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Many articles and essays are not written to present information clearly and directly; instead they may be written to persuade you to accept a particular viewpoint, to offer an, opinion, to argue for one side of a controversial issue. Consequently, one must recognize and separate factual information from subjective content.
Subjective content is any material that involves judgment, feeling, opinion, intuition, or emotion rather than factual information. Recognizing and evaluating subjective content involves distinguishing between facts and opinions, identifying generalizations, evaluating viewpoints, understanding theories and hypotheses, weighing data and evidence, and being alert to bias.
Facts are statements that can be verified or proven to be true or false. Factual statements from reliable sources can be accepted and used in drawing conclusions, building arguments, and supporting ideas.
Opinions are statements that express feelings, attitudes, or beliefs and are neither true nor false. Opinions must be considered as one person's point of view that you are free to accept or reject. With the exception of informed ones, opinions have little use as supporting evidence, but they are useful in shaping and evaluating your own thinking.
* Informed opinion or testimony - the opinion of an expert or authority
A generalization is a statement made about a large group or class of items based on observation or experience with a portion of that group or class. It is a reasoned statement about an entire group based on known information about part of the group. It involves a leap from observed evidence to a conclusion which is logical, but unproven. Because writers do not always have the space to describe all available evidence on a topic, they often draw the evidence together themselves and make a general statement of what it shows. But generalizations need to be followed by evidence that supports their accuracy, otherwise the generalization is unsupported and unusable. A generalization is usable when these two conditions exist:
A hypothesis is a-statement that is based on available evidence which explains an event or set of circumstances. Hypotheses are simply plausible explanations. They are always open to dispute or refutation, usually by the addition of further information. Or, their plausibility may be enhanced by the addition of further information. Critical thinking and reading requires one to assess the plausibility of each hypothesis. This is a two-part process. First, one must evaluate the evidence provided. Then one must search for information, reasons, or evidence that suggests the truth or falsity of the hypothesis. Ask questions such as:
Many writers who express their ideas use evidence or data to support
Each type of evidence must be weighed in relation to the statement it supports. Evidence should directly, clearly, and indisputable support the case or issue in question.
While the main purpose of textbooks is to explain and present information that can be accepted as reliable, other sources may have very different purposes. Some materials are intended to convince or persuade rather than to inform, and these sources need to be carefully and critically evaluated. Persuasive writers use both language and logical argument to exert influence.
A writer's or speaker's choice of facts and the language used to convey them may influence the reader's or listener's response. Careful choice of details to describe an event shapes a reader's perception of the incident. Selective reporting of details is known as slanted writing. Careful choice of words allows one to hint, insinuate, or suggest ideas without directly stating them. Through deliberate choice of words one can create positive or negative responses. This is often accomplished through manipulation of the connotative meanings.
Bias is when a statement reflects a partiality, preference, or prejudice for or against a person, object, or idea. Much of what you read and hear expresses a bias. As you read biased material keep two questions in mind:
Slanting is when a writer or speaker uses a selection of facts, choice of words, and the quality and tone of description, to convey a particular feeling or attitude. Its purpose is to convey a certain attitude or point of view toward the subject without expressing it explicitly. As you read or listen to slanted materials, keep the following questions in mind:
An argument is a logical arrangement and presentation of ideas. It is
reasoned analysis, a tightly developed line of reasoning that leads to the
establishment of an end result or conclusion. Arguments are usually developed to
persuade one to accept a position or point