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Argument Verbiage

  • Literal/Figurative
  • Dichotomy--a division or contrast between two things that are represented as being opposed or entirely different 
  • Analysis--Breaking it down to see how it interrelates; deconstruction
  • Critical Thinking--reflecting, evaluating, rendering judgment/coming to conclusions (not necessarily absolutes)
  • Spectrum--Range
  • Hegemony--preponderant influence (family, church, state)
  • Fact--believed to have objective reality
  • Opinion--a view or opinion not necessarily based on fact
  • Absolutes--not mixed, pure (personal vs. universal truth)
  • Science vs religion (in regards to absolutes)
  • Morality--conformity to the rules of right conduct
  • Ethical Dilemma--a complex situation iwith a mental conflict between moral imperatives in which to oben one would result in transgressing the other. 
Argument--a process of reasoning and advancing proof about issues on which there are conflicting views
Support--Evidence, backing that helps prove validity
Warrant--taken for granted; generalization
Credibility--convincing, believable, trustworthy
Qualifiers--not claiming absolutes (usually, some, several)
Concession--acknowledging opposite argument
Rebuttal--contradicts, disagrees
Primary Source--original person/material (autobiography)
Secondary Source--next, after the first (biography)
Bias--prejudice for or against

Terms in a Toulmin Argument

Many writers of arguments look to terminology developed by philosopher Stephen Toulmin to describe the elements of an argumentative essay. You can use these to check that your argument has all the key ingredients it needs to be successful.

claim (proposition, thesis): answers the questions "What point will your paper will try to make?" or "What belief or opinion is the author defending?" To be credible to an audience, claims must usually be supported with specific evidence. For instance, a writer may claim that "Standardized tests are biased against female and minority students." In a Toulmin argument, readers ask, "How do you know that is true?" or "What is that based on?" Such questions are challenging the writer to prove the claim with support. In order to defuse an audience’s potential challenges, some writers use qualifiers to clarify their claims and protect their credibility. Acknowledging that the claim may not be absolute protects them from proving that their claim is true in every case. Qualifiers are usually adverbs that modify the verb in the claim or adjectives that modify a key noun; some common ones are typically, usually, for the most partsomeseveralfew, and sometimes. Qualified versions of the first claim might be "Many standardized tests are biased against female and minority students" or "Standardized tests are sometimes biased against female and minority students." Either of these, because of the limiting qualifiers, are easier to prove than the unqualified claim.

Support (evidence, backing) is the examples, facts and data that aid in proving the claim's validity. Depending on who your audience is, this evidence could also include emotional appeals, quotations from famous people or recognized experts, or statements based on the writer’s personal credibility. In the argument on test bias, readers might expect to see statistics that prove the test questions are biased, samples of misleading questions, quotations from educators and testing experts, and testimony from students who have taken such tests. All of these might be good kinds of support, depending on the identity of the audience.

Underlying the claims in Toulmin arguments are warrants, the inferences or assumptions that are taken for granted by the writer (and sometimes by the argument). Warrants connect (conspicuously or inconspicuously) the claim and the support; they derive from our cultural experiences and personal observations. For instance, if over the last five years, girls at Madison High have received higher grades than boys in every subject and yet the Madison boys consistently score higher on the SAT than the girls do, someone might claim that the SAT was biased against girls. The warrant for this claim is the belief that something must be preventing the girls from showing their academic excellence on the SAT.

Finally, a key point in Toulmin arguments is the concession, which brings differing opinions together by acknowledging a part of the opposing argument that cannot be refuted. Conceding that an opposing point is valid and then building upon it to further one's own claim allows a writer to make the audience feel appreciated without giving up her or his own position. For instance, in the SAT argument, the writer might concede that other reasons, like test anxiety or fewer math courses, lower girls’ scores on the test, but go on to provide evidence that even when these factors are considered, the questions are written in such a way as to favor boys. If the writer can discredit the opposition’s counter-arguments by proving their logic is faulty, their support is weak or their warrants are invalid, he or she has created a rebuttal that supports his or her own original position and furthers his or her claim

Coke Commercial--Interconnections (Analysis)

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Claim of fact: a claim that asserts something exists, has existed, or will exist, based on data that the audience will accept as objectively verifiable.

Claim of policy: a claim asserting that specific courses of action should be instituted as solutions to problems.

Claim of value: a claim that asserts some things are more or less desirable than others.

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