What I will propose here is a simple mnemonic to use as a general guide. It might not get us to the truth, but it will help us on the road to it, indeed, it is especially useful in seeing our views and beliefs in context. The tool, more or less comes from Socrates himself, as it is largely based on his Socratic Method.
S - State your position.
E - Evidence
P - Process (how did you come to your conclusion)
A - Alternatives
R - Recap and Review.
1. State you position
What is your belief? What is it you propose? Boil your belief, thoughts or views down to the fundamentals. Come to terms (understanding precisely the use of words and language) not only with yourself but with others. This is another source of value concening this tool - it can be directed at other people. For example, rather than engage someone in an argument where you are not sure that they believe what you think they believe (the epistemic fallacy) - the use of SEPAR, then, wil make youl more likely to find out the real grounds of dispute (if there is real dispute at all).
2.E for evidence.
What evidence do you have for your views? There is, of course, a number of additional questions- what kind of evidence is required to establish such and such? What would verify or falsify the belief? How reliable is the evidence? What source did I get the evidence from? Did I uncover it myself, or did I get it from a source? How reliable then, is the source? Do they (the source) have agendas?
One final note, once again, without going into modal logic, facts should never be disputed unless for very good reason, opinions are opinions and should be treated as such. This is fundamental, but it is something that can get missed. If debate turns on the question of facts - the best thing to do is consult an expert authority or a encyclopaedia or expert text.
3. P for Process.
How did you arrive at your conclusions? Was it a long process of inquiry and discovery, or did it come in a dream say, or a spark of inspiration? Have you, though, spent considerable time pondering the issue at hand? Do you have any recognised expertise on the topic? Have you read the “required” reading in the field? Was your inquiry open-ended or did you already know the answer before you began? Did you start out with an opposite view to that which you ended with?
4. A for Alternatives.
Who opposes you views or beliefs and why? Name two authorities who disagree with you and why they do. Do you believe that you have an accurate and fair understanding of their position? Why then, do you believe they are wrong? Have you got a persuasive "error theory" as to why they are wrong? What evidence would change you mind?
5. R for Recap, Review and Recapitulate.
Pretty much says it all. Review and check your beliefs regularly. Test them and make sure they are up to snuff like a man kicking his tyres. “Seek out argument and disputation for its own sake” and as a means of testing and strengthening your position. Always ask yourself “how can I be wrong?”. Try and be as sure as you can why you think you are right.