On the logical integrity of children's arguments

Richard C. Anderson, Clark Chinn, Janice Chang, Martha Waggoner, Hwajin Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to investigate properties of children's naturally occurring arguments. The arguments were sampled from transcripts of 20 discussions held in 4 fourth-grade classrooms. The principal findings were that (a) children's arguments are filled with seemingly vague referring expressions, (b) the arguments sometimes do not contain explicit conclusions, and (c) most arguments are missing - or seem to be missing - explicit warrants to authorize conclusions. The missing or obliquely identified information, however, usually is given in the text or preceding discussion or is a commonplace from everyday life and readily inferable by actively cooperative participants in the discussion. Children seldom back their arguments by appealing to general principles, except when the foundation for the argument is disputed or seems confusing. At a more general level, we conclude that it is possible to give a coherent account of children's arguments within the framework of informal deductivism augmented with speech act theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-167
Number of pages33
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • General Psychology


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