The Toulmin Method

Analyze The Claim

Identifying the Claim

Our first step in the Toulmin Method is to identify the claim. In the case of this argument, the claim is stated in a very general way, then is elaborated on throughout the essay. (Therefore, there is no particular point in the essay where the writer states her claim in full.) However, the general statement of the claim could be said to come at the beginning of paragraph 2, where the writer argues, "It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices." She elaborates on this somewhat in the sentence that follows: " In our arid Western climate and poor soil, the traditional lawn takes too much water, time, and harmful chemicals to maintain." The argument proceeds to prove that this is true, then offers alternatives to "the traditional lawn."

Examining the Claim for Qualifiers

Having identified and paraphrased the claim in paragraph 2 as, "It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices," the next step in the Toulmin Method is to examine this claim to see if the writer uses any qualifiers--words like "some," "many," "most of the time," etc. In this case, there are no such qualifiers. It can sometimes be damaging to an argument to omit qualifiers, particularly if there are also no exceptions provided. It is up to you as a reader to determine whether the writer's unqualified claim is damaging to this particular argument.

Examining the Claim for Exceptions

After looking for qualifying words in the claim, the next step is to determine what the writer considers to be the situations in which her claim doesn't apply. In other words, it is necessary to identify any exceptions she makes to her claim. In her argument, although she does not mention explicitly any exceptional situations, her claim implies one.

If we look at the writer's claim in paragraph 2, "It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices," the first thing we should ask is "Who does she refer to when she uses the word `us'?" Clearly, this writer is addressing an audience like herself: homeowners in the West (in Ft. Collins, Colorado perhaps) who are interested in landscaping. Then if we look at the introductory paragraph of the essay, we see that she has described two landscaping situations: one in her home state of Ohio, and one in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she now lives. From all of this, we can assume that the writer intends for her argument to apply primarily to lawns in the West, and that (by implication) she excludes from her argument lawns in other parts of the country, where conditions are different.

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Introduction