Data Definition and Examples in Argument

Female lawyer pointing at an exhibit in front of a judge and a victim
Data - evidence being presented in an argument.

rubberball / Getty Images 

In the Toulmin model of argument, data is the evidence or specific information that supports a claim.

The Toulmin model was introduced by British philosopher Stephen Toulmin in his book The Uses of Argument (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1958). What Toulmin calls data is sometimes referred to as evidence, reasons, or grounds.

Examples and Observations:

"Challenged to defend our claim by a questioner who asks, 'What have you got to go on?', we appeal to the relevant facts at our disposal, which Toulmin calls our data (D). It may turn out to be necessary to establish the correctness of these facts in a preliminary argument. But their acceptance by the challenger, whether immediate or indirect, does not necessarily end the defense."
(David Hitchcock and Bart Verheij, Introduction to Arguing on the Toulmin Model: New Essays in Argument Analysis and Evaluation. Springer, 2006)

Three Types of Data

"In an argumentative analysis, a distinction is often made between three data types: data of the first, second and third order. First-order data are the convictions of the receiver; second-order data are claims by the source, and third-order data are the opinions of others as cited by the source. First-order data offer the best possibilities for convincing argumentation: the receiver is, after all, convinced of the data. Second-order data are dangerous when the credibility of the source is low; in that case, third-order data must be resorted to." (Jan Renkema, Introduction to Discourse Studies. John Benjamins, 2004)

The Three Elements in an Argument

"Toulmin suggested that every argument (if it deserves to be called an argument) must consist of three elements: data, warrant, and claim.

"The claim answers the question 'What are you trying to get me to believe?'--it is the ending belief. Consider the following unit of proof: 'Uninsured Americans are going without needed medical care because they are unable to afford it. Because access to health care is a basic human right, the United States should establish a system of national health insurance.' The claim in this argument is that 'the United States should establish a system of national health insurance.'

"Data (also sometimes called evidence) answers the question 'What have we got to go on?'--it is the beginning belief. In the foregoing example of a unit of proof, the data is the statement that 'uninsured Americans are going without needed medical care because they are unable to afford it.' In the context of a debate round, a debater would be expected to offer statistics or an authoritative quotation to establish the trustworthiness of this data.<br/>
"Warrant answers the question 'How does the data lead to the claim?'--it is the connector between the beginning belief and the ending belief. In the unit of proof about health care, the warrant is the statement that 'access to health care is a basic human right.' A debater would be expected to offer some support for this warrant." (R. E. Edwards, Competitive Debate: The Official Guide. Penguin, 2008)

"Data would be counted as premises under the standard analysis." (J. B. Freeman, Dialectics and the Macrostructure of Arguments. Walter de Gruyter, 1991)

Pronunciation: DAY-tuh or DAH-tuh

Also Known As: grounds