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Computer-Supported Argumentation: A Review of the State-of-the-Art

Oliver Scheuer; Frank Loll; Niels Pinkwart; Bruce McLaren
In: International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (ijCSCL), Vol. 5, No. 1, Pages 43-102, Springer, 3/2010.


Argumentation is an important skill to learn. It is valuable not only in many professional contexts, such as the law, science, politics, and business, but also in everyday life. However, not many people are good arguers. In response to this, researchers and practitioners over the past 15–20 years have developed software tools both to support and teach argumentation. Some of these tools are used in individual fashion, to present students with the “rules” of argumentation in a particular domain and give them an opportunity to practice, while other tools are used in collaborative fashion, to facilitate communication and argumentation between multiple, and perhaps distant, participants. In this paper, we review the extensive literature on argumentation systems, both individual and collaborative, and both supportive and educational, with an eye toward particular aspects of the past work. More specifically, we review the types of argument representations that have been used, the various types of interaction design and ontologies that have been employed, and the system architecture issues that have been addressed. In addition, we discuss intelligent and automated features that have been imbued in past systems, such as automatically analyzing the quality of arguments and providing intelligent feedback to support and/or tutor argumentation. We also discuss a variety of empirical studies that have been done with argumentation systems, including, among other aspects, studies that have evaluated the effect of argument diagrams (e.g., textual versus graphical), different representations, and adaptive feedback on learning argumentation. Finally, we conclude by summarizing the “lessons learned” from this large and impressive body of work, particularly focusing on lessons for the CSCL research community and its ongoing efforts to develop computer-mediated collaborative argumentation systems.


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