of logical fallacies, which ruin logical sequence in writing, include:
Formal syllogistic fallacies
Conditional or Questionable fallacies
Let’s look at the most common of them to understand how we can create a valid argument in a typical college writing.
Ignoratio elenchi (Latin: ignoring refutation) - this fallacy appears when you try to address the issue, but you’re missing the initial point. When an argument itself may be appropriate, but if it doesn’t answer directly the question you set up in a thesis statement (or essay prompts), you’ll be missing a point. For example, if an essay question asks should cloning humans be banned or not, and you answer that currently, the law doesn’t restrict cloning humans, you’re giving an irrelevant conclusion because the prompt asked you to defend the opinion about the probability of a ban, not the present situation.
Argumentum ad ignorantiam - is when you are arguing a point to be true when it is impossible to define whether it is really true or false. Example: you could be claiming that placebo pills really help because the illness symptoms were gone after the patient consumed those. However, you haven’t introduced relevant evidence about whether this claim has factual proof to be true or not.
Overwhelming exception - you are talking about all cases, which tend to be true or false, and afterward propose an opposing exception, which denies the first statement. Example: the politician says that the country’s foreign policy has always helped other countries. Then he adds, those would be all cases, except for the course when it is against National Interest.
Survivorship Bias - you promote an excessive amount of small wins while totally ignoring a sufficient number of downfalls. This fallacy usually has to do with survivorship theories. Example: lianas have been viewed as parasites of old and big trees, while in actuality, studies show they are more harmful to smaller species. The bias appears in the conclusion that the survived samples are liana-free.
Modal fallacy - is when you are confusing possibility with necessity. Example: the soccer rules imply: either Team 1 or Team 2 wins (depending on the score). The fallacy is to tell that the victory of at least one team is inevitable, while the result could also be draw.
Illicit Major/Minor - often appears in syllogisms where you confuse either major or minor premise with a claim for all cases, while indeed it is only partially true for some of them. Example: All cats are mammals. All cats are feline. Thus, all mammals are feline. Here it is wrong to say all mammals are feline because only some of them are cats. The fact that all cats are feline doesn’t imply that all mammals are cats.
Masked Man - is to assume that just because the object you’re familiar with, doesn’t have properties of the other one, they cannot be identical. Example: You know who John is. At the same time, you don’t know who the masked man is. The fallacy would be to assume that John cannot be a masked man.
Argument from fallacy (fallacy fallacy) - the fallacy in premise doesn’t necessarily mean the conclusion in this argument is false, too. Example: I speak English. Therefore, I am English. Of course, the native English speaker could also be Canadian or American, but the fact that the person is English could be true as well.
Slippery Slope - it is when you assume the minor event to lead to a chain of related events, culminating in some huge effect (typically negative) without demonstrating sufficient evidence to prove this connection. Example: if the new law allows same-sex marriage, humanity will extinct in a few generations because no kids will be born.
Hasty Generalization - is to take small evidence and apply it for an inappropriately large inductive generalization. Example: A group of activists performed a protest demonstration that wasn’t allowed by the local government. Thus, they are radicals who break the law.
How to Avoid Logical Fallacies in Writing
As you have seen in the section above, logical fallacies are tricky. It is relatively easy to make them if you are writing an essay in a hurry. That’s why the first recommendation for maintaining logic in academic writing is to take your time to think and rethink your arguments. Always come back for a revision. Ideally, hand out your paper for a peer review or consult a professor.
Second of all, to achieve logical organization in writing, search for non-biased sources! Only cite other scholar writing if it is written objectively and logically sequential. If the source appeals to tradition, poverty, wellness, etc. (assuming the statement is right only because of its relation to this group), necessarily check for relevant, factual evidence to prove the point. Also, avoid assumptions claiming the argument to be right only because of its chronological novelty. For example, it’s like telling that Newton was wrong only because of the fact that he lived before the technological advancement of our times.
Other useful recommendations to eliminate any probable logical fallacies in your essay writing, follow below:
Check if there are any multiple causes of the issue instead of claiming that one big cause is the only reason for it to happen.
Only infer factual conclusions from factual premises, emotional ones from emotional ones. Don’t combine factual evidence with an emotional conclusion and vice versa. Example: Meat is bad for health because you harm animals. Veganism is biased because humans consumed meat for thousands of years.
Don’t assume either/or relation if there are additional options (false dilemma).
Don’t assume something is true/false because of its good/bad consequences.
Don’t assume something is true/false only because it is more preferable for you to think so (wishful thinking).
Don’t disarrange cause and effect. Example: Watching TV makes kids more violent because they do it often. True: More violent kids tend to watch TV often.
"With this, therefore because of this" - don’t disarrange correlation with causation. Example: because more murders occurred in a summer season, summer causes people to kill. True: the summer season coincided with a higher number of murders (and perhaps, was chosen for a purpose) but didn’t cause it directly.
Two wrongs don’t make a right - the fallacy of two negative premises coming along with a positive conclusion. Example: People who read tabloids don’t appreciate classical literature. We don’t read tabloids; thus, we appreciate classical literature.
Practicing Logical Writing
Writing logical arguments is an excellent training for building up your achievements in the future. Though, when researching for a new topic, they might be difficult to put together. So, how do you improve your logical thinking and writing abilities? Are people just born with an analytical type of thinking, and you can’t learn it if it doesn’t come easily to you? The truth is, everyone can learn logical writing. Just have some patience and determination. Practice regularly, and you won’t believe your success!
For making it easier to create logical sequences in writing, you can construct algorithms. This word only means that you write a step-by-step process of defending your argument. Thus, when you start writing your first essay draft, it will be much more manageable to develop an argument.
Learn relations between objects. Most commonly, the world consists not only from linear structures, but also of complex and intricate ones. Realize how it’s made, and you win! For more inspiration, check out how the Java programming language is built. The truth is, it’s an object-oriented type of programming that teaches us something like this. All objects are parts of certain systems, systems lie within systems, and so on. Imagine this universal order to improve your logical writing skills. For example, you are an object in your room, a room is a part of a building, a building is a part of the street, and so on.
To achieve logical order in writing, you also need to clearly recognize the difference between established facts, your own observations, and inferences drawn from them. You can buy post-it notes, washi tape, or markers of various colors and mark every single type with an assigned paint when reading sources that you consider good for citations. Another great piece of advice is to practice hobbies that require the use of logic, like programming, advanced mathematics, chess.