The Art of Argument: Toulmin Model

Published on Jan 13, 2019

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The Art of Argument: Toulmin Model

NYC Urban Debate League -

Argument Jargon

  • Flowing: Write down all arguments
  • Clash: when you answer all their arguments
  • Defensive Arguments: dispute their argument
  • Offensive Arguments: turn their argument against them
  • Drops: when they do not respond to your argument

Argument Jargon

  • Line by Line - going down the flow and refuting each argument
  • Weighing and impact calculation
  • 4 Step Refutation Model
  • Toulmin Model....

Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009)

  • British philosopher, developed a system for argumentation
  • 1958 book The Uses of Argument

Toulmin Method

  • Claim
  • Data (Facts, Statistics)
  • Warrant (Reason. Connection of Fact to Claim)
  • Backing - supports the warrant
  • Rebuttal - Pre-empts their argument
  • Qualifier - exceptions or "edge cases"


  • Opinion
  • "Tag" : first line of your argument
  • Summary of your argument


  • Data, Evidence, Facts, Proof
  • Qualifications of the Author. Who is the author? Biases?
  • Date of Evidence: is evidence too old
  • Attacking: who, what, when, where, how, why


  • Reason
  • Example - just like the Police need a "warrant" or specific reason
  • Attacking - you can attack the logic of the reason (fallacy, deductive reasoning, etc.)


  • acknowledge counter arguments
  • pre-empt the other team by stating (and refuting) them first
  • Attacking: often "straw man," knowing the arguments best to come up with new or better rebuttals


  • acknowledging your argument is not 100%. There are "edge cases."
  • Attacking: qualifiers overwhelm the argument

Line by Line Refutation

"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

  • I really can't stay - Baby it's cold outside
  • I've got to go away - Baby it's cold outside
  • This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in

Untitled Slide

  • So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
  • My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry?
  • My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar

Untitled Slide

  • So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
  • Maybe just a half a drink more - Put some records on while I pour
  • The neighbors might think - Baby, it's bad out there
  • Say, what's in this drink? - No cabs to be had out there

Untitled Slide

  • I wish I knew how - Your eyes are like starlight now
  • To break this spell - I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
  • I ought to say no, no, no - Mind if I move in closer?

Untitled Slide

  • At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the sense in hurting my pride?
  • I really can't stay - Baby don't hold out
  • Ah, but it's cold outside

The Critique or "Kritik"

Critiques in Debate

  • rather than line by line, you are questioning or "criticizing" their system of thinking, assumptions
  • Examples - feminism, racism, capitalism, xenophobia, borders, etc.
  • "Baby Its Cold Outside" recently critiqued and even banned by some. As well as alternatives created...

4 Step Refutation Model

4 Steps of Refutation

  • Signpost ("They Say")
  • Argument ("We Say")
  • Reason/Ev ("Because")
  • Impact ("Therefore")

Step #1 - "They Say"

  • Importance of Signposting
  • So judge and audience can follow your thought
  • Requires excellent notetaking "flowing" skills
  • Organization

Step #2 - "But I disagree"

  • Your counter-argument
  • Defensive argument - reject their argument
  • Offensive argument - you can turn their argument against them. "Turn the tables"

Step #3 - "Because...."

  • reason or "warrant"
  • evidence

Step #4 - "Therefore"

  • impact
  • why your argument is better
  • why your argument wins the round
  • Impact Calculation

Examples of #4

  • It’s better reasoned. Perhaps their argument makes some kind of error in logic or reasoning, of the kind discussed in the unit on logical fallacies.

Examples of #4

  • It’s better evidenced. Maybe your argument makes use of more or better evidence. Perhaps your sources are better qualified than theirs, or your evidence is more recent than theirs.

Examples of #4

  • It’s empirical. When we say that an argument is empirically proven, we mean that it is demonstrated by past examples. Perhaps your argument relies on empirics, while theirs relies on speculation.

Examples of #4

  • It takes theirs into account. Sometimes your argument may take theirs into account and go a step further: “Even if they’re right about the recreational benefits of crossbows, they’re still too dangerous for elementary school physical education classes.”

Examples of #4

  • It has more significance than their argument because (for example) it matters more to any given individual or applies more to a larger number of individuals.

Examples of #4

  • It’s consistent with experience. Perhaps your argument is consistent with experience over time, a in different place, or in different circumstances. This technique is particularly effective with audiences: “Hey, this is something we can all relate to, right?”

Debate is 3 Dimensional Chess

  • Every move they make you must make a countermove
  • or it's Check Mate