The Evidence Toolkit

The Evidence Toolkit is a software program aimed to help 16 to18-year-olds improve their critical thinking by analysing a variety of news articles.

The Evidence Toolkit has been developed by the Centre for Argument Technology at The University of Dundee in partnership with BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme and BBC Young Reporter.

The program guides you through a series of pre-selected articles representing different political and thematic orientations, both news and editorial opinion articles.

Lesson plans have been prepared to help teachers encourage young people to ask questions about the articles context and content and allows young people to upload their own articles to work on themselves.

The Evidence Toolkit Excercise - Teacher notes
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Lesson 1: Making claims

Learning outcomes

  • To be able to recognise the main claim of a news article
  • To be able to identify the lines of reasoning used to establish a claim

Key points to consider

  • News is often a mix of storytelling and reasoning
  • Most news articles have one main point: the central claim
  • Reasoning is used to connect evidence to claims: backing up the key points
  • One powerful rhetorical technique is to leave an unpopular or contentious claim unstated; high quality news articles and opinion - pieces will typically avoid doing this
The Evidence Toolbox Excercise - Making claims
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Lesson 2: Trustworthy news

Learning outcomes

  • To be able to distinguish fact from opinion
  • To be able to identify different types of fact-based reasoning
  • To be able to identify different types of opinion-based reasoning
  • To know how to use multiple sources of information in judging trustworthiness

Key points to consider

  • News articles rely upon a mixture of facts and opinions
  • Facts are of many different types; it is often easy to spot statistical facts (e.g. “60 per cent of the people affected are children”) or examples ("people affected include children and the over-75s for example")
  • Opinions might be of those held by the majority, they might be opinions from experts, or (for certain types of news article) opinions of the journalist
  • Reasoning from facts and opinions can be of different types
  • Multiple sources of information can be used to increase (or decrease) our trust in a given article
The Evidence Toolbox Excercise - Trustworthy news
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Lesson 3: Balanced news

Learning outcomes

  • To understand that different types of reasoning can be critiqued in different ways
  • To be able to critique reasoning patterns based on statistical facts, examples, expert opinion, popular opinion and personal opinion
  • To be able to explain what an objection is and how an objection can be anticipated
  • To recognise objections and the ways in which they can be anticipated
  • To apply the skills developed in lessons 1, 2 and 3 to analyse and critique articles

Key points to consider

  • Each pattern of reasoning is associated with a different critique template containing a series of questions
  • Both claims and reasons can be subject to objections. A very powerful technique is to anticipate these objections and counter them in advance. Objections are often clearly signalled by phrases such as, “Some people think,” or “You might be wondering.”
The Evidence Toolbox Excercise - Balanced news
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Lesson 1: Real versus fake news
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Lesson 2: Sources and who to trust
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Lesson 3: Social media, images and data
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Teachers guide to the BBC iReporter interactive game
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BBC iReporter: What would a journalist do? (Guidance for young people)
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The Evidence Toolkit Excercise - Teacher notes
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