Toulmin model In A Nutshell

The Toulmin model is a system of argumentation that is used to develop, analyze, and categorize arguments. The Toulmin model was created by British philosopher Stephen Toulmin in his 1958 book The Uses of Argument. In the model, an argument is separated into its constituent parts and each part is evaluated in terms of how well it contributes to the whole. In other words, how valid or effective is the argument? 

Understanding the Toulmin model

To determine validity, Toulmin argued that there are six parts factors to consider. Three of which are fundamental to every argument:

  1. The claim – or the assertion that someone wants to prove to someone else. In other words, the main argument. For this article, let us assume that someone argues to someone else that they should purchase a new Ford pickup truck.
  2. The grounds – or the evidence that helps support the claim. The grounds may include data, facts, or logical reasoning. The Ford F150 truck has been the best-selling truck in American for 10 years.
  3. The warrant – or an assumption that links the grounds to the claim, thereby legitimizing it and making it relevant. The warrant can simply be implied or it can be stated explicitly. Ford trucks consistently score highly for consumer satisfaction.

The three remaining parts of the Toulmin model

The three remaining parts of the model are not considered fundamental to the Toulmin model.

Nevertheless, they can be used to construct robust, nuanced arguments.

Here is a look at each, using the Ford example from the previous section:

  1. The backing – which gives additional support to the warrant by answering different questions. For example, Ford has dealerships right across America – even in small, rural towns. 
  2. The qualifier – describing the strength of the relationship between the data and the warrant. Qualifying statements usually include words such as “most”, “usually”, “sometimes”, or “always”. For example, most men in the 35 to 45 demographic own a new or used Ford truck.
  3. The rebuttal – or the counter-argument that takes the form of continued dialogue or rebuttal during the initial presentation of the argument. The rebuttal is a form of argument in itself and must include a claim, warrant, backing, etc. A rebuttal to the argument of buying a Ford truck may be that the company has reliability issues. This could be countered by stating that Ford has recently improved quality control by building new production facilities in collaboration with other automakers.

Applications of the Toulmin model in business

The Toulmin model has benefits for committees and other business meetings. This is because most meetings rarely use the power of debate in making effective decisions. Getting the decision-making process right is particularly important when many stakeholders are involved. Have the needs of every stakeholder been adequately addressed? Debating the efficacy of a decision using argumentation minimizes the chances of stakeholder rebuttal. 

To smooth this process, each committee member should be asked to fill out the six parts of the argument they want to put forth. Most individuals will find that their points of view (or perspectives) do not satisfy Toulmin’s criteria for a good argument. Indeed, the arguments that do satisfy all criteria are vastly superior to what might have been decided by not using the method.

Key takeaways

  • The Toulmin model is a tool used to develop effective argumentation by breaking down each argument into six parts.
  • The Toulmin model argues that three parts are fundamental to any argument: the claim, the grounds, and the warrant. The remaining three parts of the backing, qualifier, and rebuttal can be used to construct more nuanced arguments.
  • The Toulmin model has important implications for decision making in business. The systematic nature of deconstructing arguments ensures that only decisions likely to satisfy all stakeholders are implemented.

Other Brainstorming Frameworks

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Round-robin Brainstorming

Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.

Constructive Controversy

Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Affinity Grouping

Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

The Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.


Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming takes advantage of the natural human tendency to more easily see problems than solutions. What’s more, many individuals when placed in a traditional brainstorming environment will find it difficult to become creative on command. Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail. 

Lotus Diagram

A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Futures Wheel

The futures wheel was invented in 1971 by Jerome C. Glenn while he was studying at the Antioch Graduate School of Education.  The futures wheel is a brainstorming framework for visualizing the future consequences of a particular trend or event.

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