Alphabetical list of Handouts & Guides

Words of Wisdom

My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky.

— William Faulkner



The Toulmin method is a tool for analyzing and crafting arguments developed by the philosopher Stephen Toulmin. To help you see all the benefits of this method, here’s The Toulmin Toul-Man to show you how it works. Each of the tools on his Toul-Belt is essential for developing a strong argument. Claim, Grounds, Warrant, Backing, Qualifier, and Rebuttal. Let’s start with the primary tool: the Claim. This is the assertion or thesis that the writer proposes, serving as the main expression of the argument. An example of a claim would be: “Dogs are the greatest pets.” While the justification is not yet included, you can clearly see the writer’s viewpoint that will direct the argument. To grant this argument some validity, the Toulmin Toul-Man will use his next tool, the Grounds, which serve as the argument’s foundation, justifying the main viewpoint of the argument. For example, “a great pet is intelligent, obedient, and loving.” This statement establishes the qualities that would describe a great pet; however, it is not yet connected to the claim concerning dogs. This is where the warrant comes in. This tool serves as the connective tissue between the claim and the grounds, whether stated directly or simply implied. For example, to link back to the claim of dogs as the greatest pets, we can add: “dogs are perceptive, easily trained, and one of the most affectionate animals towards humans.” Now we have linked our claim about dogs to the grounds on what makes a great pet. Any additional evidence used to support the claim is considered the backing. For example, “These traits are why dogs are the most widely used service animals.” While this statement may not be enough justification on its own, it serves well in conjunction with the warrant and grounds. Few claims are true in all circumstances. A qualifier allows for special cases and helps establish the author as reasonable and credible. In this argument, the grounds can be edited with a qualifier to allow for cases in which some dogs don’t match the criteria of the “greatest pet” as stated in the claim. “Dogs are typically perceptive, easily trained, etc…” The qualifier “typically” adds credibility to the argument, as it acknowledges special cases contrary to the arguments claim. Lastly, it serves well to acknowledge another side of the argument to establish the writer as unbiased and open-minded. An acknowledgement in the form of a rebuttal persuades readers who disagree with the claim to follow suit, and accept an unbiased perspective. Here, the writer can bolster their claim of dogs as the greatest pet, and acknowledge the competition. For example, “While cats can also be affectionate and obedient, they are still more difficult to train than dogs.” Now we have acknowledged that dogs are not the only animals that can be good pets, without contradicting our earlier points about the quality of dogs as pets. As you can see, we have now constructed a strong, unbiased, and complete argument that could make even the most adamant cat-owners consider the quality of dogs. But, to be fair, who would ever dispute man’s best friend.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

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