Rhetoric and Composition/Teacher's Handbook/Argumentation

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Argumentation

When teaching argumentation, it is important to show practical methods, as this is often an area that confuses students. By showing pragmatic approaches to structuring an argument, students can better articulate their thoughts. Moreover, the skill of argumentation can be applied to other assignments as well, such as the research paper, cause and effect, and compare and contrast.

The Toulmin method:

1. Claim

This is the statement the arguer wants the audience to believe. Claims such as “abortion should be protected by the constitution,” “marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes,” and “the drinking age should be lowered,” are examples of often over-used freshmen argument claims. The claim can serve as a thesis, and it is an essential starting point for any argument paper.

2. Grounds

The grounds, or data, of an argument emphasizes the arguer’s ethos (or credibility). It is imperative to an argument that the grounds be well founded, noncontroversial, and supportive. Claims supported with solid grounds become much stronger. For example, in an argument about lowering the drinking age, saying “my parents told me drinking is bad for you,” is much less effective than saying, “scientists predict .5% of one’s brain cells are lost every time he/she binge drinks.”

3. Warrant

This links the two previous steps. It creates the bridge between the claim and the grounds. Sometimes the warrant is implicit, unstated, or combined with the grounds.

4. Qualifier

This modifies the strength of an argument. Based on what kind of qualifier you choose, your argument becomes more or less believable. For example, the qualifier, “all people who drink become alcoholics,” is so strong of a claim that it becomes unbelievable. Here, if the qualifier is toned-down, the statement becomes more believable: “Some people who drink become alcoholics.”

5. Rebuttal

It is often important to include and possibly debunk rebuttal arguments. For example, saying “despite scientists claim about the effects of drinking on the brain, it has been shown to be no less damaging than using a cell phone,” shows that you can anticipate your critics.