The Science of Credible Writing | Dr Jeffrey Pittaway | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

The Science of Credible Writing

teacher avatar Dr Jeffrey Pittaway, Senior Teaching Fellow

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Session 1 - the Imperative

    • 2. Session 2 - Claims, Lies & Damned Lies

    • 3. Session 3 - Getting Logical

    • 4. Session 4 - In Data we Trust

    • 5. Session 5 - Document Structure

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

They didn't teach you how to write logically in school! So set yourself apart now by learning how to structure written paragraphs to maximise the credibility of everything from management reports to exam essays. This class, taught by a top management school professor, introduces you to a science and evidence -based approach to recognize, analyze and improve your professional writing with clear logic that is more persuasive to your audience. Not only will it help you to write strong essays in less time, and much more convincing management reports and presentations, credible writing is a rare skill that is in high demand in the job market.

Prerequisites: Nil. Prior experience writing English-language reports in a professional style (e.g., management or project reports) or essays (e.g., in school) is beneficial.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Dr Jeffrey Pittaway

Senior Teaching Fellow


Dr Jeffrey Pittaway is a Senior Teaching Fellow, UCL School of Management, University College London and completed his post-doctorate work at Imperial College London. He has published research in top peer-reviewed journals and conferences, and his PhD dissertation was nominated for two national awards. Jeffrey also has 20 years of prior experience as a management consultant in industry. The classroom and e-learning content he develops for teaching are based on evidence-based science.

See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Session 1 - the Imperative: What is the science of credible writing? The imperative managers face uncertainty in decision making in order to minimize uncertainty. They want to base strategic decisions on credible information, so managers are looking for people that can help them make better informed decisions by making logical and credible recommendations. It's a top three job requirement we know from research my employment agencies, so it's a very in demand skill. Yet it's a very rare skill. Research shows that people coming out of business schools still have poor management writing skills to make a lot of claims, but they don't tend to substantiate them. So managers air saying that the new hires don't seem credible and this is an ongoing problem. Managers don't want unsubstantiated guesses. So those who learned to master the science of credible writing have a very rare skill and tend to stand out. Oh, let me tell you an example of how this played out in business. The company, Lego sales of Lego, had flattened as they were beginning to compete with the Internet and online gaming. So Lego went through several different initiatives to try and increase their sales and to compete on yet none of them seemed to be working. Then they brought in a new CEO. Now that CEO help the company to make better products and come up with new solutions that became popular Click movies Virtual Lego, that type of thing. So what really changed? Well, the CEO first fired most of the top managers and brought in new managers. He then invested in teaching the new managers to make decisions based on logic instead of the emotion that they attached to legacy products, for example. So this entire turnaround occurred when managers learned, think logically and present their ideas logically, incredibly. And that's what we're going to learn in this series. There many personal benefits to learning how to write credibly. It helps us to write professional business correspondents that shows others our value. It helps to avoid communication barriers and breakdowns because credible writing is a lot easier for others to understand and to trust. It demonstrates initiative and critical thinking because it's obvious some analysis has been done and critical thought has been applied to the recommendation. These attributes could really set you apart from others who are all full of ideas but just don't know how to present their ideas credibly. For all of these reasons, it increases promotion chances. I can also help you write a winning see via resume because credible arguments in resumes stand apart from the opinionated claims that others make. Incredible writing could also help boost productivity by reducing the time wasted, trying to convince others of a credible course of action. So there are many benefits to learn incredible writing. 2. Session 2 - Claims, Lies & Damned Lies: what is the science of credible writing claims, lies and damn lies? Let's start with the notion of a practical argument. The purpose of a practical argument is to make a claim and focus on justification of the claim. Both parts very often I see management reports that air full of claims about what the writer believes or fax, but none of them are well explained and justified. A well justified practical argument is what we're trying to learn in this series. In order to achieve this, we're going to use of science that was put forth by Tolman in a model of argumentation. In that model, Ah, practical argument focuses on the justification of claims in a way that takes advantage of the human reasoning process. It is structured in accordance with the way humans actually think. It started with research examining how readers or listeners respond to a claim. They attribute no significant perceived credibility when a claim is made on its own. Now, when we combine the claim with some relevant data, the claim becomes more persuasive. The empirical results showed a small effect on the perceived credibility of the argument, so going beyond the claim by adding relevant data can make a difference. However, when a claim was combined with data and also with explanatory logic, the results showed a significant and strong increase in the perceived credibility of the argument by the listener. And this is the science that we're building on credible writing based on the science of practical argument. The science is composed of three parts. The claim, logic and the data. When we combine all three of these, we can make a credible argument. Let's expand on the science and first will focus on the claim. We're referring here to a literary claim, which is simply an assertion that something is true. Being an insertion, however, suggests that we need to go farther to make a credible argument. A claim by definition has yet to be justified, and other people may not agree with it. There are very good reasons that we should not accept claims on their own. Firstly, people tend to answer questions that they want to and avoid the question they've been asked . So it's doubtful that claim alone is a credible and logical truth about the inquiry. People also avoid Diskant firming information, their belief in their assertions is often more informed by some supporting information, while they tend to ignore evidence to the contrary. So we have good reasons to doubt the credibility of claims. People also based claims on what little information they readily have available. They make little effort to search out more objective information, which may Diskant firm the claim, even if they give the problem more thought. Research shows that people will settle on a conclusion very similar to their original information, even if it was wrong or irrelevant. So this is called an anchoring bias. Another reason to doubt claims is that people give more weight to their own opinions, believing them to be correct on less weight to information emanating from other people. Consequently, they tend to discount the views of other people that might have actually a more accurate or more informed view. And finally, people repeat information that they deem is acceptable to social norms in order to fit in in their social circles. So they're less likely to speak out about something that they think it's false, and what might be more accurate is exactly the information that they're afraid to report. So for all of these reasons, we really should doubt claims that people make when they stand on their own. Let's look at a few examples of how this works. See if he could spot the problems in these claims. I believe that London is the best place to live in the UK. So University College London is one of the best universities undergraduate students. Do you find any issues or problems with this claim? Well, any statement including, I believe, means that the person is stating an opinion, not a fact. I haven't any reason to believe this is actually a factual statement. What authority is the speaker of a scientific authority? Experienced authority, somebody with exceptional success in this topic that would lead me to believe there is credibility in their opinion. So, no, it's not credible on its own. They're also terms that are undefined in this, you know? What do they mean, for instance, by the best place to live? Does it mean people are happier or people live longer? Is a more affordable or economical What exactly do they mean by the best place to live? It's poorly defined in this claim, and yet the author is taking it for granted another problem based on this claims, we can't really tell what the question is. What is the person trying to answer? How meaningful is it? And ultimately, what am I meant to take away from this comment? How is this relevant to any course of conversation? Are basically so leapt? Another example. Here, elected officials should be limited to just one term in office so the UK should adopt this rule. There are a couple of issues you might find in this quote, as we pointed out previously on one authority or evidence Is this claim based? Also, what is the logic? What are they trying to say? Are they trying to say the UK should adopt this rule because officials should be limited to one term on Finally, why why would this make a difference? How would adopting this claim solve problems? So what again? There's just no logic, no explanation and no justification here. Let's look at one more example. Research shows that 30% of fatal accidents are caused by texting while driving, texting injured 3800 Britons in the lost decade alone. You see any problems with this particular claim? Well, here's a few I found first. What are we talking about? What's the question? What are we trying to answer? There's no context. And so I don't quite understand what they're talking about, and I don't find it credible the next Where's the logic? So texting injured people? What is the problem that the speakers talking about here? Are they trying to say people have the wrong attitude when they're driving because they're texting or they're trying to say the laws aren't strong enough? Or is this a story about different causes of injuries? What does Speaker trying to say? It's completely unclear. There's also a fault in the logic here. It states that texting injured people. I think we all find that weaken text during the day without receiving some kind of injury. So does texting really injured people? I don't think so. The logic is false. There's also a problem with the number 3800 Britons is that a lot Listeners may not agree. Is it a lot compared to something the reader can relate to? For instance, if it turns out that on one hand, lightning strikes injure a lot more people but are very rare then texting is probably something that we can worry about a little less. However. On the other hand, if it's a lot more than, for instance, lightning strikes, it might be worth wearing about a little bit more. The speaker hasn't done anything to add that level of credibility to the claim. So how do we solve the problems that we've analyzed and learn to write credibly instead? While a credible argument should start with a claim, the assertion of truth so the reader knows what the paragraph is about. But then we must go on to justify that claim as part of a larger argument. And this is exactly where a lot of management riding falls down. It's full of a list of what speaker asserts or fax, but nothing in terms of justifying each claim. It takes more to make a credible argument. We need to go beyond the claim and supplemented with logic 3. Session 3 - Getting Logical: What is the science of credible writing? Getting logical? A lot of writing, I see is full of a list of what the speaker asserts or fax, but nothing in terms of building each one of those claims of fact into a credible argument . We need to go beyond just the claim and supplement that with logic. So what do we mean by logic? Well, the first step is to recognize logic that is faulty until we can recognize that when what we hear, it makes it very difficult to understand how we need to add logic to what we say. So let's take a look at what we call logical fallacies. Here's an example. People who own cars don't care about the environment. Are there any logical fallacies you can recognize here? While first this is an over generalization? Essentially, the claim says that all people who own cars don't care about the environment. I think we can all agree that's probably not true of everyone, and you'd only find one person to which this doesn't apply to disprove this entire logic. So it's a logical fallacy of unsubstantiated generalization. So here's another. Clinton cars contribute to pollution because they pollute the air. Does that sound logical? It probably does, because, in fact, it's impossible to make this false. This is because it's a circular argument. It essentially says cars cause pollution because they pollute. You can't disprove that, but it's entirely meaningless. And this kind of circular logic is often used to avoid scrutiny of the claim. Here's another example. Poisonous fumes. Air polluting the earth. We'll hear the authors using the adjective poisonous without justifying it. The authors trying to get you focus on, uh, polluting the Earth. But they've injected the word poisonous in order to make any motive. It's an unsubstantiated use of emotive words to make the claim appear believable without providing an actual justification. There were a couple of more fallacies that we can watch out for. Here's one Gaza causing global warming. Think of how much faster your commute will be if there are fewer cars on the road. I see this all the time. Do you see a problem with it? Well, the second line about commutes has very little to do with the opening claim. It's diverting away from the question asked in order to say something else that seems plausible, perhaps on its own, but doesn't answer the original question or substantiate the original claim. We call this a red herring, and here's a final example. We can either tax car owners or destroy the planet. What do you think of this? Well, the author here tries to impose upon you only two choices, but when you think a little deeper, there are probably more than two choices available. So in this case, the author is trying to get you to accept their position when in fact, there may be alternatives and options that the author is missing. Uh, so this claim on its own it has a logical fallacy, so hopefully it could now recognize logical fallacies in the claims that others make. Let's look at the next step. How do we use deductive logic to explain why our claims are true? This requires thinking about the structure of logic. First of all, we open with a claim that something is true, as we've already looked. Now let's label this claim with the letter Y Okay, Now, if we want to add logic to turn this into a more credible claim, we start to use the word because in this case, we continue that claim. Why is true? Because something causes why to be true. Let's call that something X So the logic is that X causes why to be true. In other words, something else makes the claim troop. So then now we simply bring in data to show that we know that access true. And since X causes, why therefore our claim? Why must be true. You see that this is called deductive logic, which explains why something should be true. Let's look at some examples and see how we can use this. Here's a claim. Whales are warm blooded now. You might not believe that initially, but let's call that claim why? And we'll label it. Why now? Let's start to apply deductive logic to turn this into a credible argument. We had the statement with the word because so whales are warm blooded because whales are mammals. This is the relationship that X being a mammal causes why, which is our claim about warm blooded. Now, If we have data for X that all mammals are warm blooded, then our claim why has to be true. So whales are warm blooded because whales are mammals and all mammals are warm blooded. We now have a credible statement. Here's another example. My car will be banned in Pleasantville. Now. This is a slightly different case because it's making a prediction. But let's label that claim why and apply deductive logic again. In this case, we could say, because cars with poor fuel economy are abandoned, Pleasantville and my car has poor fuel economy. So how does this work? While acts which is poor fuel economy causes? Why, which is the banning? We have data that X is true. The car has poor fuel economy. Therefore, our claim Why Haas to be true, This is a credible argument. Here's another example. Using educational technology improves student learning. Now it's called that claim. Why, unless bring in the deductive logic, because asynchronous access to learning materials after class improves learning by 23% and educational technology provides asynchronous access. So if asynchronous access causes improved learning, which is our claim, then we only need to know that Ed Tech and enables asynchronous access to justify that our claim is true. Okay, so those are examples of how this logic continues. A good trick to remember is to use words such as? Because, you know, this is a very powerful logic word. You can see how the word because was used in each of these examples. So way now know how to use deductive logic in order to make a credible argument. One more piece of the puzzle remains. What are the data in each of these cases? Remember when we use the word? Because we then had to substantiate that the cause is true to justify that our claim was true. And how do we do that? We used data. 4. Session 4 - In Data we Trust: What is the science of credible writing? In data we trust? One more piece of the puzzle remains. Remember, if we use the word because we have to substantiate that the cause is true to justify that our claim is true. How do we do that? We use data. We can't really trust claims on their owns. We need to bring in data to help justify our arguments. Let's assume that we want to write a case study report in writing a case study where the data but the data during the case itself and the kinds of data we should look for our data about the problem that the case presents, or the question that we've been asked about the case, not all data in a case they're going to be relevant. That's just the way real life works. The data that's relevant must be that that speaks to the opening claim in the paragraph, and the relevant data must also justify the truth or falseness of the logic Littman made about the claim. Relevance is critical because your opening claim makes a promise about what you're about to justify. What is the goal we're trying to achieve when looking for data to substantiate the claim. We want to explain how to improve the case outcomes. That's generally the type of question being asked. Something went well or something went poorly and what we learned to improve the situation in the future. And that's the point. Finally, we need to make critical choices when writing each paragraph. We need to determine not only what information to bring into the writing, but also one information to exclude one big mistake. I see managers and students doing is throwing, inasmuch data's they confined. But that signals to the reader a lack of critical thinking on the part of the author in terms of determining what data are relevant. Excluding data that does not directly add to the credibility of the claim shows that you have applied critical thinking to your writing. This is where you demonstrate to readers the value of the effort that you have put in. It takes effort and it takes practice. But it's very much appreciated by your audience because they know you've applied critical thinking about making the claim on That's how to write a good case study. Now we were writing research reports, the structure is a little bit different. This might be a report for management at the end of a research investigation or even a dissertation. We're going to see what changes and what stays the same incredible writing for a research report first, what's the source of the data that we're going to use while the source of the data is prior studies and or primary research that have something to say about how and why our claim works and what we did to inform our research question? A research question is stated in terms of factors that cause some effect. And the claim asserts that some factor causes Thea outcome or a cause and effect. So the information we're looking for is about the factors and how they cause the outcome. The relevance has to go back again to the clean. The claim in this case may be stated as I had apotheosis or a proposition these air statements that some cause and effect is true, but we have yet to verify Our goal and research report is to confirm or discomfort ERM the claim. We begin to justify the claim with logic, for example, that factor X causes our claim Why now? We need data to support the truth or falsehood of X, so we have to make very clear choices about what data to include and what data to exclude. This demonstrates the rigor and credibility of your research report as, ah, practice example for cases. Here's a mini case and three questions that might be used, for instance, in an essay question or as a basis for a management report. Since this is a case somewhere in the case, are the data that we require. The goal here is to find what day that we require from the case to answer the question and recognize what data we can leave out. You can pause the video here and try the sun you wrote. Here is another example try. This is another case full of data, some of which is completely irrelevant to the particular questions. And the goal here is to find what data you require from these cases to answer the given question and what data you can leave out these air good practice exercises that you can do now by pausing 5. Session 5 - Document Structure: What is the science of credible writing documents? Structure? We've just completed talking about data along with the previous learning sessions on logic and claims. We understand the three most difficult components of making a credible argument. How do you begin to write your report for management? First, think about the structure of each paragraph. We can use what we've learned to build a paragraph in five parts. The first part or sentence is the claim. Here. We state the premise of restate the question. In the second part, we bring in the deductive logic, which explains how the claim could be true. It should be credited to some credible source. In the third part, we bring in the relevant data. We use only data that fits into the logic to show that the claim is true or perhaps to disprove it. These were the three parts that we have previously learned, but now we had 1/4 part, a concluding sentence. We answer the question directly and or consider the implications of the proven claim for the topic. Overall, this answers. So what about the claim? Here? You can use content as appropriate, such as the advantages or disadvantages for instance, of what you found to be true or false or make recommendations. And finally, we are the fifth sentence. The qualification sentence, which talks about what we need to learn next. Given what we have just learned, let's look at an example. Here's a paragraph that fits quite well to this model, and you can see that I have the numbers. 12345 placed inside the paragraph to show you how this relates to the five part paragraph model that uses claim, logic and data as we've been learning. The first sentence is the claim. Second part talks about logic, how the claim works and why it might be true. The third brings in the data that then substantiate the logic and justifies the claim. See, now there's 1/4 part, a concluding sentence that essentially answers. A restates the claim now that it is justified with logic and data. And finally we see the fifth part of the qualification, which talks about what's next to know, and this links immediately to the opening claim of the next paragraph and so on. Each paragraph leads logically to the next and together the paragraphs and build a very credible document. What's brilliant about this five part paragraph is that if you use it paragraph after paragraph, you will have a structure for the entire document, which will be strong, logical, incredible. It's very powerful now. That is how we actually write a typical research reporter, a management report. Sometimes we're asked to write an executive summary. This could be at the opening of a particular report. Unfortunately, the executive summary is about all other managers actually read before they come to a meeting. So it has to be very powerful. They don't have the time to go through the full document structure. So for a one paragraph executive summary, we need to change the order of the five part structure. With one exception, we essentially turned the structure upside down. Let me show you what I mean. We want to start out with the conclusion, because that's the very first thing management's going to be interested in. The reader will then naturally think, OK, that's an interesting conclusion or recommendation. Do you have any data to substantiate it? And so next we mentioned here's the data or talks about the data that we used to back up the conclusion. Next, the reader will naturally think. OK, but how do you know that's the right data? How do you know that data justifies the conclusion? And that's when we bring in the logic or the theory that were used in a sentence or two stating that that's been supported by previous research. This leads the reader to think, Okay, that makes sense. But what was the purpose of all of this again? And so next we articulate the regional research question or claim the problem that set us out upon this research. And finally the reader thinks Okay, so what do we do next? And that's why the last sentence remains the qualification. What might be next could be more research, poor plan of action to be introduced. Here's an example of how this might work. I have a paragraph written for the same paper, but in this case as an executive summer, it starts with the conclusion that we should invest in know how before initiating digital transformation, the reader thinks. Okay, well, how do you know that? Well, in this report, we have data to show that know how enables decision makers to accurately understand and act on information the reader thinks Oh, okay, I see. And what logic is that based upon? So the executive summary says, Well, there's a science for this. Know how is a critical factor? Because literature shows the transformation involves a number of decisions and so on. Finally, the reader thinks, Okay, that's interesting. Why did we research this again? So the summary restates management's original question. Do we have sufficient knowledge to manage digital transformation? You do things. Okay, So what next? The summary in this case finishes by suggesting that future research is necessary to determine what know how is needed. This makes for a good executive, summery.