Conclude Clearly With The Toulmin Model Counterargument

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy
Conclude Clearly With The Toulmin Model Counterargument

Toulmin Model of Argumentation – Counterargument

According to the Toulmin process, a powerful way to conclude our argument is by pre-empting and answering a potential counter-argument. This can be true whether you are involved in competitive debate or in a speech event. In debate, debaters trade speeches back and forth, and answer the arguments of their opponents; while in extemporaneous speeches the competitors make single speeches without opposing views - but either way, the principle is just the same. Let’s read on to learn a bit more about counterarguments and how to use them.

What is a counterargument in the Toulmin model and why is it important?

Using counterargument in speech or debate, which we also sometimes call pre-emption, means considering what an opponent would say on a specific issue, and preparing an attack or response in advance. This is always a good tool to use in debate, as it can prevent your opponents from making specific arguments or rebuttals, or at least make it significantly more challenging for them to do so. But it is also useful in speech events like extemporaneous speaking or persuasive speaking, where it’s important to build credible arguments in favor of your position.

So how do you do this? The first and most important action is to identify what it is that you’re trying to pre-empt. Usually, you should be pre-empting a specific impact, though occasionally, it can be a particular piece of analysis. Why? Because there are many ways to logically prove a point, but generally only a few ways to establish core impacts. So during your prep time, spend time thinking about what impacts the opposite side is likely to say, and then try to think of a counterargument.

What are some techniques for making effective counterarguments?

First, plan prep time in advance and dedicate time for pre-emption. In a debate, you can have your second speaker spending five minutes thinking of counterarguments for the opposite side halfway through prep time, and then the whole team spending the last two minutes developing the pre-emption and incorporating it back into the first speech.

Second, assume your opponents are as good as you. You can ask the question, “what would I run?” and go from there. Don’t get too caught up second-guessing yourself or trying to add in creative impacts and analysis. The core case you come up with is likely to be what your opponents will come up with as well.

Lastly, consider any specific burdens the motion places on teams and use them to determine particular lines of analysis or impacts your opponents will need to establish to meet their burdens.

After you’ve identified what you’re pre-empting and think you have a good understanding of what your opponent is likely to argue, the simplest way to present a counterargument is to run the opposite. What that means is to identify whatever negative impact they’re going for, and just claim that the opposite is more likely to happen. If the impact is a benefit, you can simply claim that it’s more likely to happen on your side.

For example, say you’re Government in debate on the motion, “This House supports the welfare state.” Your counterargument might be that the Opposition will argue that welfare state takes away incentives for people to actively search for jobs because it provides them with some financial security and basic needs. In this case, you should make the argument that the welfare state actually creates more incentives and opportunities to find a job. For instance, people on welfare would be able to afford appropriate clothes for interviews or pay for a babysitter, which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.


By identifying and explaining a counterargument, you are signalling to your listener that you have command of the issue, and that you are drawing conclusions based upon a thoughtful understanding of both sides and careful consideration of opposing arguments. Employing counterarguments in your speeches will make them more persuasive and enhance your credibility with audience and judges alike.

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Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy