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Informal Fallacies Project

Abstract: Requirements for an informal fallacy project are described with an example fallacy analysis. Suggestions for how and where to find fallacies are provided.

Requirements for the Informal Fallacies Project

The Informal Fallacies Project is to be based on your own choice of resources, including webpages, newspapers, magazines, books, or journals. The goal for the project is to find and analyze at least five informal fallacies where each fallacy is a different type. All references are to be cited in a standard bibliographical manner. Please keep in mind the following additional guidelines:

  1. Book, newspaper, magazine, and journal sources for fallacies are to be publicly accessible.

  2. Oral arguments, whether in everyday conversations, speeches, lectures, television, or web broadcasts, are not to be used unless a written text is separately available on the internet.

  3. Examples drawn from advertising are to be explicit arguments and not merely a form of emotive appeal.

  4. The fallacy selected is to be used in an argumentative context and not be taken from fallacy examples or illustrations in critical reasoning or logic sources. (For example, examples copied from books or websites on informal fallacies are not to be used.)

The evaluation of your project is based on the following criteria:

  1. Citations are provided in accordance with a standard bibliographic standard formats such as MLA, APA, Chicago, or CSE.

  2. The excerpt (or fallacy quotation) should be sufficiently inclusive such that the fallacy is evident: not too brief and thereby committing the fallacy of accent and not too extensive such that irrelevant statements are present.

  3. The extensiveness and adequacy of the explanation of how the fallacy is effected is essential for full credit.

  4. At least five different kinds of informal fallacies are to be included.

Example Format

The presentation of your paper is be similar to the example illustrated here:


“Before considering these development in detail it is worth asking why such an apparently simple device as the bicycle should have had such a major effect on the acceleration of technology. The answer lies in the sheer humanity of the machine.”

S. S. Wilson, “ Bicycle Technology.” Scientific American 228 no. 3 (March, 1973), 82.


The question posed is a composite of several questions:

(1) Is the bicycle an apparently simple device? If the answer to this question is yes, then the further question can be raised: (2) Did “this apparently simple device” have “a major effect on the acceleration of technology?” If the answer to the latter question is “yes,” the cited question would be appropriate: (3) How had the bicycle had such a major effect on the acceleration of technology? An answer to (1) is not clearly straightforward. An answer to (2) is even less so, and an answer to (3) (provided in the text) is much more doubtful. Most of the technical innovations used in the bicycle (e.g., differential gears, classic diamond frame, tubular frame, ball bearings, pneumatic tire) were developed independently of bicycle technology.

Hence although the technology of this apparently simple device might be important for the evolution of modern technology, it is a fallacy to presuppose it had a major effect on the future development of technology. The answer provided by Dr. Wilson blurs the distinct aspects of the question he raises and treats them as a simple query; hence, the fallacy of Complex Question occurs.

Finding Sources for Fallacies

Finding concise, clear examples of informal fallacies is difficult and time-consuming.

Occasionally you can discover fallacies by critically reading materials containing the exchange of ideas. On average you would be doing well if you can find one clear fallacy in fifteen or so editorials in daily newspapers. “Letters to the Editors” in daily local newspapers and in tabloids presenting exaggerated, sensational, or biased stories are especially good places to find fallacies.

In general, sources for fallacies include personal arguments in on-line forums; letters to the editor in newspapers, magazines and journals; editorials or opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines; debate transcripts; political speeches pseudo-scientific writings, and lawyer biographies.

Some suggested online sources where fallacies occasionally occur include:

Editorials and Opinion Pages

  1. “Editorials,” The New York Times — Topics include current issues involving U.S. and international affairs.

  2. “Opinions,” The Washington Post — Editorials columns, letters to the editor, as well as national and global issues are essayed, frequently from a liberal point of view.

  3. “Thursday's Editorial Archive” and “Wednesday's Example of Media Bias Archive,” Student News Daily — Editorial essays and news reporting on a variety of timely topics are selected from diverse sources on the web.

  4. “Political Editorials,” The Washington Times — Opinion articles from U.S.politics are usually presented from a conservative standpoint.

  5. “Opinion,” New York Post — The opinions expressed in this sensationalist tabloid usually advance a conservative point of view.

Speeches and Debates

  1. “Great Speeches Collection” — A selection of famous speeches from various historical periods and on a variety of subjects is listed at The History Place.

  2. “Famous Speeches in History — Archive of great historical speeches is indexed by topic, speaker, date, and also archived by women, African-Americans, and U.S. Presidents at EmersonKent.com.

  3. “Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speeches and Letters 1880—2016” — This compilation of U.S. Republican and Democratic speeches is provided by Gerhard Peters at The American Presidency Project.

  4. “Presidential Debates 1960—2016” — Transcripts of U.S. general and primary election debates are furnished by Gerhard Peters and John T. Wooley at the The American Presidency Project.

  5. “Top 100 Speeches” — Transcripts of famous U.S. speeches selected by Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst are provided at American Rhetoric.

  6. “Online Speech Bank” — Over 5,000 U.S.speeches, debates, and media events are compiled at American Rhetoric.

  7. “The Opinion Pages Room for Debate — Experienced debaters take a opposing stands on current issues.

Debate Forums

  1. Debates.Org — Participants debate selected topics, respond to argumentative subjects, and post in open forums on specific topics.

  2. Debate Politics — Topics discussed include U.S. and Global politics as well as specific political and non-political issues.

  3. Online Debate Network — Forums include current events, conspiracy, philosophy, religion, and social issues, among others.

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