Toulmin Argument

ToulminThe Toulmin method, developed by philosopher Stephen Toulmin (pictured on the right), is essentially a structure for analyzing arguments. But the elements for analysis are so clear and structured that many professors now have students write argumentative essays with the elements of the Toulmin method in mind.

This type of argument works well when there are no clear truths or absolute solutions to a problem. Toulmin arguments take into account the complex nature of most situations.

There are six elements for analyzing, and, in this case, presenting arguments that are important to the Toulmin method.

These elements of a Toulmin analysis can help you as both a reader and a writer. When you’re analyzing arguments as a reader, you can look for these elements to help you understand the argument and evaluate its validity. When you’re writing an argument, you can include these same elements in to ensure your audience will see the validity in your claims.

Claims — The claim is a statement of opinion that the author is asking her or his audience to accept as true.

Example:

There should be more laws to regulate texting while driving in order to cut down on dangerous car accidents.

Grounds  The grounds are the facts, data, or reasoning upon which the claim is based. Essentially, the grounds are the facts making the case for the claim.

Example:

The National Safety Council estimates that 1.6 million car accidents per year are caused by cell phone use and texting.

Warrant  The warrant is what links the grounds to the claim. This is what makes the audience understand how the grounds are connected to supporting the claim. Sometimes, the warrant is implicit (not directly stated), but the warrant can be stated directly as well. As a writer, you are making assumptions about what your audience already believes, so you have to think about how clear your warrant is and if you need to state it directly for your audience. You must also think about whether or not a warrant is actually an unproven claim.

Example:

Being distracted by texting on a cell phone while driving a car is dangerous and causes accidents.

Backing  The backing gives additional support for the claim by addressing different questions related to your claim.

Example:

With greater fines and more education about the consequences, people might think twice about texting and driving.

Qualifier  The qualifier is essentially the limits to the claim or an understanding that the claim is not true in all situations. Qualifiers add strength to claims because they help the audience understand the author does not expect her or his opinion to be true all of the time or for her or his ideas to work all of the time. If writers use qualifiers that are too broad, such as “always” or “never,” their claims can be really difficult to support. Qualifiers like “some” or “many” help limit the claim, which can add strength to the claim.

Example:

There should be more laws to regulate texting while driving in order to cut down on some of the dangerous car accidents that happen each year.

Rebuttal  The rebuttal is when the author addresses the opposing views. The author can use a rebuttal to pre-empt counter arguments, making the original argument stronger.

Example:

Although police officers are busy already, making anti-texting laws a priority saves time, money, and lives. Local departments could add extra staff to address this important priority.

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