How to Use Toulmin Analysis with Examples
Why Use the Toulmin Method?
The Toulmin model is most helpful if you have a controversial argument topic. The steps of this kind of analysis help you to find places of agreement with your audience so that you are more convincing. Here are the basic steps:
- Think About Your Audience: This technique asks you to think carefully about your audience and what they believe so that you can argue more effectively.
- Consider Assumptions: In addition, you will have to provide strong backing for your ideas and consider your own assumptions and those of your audience.
- Be Willing to Change: You might also state whether you might be willing to change your position, or else qualify your argument to say when and where it applies.
To help you develop your analysis, I am giving you some exercises that you can use to clarify your argument and audience. By answering the questions, you will be developing the arguments and evidence you will use in your essay.
Making An Argument Claim
Your first job is choosing a topic. Look at some of my articles for topic ideas if you need help. Next, you will turn your topic idea into a claim statement, which means the actual idea you want to argue for.
As you answer these questions, you will be able to identify what sort of an argument you are making. It is important to identify what kind of a claim you are making, to be sure that you don't try to say too much:
- Fact: What happened? Is it true? Does it exist? Is it a fact?
- Definition: What is it? How do we classify it? How should we define it?
- Cause: What caused it? What are the effects? Why did it happen? What will be the results on a short and/or long-term basis?
- Value: Is it good or bad? Effective or ineffective? Moral or immoral? Who thinks so? What criteria shall we use to decide?
- Policy: What should we do? How shall we solve this problem? Who can solve it? (possible targets for action: laws/policies, education, individual action)
Making an Outline
Here are questions you can answer to help you define the different parts of your argument.
- Claim: I want the audience to believe ______________________ (this is your thesis).
- Support/sub-claims: They should believe this because (list reasons).
- Warrant: What values do I hold which make me believe this claim? Are these the same as my audience? How can I create common ground?
- Backing: Who is my audience? Do they have the same warrants that I have? What warrants do my audience and I have in common? What evidence or reasons can I give to make my audience believe we have common ground?
- Rebuttal: What are the other positions on this issue? Which ones do I need to discuss in my paper? How can I show that my position is better?
- Qualifier: Should I state my argument in absolute terms (always, never, the best, the worst) or add some probable terms (sometimes, probably, if, or possibly)?
Teacher Explanation and Student Examples
Evaluating Your Audience
Understanding the values and thoughts of your audience is essential in a Toulmin argument. Here are some questions to help you analyze your audience:
- Who is my audience?
- What do they believe about your issue?
- What common beliefs or common ground do I have with my audience?
- What beliefs or constraints might cause my audience to not believe my claim?
- What background information do I need to provide to help my audience understand my claim?
Finding Common Ground
In order to formulate an effective argument, you need to find common ground with your audience. While there is some value in arguments which “preach to the choir” and “rally the troops” to support something they already strongly believe, most arguments are more effective if they seek to persuade an audience which is undecided or not strongly in favor of your position. Consider the following:
- What do you want your audience to believe/do after reading your paper?
- What are the warrants (values or strong beliefs) your audience holds about this type of subject?
- How are your warrants (values or strong beliefs) different or the same as those of your audience?
- Where do you and your audience have common ground?What basic needs, values, and beliefs do you share?
Examples of needs and values that motivate most audiences: basic needs, health, financial well-being, affection and friendship, respect and esteem of others, self-esteem, new experience, self-actualization, and convenience.
- Which of these needs and values would be most effective for this audience?
- Which of these motivations are most appropriate for my claim?
How Claims relate to Audience Needs
Sample Claim Idea
Food, clothing and shelter
Policy: How can we ensure that all people have access to clean water?
Financial Well Being
Job security and ability to move up in job.
Policy: What should be the minimum wage?
Affection and Friendship
Feel needed by others and cared for.
Definition: What is bullying?
Respect and Esteem of others
Able to lead or join in a cause.
Cause: What causes low self esteem?
Travel and try new hobbies.
Fact: What is ecotourism?
Ability to get an education.
Value: How important is a college education?
No long lines or shortages.
Policy: Should you stop eating all fast food?
Access to doctors and health care.
Cause: What causes most people to not take all their prescription medicine?
Won't be robbed or harmed.
Cause: Does gun control cause less violent crime?
Laws that are fair and courts to carry out justice.
Definition: Does the sex offender registry system violate rights?
Ability to have children and spend time with relatives.
Value: How important is having children?
Understanding Arguments You Read
This model can also be used when you read an argument essay so that you can better analyze the author's writing. Here are questions you can ask as you are reading:
- Claim: The author wants me to believe ___________.
- Support and sub claims: I should believe this because___________.
- Warrants: Why is this claim important to the author? (assumptions and/or values the author holds)
- Backing for Warrants: What evidence does the author give to remind me of warrants and make me want to accept them?
- Rebuttal: Are other positions shown? Are they refuted or discussed?
- Qualifier: Is there anything which suggests the claim might be limited (sometimes, probably, possibly, if)?
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