What is the Toulmin Method?
The Toulmin Method of Argumentation is a complex argumentation structure that allows you to establish your argument while considering your opponents’ points of view. While this method is intended for giving complex and well-supported arguments that are mindful of what opponents will say in response to your claims, the Toulmin Method is a one-sided argument that does not attempt to build common ground, as the Rogerian Method does.
The goal of the Toulmin Method is to persuade the reader that your argument is reasonable and effective based on thorough research and organization.
When Do I Use the Toulmin Method?
You will find the Toulmin Method most useful to write theoretical essays or academic papers. The Toulmin Method is effective in presenting thorough support for your argument. Thus, it is ideal for arguments in which there will be much dissent or controversy surrounding the argument. It is also useful for making complex arguments.
How Does the Toulmin Method Work?
When you write using the Toulmin Method, you need to be prepared to know and explain every facet of your argument. The goal is to be as detailed and persuasive about your argument as possible, countering opposing views etc.
The main elements that are typically included in the Toulmin Method are as follows:
- Claim: A claim is the main argument that you are trying to express. In terms of the 5-Paragraph Essay, it’s the thesis statement.
- Grounds: The grounds are what the claim is based on. It is the supporting evidence that is needed to understand and accept the claim.
- Warrant: The warrant is the piece that connects the grounds to the claim. It explains how you got from the information in the grounds to the claim. It may include legal principles, ethical principles, and laws of nature, etc.
- Backing: This is the support and justification for the warrant.
- Qualifiers: Qualifiers limit your claim by placing conditions on the arguments that do not fully support the claim. These are the “usually,” “will likely,” and “possibly” claims that are not certain.
- Rebuttal: The rebuttal is where you identify opposing arguments to your claim. Any argument will have rebuttals, so this is where you would identify them, to present that you have acknowledged that they exist and can give your evidence to counter these claims.
The Toulmin Method may not convince an opposing party that you are right, but it shows that you have solid evidence and reasoning behind your argument, regardless of what they may think of the argument itself.
The image below shows how the parts of the Toulmin Method are all connected to one another and perhaps don’t necessarily follow a linear format as the steps listed above suggest. The steps only show one possible way of organizing the Toulmin Method. The image shows that there may be a need to go back and re-visit different steps in order to fully support all areas of the argument.
Example of the Toulmin Method
Imagine that you want to present an argument stating that smoking tobacco should be banned on all college campuses. This would be your claim.
The grounds on which you would base this claim would possibly note the health risks associated with secondhand smoke.
The warrant may present the idea that the health risks of secondhand smoke hinder learning, which may be warranted by a study that shows the effects of secondhand smoke on learning.
It may be appropriate to indicate that the health risks will “possibly” hinder learning, or that the hindrance occurs only in at risk groups such as those with asthma to qualify the argument.
A rebuttal to the argument could be that smoking tobacco is a way that some students relax in between classes or that it is only harmful if extremely high levels of secondary smoke are ingested.
Toulmin, Stephen, et al. An Introduction to Reasoning. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979.
Organizing Your Argument
These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.
Contributors: Stacy Weida, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2017-06-19 09:33:00
How can I effectively present my argument?
Use an organizational structure that arranges the argument in a way that will make sense to the reader. The Toulmin Method of logic is a common and easy to use formula for organizing an argument.
The basic format for the Toulmin Method is as follows.
Claim: The overall thesis the writer will argue for.
Data: Evidence gathered to support the claim.
Warrant (also referred to as a bridge): Explanation of why or how the data supports the claim, the underlying assumption that connects your data to your claim.
Backing (also referred to as the foundation): Additional logic or reasoning that may be necessary to support the warrant.
Counterclaim: A claim that negates or disagrees with the thesis/claim.
Rebuttal: Evidence that negates or disagrees with the counterclaim.
Including a well-thought-out warrant or bridge is essential to writing a good argumentative essay or paper. If you present data to your audience without explaining how it supports your thesis your readers may not make a connection between the two or they may draw different conclusions.
Don't avoid the opposing side of an argument. Instead, include the opposing side as a counterclaim. Find out what the other side is saying and respond to it within your own argument. This is important so that the audience is not swayed by weak, but unrefuted, arguments. Including counterclaims allows you to find common ground with more of your readers. It also makes you look more credible because you appear to be knowledgeable about the entirety of the debate rather than just being biased or uninformed. You may want to include several counterclaims to show that you have thoroughly researched the topic.
Claim: Hybrid cars are an effective strategy to fight pollution.
Data1: Driving a private car is a typical citizen's most air polluting activity.
Warrant 1: Because cars are the largest source of private, as opposed to industry produced, air pollution, switching to hybrid cars should have an impact on fighting pollution.
Data 2: Each vehicle produced is going to stay on the road for roughly 12 to 15 years.
Warrant 2: Cars generally have a long lifespan, meaning that a decision to switch to a hybrid car will make a long-term impact on pollution levels.
Data 3: Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor.
Warrant 3: This combination of technologies means that less pollution is produced. According to ineedtoknow.org "the hybrid engine of the Prius, made by Toyota, produces 90 percent fewer harmful emissions than a comparable gasoline engine."
Counterclaim: Instead of focusing on cars, which still encourages a culture of driving even if it cuts down on pollution, the nation should focus on building and encouraging use of mass transit systems.
Rebuttal: While mass transit is an environmentally sound idea that should be encouraged, it is not feasible in many rural and suburban areas, or for people who must commute to work; thus hybrid cars are a better solution for much of the nation's population.