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Reasoning Critically about Argument and Evidence. Solid versus Sloppy Thinking. Chapter 9 of Dees Pages 183-189. Reasoning Critically about Argument and Evidence. Logical Reasoning. The Toulmin Method of Argument. Looking Critically at the Evidence.

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Reasoning Critically about Argument and Evidence

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Reasoning Critically about Argument and Evidence

Solid versus Sloppy Thinking

Chapter 9 of Dees

Pages 183-189

Reasoning Critically about Argument and Evidence.

  • Logical Reasoning.

  • The Toulmin Method of Argument.

  • Looking Critically at the Evidence.

  • Be aware of Logical Fallacies.

The Toulmin Method of ArgumentMade of Three Parts:

  • A claim:

    • a conclusion based upon evidence; like the thesis of your research paper, it is an assertion you make and then defend.

  • The evidence:

    • Supports the claim by including facts, statistics, expert opinions, and other information that supports or leads to a conclusion.

The Toulmin Method Continued

  • The warrant:

    • This is the rational behind the argument; it is an assumption or belief that you and your audience share

The Need to Qualify Arguments

  • Since it is rare that we can state any opinion with absolute certainty--and rarer still that we can think of every possible exception to an argument--Toulmin logic calls for adding a qualifier

    • examples:

      • some,

      • probably,

      • most

The Toulmin Method reminds us of the existence of the stated and unstated elements of argument.

  • Often the warrant of the argument can be assumed but sometimes it is helpful to remind the reader of a basic common assumption:

    • The Historic position of the Nazarene Church on Women’s Ministry.

    • What is meant by “believing in Evolution?”

    • The Historic position of the nature of scripture.

      • Check the Manual; don’t just ask your pastor.

Toulmin' s Analysis

  • Stephen Toulmin, a modern rhetorician, believed that few arguments actually follow classical models of logic like the syllogism, so he developed a model for analyzing the kind of argument you read and hear every day--in newspapers and on television, at work, in classrooms, and in conversation.

  • Toulmin' s model focuses on identifying the basic parts of an argument. As a researcher and writer, you can use Toulmin' s model two ways:

    •  to identify and analyze your sources by identifying the basic elements of the arguments being made, and

    • to test and critique your own argument.

Notice that commercials which might try this don't usually bother trying to convince you that you want whiter teeth; instead, they assume that you have bought into the value our culture places on whiter teeth. When an assumption--a warrant in Toulmin' s terms--is unstated, it's called an implicit warrant. Sometimes, however, the warrant may need to be stated because it is a powerful part of the argument. When the warrant is stated, it's called an explicit warrant.

Toulmin says that the weakest part of any argument is its weakest warrant. Remember that the warrant is the link between the data and the claim. If the warrant isn't valid, the argument collapses.

Looking Critically at the Evidence

  • In a Inductive Argument

    • the evidence leads logically to the conclusion.

  • In a Deductive Argument

    • the evidence is stated in the premise

  • In a “Toulmin argument:

    • the evidence supports the “claim” or “thesis.”

  • Use Example and Authority


  • Provide details

    • facts,

    • Statistics

    • authoritative opinion

  • Should be numerous enough to demonstrate the extend and variety of cases that support the conclusion

  • Should be “typical” (not flukes)

  • Should be more than one.


  • Statistical Evidence

  • Hypothetical Evidence

  • Examples by Authority

Sites Cited

  • “Research and Citation—Toulmin.” TheToulmin Project Home Page. University of Nebraska Lincoln.>22 April 2010.

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