What is an argument?
The model can be used both when constructing and when analysing arguments. For analyses it can be used both on individual statements in short texts such as a commercial or an email, and for analysing the overall arguments in longer texts such as an editorial, a documentary or a speech.
Toulmin’s basic model
- what the sender wants the receiver to think/do/believe
- the answer to the question “What are you trying to prove?” or “What’s your point?”
- can often be found by looking for: “so…” or “therefore…”
- There are three main types of claims
- Facts e.g.: “I am an adult.”
- Values e.g.: “The Matrix is a good movie.”
- Policies e.g.: “Drinking alcohol should be prohibited.”
Grounds (aka support, evidence, data)
- an answer to the question, “How so?” “Why do you think so?” or “Prove it!”
- can often be found by looking for: “because…” or “since…”
- the assumption the claim and grounds depend on. The warrant explains why the grounds supports the claim.
- can apply to many claims and grounds. Is not specific to this situation.
- if someone disagrees with an argument, it is usually because they disagree with the warrant
- will often be implicit (unspoken), because the speaker assumes you agree with his values or assumptions. If so, you will need to infer it.
Together, the three basic elements of an argument determine whether an argument is logically valid.
Example of basic analysis
Toulmin’s full model
- evidence (support, reasons) for the warrant.
- especially important if the receiver has not already accepted the warrant.
- Marks the reliability or probability of a claim’s truth
- E.g: “beyond reasonable doubt”, “possibly”, “definitely”, “maybe”, “probably”, “certainly”, etc.
Rebuttal (aka reservation)
- the noted circumstances when the claim does not apply.
- The exception to the claim
Together, the three secondary elements of an argument determine how strong the argument is.