Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Kelly Young


Critical thinking abilities, especially the advanced critical thinking abilities required for decision-making, are important to both individuals and democratic policy making processes. Previous studies have indicated that argumentation and debate instruction can improve critical thinking abilities, but there are reasons to believe that current approaches are not as effective at developing decision-making ability as they could be, in part because they focus too heavily on argument construction, rather than argument evaluation and decision-making. In order to test which approaches to teaching argumentation and debate best encourage decision-making abilities, researchers need to know which elements are included in current argumentation and debate textbooks. No comprehensive reviews of the content of argumentation and debate textbooks exist, however, so it has not been possible to test and compare approaches.

A content analysis of 73 currently available argumentation and debate textbooks demonstrated that: (a) most textbooks provide students with the basics of argument construction, argumentation theory, and how to evaluate individual claims; (b) many textbooks provide students with important precursors for decision-making; (c) none of the textbooks provides a comprehensive approach to decision-making that includes a structure or framework for approaching evaluation, criteria awareness, reflexivity, and practice. The conclusions include recommendations for further research, textbook selection, textbook revisions, and for instructors to bridge current gaps in textbook coverage with their own material.