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.
David Wright, Furman University English Department
(printable version here)
One method of constructing or analyzing a persuasive argument is the Toulmin model, named for its creator, British rhetorician Stephen Toulmin. The method involves breaking an argument down into six basic parts, objectively weighing and supporting points both for and against the argument. Below, Prof. David Furman has provided a video outlining the uses and parts of the Toulmin model of argumentation. After watching the video, you can test your knowledge of the Toulmin Model with a short Toulmin Model Exercise.
You can also see the video on Youtube.
Transcribed notes:1. The Toulmin model breaks an argument down into six main parts:
- Claim: assertion one wishes to prove.
- Evidence: support or rationale for the claim.
- Warrant: the underlying connection between the claim and evidence, or why the evidence supports the claim.
- Backing: tells audience why the warrant is a rational one. In scholarly essays, the warrant and backing would be the areas most supported by factual evidence to support the legitimacy of their assertion. In causal arguments, the warrant and backing are often taken for granted.
- Counterargument/ Rebuttal: addresses potential objections to the claim.
- Qualifier: additions to the claim that add nuance and specificity to its assumption, helping to counter rebuttals.
2. The Toulmin model can be used as a framework to test an argument's validity by identifying the claim, evidence, warrants, backing, counterarguments, and qualifiers. In an academic essay, the warrant and backing would be allotted the most in-depth discussion because these aspects are normally unstated and taken for granted in causal arguments.
3. The Toulmin model provides writers with a way to formulate or test an argument in detail, but:
- The effectiveness of the model depends on how well one thinks critically and creatively about his or her arguments.
- The model only acts as a heuristic for constructing an argument, not for writing the paper itself.
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