How to analyze argumentation

Toulmin's Model

— is the most commonly used model of practical argumentation. An argumentative text will contain some — though not necessarily all — of these elements, and identifying them will give you an image of the way the text works.

Claim (Conclusion)

A conclusion whose merit must be established. In argumentative essays, it may be called the thesis. For example, if a person tries to convince a listener that he is a British citizen, the claim would be "I am a British citizen." (1)

Ground (Fact, Evidence, Data)

A fact one appeals to as a foundation for the claim. For example, the person introduced in 1 can support his claim with the supporting data "I was born in Bermuda." (2)


A statement authorizing movement from the ground to the claim. In order to move from the ground established in 2, "I was born in Bermuda," to the claim in 1, "I am a British citizen," the speaker must supply a warrant to bridge the gap between 1 and 2 with the statement "A person born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen." (3)


Credentials designed to certify the statement expressed in the warrant; backing must be introduced when the warrant itself is not convincing enough to the readers or the listeners. For example, if the listener does not deem the warrant in 3 as credible, the speaker will supply the legal provisions: "I trained as a barrister in London, specialising in citizenship, so I know that a man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen." (4)

Rebuttal (Confutation)

Statements recognizing the restrictions which may legitimately be applied to the claim. The rebuttal is exemplified as follows: "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen, unless he has betrayed Britain and has become a spy of another country." (5)


Words or phrases expressing the speaker's degree of force or certainty concerning the claim. Such words or phrases include "probably," "possible," "impossible," "certainly," "presumably," "as far as the evidence goes," and "necessarily." The claim "I am definitely a British citizen" has a greater degree of force than the claim "I am a British citizen, presumably." (6)

The first three elements, "claim," "ground," and "warrant," are considered as the essential components of practical arguments, while the second triad, "qualifier," "backing," and "rebuttal," may not be needed in some arguments.

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