How To Write a Toulmin Argument

Writing a Toulmin Argument is like writing any other method of reasoning. The major difference, however, is that knowing how to write a Toulmin argument requires more of knowing what you are writing about than knowing who you are writing for or against. In one of our examples for Toulmin argument, we see how direct focus is given on the content or subject of the essay. Little concentration, if there is any, is devoted on the anticipation on how readers might respond to, agree with or refute the arguments. Thus, writing a Toulmin argument requires more of a clear understanding of your subject and less of a good anticipation of your reader's reactions.

How do you begin writing a Toulmin argument? First, understand your topic. Key to this is carefully researching background information relevant to the subject of your essay or position paper. For example, if your chosen topic is the legalization of euthanasia, research on the historical development of euthanasia as a medical practice, the implications of euthanasia from legal and moral perspectives, relevant statistics concerning the rate of euthanasia practiced across the United States, and existing alternatives to euthanasia, to name a few.

More importantly, identify the issue at hand. With regard to the topic of euthanasia, a possible issue might be: should euthanasia be legalized? There are other more interesting issues. Do not limit yourself to what is obvious or what is already widely talked about. Doing so will make your essay or position paper just another one of the thousands of essays or position papers which have already tackled the same issue.

Now that you have researched information most relevant to your topic and identified the issue, what is the next step? The next step is to categorize your researched information according to the following elements of a Toulmin argument: data/grounds, claim, warrants, qualifiers, rebuttals, and backing statements. Refer here to understand more about these elements.

After categorizing your researched information according to their appropriate categories in a Toulmin argument, structure your essay or position paper according to the order of decreasing strength of arguments. Place your strongest arguments on the first few body paragraphs of your essay. Consequently, put your least strong arguments on the latter body paragraphs. You can use a topic sentence in starting your paragraphs so that you can keep track of the flow of your arguments.

Provide a conclusion that restates your position on the issue. You may summarize your key points or reiterate your main arguments in support of your position. You may also provide a challenge to your readers, such as writing the negative consequences if your position on the issue is not accepted.

Keep in mind a few things. Avoid anticipating how your readers might react. Use more of the logos than ethos. That is, use more appeal to reason than appeal to emotion. Another reminder is to be as specific as possible in mentioning your statistics or numbers. Use credible sources and cite them appropriately. This will give more authority to the points you raise. Effective rebuttals are those which recognize the strength of the objections but overturn them by showing their negative effects when accepted.

A secret to writing an effective Toulmin argument is having as many sources of information as possible.

You may want to read our Toulmin argument sample, or know more what a Toulmin argument is.

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