What Is the Toulmin Model of Argument?

Definition and Examples

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The Toulmin model (or system) is a six-part model of argument (with similarities to the syllogism) introduced by British philosopher Stephen Toulmin in his 1958 book The Uses of Argument

The Toulmin model (or "system") can be used as a tool for developing, analyzing, and categorizing arguments.

Purpose of the Toulmin Model

"When I wrote [The Uses of Argument], my aim was strictly philosophical: to criticize the assumption, made by most Anglo-American academic philosophers, that any significant argument can be put in formal terms ... In no way had I set out to expound a theory of rhetoric or argumentation: my concern was with twentieth-century epistemology, not informal logic. Still less had I in mind an analytical model like that which, among scholars of Communication, came to be called 'the Toulmin model,'" (Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument, revised ed. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003).

The Six Components of an Effective Argument

"What is it that makes arguments work? What makes arguments effective? The British logician Stephen Toulmin made important contributions to argument theory that are useful for this line of inquiry. Toulmin found six components of arguments:

  • Claim: A statement that something is so.
  • Data: The backing for the claim.
  • Warrant: The link between the claim and the grounds.
  • Backing: Support for the warrant.
  • Modality: The degree of certainty employed in offering the argument.
  • Rebuttal: Exceptions to the initial claim," (J. Meany and K. Shuster, Art, Argument, and Advocacy. IDEA, 2002).

"[Toulmin's] general model of 'data' leading to a 'claim,' mediated by a 'warrant' with any necessary 'backing,' has been very influential as a new standard of logical thinking, particularly among scholars of rhetoric and speech communication. He takes seriously the contexts in which arguments emerge and looks to evaluate them in ways relevant to those contexts," (C. W. Tindale, Rhetorical Argumentation. Sage, 2004).

Using the Toulmin System

"Use the seven-part Toulmin system to begin to develop an argument ... Here is the Toulmin system:

  1. Make your claim.
  2. Restate or qualify your claim.
  3. Present good reasons to support your claim.
  4. Explain the underlying assumptions that connect your claim and your reasons. If an underlying assumption is controversial, provide backing for it.
  5. Provide additional grounds to support your claim.
  6. Acknowledge and respond to possible counterarguments.
  7. Draw a conclusion, stated as strongly as possible," (Lex Runciman, et al., Exercises for the Everyday Writer, 4th ed. Beford/St. Martin's, 2009).

The Toulmin Model and the Syllogism

"Toulmin's model actually boils down to a rhetorical expansion of the syllogism ... Although the reactions of others are anticipated, the model is primarily directed at representing the argumentation for the standpoint of the speaker or writer who advances the argumentation. The other party remains in fact passive: The acceptability of the claim is not made dependent on a systematic weighing up of arguments for and against the claim," (F. H. van Eemeren and R. Grootendorst, A Systematic Theory of Argumentation. Cambridge University Press, 2004).

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Nordquist, Richard. "What Is the Toulmin Model of Argument?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/toulmin-model-argument-1692474. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). What Is the Toulmin Model of Argument? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/toulmin-model-argument-1692474 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is the Toulmin Model of Argument?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/toulmin-model-argument-1692474 (accessed June 3, 2023).