How To Write a Toulmin Argument
How do you begin writing a Toulmin argument? First, understand your topic. Key to this is carefully researching background information relevant to the subject of your essay or position paper. For example, if your chosen topic is the legalization of euthanasia, research on the historical development of euthanasia as a medical practice, the implications of euthanasia from legal and moral perspectives, relevant statistics concerning the rate of euthanasia practiced across the United States, and existing alternatives to euthanasia, to name a few.
More importantly, identify the issue at hand. With regard to the topic of euthanasia, a possible issue might be: should euthanasia be legalized? There are other more interesting issues. Do not limit yourself to what is obvious or what is already widely talked about. Doing so will make your essay or position paper just another one of the thousands of essays or position papers which have already tackled the same issue.
Now that you have researched information most relevant to your topic and identified the issue, what is the next step? The next step is to categorize your researched information according to the following elements of a Toulmin argument: data/grounds, claim, warrants, qualifiers, rebuttals, and backing statements. Refer here to understand more about these elements.
After categorizing your researched information according to their appropriate categories in a Toulmin argument, structure your essay or position paper according to the order of decreasing strength of arguments. Place your strongest arguments on the first few body paragraphs of your essay. Consequently, put your least strong arguments on the latter body paragraphs. You can use a topic sentence in starting your paragraphs so that you can keep track of the flow of your arguments.
Provide a conclusion that restates your position on the issue. You may summarize your key points or reiterate your main arguments in support of your position. You may also provide a challenge to your readers, such as writing the negative consequences if your position on the issue is not accepted.
Keep in mind a few things. Avoid anticipating how your readers might react. Use more of the logos than ethos. That is, use more appeal to reason than appeal to emotion. Another reminder is to be as specific as possible in mentioning your statistics or numbers. Use credible sources and cite them appropriately. This will give more authority to the points you raise. Effective rebuttals are those which recognize the strength of the objections but overturn them by showing their negative effects when accepted.
A secret to writing an effective Toulmin argument is having as many sources of information as possible.
You may want to read our Toulmin argument sample, or know more what a Toulmin argument is.
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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.