Detecting Assumptions and Generalizations

Large assumptions and over generalizations are logical fallacies, which will be covered in Week 8. For the moment, focus on your introduction and conclusion. Are you making too many assumptions or an assumption that doesn’t have strong evidence? An example might be “all college students hate general education requirements.” An unfounded assumption might be assuming the reader agrees with you on a debatable subject or that they are aware of subject they might know little about. For example, if you assume that readers are against the death penalty, people in favor of the death penalty are less likely to agree with you. Or, if you assume the reader knows about golf or Russian history, then people who don’t know about those subjects will be lost in parts of the paper or could possibly misunderstand your entire argument.

Fixing assumptions

If you are discussing a subject which might be unfamiliar to parts of your audience, give a brief explanation of the concept/history/event and then explain its significance to your argument. If you are assuming they agree with you on a debatable or controversial subject, you may have to explain why they should agree with you on that subject, or restructure your argument so that it doesn’t use that assumption.

Fixing generalizations

One possibility is to be flexible in the number:

  • Some college students hate general education requirements.
  • Many college students hate general education requirements.

Another possibility is to limit by geography or other factors:

  • Many university students hate general education requirements.
  • Half the students in my geography class hate general education requirements.

Finally, you can also find statistics that confirm your belief.

I surveyed twenty people at random and fifteen said they hated general education requirements. A national survey found that 43% of college students felt that general education requirements were “a waste of time.”