Make an Argument!

The very first question you should ask before starting to write your research paper is: what is my argument? The major argument in a research essay is known as a thesis. A thesis acts as the “center of gravity” in a paper. Every major point in the essay should go toward offering “support” or “proof” of the thesis. Additionally, a thesis should be insightful, original, and engaging.

Here is an example of a thesis: “In this paper I will argue that, judged on the basis of moral depth, stylistic beauty, and effectiveness or impact on its audience, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is one of the best speeches in American history.”

Note that each of your major points should be geared toward supporting your thesis.

ToulminThe English logician Stephen Toulmin formulated one of the most influential models for articulating and analyzing the structure of an argument. According to Toulmin, every argument ought to have at least three major parts: the claim, the evidence or data, and the warrant. Let us examine each:

Data: It is also often known as “evidence.” The data in an argument are the “facts” that support an argument. The data can be: facts or observations, statistics, expert opinions, examples, or textual quotations drawn from a speech or novel that you are analyzing. For example, suppose I wanted to defend the above thesis. Here’s my first major “data”: “At the annual National Communication Association conference, leading rhetorical scholars recognized Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech as the best speech in American history.”

Claim: The claim is the “conclusion” or inference that a person draws from the data. So, for example, the thesis above constitutes a claim that Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech is the greatest in American history.

Warrant: The warrant is the “bridge” that shows how a person made the inference from data to claim. So for example: suppose the data is that “All leading rhetorical scholars have recognized Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech as the best ever speech.” From this data, one makes the claim that this conclusively proves that Dr. King’s speech is the greatest speech in American history. The warrant in this case is the assumption that “leading rhetorical scholars” are the people who are in the best position to know or judge what counts as the “best” speech. Here is one way of figuring out what a warrant is: ask yourself,

What must I assume about the data to make it count as a reason to believe the claim?


Other Examples of Toulmin’s Model of Argument:

i) Example one:

Claim: “The United States will violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.”

Data: “The United States has violated 5 of the 6 previous Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties.”

Warrant: “Since past violations offer probable clues as to future events, we can infer that U.S. actions in the past are an indication of its future actions.”

ii) Example two:

Claim: “He is a citizen of the United States.”

Data: “He was born in Hawaii.”

Warrant: “Since Hawaii is a state within the United States and the Constitution declares that everybody born within U.S. borders is a citizen, then we can safely infer that a person born in Hawaii is a U.S. citizen.”

Make an Argument Worksheet (Claim/Warrant/Data Worksheet - Adapted by Dunn via Spencer via Ochieng via Toulmin): ClaimWarrantDataWorksheetNov12


Original Make an Argument Worksheet - Spencer - ClaimWarrantReasons

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