Insights » Latest Articles
Aug 10, 2022 Coach Mike

The Art of Persuasion Using Toulmin’s Model of Argumentation (First Four Parts)

Do you know why many Disney villains aren’t persuasive? It’s not just because good always trumps evil. Some villains only try to appeal to the emotions of their victims, like Jafar from ‘Aladdin,’ who unconvincingly pushed Jasmine to marry him by attempting to appeal to her desperation after her father’s death. Other villains instead attempt to persuade without clear grounds or warrants, like Cruella from ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians.’ She wanted to buy Anita and Roger’s puppies but couldn’t provide any evidence as to why these owners wouldn’t be able to financially support their dogs.

Now you wouldn’t want to argue like a bad Disney villain, which is why in Original Oratory, it’s important for you to justify your position to the audience in a way that is both logical and captures their attention. In this article, you’ll learn how to build persuasive arguments for your speeches through the first four parts of Toulmin’s model of argumentation. Solid argumentation is essential in OO because when you challenge the traditional understanding of social issues through counterintuitive thesis statements, you need to convincingly back them up.

There are six parts of Toulmin’s model of argumentation:

· One: Claim

· Two: Grounds

· Three: Warrant

· Four: Backing

· Five: Qualifier

· And six: Rebuttal

Let’s start with claims. A claim is a position that you are advocating in an argument. Strong claims are concise and clear. For example, let’s say that you’re giving a speech on the subject of truth. Perhaps your thesis is that “our fear of the unknown has led us to fall victim to prejudice.”

How might you go about brainstorming a claim? Well, you can start by specifying the meaning of the word “unknown” by making a list. Your list might include topics or situations we don’t know much about that may induce fear. For instance, many people are afraid of the dark. And of strangers. And of change. From this list of people’s greatest fears, you can pick one and break down the ways in which their fear leads to prejudice. One of your claims could then be:

Our imagination of what the unknown might be like is worse than what it’s actually like in reality.

After you have brainstormed your claim, it’s time to support it with grounds. This means data or evidence that backs up your claim. You might be wondering why the evidence goes right after the claim unlike in other models of argumentation such as CREI. Very often in public speaking, an audience is more convinced by an argument when they are immediately backed up by facts, especially if your claim is surprising or unintuitive. Bear in mind that the criteria for successful sourcing are recency, credibility, and relevance.

You probably already know that recency means finding evidence that is new. But what exactly does “new” mean? Well, we can break it down in three ways. In OO, news articles are usually considered recent if they are sourced within the last two years. Studies and statistics tend to last a bit longer until a newer study about the same topic has been released. Quotes from famous people are timeless.

Evidence in OO as with all evidentiary public speaking and debate formats also needs to be reliable and credible. But in OO, you don’t always need to cite the publication or date in your actual speech. To make the speech run smoother, orators often leave out some of the source information and instead include it in the footnotes or bibliography of their typed speech instead. This will then be turned in to the organization and fact-checked. In addition to citations, credibility means presenting data in an ethical way. For instance, statistics can mislead your audience and make the problem seem bigger than it actually is. This is especially true if you don’t check for conditional variables that affect that particular statistic.

So, if you want to add grounds to the claim that “people believe that those who are different from us threaten our lifestyle”, you might present something like this:

Researcher Jennifer Couzin-Frankel explains that we create categories such as "out-groups." We see them as threatening our economic security, physical safety, and even our way of life.

After the grounds have been provided, it’s time to introduce a warrant – the principle, provision, or chain of reasoning that connects the grounds to your claim. There are many different types of warrants which you will learn about but for now, know that your warrant is the most important (yet easily forgotten) part of Toulmin’s model. It is the glue that holds your argument together. Why? Because warrants establish the relationship between your grounds and your claim and help to clarify any complicated data.

So to tie the claim to the grounds in our previous example, the warrant might sound something like this:

Oftentimes, we have already decided how we feel about someone, even before getting to know them. And since we have erroneously decided that out-groups pose a threat, our minds are wired to find evidence that supports these assumptions.

Backing is the next part of an argument. Here’s where you provide extra justification to support the warrant. This oftentimes comes in the form of evidence that highlights the negative impacts of your problem. This evidence should be a different type than the one used for your grounds. So if you choose to quote an expert on your grounds, you could switch it up by citing statistics or real-world anecdotes in your backing. Statistics help demonstrate the scale of your argument while anecdotes provide context about the scope or severity of your impacts. So let’s take a look at what your backing might look like for our example about prejudice:

But when we allow fear to guide assumptions and drive our imaginations, we are left with:

· Atatiana Jefferson – who was shot in her home, mistakenly assumed to be breaking and entering.

· Breonna Taylor - shot in her bed under the assumption that she was involved in a drug case.

· Stephon Clark - shot in his grandma’s yard for fear of a gun in his hand.

These anecdotes are tragic but revealing. They help put in perspective the seriousness of the problem being described and is therefore essential to your argumentation.

So that’s it! You’ve now learned the first four parts of Toulmin’s model of argumentation: claim, grounds, warrant, and backing. Now, be ready to apply them to your own speeches or debate competitions.

Published by Coach Mike August 10, 2022
Coach Mike