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Discussion is a method to organise information about a topic into a form of hierarchical thread of arguments trying to resolve whether a statement is true or not. In discussion, anyone can raise any relevant points about the topic. Discussion is organised using the pragma-dialectical argumentation theory[1]. A discussion usually consists of three parts: 1) the statement(s); 2) the actual discussion, organised as hierarchical threads of arguments; and 3) the resolution of discussion. Once a discussion reaches a resolution, the resolution should be accordingly portrayed within the object description.

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How should discussions be organised in such a way that

  • they can capture all kinds of written and spoken information,
  • there are straightforward rules about how the information should be handled,
  • the approach facilitates the convergence to the truth by easily eliminating false information.


A discussion structure

How to read discussions

Statements: Statements about a topic.

Resolution: Outcome of the discussion.

(Resolved, i.e., the resolution has been updated to the main page.)


1 : This argument attacks the statement. Arguments always point to one level up in the hierarchy. --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

2 : This argument defends argument #1. --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
3 This is an invalid defense of #1 because it is successfully attacked by argument #4. --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
4 : This is a valid attack against argument #3, because it is itself not successfully attacked. --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
5: This is a branch. The argument one level higher (#4 in this case) defends this argument, but this argument points to a new statement, not the original one of this discussion. --Jouni 10:10, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
--6 : This is a comment. It clarifies the discussion but does not invalidate arguments. --Jouni (talk) 17:38, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

Discussion rules
  1. A discussion is organised around an explicit statement or statements. The purpose of the discussion is to resolve whether the statement is acceptable or not, or which of the statements, if any, are acceptable.
  2. The statement is defended or attacked using arguments, which also can be defended and attacked. This forms a hierarchical thread structure.
  3. An argument is valid unless it is attacked by a valid argument. Defending arguments are used to protect arguments against attacks, but if an attack is successful, it is stronger than the defense.
  4. Attacks must be based on one of the three kinds of arguments:
    • The attacked argument is irrelevant in its context.
    • The attacked argument is illogical.
    • The attacked argument is not consistent with observations.
  5. Other attacks such as those based on evaluation of the speaker (argumentum ad hominem) are weak and are treated as comments rather than attacks.
  6. Discussions are continuous. This means that anyone can write down a resolution based on the current situation at any point. Discussion can still continue, and the resolution is updated if it changes based on new arguments.


How to discuss

Open collaboration embraces participation, in particular deliberative participation. Therefore all contributions in the form of remarks or argumentative criticism on the content of the assessments, variables, methods as well as other content are most welcome. The contributions can change the outcome of the assessments by improving their information content and making it better understandable for decision makers, stakeholders and public. Documented discussions also show the reasoning behind the work done in assessments making it possible for decision makers, stakeholders and public to judge for themselves whether they agree with the reasoning behind the outcomes. In order to obtain an orderly discussion, rules and format for discussion in open collaboration have been created building on pragma-dialectics, a systematic theory of argumentation.

Discussion has a central role in the collaborative process of formulating questions, developing hypotheses as answers to these questions, and improving these hypotheses through challenges and corresponding corrections. When a diverse group of contributors participate in an assessment, it is obvious that disputes may arise. Formal argumentation offers a solution also to deal with the disputes. In collaborative assessments every information object, and every part of these objects, is subject to open criticism according to the following rules:

  1. Freedom of opinion. Everyone has the right to criticise the content of an assessment.
  2. Critique with supporting arguments or comment or remarks is stated in connection to what is being criticized
  3. Comments, remarks, statements and argumentation must be relevant to the issue that they relate to.
  4. Only statements made and arguments given can be attacked.
  5. Comments, remarks, statements and argumentation can NOT be redundant. They cannot be repeated.
  6. The one who states criticism is supposed to be committed to the statements, that is:
a) if someone doubts the statement, one must explain it.
b) if someone attacks the statement, one must defend it.
c) if someone doubts an argument, one must explain it.
d) if someone attacks an argument, one must defend it.

A discussion has three parts:

  • A statement or a list of conflicting statements relevant to the information object it relates to. In a case where only one statement is presented, there is always an implicit, conflicting statement that the presented statement is not acceptable.
  • Argumentation, containing the actual discussion and organised as hierarchical threads of arguments. Each argument is either an attack against or a defence for an argument or a statement. Each argument is valid unless it has no proponents (a discussant promoting the argument) or it is attacked by a valid argument. Also neutral comments can be used for asking or offering clarification. Comments do not affect the validity of the target argument.
  • Resolution of the discussion. Resolution may be such that a) one of the statements is accepted, b) one of the statements is accepted with some modifications, or c) two or more statements still remain valid after the discussion; thus, an outcome does not necessarily mean that the disputes were resolved. When a discussion reaches a a resolution, it actually means that the outcome is incorporated into the actual information content of the particular object the discussion related to. It should be noted that resolutions are always temporary and discussions can be opened again with new arguments.

See also


  1. Eemeren, F.H. van, & Grootendorst, R. (2004). A systematic theory of argumentation: The pragma-dialectical approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Related files


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