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Becoming a Critical Thinker: A User Friendly Manual [Paperback]

Sherry Diestler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 2 2004 0131779982 978-0131779983 4
For courses in Critical Thinking, Informal Logic, Rhetoric, Argumentation, and English courses which cover the Argumentative Essay. This text trains students to distinguish high-quality, well-supported arguments from arguments with little or no evidence to support them. It develops the skills required to effectively evaluate the many claims facing them as citizens, learners, consumers, and human beings, and also to be effective advocates for their beliefs.

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"Diestler has definitely written the book to be just what its cover advertises—user friendly. It is quite easy to read and it presents difficult concepts in a basic way so that the average student has little trouble understanding them . ... A cut above many other critical thinking books." — R. Natasha Mohr, Creighton University

"There are very few hooks that can introduce a beginner to the thrill of critical thinking in a way that seems fairly uncomplicated, and yet that fosters progressive competency. Diestler's book says to a potential student, 'Come and try critical thinking: it is not scary, and you will soon become better at it than you think!" — Lee Loots, California State University. Hayward

"For the kind of class that I teach and the particular group of students I encounter, this text is the best I have found." — Steven Benfell, Western Michigan University

From the Inside Flap

Everyone thinks. If you ask people where they stand on a particular issue, they will usually tell you what they believe and give reasons to support their beliefs. Many people, however, find it difficult to evaluate a written or spoken commentary on a controversial issue because both sides of the controversy seem to have good arguments.

The critical thinker is able to distinguish high-quality, well-supported arguments from arguments with little or no evidence to back them. This text trains students to evaluate the many claims facing them as citizens, learners, consumers, and human beings; it also helps students become more effective advocates for their beliefs.

Becoming a Critical Thinker is designed to be interdisciplinary and to be useful in courses in critical thinking, informal logic, rhetoric, English, speech, journalism, humanities, and the social sciences. It has also been used as either a required text or a supplement in nursing programs and in workshops in staff development and business management. There are important skills that distinguish critical thinkers across various disciplines; the goal of this text is to present and teach these skills in a clear and comprehensible manner.

UNIQUE FEATURES

The process of becoming a critical thinker takes place when critical thinking concepts and skills are clearly understood and put into practice. For this reason, many aspects of the text have been chosen because of their practical application for the student:

  1. Each concept is explained with examples, and the examples often proceed from the personal to the social or political. In this way, students can see that the same skills used in understanding arguments in daily life are used in analyzing political and commercial rhetoric.
  2. Graphic illustrations help students visualize important concepts.
  3. Exercises of varying levels of difficulty are given throughout the chapters to help students practice critical thinking skills.
  4. Emphasis is placed on understanding and analyzing the vital impact of print and electronic media on arguments.
  5. Students are taught to construct and present arguments so that they can gain skill and confidence as advocates for their beliefs.
  6. There is an early and primary emphasis on understanding conflicting value systems and on ethics in argumentation and decision-making.
  7. The articles and essays selected for use in the text are contemporary and express a variety of social and political viewpoints and ethical concerns.
  8. Multicultural perspectives are presented throughout the examples and articles. Many exercises and assignments encourage students to understand the perspectives of others and to broaden their own perspectives.
  9. There is a variety of writing and speaking assignments at the end of each chapter as well as a "Chapter Checkup" that tests students' knowledge of the information covered and provides a guideline for reviewing important concepts.
  10. The text is supplemented with an instructor manual and test bank in addition to a Companion Web site and an E-book that contain examples of critical thinking principles that can be used for classroom discussion.
SPECIFIC CHANGES IN THE FOURTH EDITION

As with previous editions, this fourth edition of Becoming a Critical Thinker has been updated with two priorities in mind: First, we wanted to retain and improve the user-friendly format of the first three editions. Also, we wanted to update readings and concepts so that readers will enjoy the application of critical thinking principles to current issues.

New features in the fourth edition include:

  1. Expanded supplementary resources for instructors. These include an instructor manual with revised tests for each chapter and an answer key, discussions of chapter exercises, and suggestions for teaching critical thinking concepts. In addition, a Companion Web site and an E-book may be referenced for supplementary lecture material and student practice exercises.
  2. New articles and essays. These writings include such current topics as: Ethical concerns surrounding the use of favors and of steroids in baseball, the controversy about new food regulations in schools aimed at helping children with serious allergies, an examination of the definition of "racism," new research on the use of technology to create subliminal persuasion, including the application of M.R.I. scanning to test consumer responses to brand names, the fallacies abundant in a gubernatorial debate featuring nationally known celebrities, the current young generations' viewpoints on the blending of ethnic identities, and distorted images in award-winning documentaries.
  3. Expanded concepts, explanations, and applications of critical thinking elements and skills. The Toulmin model is covered as a means of understanding the structure of argument and of discovering value assumptions and reality assumptions. The section on deductive reasoning has been expanded and clarified with additional examples. Several more fallacies have been included in this edition, and examples of previously covered fallacies have been expanded. A section on decision-making helps students apply the structure of argument to personal, consumer, and political decisions.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Arsenal For Attacking Flawed Presentations Sept. 21 2003
Format:Paperback
A presentor is usually happy when people pose questions, as long as they are not critical questions. Most of the time the audience doesn't pose any questions because they simply don't know what questions to ask or how to formulate those questions.
The prinicipal points of this book:
Establishing the issue and the conclusion.
- Knowing and agreeing with the counterpart on the issue prevents us from veering off away from the subject of discussion. People like chaning the issue when they feel trapped.
- Listening to the person's conclusion about the mentioned issue which will indicate the person's opinion.
What are the reasons for their arguments on a certain suject?
- Reasoning takes many roads but often we don't know how to counter weak reasoning. Key words that give way to faulty reasoning with no substance to back up the argument.
Finding words that are ambiguous
- Counterparts discussing a subject, saying the same thing with several key words but some words have many meanings. Make sure you are talking about the same thing.
What are the value conflicts and assumptions?
- Value conflicts are explosive because of different political, religous and moral beliefs. A speaker who is devoutly religious will try and bring biblical arguments in to reasoning which for someobdy who is an athiest, would mean absolutely nothing.
How good is the evidence: Appeals to authority and testamonials.
- Probably one of the most abused factors in supporting an argument. How often have you heard, "Experts on the subject state 70% of medical doctors say x,y and z habits are great for your health". Don't forget to ask who the authority is. The more general authority and testamonials are the weaker the argument.
Read more ›
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Format:Paperback
"Critical thinking" can seem like an intimidating task (and that is a shame, because the world would be such a better place if more people could learn to think critically!). My guess is that this book was written for people with just such fears, and so I am grateful it exists. There are very few books that can introduce a beginner to the thrill of critical thinking in a way seems fairly uncomplicated, and yet that fosters progressive competency. Just as the "user friendly" title implies, each chapter is easy to understand. Concepts are broken down into basic parts. Application of principles is invited through a wealth of interesting and brief articles within each chapter. The book's concepts can be assessed with relevant questions, and diverse exercises which incorporate various learning styles. I have utilized this text for community college instruction since the book's first edition. What I love about this book is that its simplicity allows me to readily pull in related information without disrupting the flow (so even for a teacher, the book is very user friendly, and able to accommodate creative explorations). Chapters need not be assigned in sequence in order for the book to work. Even the lay-out says to a potential student, "Come and try critical thinking; it is not scary, and you will soon become better at it than you think!" (Believe me, in contast, many critical thinking books are dense, and their lay-out can subtly add another layer of resistance for the beginning critical thinker.) Every semester with this text, students catch the thrill of thinking for themselves. They see real life applications within every chapter, and that is what hooks them. Student feedback often indicates that the class (with this text as its core) has "opened up the world. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arsenal For Attacking Flawed Presentations Sept. 21 2003
By M. Bennett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A presentor is usually happy when people pose questions, as long as they are not critical questions. Most of the time the audience doesn't pose any questions because they simply don't know what questions to ask or how to formulate those questions.
The prinicipal points of this book:
Establishing the issue and the conclusion.
- Knowing and agreeing with the counterpart on the issue prevents us from veering off away from the subject of discussion. People like chaning the issue when they feel trapped.
- Listening to the person's conclusion about the mentioned issue which will indicate the person's opinion.
What are the reasons for their arguments on a certain suject?
- Reasoning takes many roads but often we don't know how to counter weak reasoning. Key words that give way to faulty reasoning with no substance to back up the argument.
Finding words that are ambiguous
- Counterparts discussing a subject, saying the same thing with several key words but some words have many meanings. Make sure you are talking about the same thing.
What are the value conflicts and assumptions?
- Value conflicts are explosive because of different political, religous and moral beliefs. A speaker who is devoutly religious will try and bring biblical arguments in to reasoning which for someobdy who is an athiest, would mean absolutely nothing.
How good is the evidence: Appeals to authority and testamonials.
- Probably one of the most abused factors in supporting an argument. How often have you heard, "Experts on the subject state 70% of medical doctors say x,y and z habits are great for your health". Don't forget to ask who the authority is. The more general authority and testamonials are the weaker the argument. The authors of many surveys make them biased. e.g. If scientific study has proven that smoking is good for your health and the author of the article is a lobbyist for the tobbaco industry, could it be possible that the author has something to gain from the study? If so ask what other authors or experts say about the subject. The so called industry specific gurus who give their testamonials are in most cases biased, because they have something to gain with the report.
Deceptive statistics are also factors that need to be examined closely. When a presentor starts talking about averages and percentages, ask which average and how large the sampeling was on people who took the survey. You would be surprised about how many presentors do not know anything about the facts they are presenting.
The author does not only wirte about critical thinking but has included many exercises to acitvate the reader to look for faulty reasoning and how to build up questions to counter evidence being presented. It is a great introduction text to critical thinking.
57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Teaching Students to THINK! Feb. 6 2001
By B. West Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I first utilized this excellent book in undergraduate classes about a year ago.I enjoyed using it and it received accolades from the students, (once they realized that sometimes, thinking is WORK!)
It is "user-friendly", and the segments in each chapter are short but concise. There are numerous exercises after each section so that the student can put to immediate use, their newly acquired knowledge.
But I believe the highest praise came from the students that jokingly complained, "I can't think the same way anymore!" They had become "Critical Thinkers". And we can certainly use all of those that we can get!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read May 21 2014
By Brian S. Brooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a easy and fun read. I totally recommend it for students or anyone that are testing on elements of critical thinking.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my life! May 1 2014
By Philippe Haddad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a very curious person. Inquisitive in all fields. I have been looking for a book to help me reason better since it's really the foundation for anything you want to learn. I was incredibly pleased with this book. It's really the best $55 I've spent in a long time.

The author really gives you much for your money. He covers everything Logical Fallacies to Social Psychology (Cognitive Dissonance) to Conflict Resolution.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK to anyone wanting to learn how to think clearly (or clearer).

P.S. I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE AUTHOR IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Sept. 19 2013
By Rebecca Rutherford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very easy to understand, and great for everything we are learning in my class. Definitely a great approach to being a critical thinker.
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