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9.7.2: Toulmin Argumentation

  • Page ID
    20620
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    Figure: Image by Pixabay

    Toulmin argumentation was developed by Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher and educator. He broke down arguments into component parts: claims, grounds, warrants, qualifiers, rebuttals, and backing. This back-argumentation method can be used to both build an argument and analyze the strength of someone else's argument (and perhaps counter-argue if the argument you are reading is weak in some way). The components of a Toulmin argument do not need to appear in any particular order, but for ease of reading, it can make sense for them to be organized as follows: Backing, Warrant, Grounds, Qualifier, Claim, Rebuttal. Typically, however, in academic essays a number of arguments nest or connect together to build an overall argument.

    The Claim

    The claim is the main argument -- what is being argued overall. One could think of it as a thesis of a paper, if the argument is an entire essay.

    Grounds

    Grounds are the evidence and facts that support a claim.

    Warrant

    The warrant is the stated or implied assumption that connects warrants and grounds. Sometimes a warrant may be so obvious that it is hard to identify. Other times the warrant (assumption) can be flawed (see logical fallacies).

    Qualifiers

    Qualifiers are statement that "hedge" the claim or state that the claim may not be true all of the time. Hedge words, such as "some," "many," "most of the time" are included in qualifying statements many times.

    Rebuttals

    A rebuttal is the same thing as a counter-argument. Please see the next section for more detail.

    Backing

    Backing is support for the warrant, even if the warrant is implied.

    Example of a Simple Toulmin Argument

    Here is an example of a simple Toulmin argument that can be developed further (easily into a whole essay). The part of the argument is highlighted in gray after the statement.

    A number of people and organizations have been calling for turning investor-owned utilities, particularly Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), into public utilities because they think it will make the utilities more accountable. [Backing] Public utilities have boards that can be directly voted in by the people. [Warrant] There are already a number of successful public utilities throughout the U.S., including in California. [Grounds] However, this would depend on people making the right choice of directors for the utility. [Qualifier.] If this occurred, turning investor-owned utilities into public utilities in California might make PG&E more directly accountable to the people it serves in California. [Claim]

    Exercise 1

    Identify a claim on a social media site. Then try to identify the different components of a Toulmin argument, particularly any unstated warrants, and examine whether any component is missing or problematic (i.e., includes logical fallacies or emotional appeals).

    Exercise 2

    Do the same as in Exercise 1, but with an article from a popular magazine or a political speech. How many claims and Toulmin arguments can you identify in the speech or article? How are they related to each other? Does one depend on the other? Are they separate? Are some of the arguments developed logically and some not? Evaluate the various arguments you find.

    Here are links to a couple of speeches you can use for Exercise 2

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Revision, Adaptation, and Original Content. Provided by: Libretexts. License: CC BY-SA 4.0: Attribution.

    This page most recently updated on June 6, 2020.


    This page titled 9.7.2: Toulmin Argumentation is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .