Course Syllabus


SPRING 2017  (#0485)

Professor Doug

Doug McFerran

  • email:
  • office hours are online through email (I try to respond within 24 hours but I also attempt to be available for more immediate contact from 9 to 10:30 on Monday mornings)
  • phone: 818-364-7710


In LACCD we call it “Logic in Practice” but elsewhere it can have many titles, such as “Critical Reasoning” or “Informal Logic.” It is intended as an introduction to this business of deciding how well cases or arguments work, whether it is everyday life when we defend a decision or attempt to convince someone else to accept our own point of view or in a more specialized setting such as a courtroom. As a lower division requirement you are expected to take a course either like this or something more specialized, such as symbolic logic (often required for computer science majors) or a course combining logic and writing (required for the IGETC program). It does satisfy the critical reasoning requirement for CSUN but not for UCLA. 

But why require logic at all?  Isn't good reasoning just a matter of common sense?  The answer is that, as the old Greeks who developed this as a distinct field of study well knew, something can sound reasonable and yet not be when examined more closely.  A faulty pattern of reasoning (a fallacy) closely resembles a good one and for that reason can be very seductive.  A goal of any course in critical thinking is to develop the skills necessary to avoid being taken in by one or another fallacy as well as to make sure that any case you present on your own does not involve such mistakes. 


By the end of the course you should be able to

(1)   Identify the structure of an argument.

     We try to make a case for something (a conclusion) by offering reasons to support it (premises).



(2)   Evaluate deductive arguments for validity and inductive arguments for strength.

     Some arguments are supposed to work because there is no chance of the conclusion being wrong if its premises are correct (deductively valid), others because the probability of being wrong is low (inductively strong).



(3)   Differentiate among various informal fallacies.

     We need to recognize things that can go wrong with inductive arguments so that the conclusion seems better supported than it really is.    



(4)   Design and create cogent arguments.

   We want to improve our ability to present arguments that work.





Everything you need is online (there is nothing that you need to buy, but you can download my text by going to and includes things to read and exercises to do, some of them in a collaborative mode with other students. Yes, there are quizzes and a midterm as well as a final exam with points for everything. Altogether there are 500 points available, and 425 points gives you an “A,” 375 points a “B,” 325 points a “C,” and 275 points a “D.” You will have a schedule to follow that calls on you to participate in the course on a weekly basis, just as though you were coming to campus, but it is sufficiently flexible so that you can set up your own time for everything. Do expect that since this a three-unit course the overall time needed each week may well be between six and nine hours.

We will be using CANVAS as our online course management system. If you have not worked with it before in another course, make sure you take advantage of the online tutorials. Start by going to our online assistance.


The course is divided into five sections.  On the CANVAS site you will see these as distinct modules, each with its own things to read and to do, either on your own or in a collaborative mode with other students.

Weeks 1-2  (August 28 - September 9):  Getting started

Weeks 3-4 (September 10 - September 23):  Seeing the structure of an argument

Weeks 5-10  (September 23 - November 4):  Deductively valid arguments (recognizing formal fallacies); Review and the first midterm 

Weeks 11-13 (November 5 - November 25):  Inductively strong arguments (recognizing informal fallacies)

Weeks 13-16  (November 26 - December 16):  Developing a good case; the final exam


Cheating- unauthorized material used during an examination (including electronic devices), changing answers after work has been graded, taking an exam for another student, forging or altering attendance sheets or other documents in the course, looking at another student’s paper/scantron/essay/computer or exam with or without their approval is considered cheating. Any student caught cheating will receive a zero for the assignment/exam and referred to the Department chair and/or Student Services for further disciplinary action.

Plagiarism- Plagiarism is defined as the act of using ideas, words, or work of another person or persons as if they were one’s own, without giving proper credit to the original sources. This includes definitions found online on Wikipedia, materials from blogs, twitter, or other similar electronic resources. The following examples are intended to be representative, but not all inclusive:
- failing to give credit by proper citations for others ideas and concepts, data and information, statements and phrases, and/or interpretations and conclusions.
- failing to use quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it be a paragraph, a sentence, or a part thereof
- Paraphrasing the expressions or thought by others without appropriate quotation marks or attribution
- Representing another’s artistic/scholarly works such as essays, computer programs, photographs, paintings, drawings, sculptures or similar works as one’s own.
First offense, you will receive a zero for the assignment in question. Any further offenses may result in expulsion from the class, as determined by the disciplinary action from the Office of Student Services. 

Recording devices in the classroom- Section 78907 of the California Education Code prohibits the use of any electronic audio or video recording devices, without prior consent of the instructor. (including cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, and more)

Reasonable Accommodation: If you are a student with a disability and require accommodations, please send me a private email.  The sooner I am aware of your eligibility for accommodations, the quicker I will be able to assist the DSP&S Office in providing them.  For students requiring accommodations, the DSP&S Office at Mission College provides special assistance in areas like: registering for courses, specialized tutoring, note-taking, mobility assistance, special instruction, testing assistance, special equipment, special materials, instructor liaisons, community referrals and job placement.  If you have not done so already, you may also wish to contact the DSP&S Office in Instructional Building 1018 (phone 818/364-7732 TTD 818/364-7861) and emailing or scanning me a letter stating the accommodations that are needed. 



Course Summary:

Date Details