Students and researchers need to be aware of fallacies (i.e., bad or faulty arguments) in their work. Here, for example, we\u2019re going to look at the false dilemma fallacy. Read on to find out what this is and how to avoid it in your writing.\nWhat Is the False Dilemma Fallacy?\nThe false dilemma fallacy involves incorrectly presenting something as a choice between a limited set of options (usually two). Also known as a "false dichotomy" or "either-or fallacy," such arguments typically have two key features:\n\n \tThey present options as mutually exclusive. This means only one can be true (e.g., X could be true, or Y could be true, but X and Y can\u2019t both be true).\n \tThey present these options as exhaustive. This means there are no other possibilities available (e.g., X or Y could be true, but there is no Z option).\n\nHowever, arguments presented like this are often misleading. For instance, they may leave out other options or hide the possibility of finding a middle ground somewhere. You should therefore treat such arguments with caution.\n\nLet\u2019s take a look at some examples of false dilemmas to see how they work.\nExample False Dilemma #1\nWe can see an example of an argument with misleading or "false" exclusivity below:\nCoursework is a better predictor of final grades than exams among most school children. As such, we should eliminate exams and focus entirely on coursework.\nThis focuses first on how well coursework and exams predict final grades, then goes on to argue that this makes coursework the only good option.\n\nHowever, this is also a false dilemma! It misleadingly presents a choice between exams and coursework as an "either-or" situation. But schools can use both methods of assessment, so they are not exclusive alternatives. A more pertinent question would be how they are used and the balance between the two.\nExample False Dilemma #2\nIn terms of false dilemmas excluding possibilities, take the following argument:\nEither we increase capital punishment or accept that crime levels will rise.\nHere, the issue is presented as a set of two mutually exclusive, exhaustive options:\n\n \tIncrease use of capital punishment.\n \tLet crime levels rise unchecked.\n\nTaken at face value, this may seem like a convincing argument, since it implies that being against the death penalty is essentially being "pro-crime."\n\nBut is this a fair way of presenting the debate over capital punishment? The causes of crime are complex and disputed. Consequently, it seems unlikely that criminality in general can be addressed with one simple solution. And if we present the death penalty as the only way to reduce crime, we're guilty of the false dilemma fallacy.\nHow to Avoid the False Dilemma Fallacy\nThe key in both of the examples above is that they force a choice between mutually exclusive possibilities. But while the simplicity of such black-and-white thinking may be appealing, it can lead us to overlook the reality of the situations at hand.\n\nThe best way to avoid the false dilemma fallacies is thus to be skeptical about "either-or" situations. If something is presented as either X or Y, with no other possibilities, think about what may have been left out from the situation.\n\nThis isn\u2019t to say that "either-or" arguments are always wrong! Sometimes the circumstances or logic dictates a binary choice. The key, though, is being aware of when something has been falsely set up as a binary.\n\nAnother helpful tip is to get your work proofread. This will help you to communicate your ideas clearly, ensuring that you don\u2019t accidentally present something as a false dilemma. Submit a free trial document today to find out more.