Academic Writing AdviceAcademic, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Using Logical Reasoning in Academic Writing


The model we were taught in school for writing an effective essay has some good bones: Create a thesis. Present several claims and argue for those statements. Tie those arguments back to the thesis with supporting evidence to show your reader that what you're saying is true. If any of your arguments fall apart, your entire work will unravel faster than the scarf I made during my first attempt at learning to crochet. If you're creating a work of academic writing, you will need to follow a pattern of clearly defined logic to reinforce and support your argument.

Logic refers to the process of making a conclusion under valid laws of inference. Through this process, a writer makes arguments using statements to explain why these arguments are true. Logical reasoning is the act of settling on a viewpoint and then expressing to others why you selected that opinion over all other available conclusions.

Apply logical reasoning in your academic writing, and you'll be on your way to creating a strong conclusion with supporting evidence. Here are some tips on constructing a perfectly logical argument in your work.

Define your thoughts

Before you even start composing your text, clarify your own thoughts on the subject. You already have a solid idea that you want to illustrate for your readers. It makes perfect sense to you, because you have access to all the good arguments, supporting evidence, and gut feelings you've accumulated during your research at the forefront of your brain. Unfortunately, you can't open your brain and instantly share your certainty of an idea with others. This problem is especially apparent every time you have a misunderstanding with another person. You might feel passionate about an idea, but when you try to communicate your point, your mannerisms might portray petulance and impatience, which can cloud the perception of the other person. Maybe you feel frustrated that your significant other leaves the door open, and you are worried that your dog will run away forever. Your approach to the situation can be clouded by your delivery, which is heavy with the emotion connected to the issue, and your significant other can miss your message entirely if it is framed in a way that makes him/her defensive. If we could see a situation from the complete point of view as our friends and neighbors, the world might be a much more peaceful place!

Of course, sadly, the only way to express your thoughts and feelings is through the use of language and expression. While there is no perfect way to bring others into your world to share your thoughts, you can create the best-case scenario by mapping out your idea and why you feel it is true before you begin writing. Write out your idea and the supporting arguments. How do you know they are true? Seeing your points laid out on paper can help you remove your own perspective in a small way and view them as others might. Do your points represent logical connections between ideas, or are you depending on leaps in logic that will be too wide for your readers to navigate?

Gather irrefutable evidence to support your claim

When using logical reasoning, you draw conclusions whose evidence to support the claim creates a guarantee of a specific result. Look for concrete facts backed by studies and expert inquiries. If you are publishing a paper on your own research, aim to represent your work clearly and thoroughly by outlining the steps you took to create a conclusion. Ask yourself these questions:

  • At the beginning of your research, what did you think would happen?
  • How did you set out to prove/disprove this assertion?
  • What result did you observe, and was it in line with your previous expectations?

As most researchers will attest, the greater the scope of your study, the more irrefutable your evidence will be, and you can be more confident that your conclusions can be considered facts.

Avoid logical fallacies

A logical fallacy is false reasoning that leads your argument to become unreliable or untrue. When your readers encounter a logical fallacy, you lose their trust in your argument. Be aware of these fallacies and take measures to avoid them within your argument.

  • The bandwagon fallacy: Under this fallacy, you might claim that an idea is true simply because the majority of the people believe it. The common advertising claim, "4 out of 5 dentists prefer this toothpaste" draws on the bandwagon fallacy with the hope that its audience will believe that this toothpaste brand is the best on the market, whereas it is not necessarily true.
  • The correlation/causation fallacy: Just because two elements seem to be connected doesn't mean one directly leads to another. For example, if you changed the font on your company website last month, and then website hits were down during that same month, you might apply the correlation/causation fallacy and state that the font was detrimental to business without any other evidence supporting this claim.
  • Ignoratio elenchi (Latin for "ignoring refutation"): If your argument has an opposing side (and most do, of course), you will need to address that opposition with convincing logic. This fallacy arises when you respond to a counterargument without properly addressing the point of the argument. Let's say I am presenting the benefits of building a new bike trail in my city. My opponents assert that the city just doesn't have the budget to fund this project, while I claim that the advantages of a bike trail far outweigh any cost incurred. My claim is that cost is irrelevant to the project. In doing so, I fail to present a solution to the lack of money needed to build the path.
  • The straw man fallacy: This fallacy arises when you oversimplify your opposing argument and thus misrepresent it, thereby presenting your argument as the more obvious choice in the matter. In the debate on whether schools should implement school uniforms, an opponent of the school uniform might claim, "Schools that enforce dress codes discourage students' individuality." Such an argument dismisses any benefits of the opposing argument and boils down the claim to a simplified form that might not be fully true.
  • The anecdotal evidence fallacy: Under this fallacy, instead of applying logical evidence to your argument, you cite a story of one instance in which something happened, seeming to support a claim. Maybe your aunt tried a certain type of dryer sheet and the next day her dryer went up in flames. Does this mean that type of dryer sheet causes people's clothes dryers to ignite? This fallacy is also related to the correlation/causation fallacy.

Consider the opposition

An effectively formulated argument must acknowledge that the viewpoint presented is not shared by everyone, and some opposing arguments exist with relation to the topic. Imagine you are preparing for a debate; an effective approach include preparing your demonstration based on what you might expect your opponent to argue. For example, let's say I'm asserting that plastic bags should be banned. In addition to collecting data on the detrimental effects of plastic bags on the environment and the species of animals that suffer as a result of their invention, I should also consider who stands to benefit from plastic bags. I should investigate the low cost of producing and offering plastic bags from the perspective of businesses and stores in relation to alternative options and the effects those alternatives would have on my customer base. In order to present an effective argument against plastic bags, I should create strong data regarding the cost of alternatives and reveal statistics to show that their use is not as cost effective as previously considered. By anticipating the opposing view, I can create an argument to refute it.

By applying logical reasoning in your academic writing, you can present a strong argument on your subject. Create a stance that you can support with irrefutable evidence, having already mapped out your personal views in order to organize your desired viewpoint. Also, when you know what types of logical fallacies can exist, you can keep your eyes open for any problems in your logic and thereby avoid them. Following these tips can help you achieve a solid piece of writing that will earn you a good grade in class, convince your mentor that your thesis is bulletproof, or charm the socks off the editors at the journal in which you seek to be published.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.