Walk-Through of Toulmin Essay Instructions

I realize that the Toulmin argument can provoke a bit of anxiety in my students and that’s entirely understandableThe Toulmin method identifies and provides labels for various elements of argumentation that we may be unfamiliar withit isn’t that we’re unfamiliar with the element–it’s that we’re unfamiliar with the label associated with that element. So I’ve designed this video so that you can become a bit more familiar what’s with what’s being asked of you for this assignment. Let’s go ahead and jump right in with a bit of an introduction to this guy: Stephen Toulmin.


I like this quote. He says “A man demonstrates his rationality not by a commitment to fixed ideas, stereotype procedures, or immutable concepts, but by the manner in which, and the the occasions on which, he changes those ideas, procedures, and concepts.” I find that this quote is particularly applicable to what we’re learning in this class which is critical thinking. Critical thinking allows us to see beyond our preconceived ideas or opinions about certain topics.
We may come into this class with very fixed opinions, but the purpose of education and the purpose of critical thinking is to acknowledge the fact that those opinions, while valid, may not be as objective or as far-reaching as they as the reality of the situation. That’s sort of what we’re exploring in our Toulmin Essays. Let’s go ahead and take a look at our Toulmin argument essay information. The purpose is to use MLA documentation and MLA formatting to craft a bulletproof argument.
You have two prompts to choose from: one has to do with healthcare, specifically single-payer health care systems. “hould the United States move to a single-payer sort of “Medicare for all” health care system? Your claim needs to be very clear. It needs to answer that question: Either yes, the United States should move forward with that type of system, or no it should not. A Toulmin claim draws a very clear line in the sand between two sides of an argument. I’ve provided you with a few sources that you can use as references just for your own understanding of the topic; you can also cite those–refer to those–in your paper if you use proper MLA documentation.
The second possible prompt has to do with free college tuition in California. Should the entire state of California move forward with tuition free college? Again, the claim is very simple; either it needs to say, no California should not move forward with tuition free college, or yes it should. Again I’ve provided some resources here for you to gain a better understanding of the conversation that’s happening at the legislative level right now in California.
Some important tips for success: as you already know the Toulmin method is based on a very strict structure ,so use your resources–your textbook and the video provided in this lesson to–sorry in this unit–to gain a better understanding of what that structure looks like. Some important tips about this paper that many students struggle with during the rough draft–the drafting process–are the counter-argument and rebuttal sections. In a Toulmin argument, you needto acknowledge that opposition to your point of view your claim exists and you need to do so in a very thorough manner. It isn’t enough to provide a counter argument that says “However, some people disagree . . . ”
and then jump right into why they’re wrong–that’s not how a Toulmin counter argument works. That counter argument needs to be an entire paragraph in and of itself. In that paragraph, I want you to acknowledge that the opposition exists, to accurately describe that the opposition’s main points, and to even go so far as to provide some source material to back up those main points. Why would we do this?Why would we acknowledge that there  is opposition to our own claim and provide support for that opposition? The thing is you, have to think about your your audience: some of your audience members might agree with your claim, but some of them will not, and they’re not going to acknowledge that your claim is is worthy of their attention, until you acknowledge that you understand their position–that you can even empathize with their position.
What’s great about the counter argument is that it sets up the following paragraph which is your rebuttal. So you acknowledge that opposition exists, and then in the following paragraph, you provide your rebuttal for that opposition. You can take all of the main points that you’ve provided in a counter-argument and in that following paragraph break them apart one by one. Why are those main points of the opposition’s not as strong as they could be, or what about that source material that you used in that counter argument is not credible or isn’t as far-reaching, or doesn’t provide an accurate scope of the real issue? These are things you can discuss in the rebuttal. I really have to emphasize these points.
If there’s anything I want to see–the absolute bare minimum requirements of this essay are to provide a clear claim, a counter-argument, and rebuttal. I really want you to understand why that counter-argument section and rebuttal sections are so important. The opposition needs to feel validated–that you understand their point of view, and only when they feel that validation, will they be open to hearing your point of view. That’s why these components, these elements of the Toulmin are so important. I will show you briefly the sample Toulmin essay this was created by one of my students not too long ago. I want to show you the claim.
It’s very clear. It’s right here in the final sentence in our introductory paragraph. “In order to provide a healthy environment that promotes long term wellness both mentally and physically, the federal government should be obligated to require at least one cooking class that emphasizes nutrition to graduate high school.” It’s a little bit wordy–we won’t get into that–but the idea is that the claim itself is strong, it’s undeniable, its controversial; some readers will agree with it; some readers will not. I then want to jump into the counter-argument section which is very clear because it begins right here: “The opposition to the implementation of a nutrition based cooking class in public schools as a requirement may be reluctant due to the pure economics of cost and limited time in schools.”
Again, it’s not the most well phrased sentence, but it tells the reader that you’re moving into the count–that the author is moving into the counter-argument section. I also want you to notice that the counter-argument goes on for an entire paragraph. For this entire paragraph, it’s only about the counter-argument and validating that counter-argument, then, in the next paragraph the author moves into the rebuttal of that counter-argument: “Adding a cooking class to each school will be challenging and won’t be an overnight fix; however, the cost may not be as problematic as it seems.” That lays the foundation for the rebuttal, so be sure that you have a very clear counter-argument and a very clear rebuttal and make sure they are in separate paragraphs.
Some other important points:you must have a works cited page. Again the work cited page does not contribute to the overall word count. You need to have a minimum of three sources for this paper. At least one of them needs to come from a COS database. Very, very important. You’ll also include a revision checklist with this paper and you can read through all those questions on your own.
The deadline for this first draft is Thursday in the discussion board and the revised draft is due on Sunday. Audience is the same as it was for the rhetorical analysis: your intended audience is myself and your peers, but your imagined audience needs to be the Supreme Court– the panel of very highly educated judges who will want to know the facts, the statistics, who will want to see credible sources used, who will want to see the counter-argument addressed, the rebuttal addressing that counter-argument. Make sure that your Toulmin argument presents a firm stance, but it avoids all those pitfalls of bias.
We have the bias lessons in this unit. Make sure you read them. Again, 500 to 700 words and only the actual essay contributes to that word count. The paper needs to be formatted in MLA.
More information about documentation and this paper will also be graded you using the argumentative writing rubric. Okay, that sums up this assignment. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Monday through Friday, I’m available to take them. Okay, good luck everyone!