A GUIDE TO REASONING (Makau 1990:43-118; Missimer 1986:15-52; Michalos 1970:1-24)
1.1  Discussion and reasoning
For any research report to be scientifically accountable, the
author of such a report should discuss the relevant data and
information collected during his research. In any discussion
reasons should be presented in support of or against opinions,
procedures, proposals, problem-identification, the formulation
of hypotheses, data-collection procedures, recommendations, etc.
Reasoning should be aimed at demonstrating the truth and validity
of statements in support or against a plan of action, a proposal,
1.2  Arguments and reasoning
An argument is a form or type of reasoning in which a point of
view, a claim, a deduction, an opinion or an interpretation, is
stated with reasons to confirm the chosen stance. The reasons
given should "prove" the validity of the claim, deduction,
opinion or interpretation but at the same time it should also
serve to persuade other researchers of its validity. Reasons are
evaluated through the discussion of objections (opposition,
disagreement). Objections should always be based upon
information (knowledge, data) regarded as suitable for evaluating
the validity and the soundness of the proposed reasons.
Objections are, therefore, in fact reasons why a particular point
of view, a claim, a deduction, an opinion or an interpretation
is unacceptable, unsatisfactory, inadequate.
1.3  Valid reasons and information
Valid reasons are based on and supported by reliable relevant
information (knowledge) and data (facts, essences) derived from
research and/or experience. In other words an argument is a
reasoned justification of a point of view, a claim, a deduction,
an opinion or an interpretation that leads to a conclusion.
Reasoning is the ability to state or to formulate and to consider
seriously supporting as well as contradictory reasons in order
to reach a conclusion. The implication is that an appeal is made
to the researcher to acquire up-to-date information.
1.4  Premises and conclusions
A reason in logic is called a premise (or premis). This serves
to emphasize that in an argument a succession of sentences should
be divided in such a way that certain of the sentences supply the
reason (justification, guarantee, warrant, support) for the rest
of the sentences. The sentences containing the reason or the
warrant are known as premises. The sentence or sentences
warranted by the premises is called the conclusion (Michalos).
As far as this process is concerned, the specific tasks of the
researcher are to
*  ascertain the validity (truth) of each premiss
*  ascertain that a particular conclusion is sufficiently
supported by the relevant premises. These premisses should
supply reasons for believing or accepting the
conclusion(s). Premises are motivations for those
conclusions emanating from them. False premises lead to
false conclusions. All premisses should always be
supported by research.
Good reasoning implies evidence strong enough to justify
the conclusion, and to make the drawing of such a
conclusion a warranted inference (Woods & Walton 1986:1-16;
OBSTACLES IN TERMS OF FALLACIES
The following is a selection of errors in reasoning or
4.1  Fallacies of chattering
4.1.1  Common practice (tradition): the claim must be true
because it has been traditionally supported i.e. over
the ages it has been accepted as a truth that ..... A
practice is regarded as moral or a belief is regarded
as correct because of conformation to tradition.
4.1.2  Large numbers: a claim must be true because it is
supported by many people i.e. thousands of children believe that
mathematics is difficult. Thousands can't be wrong.
4.1.3  Pseudo-argument: to come to a conclusion after
talking around, beside, beyond, beneath and above a
4.1.4  Emotional language: without increasing the supporting
evidence, words (expressions) are added that are
capable of stirring the emotions. Pure emotion can
have a devastating effect. Pure emotions can be
distinguished from an argument that contains an
emotional appeal. An emotional argument is still
susceptible to reason. An individual exerting pure
emotion over another, in fact demands that these
should respond because of feeling. Thus, discussion
is impossible (Missimer 1986:9).
4.1.5  Popular people: a certain claim (or reason,
conclusion) must be true because some well-known
person believes it. He (a certain person) himself
said it, therefore it is true.
Michalos (1970:38): Whatever the evidence fails to
support, a popular name cannot support either.
4.1.6  Popular sentiments: when in the absence of plausible
(valid, acceptable) reasons, the feelings, prejudices
and attitudes of people are appealed to in order to
win acceptance. This is frequently the case when
reasons are not supported by relevant information.
Too much reliance on public opinion results in this
fallacy (Makau 1990:194-199).
4.1.7  Illicit contrast: if it is argued that an object (or
person) has (or lacks) a certain property, any
contrary or contrasting object must lack (or have)
that property. E.g. if women are patient, men must
be impatient. If young people are vigorous, old
people must be lethargic.
4.1.8  Valid contrasts: Much of the force of a qualitative
argument comes from drawing attention to contrasts and
highlighting paradoxes (Delamont 1992:161-162).
4.2  Fallacies of superficialness
4.2.1  Trivial objections: any objection to a view or
argument is sufficient to overthrow it i.e. reject
Einsteins theory of relativity on the ground that it
is incomprehensible to the ordinary person.
4.2.2  Hasty generalisations: after observing that a small
number of the members of a certain group has a given
property (i.e. the fear of maths, of a number of
girls), it is inferred that the whole group has this
property (all girls are afraid of maths).
Generalisations unwarranted by the support provided
on their behalf are considered hasty generalisations
4.2.3  Faulty analogy: when two things with certain
similarities, exhibit even more differences e.g. man-animal comparisons. This is especially true when the
similarities are trivial and the differences
4.2.4  False cause: when a certain event or happening is
erroneously regarded as the cause of another event:
i.e. Friday the 13th causes unhappiness. This occurs
if the researcher observes that one event, B, follows
another event, A, in temporal sequence, and then
concludes that A causes B ( Woods & Walton 1986:76-77).
4.3  Fallacies of simplicity
4.3.1  Apriorism: Instead of testing his views against
reality, the researcher fashions or try to fashion
reality according to his views e.g. the aim of my
research is to prove the following hypothesis.
4.3.2  Golden mean: to argue that the mean or middle view
between two extremes must be true or correct simply
because it is the middle view i.e. the middle of the
road is not the best place to drive.
4.3.3  False dilemma: this is encountered in any erroneous
assumption or arguement that one of two views must be
true and that there can be no third possibility e.g.
Those who are not for us, are against us. There is a
third possibility: neutrality (Insufficient
alternatives e.g. alternative hypotheses).
4.3.4  Alleged certainty: To present a view or to make a
statement or to provide a reason as if it represents
a certainty or is entirely beyond question. The
effect of persuading (without proof) that a claim or
a reason is beyond doubt, is to commit the fallacy of
4.3.5  Confident manner: when, in the absence of legitimate
(valid) reasons, someone behaves as if he has a
conclusive demonstration of his own view,
4.3.6  Oversimplification: failure to take into account all
the complexities of a problem or to overlook
potentially relevant considerations that leads to
distortion when presented in too simple a form. E.g.
to assume that a single admirable characteristic of a
person is the cause of his success.
4.4  Fallacies of negativism (Michalos 1970:50-69)
4.4.1  Red herring (simple diversion. Insistence on
irrelevancies). Something that draws the attention
away from the matter or the issue at hand. OPPOSITE:
TO THE POINT.
4.4.2  Improper appeal to authority: A certain claim must be
true because an authority accepts it. Whatever the
evidence (essences) fails to support, no popular name
4.4.3  Irrelevant authority: when a reputable authority in
one area is presented as an authority in an entirely
different area, e.g. this educational theory is true
because the Minister of finance has said it is true.
4.4.4  Misrepresenting authority: if the claims of a
reputable or trustworthy authority are substantially
changed. It is possible to change the meaning of a
sentence, a reason, a conclusion) by taking it out of
its context, by changing certain of its terms, or by
emphasising originally inessential parts. A
representation in which an author's views (reasons,
conclusions) are deliberately exaggerated or distorted
(caricaturism), or underestimated. Straw arguments
present weak versions of opposing views. They are
often used to avoid refuting more difficult opposition
arguments. Researchers reading or hearing the
misrepresentation of their views are likely to become
hostile (Makau 1990:191).
4.4.5  Irrelevant appeals:
(a)  Appeal to force: when some kind of force or violence
is used to bring about the acceptance of a particular
(b)  Appeal to pity: any attempt to persuade someone to
accept a particular view by arousing his sympathy or
compassion (a feeling of pity).
(c)  Appeal to ignorance: when it is argued that the
absence of evidence for (or against) a claim (reason,
conclusion) should be counted as evidence for it.
Because it is not known whether a specific claim
(reason, conclusion) is false (or true), therefore, it
must be true (or false).
(d)  Abusing the man: when the defender of an issue
(claim, reason, conclusion) is attacked instead of the
issue itself reasoning challenges claims on the basis
of the person responsible for their making (Makau
1990:199). E.g. His arguments cannot be accepted
because he is a phenomenologist and a phenomenologist
is an existentialist and existentialists are atheists.
Speaking of the man, not his argument (Woods & Walton
(e)  Appeal to faulty motives: when it is argued that
because someone's motives for defending an issue
(claim, reason, conclusion) are improper (i.e. is
censurable, condemnable, objectionable), therefore,
the issue is unacceptable. His motive to propagate
Christian Science is not the promotion of science, but
to be accepted by the christian community.
(f)  Appeal to friendship: when it is argued that a
certain view (argument, claim, reason, conclusion)
must be acceptable because it is that of a friend.
(g)  Appeal to fear: Fear is used to persuade someone to
accept some view (argument, conclusion). Someone can
appeal to fear without appealing to force i.e. the
fear of being considered stupid if a particular
conclusion is not accepted.
(h)  Rationalisation: A more or less acceptable reason is
substituted for the real reason. Researchers are
inclined to rationalise their failures. Real reason:
weak questionnaire. Substituted reason: non-caring
4.5  Fallacies of lack of illumination (insufficient
4.5.1  Jargon: when a claim is in fact made to appear
stronger by the use of bombastic or unexplained
technical-sounding language. Argumentation
(reasoning) that relies on overly complex sentence
structure, unnecessary jargon or other needlessly
obscure terminology leads to obscuration (Makau
4.5.2  Ambiguous language: when a term, an expression or an
interpretation that plays a critical role in an
argument, has more than one distinct interpretation.
Ambiguity invites confusion and sometimes even
encourages misleading interpretation (Makau 1990:185-186).
4.5.3  Vague terminology: The use of obscure, imprecise
terms e.g. undefined and unclear terms such as
liberal, democracy, even education.
4.5.4  Accent: when an improperly accented, false or
misleading sentence is inferred from a sentence which
is true if properly accented. The practice of
emphasising certain words in a quotation by means of
italics or underscoring even though this is not the
case in the original text, is a fallacy of accent
4.5.5  Aphorisms (Clichés): A cliché (a trite or overused
expression or idea) is used as a substitute for a
valid (good)reason (Michalos 1970:43).
4.5.6  Complex questions: The fallacy of complex or leading
questions is committed whenever a question is phrased
in such a manner (usually in questionnaires or
interviews) that a person is forced to answering in a
preconceived manner. Eg. do you still assault your
wife? (Michalos 1970:29).
4.5.7  Value-laden adjectives: In the description of an
issue, certain terms are used that not only describe
it but evaluate (judge, appraise) it. This is usually
achieved by bestowing praise or by using harsh and
abusive language (Makau 1990:62-63).