AP/MODR1730 6.0 I: Reasoning About Social Issues

Offered by: MODR


Fall 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

This is a skills-based course focusing on critical thinking, research-based writing, and qualitative and quantitative analysis. The particular focus will be on different positions taken within the social sciences on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, immigration etc. Typical examples are to be analyzed. Course credit exclusions: AP/MODR 1760 6.00, AP/MODR 1770 6.00.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Course Director:      Jai Chetram

Email:                         jaichetr@yorku.ca and jaichetram@rogers.com

Website:                    See Moodle.yorku.ca MODR 1730_I

Phone Number:       (416) 736-2100 Ext. 33624

Office:                        S401 A Ross

Office Hours:           By Appointment Only: Ross South Building, Room S401A

    Expanded Course Description

The purpose of this course is to teach critical reasoning skills that are applicable and invaluable to your academic studies, professional career and your life in general.  The goal is to develop a rational and critical viewpoint that can be applied in general to analyze concepts, statements, arguments or theories. This aim is achieved by examining modes of reasoning drawn from the area of morality and values. (Issues and topics from a Multi – Disciplinary perspective; from such diverse disciplines as the  Social Science, Sociology, the Humanities (Religious and Literary, and Philosophical texts.)


The course will be divided into three sections.  The first section of the course is devoted to learning analytical techniques. The use and misuse of language will be examined. Conceptual, factual and evaluative issues will be distinguished.  The basic forms of reasoning, their uses and limits will be analyzed.  Fallacies that are frequently found in ordinary discussion, academic texts, mass media, advertising, etc. will be carefully studied.   The avoidance of these fallacies and learning the analysis of arguments and fallacies will be a major concern in the first third of the course.


The second section of the course will concentrate on the techniques of conceptual analysis. The aim in the second third of the course is to master a step by step set of techniques for working out the meanings of unclear concepts and questions.  For example, we may work on questions of concept like: “Is Religion compatible with Evolution?”; “Does Morality apply to Humans outside Social Conventions?” and “Is Democracy a Universal Value?”  The techniques teach you to describe the way concepts work in concrete cases and to analyze their abstract characteristics and uses.


The third section of the course, we apply these skills to the analysis of texts.  We will put into practice the techniques learned in the first section on argument and in the second section on concept analysis. As this course take a Multi – Disciplinary approach to current issues in mass media, advertisements, and thorny issues such as Euthanasia, Abortion, Pornography, Same Sex marriage and Religious Pluralism. This part of the course will apply the skills of argumentation and concept analysis on a number of passages and articles from the Social Science, Sociology, the Humanities (Religious and Literary, and Philosophical texts.)

    Required Course Text / Readings

Engel, S. Morris.  With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies.  Sixth Edition.  New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

Lewis Vaughan and Chris MacDonald. The Power of Critical Thinking, Fifth Edition, 2020.

    Weighting of Course

Fallacy Test:  25% (Open Book, this is an in class test, time allowed 2 hours.)


Question of Concept Analysis and Essay: 25% submit assignment to Moodle on the Turnitin.com link.)


Article Analysis and Essay: 20%


 Passage Analysis (Final in class test,) 20%, this test is written in class, this test is fully open book with your lecture notes and a dictionary.)


Attendance, homework and in IN- Class Group Presentations: 10%

(Presentation 1+ attendance, Homework+ attendance, Please note: 5% will be deducted from total marks if a student fails to show up for a presentation.

See “Course Policies” for details


Home work will be posted weekly on Moodle, the homework is graded by virtue of completion.  We will discuss the correct answers in class and your marks will be posted on the Moodle course site.

    Organization of the Course

Module 1, Argumentation and Argumentation, Module 2, Conceptual Analysis and Module 3, Passage and Article Analysis.

    Course Learning Objectives
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active reading; deconstructing others’ ideas; reading between the lines
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Critically evaluating what we hear and read; rational decision –making; presenting strong arguments; being aware of cognitive and illegitimate biases (self-bias and others’ bias.)
  • Awareness of Persuasion Techniques
  • Recognizing manipulative persuasion; developing persuasive tactics, ethically.
  • Personal Development discourse
  • hone the disposition of a competent layperson (the ability to engage in civil discourse
  • , even if one isn’t an “expert on the topic; clarity and confidence when presenting views.
  • Writing Skills
  • Improve general writing skills (grammar, writing style, thesis development, etc.); essay organization; writing persuasively; improving self-editing techniques.


(1) How to reason correctly by distinguishing valid and invalid arguments, (Deductive,) to distinguish strong and weak arguments, (Inductive.)

 (2) How to identify fallacies or errors in reasoning committed in everyday discourse.

(3) How to use concepts properly, to distinguish conceptual claims from empirical and normative claims. To separate empirical facts from conceptual meanings and analyzing conceptual questions.

(4) How to apply critical skills to passages and articles that committed errors in reasoning, vague and ambiguous expressions and to diagnose assumptions that underpins concepts and statements. These skills will be applied to passages/articles concerning issues in Social Science,

Humanities, Philosophy, Political Science and Religion.

    Relevant Links / Resources