When the “Either/or” question becomes a “Pros vs Cons” comparative question

6 11 2011

A recent consultation on an “either/or” question revealed that these questions sometimes end up becoming comparative questions. When that happens, the question becomes much more challenging, and the recommendation for most students is to avoid it.

How does an “either/or” question become a comparative question? Consider the following question:

Modern technology – dream or nightmare?

Approach 1

STAND: Dream

Paragraph 1

CA: Some argue that modern technology is a nightmare because ( reason X).
R: However,  reason X is not true / is not truly a nightmare because (reason Y). Thus, modern technology is not a nightmare.

Paragraphs 2-4

A: In fact, modern technology is a dream because (state reason)

In this approach, no comparison is necessary, and the question is not very challenging. However, what if reason X (in Paragraph 1) is something that cannot be denied? What if it shows that it is actually a nightmare, and cannot be reconciled with a simple”not true” rebuttal (see point 1 in this post)? How then can you justify that technology is a dream? In these situations, many students will adopt a very sensible approach:

Approach 2

Here, students will reconcile their counter-argument by showing that although there are genuine reasons why it may be viewed as a nightmare, the reasons why it is a dream far outweigh the reasons why it is a nightmare. This approach is logical and sensible. However, the question has now become a “pros vs cons” comparative question – which is a challenging type of question to deal with. When this happens, it might be easier to simply pick an easier question. However, for those who still choose to attempt it even when it becomes  a “pros vs cons” comparison, read this piece of advice on tackling “pros vs cons” comparative questions.


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