The Toulmin Method

Analyze the Reasons

Identifying All the Reasons

Once you have identified and examined the claim (for qualifiers and exceptions), the next step in the Toulmin Method is to identify and examine the reasons which support this claim. In the case of this essay, two of the reasons are given in the same breath as the general claim ("It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices") in the second paragraph. The sentence which follows this claim is, "In our arid Western climate and poor soil, the traditional lawn takes too much water, time, and harmful chemicals to maintain," and it implies two of the three reasons that the writer will address in the essay. The third reason the writer will address is this: Maintaining the traditional lawn is unnecessary, since varieties of grass that are more appropriate to the West (and "less hungry and thirsty," as the writer says in paragraph 14) are readily available. Click on the reasons below to see where they occur in the example argument.

Maintaining the traditional lawn is:

  1. In paragraph 2: Harmful (because of the chemicals used)
  2. In paragraph 2: Expensive in terms of time (time spent maintaining one's lawn) and money (water usage and cost of chemicals)
  3. In paragraph 11: Maintaining the traditional lawn is unnecessary, since varieties of grass that are more appropriate to the West are readily available.

Identifying and Examining Reason One

In reading on from paragraph 2 to paragraph 3 of the essay, we see that the first reason the writer addresses is the question of harm. At the beginning of paragraph 3, she broaches this question in the following way: "In Fort Collins, we must use herbicides when growing these foreign turfs." The assumption here, of course, is that these herbicides are harmful and undesirable, and the writer shows how this is so by providing evidence of the threats they pose to the environment and to humans.

We have identified Reason One as "In Fort Collins, we must use herbicides [which, by implication, are harmful] when growing these foreign turfs [like Kentucky bluegrass]." Our next step is to determine whether or not this reason is 1) relevant and 2) effective.

Determining the Relevance of Reason One

When examining this reason, it is first necessary to ask the question, "Is it relevant to the claim it attempts to support?" When we look at the claim and this first reason side by side, we see that there is a clear connection between the two.

Reason: "In Fort Collins, we must use herbicides [which, by implication, are harmful] when growing these foreign turfs [like Kentucky bluegrass]."

For this reason...

Claim: "It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices."

Determining the Effectiveness of Reason One

After determining that Reason One is indeed relevant to the argument's claim, we may go on to determine whether or not it is effective (or "good"). In other words, does the reason invoke a value that most people (most importantly, you as a reader) can believe in and accept?

In this case, the reason, having to do with the danger of herbicides to the environment and to people, invokes the reader's fear and distaste of such harm. This may or may not seem like an effective reason to you, and if it doesn't, then this is something to remember when you complete your analysis of this argument. However, we might predict that most readers would probably feel some kind of fear or distaste for the kinds of harm that the writer refers to, thus making this an effective reason.

Moving from Reason One to Reason Two

In providing a bridge from Reason One to Reason Two, the writer draws on what we will here call Reason Three, paraphrasable as follows: Maintaining the traditional lawn is unnecessary, since varieties of grass that are more appropriate to the West are readily available. After she demonstrates that herbicides are dangerous, the writer shows that this danger is unnecessary, given the existence of buffalo grass and other varieties "that are more resistant to pests, disease, and weeds and better suited to the West" (paragraph 5). She then lists some of the merits of buffalo grass, which are 1) its appropriateness to our region

2) the fact that it is almost maintenance-free, and therefore economical. This leads the writer directly into her second reason, which has to do with cost.

Identifying and Examining Reason Two

The writer's second reason, having to do with the cost of traditional landscaping in terms of money and time, is developed in paragraphs 6-9. (For the sake of simplicity, we will paraphrase Reason Two in the following way: "Traditional landscaping is costly in terms of both time and money.") Looking back at the essay, this reason can be most easily and clearly identified in two specific sentences:
Paragraph 6: "Choosing a variety that requires little or no watering also saves Fort Collins homeowners money."
Paragraph 7: "More appropriate species of grass would save time and money by making fertilizers and amendments obsolete."

With the exception of these two sentences, the majority of the argument in paragraphs 6-9 is given to providing evidence to support these statements, as well as (in paragraph 8) mentioning the cost of having one's lawn professionally cared for.

We have identified Reason Two as (in paraphrased form) "Traditional landscaping is costly in terms of both time and money." Our next step is to determine whether or not this reason is 1) relevant and 2) effective.

Determining the Relevance of Reason Two

When examining this reason, it is first necessary to ask the question, "Is it relevant to the claim it attempts to support?" When we look at the claim and this first reason side by side, we see that there is a clear connection between the two.

Reason: "Traditional landscaping is costly in terms of both time and money."

For this reason...

Claim: "It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices."

Determining the Effectiveness of Reason Two

After determining that Reason Two is indeed relevant to the argument's claim, we may go on to determine whether or not it is effective (or "good"). In other words, does the reason invoke a value that most people (most importantly, you as a reader) can believe in and accept?

In this case, the reason, having to do with the cost (in terms of both money and time) of maintaining traditional landscaping, invokes the value the reader places on money and time. This may or may not seem like an effective reason to you, and if it doesn't, then this is something to remember when you complete your analysis of this argument. However, we might predict that most readers would probably be compelled by an argument that proposes economy of both money and time. We could argue, therefore, that this is an effective reason.

Moving from Reason Two to Reason Three

In providing a bridge from Reason Two(having to do with various costs of traditional landscaping) to Reason Three(having to do with the availability of alternative varieties of grasses which are more suited to the West), the writer decides to deal with an objection she anticipates from her audience: "So how come we never hear about these alternative varieties of grasses and their benefits?" In paragraphs 10-12, the writer responds to this hypothetical objection, pointing out the biases of the lawn care industry and directing her audience toward less biased sources of information (or rather, those which are likely to give information about alternative varieties of grasses and means of landscaping).

Identifying and Examining Reason Three

As mentioned previously, we might paraphrase the writer's third reason in the following way: Maintaining the traditional lawn is unnecessary, since varieties of grass that are more appropriate to the West are readily available. Although she directly addresses the "availability" question only toward the end of her essay (in paragraphs 10-13), she refers to alternative varieties of grasses in several areas of the essay. For example,
In Paragraph 5: "Varieties of grass that are more resistant to pests, disease, and weeds and better suited to the West make this risk unnecessary."
In Paragraph 6: "Choosing a variety that requires little or no watering also saves Fort Collins homeowners money."
In Paragraph 7: "More appropriate species of grass would save time and money by making fertilizers and amendments obsolete."
In Paragraph 10: "Since the cost of maintaining an alternative lawn is so low, lawn care experts have no stake in keeping us informed about more appropriate species or in making them easy to obtain."

In paragraphs 11-13, however, the writer claims that these alternative varieties do exist and are available to Fort Collins residents, and she offers evidence to back this up.

We have identified Reason Three as (in paraphrased form) "Maintaining the traditional lawn is unnecessary, since varieties of grass that are more appropriate to the West are readily available." Our next step is to determine whether or not this reason is 1) relevant and 2) effective.

Determining the Relevance of Reason Three

When examining this reason, it is first necessary to ask the question, "Is it relevant to the claim it attempts to support?" When we look at the claim and this first reason side by side, we see that there is a clear connection between the two.

Reason: "Maintaining the traditional lawn is unnecessary, since varieties of grass that are more appropriate to the West are readily available."

For this reason...

Claim: "It is time for us to rethink our landscaping practices."

Determining the Effectiveness of Reason Three

After determining that Reason Three is indeed relevant to the argument's claim, we may go on to determine whether or not it is effective (or "good"). In other words, does the reason invoke a value that most people (most importantly, you as a reader) can believe in and accept?

In this case, the reason, which challenges the necessity of traditional landscaping methods and grasses when alternative ones (more appropriate to the West) are readily available, invokes the value the reader places on convenience and common sense. This may or may not seem like an effective reason to you, and if it doesn't, then this is something to remember when you complete your analysis of this argument. However, we might predict that most readers would probably be motivated by a desire to do something that "makes sense" if it is convenient to do so. Therefore, we might judge this to be an effective reason.

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Introduction