Drilling down at the point of dispute

It was mentioned in the paragraph above that historians "drill down at the points of dispute" to explore the arguments in the field. But there are such points of dispute in all disciplines in higher education. While knowledge may be presented as noncontroversial in some early stages in the study of a subject, all disciplines provide space for the discussion of key problems. Undergraduate students who do not locate these points of dispute tend to see the field as unproblematic and tend to write middle-ranging essays that are more expository than argumentational. To achieve higher recognition in work at undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels, the points of dispute—and their precise delineation—must be discovered. Then the student must have the courage and know-how to "drill down" to understand and reveal, if not necessarily solve, the disputes. Such drilling down always opens up ground for discussion and argumentation.

The development of argument skills during a degree

Becoming a critical thinker as an undergraduate is a matter of development. It is not expected that all undergraduates, at the start of their studies, have fully formed argumentational skills in their chosen fields. Those who start with an understanding of and skills in argumentation are at an advantage; they will hone their skills through discussion, feedback from tutors, and through their ability to manage complex aspects of a discipline with agility and depth. But many students will arrive at the beginning of a course of study without such highly developed skills. It is the aim of many undergraduate courses to equip students to be able to argue well. To be a historian, for example, you need to be able to think and argue like a historian. To then undertake a masters in the field, you need to attain "mastery"; and to undertake doctoral work, you will be expected to contribute to the field itself. Each stage of undergraduate and graduate education requires a further improvement in argumentation skill and capability.

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