What is the relationship between informative, explanatory, and persuasive statements and critical thinking?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Before we get into answering your question, let us first define and give a made-up example for each concept:

  • Informative statements seek to 'inform' the reader about an event, situation, person, etc.; there are no biases or opinions, just facts. The following is an example: "Roads are made with concrete."
  • ...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Before we get into answering your question, let us first define and give a made-up example for each concept:

  • Informative statements seek to 'inform' the reader about an event, situation, person, etc.; there are no biases or opinions, just facts. The following is an example: "Roads are made with concrete."
  • Explanatory statements are similar to informative statements. They seek to 'explain' the event, situation, person, etc. They go beyond informative statements in that they also look at causes and reasons. The following is an example: "Roads are made with concrete because it creates a solid foundation for cars."
  • Persuasive statements seek to use informative, explanatory, and other statements and knowledge for the purpose of making a point. The writer tries to 'persuade' the reader into believing or taking action on what is being written. The following is an example: "Since roads are made with concrete — a reliable substance that creates a solid foundation for cars — there is no need to look at alternative substances."
  • Critical thinking involves analyzing an issue in order to come to an objective conclusion. For the previous examples, one would want to research roads, concrete, and any possible alternatives before attempting to form a position or conclusion in the issue.

Now that we have a general basis for each concept, let us look at how the first three — informative, explanatory, and persuasive statements — relate to critical thinking. The first step in critical thinking is to gather all facts related to the issue. A few questions worth looking at are: What is the issue? Who and what does it affect? Where and when has it taken place? This is where informative and explanatory statements come into play. In order to think critically, you must look at all the information as well as all the possible explanations. It is not enough to simply pick one and stick with it. Using the example of concrete roads, you would want to look at what roads are used for, the reason for using concrete, whether there any possible alternatives, as well as many other factors that affect the issue.

Once you have all the relevant facts, you then want to take a position (i.e. coming to a conclusion about the issue). Critical thinking does not entail simply stating an opinion — you must use the knowledge gained during the previous step in order to show why your position makes sense. Do the facts back up your claim? Are there any alternatives that can potentially weaken your position? Did you find that after your research, you changed your stance on the issue? If so, why? Again, using the example of concrete roads, you would want to explain why concrete is a better choice than any of the alternatives, or vice versa.

One important thing to remember is that in order to think critically, you must be open to the possibility of changing your position. There are several reasons for this. For example, you may have formed an opinion before gathering all the relevant information. Additionally, you may have overlooked a possible explanation for the issue in question. If you find that your persuasive statements are not doing a great job of persuading people of your position (i.e. it is easy to poke holes in it), you'll want to go back to your informative and explanatory statements to see if you have missed anything. If this occurs, do not fret; evolving your position and conclusion is a natural step in critical thinking.

Note: included below are a couple of links to educational websites that explain critical thinking in a more extensive manner.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Question:

"What is the relationship between informative, explanatory, and persuasive statements and critical thinking?"

Answer:

Critical thinking relies upon well-informed arguments about the topic at hand. In broad terms, critical thinking is the process of determining which statements about the world are true and which are false. In its most basic terms, we can think of an argument as a set of premises and some conclusion. 

Informative statements are the first step in persuading someone of a given thesis or conclusion. A thesis is a statement about the world. Informative statements provide the audience with a set of objective facts, which may be historical (based on events known to have taken place in the past) or scientific (based on experimental results and/or scientific theories). Informative statements can be thought of as the foundation or building blocks for a persuasive statement. They are akin to the premises of an argument, and they should be based on facts and universally agreed upon principles rather than opinions. A given set of information could be used as evidence in any number of different lines of argument. Therefore, informative statements can be thought of as essentially neutral; in general, they do not require a particular stance to be seen as true. They simply establish the knowledge of the speaker and the fundamental facts in a given subject area. 

Explanatory statements provide more depth and detail than informative statements and cement an argument together. They may tell the audience why or how something has happened in the past or tends to happen. They may also provide the motivations for the participants in a given event or provide additional lines of reasoning toward the thesis or conclusion. Whereas informative statements provide neutral facts and evidence, explanatory statements provide lines of reasoning, models, and theories. They provide the path from the informative statements, the starting point of the argument, to the persuasive statements (conclusions).

An effective persuasive statement is the conclusion of an argument. Persuasive statements are the author's attempt to convince the audience that their stance is true. Persuasive statements rely on informative statements for their basic foundation and on explanatory statements to give the audience a path from that information to the writer's conclusion. A persuasive statement may also take into account certain philosophical, political, or moral values or certain practical goals. Persuasive statements, unlike informative statements, involve some stance or position on an issue, and they are more complex because they usually involve a statement about a cause and effect relationship, a theory, or a prediction about the world.  

Critical thinking, as whole, is the practice of evaluating different persuasive statements (conclusions) in light of the information (premises) and explanations given. The truth of a given thesis or persuasive statement relies on the truth of the premises (informative statements) and the strength of the arguments (explanatory statements). An effective argument requires critical thinking on the part of the person who is constructing the argument to evaluate the strength of these various parts.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team