GP Essays: Common mistake #6 (cherry picking arguments / discussing the non-contentious, rather than the contentious)

28 03 2011

Consider this question:

‘The tourist does not see the country the inhabitants know.’ How far is this true of your country?

General form: The question presents an opinion, then asks you to contend with this opinion.

Common mistake:

If we disagree with the opinion presented, a common mistake is to “cherry pick” arguments that support your stand. Here, we might show instances where tourists see the real country:

Singapore is a multi-racial, clean and green society, and this is evident to tourists.

However, this is not convincing enough because we’re picking issues that aren’t contentious to begin with. Instead, to convincingly disagree with this stand, we should pick arguments that are contentious, and refute them:

Some argue that tourists will not get a feel of the day-to-day lives of heartlanders because attractions are in “touristy” areas. However, one must recognise that it is the tourist’s fault for not visiting the heartlands – if they choose, they can go “off the beaten track”. In fact, this is becoming more common thanks to initiatives like “Couchsurfing”, which encourages tourists to explore a country through the eyes of a local, and benefit from a more authentic experience by living with them, interacting with them – and (quite literally) sleeping on their couch.


Note: This mistake is more likely to occur when we disagree with this particular stand; if we agree, we will tend to focus on the contentious issues anyway.



Considering the same question above, write one weak argument that deals with something non-contentious, and one stronger one that zooms in on a contentious issue.




One response

14 09 2011
Listen to yourself: Would your opponents agree? « read, think, write.

[…] This post on “cherry-picking” also talks about avoiding non-contentious arguments. […]

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