The Toulmin Method

Draw Conclusions from a Toulmin Analysis

Drawing Conclusions

After completing this Toulmin Analysis of the essay, "Landscaping that Makes Sense for the West," it is our task to determine how to "interpret" the results. In other words, how do we take what we have discovered about the argument through analysis and translate it into a formal response to that argument?

Collecting Results

The first step in drawing conclusions is to collect the results of our analysis. To do this, we go back to our responses on the different levels of our "house of cards": claim, reasons, evidence, and anticipated objections/rebuttal. In the case of our sample argument, we have determined that the writer's reasons and much of her evidence are quite strong. Some of her evidence is not as documentable as other evidence, and we could examine her claim (for lack of qualifications) and her rebuttal evidence more closely, but for the most part, our responses at the various levels of this analysis have been positive.

Is the Argument Compelling to You?

The first question you might ask yourself when "interpreting" the results of your analysis is a very general (and emotionally-based) question: Does this argument appeal to me? If it does appeal, then why and how does it appeal? In other words, how do the responses we made about the claim, reasons, evidence, etc. reinforce (or contradict) our "gut-level" response to the argument we have read? In the case of our example argument, we might say that the essay seems immediately compelling for a number of reasons (style, use of examples, the attractive color photo, etc.); then we might note that our overall response to and analysis of the parts of the argument supports this gut-level response.

What is the Overall Effectiveness/Ineffectiveness of the Argument?

In looking at the results of your analysis, it is important to notice how effective or ineffective the argument is based on the strengths or weaknesses you have noticed in the different parts of that argument. This is the part of interpretation which demands that you go beyond your gut-level responses to acknowledge (as "objectively" and as truthfully as possible) the parts of the argument which achieve their purpose effectively, and the parts which do this less effectively. Again, looking at our sample essay, we could argue that most of the parts of the argument (like the claim, reasons, and most evidence) are structured, supported, and expressed effectively, while there are very few areas of possible ineffectiveness (in credibility of evidence, thoroughness of rebuttal, or qualification of claim, for instance).

Overall, though, this argument would probably be considered a strong and well-supported one by most readers, and it is a bit of a stretch even to discuss these few areas of possible ineffectiveness.

Writing a Claim

The last stage of your analysis (and the first stage of writing a response to the essay) is to formulate a claim of your own, based on your analytical reading of the argument. In the case of our sample argument, our claim might read as follows: "Although this writer's argument has elements that might be slightly better qualified, supported, or documented, overall her argument for alternative landscaping is compelling and effective." (Of course, if as a reader you were inclined to disagree with her argument or to be critical of some of the reasons or evidence she offers, your claim would look quite different from this one.)

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