Introduction to Critical Thinking & Reasoning

Internet Based

PHIL 102


Term: Spring, 2015 (January - May)
Revision: 01 Ja 15
Credits: 3
Class Time: One online lesson weekly, plus readings and discussion group
You should set aside clearly-defined times each week to work.
Instructor: Frank Daniels
Instructor e-mail address: You need to know this! Do not e-mail your instructor through WebCampus!
Your instructor will not receive your e-mail unless it is sent to the address listed here.
Office: Frank Daniels
Great Basin College Ely Campus
2115 Bobcat Drive
Ely, NV 89301
Phone: (775) 289-3589 (office)
(775) 289-3599 (college fax)

Textbooks: Required: Thinking for Yourself, 9th Edition, by Marlys Mayfield; ISBN 978-1-133-31118-8.
Suggested: Paradigms Regained, by John L. Casti; ISBN 0-380-73171-1.
Additional readings and information to be provided in the class lectures, and to be introduced by students.
To compare textbook prices, click here.

These books may be ordered through your outlet of choice.

Class Conditions:

  1. You must be able to access the Internet. This course does not teach you how to do that.
  2. You must have a Web browser and e-mail. The class assumes you are using Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. You need an e-mail account somewhere to send and receive feedback. The class assumes that you know how to properly use e-mail and your browser.
  3. The course requires weekly participation in a discussion group in the WebCampus atmosphere. The course assumes that you either are familiar with WebCampus or will attend a WebCampus orientation (online or in your area) to become familiar with WebCampus.

Class Description:

The course covers: a non-symbolic introduction to logical thinking in everyday life, law, politics, science, advertising, and other areas; common fallacies; and the uses of language, including techniques of persuasion.

This course is NOT "self-paced". You must participate in a regular discussion and read certain readings. Remember that you have a "live" instructor who will answer your questions -- this is not a correspondence course.

Course Objectives:

The central objectives of the course are to instruct students in the proper analysis of information, in order to better equip them for applications of the critical thinking process in many aspects of life.

Learning Outcomes:

    Upon completion of this course, the successful student will be able to...
  • make clear observationsDWPF
  • identify factual informationDWF
  • observe the role of paradigm in any analysisDWF
  • identify and draw proper inferences, understanding whether or not they are logicalDF
  • identify assumptions, understanding whether or not they are reasonableDPF
  • formulate, articulate, and defend opinions based on evidenceDF
  • distinguish valuations from inferencesD
  • use inductive and deductive reasoning to solve problemsDF
  • make and analyze arguments, understanding and avoiding fallaciesDPF
  • apply critical thinking to various fields, including science, art, literature, music, philosophy/religion, law, and politics.DF

In order to accurately measure competency in these outcomes, various instructional and diagnostic elements are employed. These are described below.


The above outcomes are measured as indicated with superscripts, as follows:
D – measured in the daily discussion
W – measured in the written exercises
P – measured by the peer evaluation
F – measured by the final project

Instructional Methods:

Each week, there will be assigned readings from our textbook. The weekly readings (from paper books) will be mentioned on each week at the top of the lecture page. In addition to those readings, the "lecture page" will refer to topics for discussion, and to material related to but different from that in the textbooks, often linking to other websites. These websites are not controlled by Great Basin College, and the College does not endorse their content.

Full participation will be calculated as part of your grade (see below). Participation is crucial! Students are expected to comment in the discussion about every topic we cover. This includes adding a new comment of your own ("posting") and responding to another student's post. Stating your opinions and reactions is encouraged. Participation consists of contributing substantively to the daily discussion, and not merely saying "I agree with her," or comments of that nature. Participation in the course discussion is so important that it is virtually impossible to receive any grade other than a D or an F without contributing regularly.

You are also encouraged to bring in articles (scanned in, or as links) every day that might relate to the topics that we discuss; this will make the class more interesting and relevant for you.


There will be at least two written assignments. These assignments are designed to measure the learning outcomes defined above.

The first of these will be a fact exercise. Web materials will be provided for you, from which you will sort out facts, inferences, and opinions. You must work entirely on your own. More information about this exercise will be provided when the assignment is given. Do not send this as part of an e-mail, but instead attach this assignment (as an MS Word page in .doc [Word 1997 to 2003], docx [XML] or .rtf format) to an e-mail message. This assignment is due at 5:00 PM Pacific Time on the Friday of Week 5. Late papers will be docked one full letter grade per day (or portion thereof) late.

The second assignment will be to make a thorough argument as part of your group. The Strengths and Weaknesses Paper, which is part of the Final Project, will be submitted in writing.

The Final Project has several phases associated with it and is part of a debate. In the section below you will find these phases sketched out in detail.

In addition, the professor may substitute a writing assignment for discussion at times during the semester.

The Final Project

Assignment of Teams:
By 5:00 PM Pacific Time on the Friday of Week 3, student teams will be assigned. The instructor will post a list indicating which team you are on. Each team will learn about both sides of an issue for debate, and will advocate for one side of that issue. Each student will contribute to the team’s argument (see below). Teams will be selected in pairs. The teams must figure out (!) how to contact one another effectively in order to communicate with one another – without letting the other teams in on your discussions.

It is your responsibility (and part of the course) for you to figure out how to best communicate with one another. A WebCampus environment will be created for this purpose, but you are not required to use it. However, the members of each group are required to communicate with one another regularly.

Student teams will report to the instructor about the level of cooperation and contact that they receive from one another. Lack of contribution (if it occurs) will be judged, and up to ten (10) points will be deducted from your participation grade. This reduction may result in a negative participation score. If you do not plan to contact the others in your group on a weekly basis, do not take this course.

Selecting a Topic for Debate:
Between weeks 3 and 5, each pair of teams (1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc.) will select together a single “controversial” issue to discuss and debate.
You must make your selection by 5:00 PM Pacific Time on the Friday of Week 5 in order to obtain the points associated with selecting a topic.
These topics are permitted on a first-come, first-approved basis.
Temporarily, both groups will research both sides of the issue.

By 5PM on the Wednesday of week seven, the instructor will assign one team a side of that issue; the other team will take the opposite side. The side of the issue will be assigned to you at random; when you pick your topic, you will not know which side you are going to have to support.

During the coming weeks, you and your team will continue to research carefully both (or all) sides of that issue and will prepare for yourselves the best possible points to make…points that will support your side of the issue. You will also prepare counterarguments against what you expect the opposing team to claim. After week 7, your group will work separately from the other group – your opponent in the coming debate.

Strengths and Weaknesses Paper:
By 5:00 PM Pacific Time on the Friday of Week 12, each team will submit together a single typed explanation, approximately 100 to 250 words in length, of what exactly you will explain, argue, and/or reason. You will state what you believe to be the strongest and weakest points of each side of the issue and explain why you think these points are strongest and weakest.
Provide along with these a list of sources that you used to analyze the issue. There must be at least three sources on each side of the issue.
This material may be submitted via e-mail, or faxed to the instructor. You may receive additional feedback at this point – particularly if your argument is weak. This is constructive criticism and does not mean that you are doing poorly. You must list your sources and make them available to the other students (via a post to the newsgroup) at this same time. In order to assist the other students in comprehending your work, you must list your sources and make them available to the other students (via a post to the discussion group) at this same time. This information is separate from the strengths/weaknesses/summary. Only your sources, and not your intended argument, should be sent to the other students. A list of URL’s (web addresses) is sufficient for Internet sources, but photocopies of book or magazine material will need to be circulated to the sites. Avoid using less-than-professional sources (e.g., open encyclopedias, blogs, opinion sites).

Week Fifteen Debate:
The big debate measures your absorption of the material, your research ability, and your ability to communicate what you have learned to others. Except where noted, all of the items mentioned in this section are due at 5:00 PM Pacific Time on their respective dates; late posts will be deducted one grade point per hour (or part of an hour) that they are late. Some items are due at noon.

During the second-to-last week of class (Saturday through Friday), you and your team will give a presentation to the class, making applications of class material.
Your team will have chosen (among itself) TWO main presenters.

By 5PM on Monday of Week Fifteen (15), these main presenters will post to the newsgroup the central points in their argument – in a fashion similar to attorneys laying out a case. One of the two teams involved in the presentation will present their side of the argument first (two presenters), followed by the other team’s presentation of the other side (two presenters). For the rest of this section, “the pro side” indicates the first team to present its side; “the con side” is the other team. [Note: The pro side is the team in favor of changing a law, etc., while the con side is the team that is against it.] The teams will have time to read the arguments.

Members of both sides of the argument must pay close attention to what the other side is arguing, because...
By noon on Wednesday, the third member of the con side will select a point of disagreement between the two teams. (S)He will use appropriate analytical methods to support his/her point while making his/her opponent’s point seem less believable. The other team will have five hours to read the rebuttal.

By 5PM on Wednesday, the third member of the pro side will defend his side of that particular point and will attempt to tear down his opponent’s argument. Both teams will have a day to read the rebuttals and come up with counterarguments.

By noon on Thursday, the fourth member of the pro side will select a point of disagreement between the two teams. (S)He will use appropriate analytical methods to support his/her point while making his/her opponent’s point seem less believable.
By 5PM on Thursday, the fourth member of the con side will defend his side of that particular point and will attempt to tear down his opponent’s argument.

By noon on Friday, the fifth member of the con side will summarize what (s)he believes to be his/her team’s best points and what are the other team’s weakest points. By 5PM on Friday, the fifth member of the pro side will do the same.

Summarizing the General Order of the Debate:
Pro – Open 1
Pro – Open 2
Con – Open 1
Con – Open 2
Con – Attack
Pro – Defend
Pro – Attack
Con – Defend
Con – Summary
Pro – Summary

Peer Evaluation:
Each student must pay close attention to the other debates -- the ones in which you do not participate!

By 5PM on the Monday of Week 16, all students will evaluate the presentations in which they did not participate. This will take place in a constructive manner. Thus, each student will point out strengths and weaknesses in the analysis, arguments, or lines of reasoning put forth by the other students. You will not evaluate either side of the presentation in which you participated, but you will evaluate each of the others.

The instructor will provide a form for making a “checklist” evaluation of certain points. Each student will fill out the presentation checklist to evaluate the presentations in writing. Concern yourself with answering the questions on the form.
Making a peer evaluation is part of your grade (see below), but the other students’ evaluations of you will not be calculated into your grade.

Withdrawal Policy:

If you determine that you wish to drop the course prior to its conclusion, it is necessary for you to officially drop: either online through the college's website, or by visiting one of our college campuses and submitting a drop form. Any student who does not officially drop will receive a grade at the conclusion of the course. These grades will be based on the number of points that you have accumulated (see above). You must officially drop prior to the Drop Deadline on the college website; otherwise you will receive a grade.

If you do not officially drop the course as described above, by taking this class you agree that your "last date of attendance" for official purposes will be the last day of your active participation in this course. If there should be a gap in your participation, your last date of attendance may be the last date prior to the gap. Since this may affect your financial aid, it behooves you to drop officially or to complete the entire course.

Calendar Note:

NOTE about Spring Break:
During Spring semesters, there is a one week break in "live" and IAV classes. This class ignores all holidays and continues straight through the break. Lessons will appear during that week just as in any other week. This paragraph does not apply during Fall semesters.

Summary of Due Dates

All of the items are due on the day specified in the above paragraphs. If the numeral dates do not match the day of the week given, it is the day of the week that is correct.

Assignment Date of Earliest Acceptance Due Date
Fact Exercise Saturday, Week 5 Friday, Week 5
Issue for Argument Friday, Week 3 Friday, Week 5
Summary of Argument Friday, Week 10 Friday, Week 12
Completed Argument Saturday, Week 15 through... Friday, Week 15
Peer Evaluation Friday, Week 15 Monday, Week 16

All times due are at 5PM except where indicated in the paragraphs above.

The course ends at 5PM on the Monday of Week Sixteen.

More About Papers

You must save your papers in doc (document), docx (XHTML), or rtf (rich text) format.

You must attach your papers to an e-mail message, submitted to the address in this Syllabus. Do not send your paper as part of an e-mail message; it must be an attachment in one of the formats described above. Also, if you send your paper through WebCampus, I will not receive it, you will not receive a confirmation message, and I will treat the assignment as not completed.

All papers (such as the Fact Exercise) submitted to the instructor must have 1” side, top, and bottom margins and be typed in a 12 point ("normal looking") font. The first thing I am going to do is check the length. If lengths are specified, any short papers will have a letter grade deducted. Your papers should make sure to deal with the issues involved, not merely repeating historical materials. Both papers must treat all groups, opinions, and issues fairly. Your papers will not be graded on style or grammar. They should be written as well as you are able, however.


Grades will be based on the successful and timely completion of the assignments and on participation in the weekly discussion. The class is graded on participation and the various assignments, as follows:
Class participation Notice how important this is! 26 points total
Fact Exercise 10 points total
Peer Evaluation 17 points total
Final Topic Submitted and Approved on time 7 points (this is all-or-nothing!!)
Summary of Argument 10 points total
Final Project 30 points

Therefore, the total number of points available for the semester is 100 points. The number of points required to obtain each grade is as follows:

A 90
B+ 85
B 80
C+ 75
C 70
D+ 65
D 60
F 0

Special Note: Although there are group assignments, you are graded as an individual. This means that if other members of your group do very little work, and you get everything done, you will do well. On the other hand, if other members of your group complete their assignments and you do not, you will receive a lower grade. The only element of the course for which each member of the team automatically receives the same number of points is the final topic submission.

Calculating Your Score Mid-Semester:

Participation points are easy to calculate. If you make a substantive post during any given week -- and if that post does not merely repeat what someone else has written before you -- you receive the points for that week's discussion. This equates to two points per week for weeks 2 through 14. If you post during weeks 1, 15, and 16, you can make up points that have been lost by not posting during other weeks.

Although I will also have this information, since it is easy to do so it is your responsibility to keep a running total of your own participation points throughout the semester. At any point during the semester, you may determine how you are doing in the class. Add your participation points so far – including those for written assignments – to the points for any of the other items that have occurred so far. Divide this sum by the number of available points so far. This will give your grade in decimal form. Multiplying that result by 100 will give you a percentage. For example, if there were 32 available points at some point during the semester, and you have accumulated 28 of them, then your percentage to date is: 2800/32 = 87.5. Your grade to date would be a “B+”, based on the scale given above.

You will see that many of the assignments are graded the way that the discussion is graded. These are "do or don't" assignments. This means that if you have done the work, you get the points associated with that task. You should know at any given time your exact score -- up to the final project.

Academic Integrity:

The Nevada System of Higher Education expressly forbids all forms of academic dishonesty, including (but not limited to) all forms of cheating, copying, and plagiarism. Students who are discovered cheating will be assigned zero points for the current assignment. Students guilty of academic dishonesty will receive an “F” grade for the course. If the dishonesty was not isolated (occurred more than once and/or involved others), then the instructor will recommend a one-year period of academic probation. If the cheating is believed to be widespread -- to involve other students and/or to cover more than one assignment or test -- then all students involved will receive "F" grades for the course and will be brought to the GBC Academic Officers for prosecution. I will normally recommend that students found guilty in that instance be placed on one year disciplinary probation.

Initial Contact:

This class is accessed from the Internet. Therefore, there has to be some initial contact. I need to have you send me an e-mail message telling me you are ready to begin, and you need to do this by 5PM on the Friday of Week 1. If you need to find some help to get started, you can always e-mail or phone me at the college building.

Getting started:

  1. Purchase the books ahead of time. If you are not in Elko, it may take up to ten days to get your books.
  2. Make sure you are able to access the Internet.
  3. Make sure your WebCampus account lists this course.
  4. Click here to obtain the complete Course Schedule in handy table form. The Schedule is also available in WebCampus.
  5. Retrieve your first lesson, which will be posted as a web page (you'll find a link in the Course Calendar in WebCampus). If you have access to WebCampus but cannot get to the lesson by 5PM on the Friday of Week 1, write to me via e-mail!
  6. Read the material for lesson 1 and comment to the list about it.
  7. As you finish the assignments, e-mail me, telling me that you have completed them (so that I will know to expect them soon).
  8. You should wait until the due dates are approaching to mail the papers, (see above).
  9. NOTE: Discussion topics will be mentioned at least once per week. If the class is to work properly, please do not stray "off topic." Do not be afraid to state your honest opinion.
  10. The Instructor may choose to participate in the discussion, taking one side or more than one side of the various issues, often raising questions for further discussion and reflection. Therefore, do not be concerned about disagreeing with the instructor on opinion issues, or with other students.

“Great Basin College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to qualified students with disabilities in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A qualified student must furnish current verification of disability. The ADA Officer will assist qualified students with disabilities in securing the appropriate and reasonable accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services. For more information or further assistance, please call 753-2271.”

This course satisfies a general education Humanities requirement. You will have to do considerable work in order to be successful, but I hope you’ll have fun making use of critical skills in analyzing all aspects of life. Good luck!

All lessons and other course material are © 2007, 2015 Frank Daniels
and are Licensed to Great Basin College