How to Identify and Use Premise and Conclusion Indicator Words

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

This lesson provides examples of words that can be used to indicate the different parts of an argument. You will also learn when these clues can steer you wrong and how to avoid this trap.

Premise vs. Conclusion

When you think of the word 'argument,' you probably imagine two people yelling at one another or having some sort of a fight. However, when we're discussing critical thinking, an argument is a term used to describe something that can be far less dramatic than that. An argument, in this context, is simply a statement, or set of statements, that includes at least one premise and a conclusion. A premise includes the reasons and evidence behind a conclusion. A conclusion is the statement that the premise supports and is a way of promoting a certain belief or point of view. To help us better identify the premise and conclusion of an argument, we can take a look at indicator words.

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  • 0:00 Premise vs. Conclusion
  • 0:41 The Role of Indicator Words
  • 1:57 Missing Indicator Words
  • 3:07 Special Cases
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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The Role of Indicator Words

Consider the following argument:

Since carrots are full of vitamins, it follows that your body will benefit if you eat them.

In this argument, how do we know which part is considered the premise and which part is the conclusion? The premise here is the fact that carrots are full of vitamins. The conclusion is that your body will benefit from you eating carrots.

This statement about carrots includes indicator words. Indicator words provide assistance to you when you are trying to identify an argument and its parts. The phrase Since carrots are full of vitamins uses the indicator word 'since' which is often associated with premises. The last part of the sentence uses the phrase, 'it follows that' to show that it is a conclusion.

Examples of words or phrases that are typically included in premises:

  • because
  • since
  • given that
  • seeing that
  • as shown by
  • assuming that
  • considering that
  • for the reason that

Examples of words or phrases that are typically included in conclusions:

  • therefore
  • thus
  • it follows that
  • which proves/implies that
  • which means that
  • as a result
  • so
  • we may conclude

Missing Indicator Words

A premise and a conclusion may not always look so neat and easy to identify. Sometimes the order will be different than our example. Often there are multiple sentences instead of just one sentence, like we've used here. Sometimes there will be no indicator words used at all! It's important to consider all of the information you are receiving to help you determine if an argument is being made and which is the premise versus the conclusion.

Let's consider another statement about carrots:

Carrots have significant vitamin content, according to research. Eating them will benefit your body.

This argument includes a premise and a conclusion without ever using any indicator words. However, you can identify that it is an argument, and which part is which, by thinking through what is being discussed. Clearly, the person making the statement is making the case for eating carrots and giving evidence for why this is a good thing to do. Indicator words can be helpful when you want to make an argument or when you are trying to identify one, but they don't always have to be included. They are clues that are nice to have and can make things clearer, but they are not always present in arguments.

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