Course Outline

Critical Reasoning




   Teaching Staff    Course  Description    Lectures    Tutorials
   Text    Assessment    Advice    Assistance




Name:                     Dr Stephen Watson

Room:                     4th Floor Adjuncts' Office

Phone:                    No              


Consultation:        Tuesday 4-5pm.


Note: please enter the subject heading ‘PHIL11-105’ in all email correspondence.


Consultation Hours: If the above consultation hours are inconvenient for you, do not hesitate to contact me by telephone or email to arrange a meeting.





Critical thinking  is a process that emphasizes a rational basis for thought, in particular beliefs, and provides a set of standards and procedures for analyzing, testing, and evaluating them. In this spirit the course aims at getting you, the participant, to consider your thought and its expression in discourse and written work from a more structured and logical perspective. The goal is to promote clearer thinking, foster better expression, and improve your analytic capabilities with a view to developing clearer and more persuasive argument skills.

Honing these capabilities in a systematic way will not only help you assess your own beliefs but will also:

* improve critical reading skills required for undergraduate study
* improve academic writing skills and the clear presentation of your ideas
* assist in the imaginative aspects of thinking so necessary to good problem solving.

Special emphasis will be placed on: understanding arguments; their content, structure and evaluation; the recognition of common fallacies; how to write the argumentative essay; and the analysis of written text. Practical exercises will be used to develop an understanding of new concepts and techniques as they are presented during the course.














Lectures commence in Week 1 of semester. Lecture notes will be made available through the course homepage each week.





Attendance at tutorials is compulsory. Tutorials commence in the first week of semester:











Tutorials are designed to give you the opportunity to discuss and work through lecture material in a more relaxed and personal environment. They are your chance to pursue course material in more depth and to find out more about areas that you find unclear or which seem interesting to you. Weekly exercises will be set by me in class and time will be available in tutorials for working through and discussing them. The wise student will use these weekly opportunities to get through assignment work essential for the understanding of the course (instead of leaving it all to the last minute!).


Tutorial exercises will be made available each week and will be discussed in the following week's tutorial.




R.J. Fogelin & W. Sinnott-Armstrong (2001) Understanding Arguments: an introduction to informal logic, 7th edition, Harcourt Brace .

The text is available from the University Bookshop.

Other readings that may be of interest to you (and which will be placed on Course Reserve in the Library) are:

Cederblom, J. & D. W. Paulsen
(c2001) Critical Reasoning Belmont: Wadsworth.
Copi, I. And Cohen, C. (1994), Introduction to Logic, Macmillan, 9th edn.




In addition to the expected ongoing attendance of lectures, tutorials and completion of weekly exercises you will be required to complete three pieces of assessment.

·         Mid-semester Assignment:  35%

·         Quiz #1                                    30%

·         Quiz #2                                     35%%


Mid-semester assignment  


This consists of an exercise in argument structure diagramming in which you will be expected to justify the structure that you propose for the argument. 



These tests are intended to test for knowledge of the basic terms and concepts used in the critical evaluation and presentation of arguments. They will be held during the class, and will require you to give short answers to questions testing your knowledge of terms and concepts used in the course. More details will be made available later in the course.




Extensions on Essay Assignments, or the taking of Tests at a date other than that set down, is only permitted if you have a legitimate reason (e.g. illness, etc.). If you cannot submit an Essay by the due date or cannot take the Test on the day it is set, you should consult your lecturer immediately concerning the possibility of an extension or a rescheduling of the Test. Evidence of your illness etc. will be required.



Plagiarism is an academic offence and will be penalized.


The University accepts the following definition of plagiarism:


"Plagiarism is the action or practice of taking and using as one's own the thoughts or writings of another, without acknowledgment."


The following practices constitute acts of plagiarism and are a major infringement of the University's academic values:


  • Where paragraphs, sentences, a single sentence or significant parts of a sentence are copied directly, and are not enclosed in quotation marks and appropriately footnoted;

  • Where direct quotations are not used, but are paraphrased or summarised, and the source of the material is not acknowledged either by footnoting or other simple reference within the text of the paper; and

  • Where an idea which appears elsewhere in printed, electronic or audio-visual material is used or developed without reference being made to the author or the source of that material."

Plagiarism carries strict penalties which could result in a student's being expelled from University. Occurrences of plagiarism in this course will result in a formal complaint being lodged by the lecturer with the University against the student.


General Assessment Criteria and Policies


Mid-term essays, take-home exams and final grades are marked according to the University’s seven point system:



Grade 7 (numerical equivalent is usually 100-85%)
Grade 6 (usually 84-75%)
Grade 5 (usually 74-65%)
Grade 4 (usually 64-50%)
Grade 3 (usually 49-45%)
Grade 2 (usually 44-25%)
Grade 1 (usually 24-0%)


To gain a HIGH DISTINCTION (HD/7)students need to demonstrate considerable originality and sophistication in their approach. Their work must excel in research, critical analysis, philosophical debate and writing style.


To gain a DISTINCTION (DI/6) students must demonstrate an understanding of deeper and more complex aspects of the subject, and show a capacity for original evaluation and interpretation. Extensive reading is necessary and some understanding of philosophical debate is desirable, with a solid writing style.


To gain a CREDIT (CR/5) students must show that they are capable of doing more than drawing together the ideas of others: they must demonstrate some analytical skills and research initiatives.


Students can expect to PASS (PA/4) if they fulfil all assessment requirements at a basic level, demonstrating a reasonable understanding of the fundamental issues and concepts introduced.


Students will be awarded a CONCEDED PASS (CP/3) if their work is close to satisfactory overall, but has failed to reach the basic level of competence necessary for a Pass; or if some work is incomplete.


Students will be awarded a FAIL (FA/2) if they do not satisfy the basic requirements of the subject.


Students who have submitted some work, but of a totally unsatisfactory standard, will be awarded a SERIOUS FAIL (SF/1).


Philosophy Assessment Criteria.


The following criteria will be used in determining how well students satisfy grade requirements:


1. Knowledge of the arguments and literature.
2. Coherence of structure and argument.
3. Defence of thesis.
4. Originality and imaginativeness.


SATISFYING (1) IS A STUDENT'S HIGHEST PRIORITY. Of these criteria it is necessary to demonstrate (1) to receive a passing grade. (2)-(4) determine how well above a pass the student does.





Students are advised to read the material set down for the course, attend all lectures, and participate actively in tutorials. If you apply yourselves to the task on a week-by-week basis (avoiding cramming) then you are most likely to do well and enjoy the course more.


If you feel you would benefit from reading around more you might consult philosophy websites and additional materials in the library. A number of readers and additional source material will be made available in the high-use area of the library.





There is an on-campus service available to all students who may require assistance with more general problems relating to their academic work, e.g. essay writing skills, returning to study after a long break, preparing assignments or seminars, stress, etc. 


Any student who for whatever reason (not just physical disabilities) may require alternative academic arrangements is encouraged to seek advice at the commencement of the semester