5 Writing For A Robo-Grader: Understanding the Toulmin Method

Alise Lamoreaux

Toulmin Model of Argument

Watch the following 2 videos that explain the Toulmin Model of Argument.  Compare the presentation styles of both videos.  The videos are designed for students in different classes at different schools, who are all learning about this style of argument.  Which style do you like better?  Why?  What don’t you like about the other video?  What makes one video’s presentation better than the other?  Why might someone like the video you don’t prefer?

Parts of an Argument: Simple Example

  1. The essence of an argument is the claim. Without a claim, there is not an argument.  The claim is the “umbrella” that all the other parts of the argument fit under. For example:
    • Classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.


  1. Warrants are underlying assumptions that are the foundation for the claim being made. They are usually unstated.
    • People want to go to college and have fun while doing it.


  1. Qualifiers are the words that put limits around the claim. Without qualifiers the word “all” is implied.  Qualifiers make an argument easier to defend.
    • Many classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.
    • Some classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.
    • In general, classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.
    • Usually, classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.
    • Typically, classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.
    • Probably, classes at Lane Community College are fun to take.


  1. Identified Exceptions from an argument give the author the ability to make exceptions to the claim. An exception is different from a qualifier in that it comes in the form of an example rather than a single word.
    • After struggling through an Anatomy and Physiology class at Lane Community College, I would not rank that as a fun experience.


  1. In the Toulmin style of argument, the reasons/grounds why the author gives for making the claim answer 2 main questions: Is the reason relevant to the claim it supports? And Is the reason effective? If the reason gives the reader a sense of value, that it is believable, something to be agreed with, it is a “good” reason.  Reasons cause the reader to make value judgements.  When crafting an argument, it can be a good idea to restate the value invoked as clearly as possible.
    • Time management skills are important to learn to be successful in college.

The reason: A student’s daily schedule will require awareness of time.

    • Getting started in college can seem like an uphill battle.

The reason: College has many rules and policies to learn.

Note:  If you are tasked with the job of identifying reasons, being able to restate them in your own words is important.


  1. For a claim to be believable and convincing, it must supply evidence to satisfy 3 conditions in the Toulmin Method of argumentation. Evidence must be sufficient, credible, and accurate.  Evidence can come in many forms: facts, examples, statistics, expert testimony, big name endorsements, emotional triggers, and more.  The following statements are examples of evidence.  Think about which ones have the best evidence in the statement and why?
    • If you examine the course syllabus of many college classes, you will find some element of time management involved in most of them.
    • Examination of 200 college syllabi revealed that 95% of them included some form of time management.
    • Student comments on a recent survey indicated that time management was part of their experience in their college courses.


  1. An argument expects opposition to the claim made. The Toulmin Model of argumentation expects the author to anticipate the opposition and be able to state what the opposition might be thinking.  The Toulmin Method expects the counter argument to the claim to be identified.

Anticipating the opposition gives the author a chance to refute the opposition, also known as a rebuttal.

    • Many students believe that time management skills are important to college success; however, a recent study appearing in the College Journal of Student Success indicates that time management is the number one reason cited by faculty for student success in college.
  1. Concluding statements finish the argument presented. Similar to a court case, a closing statement concludes the argumentation process.
    • In conclusion, the evidence for time management being an important aspect of college success is supported by students, faculty, and current research.


Create simple examples of the Toulmin Method of Argumentation using the following claims:

  1. Dogs make better pets than cats.
  2. Aliens probably exist.
  3. Boredom leads to trouble.
  4. Robo-calling should be outlawed.
  5. Education should be free for everyone.
  6. Energetic drinks should be banned and made illegal.
  7. Technology is limiting creativity
  8. Online friends are the same as imaginary friends
  9. Graffiti should be legal artwork.
  10. Drinking soda has negative effects on health.