What Does It Mean to Make a Claim During an Argument?

How Are Claims Used in Arguments?

claim - baby at podium
"How do we decide that a claim is reasonable, rational, and relevant? We do so by critical examination through questions and answers" (M.A. Munizzo and L. Virruso Musial, General Report Writing and Case Studies, 2009). (John Lund/Stephanie Roeser/Getty Images)

Claims backed by reasons that are supportive of evidence are called arguments. To win an argument, you first have to make a claim that is more than just an assertion. Use critical thinking skills and argue your case using claims, reason, and evidence.


In rhetoric and argumentation, a claim is an arguable statement—an idea that a rhetor (that is, a speaker or writer) asks an audience to accept.

Generally speaking, there are three primary types of persuasive claims:

  • Claims of fact assert that something is true or not true.
  • Claims of value assert that something is good or bad, or more or less desirable.
  • Claims of policy assert that one course of action is superior to another.

In rational arguments, all three types of claims must be supported by evidence.

Also see:

Examples and Observations

"A claim is an opinion, idea or assertion. Here are three different claims: 'I think we should have universal health care.' 'I believe the government is corrupt.' 'We need a revolution.' These claims make sense, but they need to be teased out and backed up with evidence and reasoning."
(Jason Del Gandio, Rhetoric for Radicals. New Society Publishers, 2008)

"Consider the following passage, adapted from a syndicated newspaper story (Associated Press 1993):

A recent study found that women are more likely than men to be murdered at work. 40% of the woman who died on the job in 1993 were murdered. 15% of the men who died on the job during the same period were murdered.

The first sentence is a claim made by the writer, and the other two sentences state evidence offered as reason to accept this claim as true.

This claim-plus-support arrangement is what is most commonly referred to as an argument."
(Frans H. van Eemeren, "Reasonableness and Effectiveness in Argumentative Discourse." Springer, 2015)

General Model of an Argument

"In effect, someone who offers an argument for a position is making a claim, providing reasons to support that claim and implying that the premises make it reasonable to accept the conclusion. Here is a general model:

Premise 1
Premise 2
Premise 3 . . .
Premise N

Here the dots and the symbol 'N' indicate that arguments may have any number of premises—one, two, three or more. The word "therefore" indicates that the arguer is stating the premises to support the next claim, which is the conclusion."
(Trudy Govier, "A Practical Study of Argument." Wadsworth, 2010)

Identifying Claims

"A claim expresses a specific position on some doubtful or controversial issue that the arguer wants the audience to accept. When confronting any message, especially a complex one, it is useful to begin by identifying the claims that are made. Claims can be obscured by complex sentence construction where claims and their support often are interwoven. Whereas a rhetorical performance (e.g., a speech or an essay) usually will have one dominant claim (e.g., the prosecuting attorney stating that 'the defendant is guilty,' the political advocate urging to 'vote no on Proposition 182'), most messages will consist of multiple supporting claims (e.g., the defendant had motive, was seen leaving the scene of the crime and left fingerprints; Proposition 182 will hurt our economy and is unfair to people who have recently moved into the state)."
(James Jasinski, "Argument: Sourcebook on Rhetoric." Sage, 2001)

Debatable Claims

"Claims worthy of arguing are those that are debatable: to say 'Ten degrees Fahrenheit is cold' is a claim, but it is probably not debatable—unless you decide that such a temperature in northern Alaska might seem balmy. To take another example, if a movie review you are reading has as its claim 'Loved this movie!', is that claim debatable? Almost certainly not, if the reviewer is basing the claim solely on personal taste. But if the reviewer goes on to offer good reasons to love the movie, along with strong evidence to support the reasons, he or she could present a debatable—and therefore arguable—claim."
(Andrea A. Lunsford, "The St. Martin's Handbook." Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008)

Claims and Warrants

"What determines whether we should believe a claim is whether the inference leading to it is warranted.

The warrant is a particularly important part of Toulmin's system. ... It is a license authorizing us to move beyond given evidence to infer a claim. It is necessary because, unlike in deductive logic, in ordinary reasoning the claim goes beyond the evidence, telling us something new, and hence does not follow absolutely from it." (David Zarefsky, "Reclaiming Rhetoric's Responsibilities: Rhetorical Perspectives on Argumentation." Springer, 2014)