Front Cover

    Preface [Full Text]
    Paul Kirschner, et al.

    Chapter One
    Simon Buckingham Shum

    Chapter Two
    Jan van Bruggen, et al.

    Chapter Three
    Gellof Kansellar, et al.

    Chapter Four
    Chad Carr

    Chapter Five
    Tim van Gelder

    Chapter Six
    Jeff Conklin

    Chapter Seven
    Albert Selvin

    Chapter Eight
    Robert Horn

    Chapter Nine
    Simon Buckingham Shum
    et al.

    Douglas Engelbart



Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making.
Paul A. Kirschner, Simon J. Buckingham Shum and Chad S. Carr (Eds.)
Springer-Verlag: London
ISBN 1-85233-6641-1

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Chapter 5

Enhancing Deliberation Through Computer Supported Argument Visualization

Tim van Gelder
Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne, Australia; and Austhink

(enlargements/colour versions of reduced/black and white figures in the book)

Figure 5.1: Argument visualization using the Reason!Able software. The software supports rapid and easy construction, modification and evaluation of argument visualizations. The process helps translate abstract logical complexity into simple, colourful diagrams. When used with a touch-sensitive screen such as the SMART Board pictured above, the argument visualizations become manipulable in a very direct sense. Photo: Michael Silver.

Figure 5.2: A small part of the argument tree-in-progress in Reason!Able format, much as it would have appeared to participants during the workshop. A cluster of argumentation bears upon a single primary reason to believe the main conclusion. This illustrates "depth first" elaboration of the arguments. "Villawood" is the name used to refer to the factory, based on the neighbourhood where it is located.

Figure 5.3: The revised argument visualization. This was printed in A1 size, laminated, and sent back to the workplace so that participants and others could easily review the arguments. Notice that even though the individual claims (text within nodes) are illegible, the main structure of the argument is clearly visible at a glance. For example, it is apparent that there is a larger number of primary objections (nodes immediately to the left of the central node) than primary reasons.

Cited References/Websites

Bar-Hillel, Y., & others. (1969). Formal logic and natural languages: A symposium. Foundations of Language, 5, 256-284.

Dyson, F. J. (2002, March 28). Science and religion: No ends in sight. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved on August 28, 2002 from

Kuhn, D. (1991). The Skills of Argument. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, fire, and dangerous things:: what categories reveal about the mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Minto, B. (1995). The pyramid principle: Logic in writing and thinking. Edinburgh Gate: Pearson Education.

Monk, P. (2001, March 16). Mapping the future of argument. Australian Financial Review, (pp. 8-9).

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rolf, B., & Magnusson, C. (2002). Developing the art of argumentation. A software approach. Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on Argumentation, University of Amsterdam.

Van Eemeren, F. H., Grootendorst, R., Henkemans, F. S., Blair, J. A., Johnson, R. H., Krabbe, E. C. W., et al. (1996). Fundamentals of argumentation theory: A handbook of historical backgrounds and contemporary developments. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Van Gelder, T. J. (2001). How to improve critical thinking using educational technology. In G. Kennedy, M. Keppell, C. McNaught & T. Petrovic (Eds.), Meeting at the crossroads: proceedings of the 18th annual conference of the Australasian Society for computers in learning in tertiary education (pp. 539-548). Melbourne: Biomedical Multimedia Uni, The University of Melbourne.

Van Gelder, T. J., & Bulka, A. (2000). Reason!Able (Version 1.1). Melbourne: The Reason Group. Available from

Webster, N., & Porter, N. (1913). Webster's revised unabridged dictionary of the English language. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam company.

Other Related Resources

Reason! version 1. This program was developed by Tim van Gelder and Andy Bulka (programmer) at the University of Melbourne and used in teaching in 1998. On one definition of argument mapping, Reason! v.1 was (to our knowledge) the first dedicated argument mapping software. Many of the key features of Reason!Able were already present in Reason! v.1. However certain design limitations and usability problems led to the building of subsequent versions.

Reason! version 2 was developed in 1999. It incorporates far more educational content than Reason! v.1, but had only a non-graphical "indented hierarchy" representation of argument structures. The immense cognitive burdens imposed on users by this representation for arguments of even moderate complexity led to the development of a third version, Reason!Able.

Reason! Project Studies, 1999-2002
Donohue, A., van Gelder, T., Cummings, G., & Bissett, M. (2002). (Reason! Project Technical Report 2002/1). Melbourne: Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne. [PDF]

The report summarizes Reason! Project studies of gains in critical thinking over one semester of undergraduate education. The main focus is on the gains when students are enrolled in a CT subject using the Reason! approach, though we have also conducted studies of students in traditionally taught CT subjects, and one study of students not enrolled in CT. The main conclusion is that first-year students using the Reason! approach gain in CT skills approximately 0.8 standard deviations, as opposed to 0.2 SD for first-year students not enrolled in CT and 0.3 SD for students in traditionally-taught subjects.
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