How to Build a Strong Argument, Part 1: Toulmin’s Model

This week we’ll look at three ways to construct a strong argument. Keep in mind that argument doesn’t mean a fight. In the world of communication, argument is simply the case you build to answer questions and persuade. So building an argument means constructing a presentation that effectively informs and persuades your audience. That means nearly every presentation you give can be labeled an argument.

Over the next three blogs, we’ll take a look at three different methods you might want to use to build an effective persuasive presentation: Toulmin’s model of argument, deductive argument, and inductive argument. All of these are frameworks for structuring your message to produce results with your audience.

In part one of this series, we’ll examine Toulmin’s model of argument. Stephan Toulmin was a British philosopher and educator who worked to bring philosophy, ethics, and reason into the practical, everyday world. Perhaps his greatest legacy is his model of argument. Comprised of 6 parts, this model helps us build arguments that move our audiences. Here’s what the model looks like followed by a brief description of each of the 6 parts:

  • Claim: This is the thesis, the conclusion; it’s what you hope to accomplish. It’s the destination to which you are hoping to lead your audience.
  • Grounds: The grounds is the foundation your claim is built on. It is all the evidence, data, and support you’ve uncovered through research. The grounds is always directly connected to the claim.
  • Warrant: The warrant is the connection between the grounds and the claim. This is often made up of underlying or hidden assumptions. It is crucial that you bring the warrant to the foreground and explain and define the connection clearly. One of the biggest mistakes beginning speakers make is assuming that the warrant has been proven when it hasn’t. Dr. Jarrod Atchison says it’s important to “focus your attention on the warrant – because it is the connection between the grounds and the claim [that] is often the most vulnerable part of an argument.”
  • Backing: This is the proof for the warrant. It’s the research and support that allows you to build the bridge that connects the claim to the grounds.
  • Rebuttal: An important distinguishing feature of Toulmin’s model is that it acknowledges other viewpoints. This is especially important if you have audience members who hold to those other viewpoints. It shows that you haven’t just researched or thought about your side of the argument. You may agree, disprove, or compromise with the other arguments. But it’s crucial that you give them respectful attention.
  • Qualifier: These words show the degree of confidence of your claim. They allow you to admit there may be exceptions.

Now that you know the 6 parts of the argument, here’s an example of how you might use it to construct your presentation.

If you feel overwhelmed by trying to write a persuasive presentation, Toulmin’s model of argument can help. Start by listing the 6 parts outlined above and begin asking questions about them. As your argument starts to take shape, keep your audience and your goal in mind.

On Wednesday, we’ll post part 2 of our series on developing strong arguments. Until then, check out our design services at Ethos 3 and our online presentation skills course at Presentation Mentor.

The post How to Build a Strong Argument, Part 1: Toulmin’s Model appeared first on Presentation Mentor.

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