James C. McCroskey

Objectives of the basic course in speech are numerous and varied. One writer reported forty objectives and forty-eight values listed by department chairmen surveyed by the SAA Committee on Problems in Undergraduate Study.1 The achievement of all of these objectives in one basic course is probably impossible. To achieve as many as possible, the instructor must find methods which will aid him to achieve several objectives at the same time. The purpose of this essay is to suggest an approach, based upon the logical construct formulated by Stephen Toulmin,2 that will aid in the achievement of at least four of these objectives. The objectives with which this essay is primarily concerned are:

1. To improve ability in analyzing and adapting to audiences.

2. To improve efficiency in the selection of supporting materials.

3. To improve the quality and integrity of the ideas and materials used.

4. To improve ability to evaluate and criticize speeches.3


The significance of Toulmin's formulations for our profession was first brought to our attention by Wayne Brockriede at the Chicago SAA Convention in 1958. Brockriede in collaboration with Douglas Ehninger presented a more detailed discussion of Toulmin's approach to logic in an essay in the Quarterly Journal of Speech in 1960.4 Since that time several writers of textbooks have employed the model to greater or lesser degrees.5 The most extensive reference to the Toulmin approach in any textbook in our field is that by Ehninger and Brockriede in their recent argumentation text.6 Reviewers of this text have generally acclaimed it. Referring to the material on the Toulmin approach included in this text, one reviewer suggested that this is "the only significant change made by recent writers in theory of argument."7 At least two recent doctoral dissertations have made reference to the Toulmin approach.8

It would be of little moment here to describe in detail the mechanics of the Toulmin construct.9 For our purposes we need only describe the model and define its terminology.

The model is composed of six parts, three of which are essential to all argument and must always be either stated or implied. These three essential components are:

1. Claim--the conclusion of an argument, an explicit point that the speaker wishes his audience to accept.

2. Data--materials of fact or opinion stated or implied by the speaker and accepted by the audience.

3. Warrant--that part of an argument which states or implies an inference and authorizes a mental leap from data to claim.

The relationships among these three essential components may be represented diagrammatically as in the example below.


The steel industry has granted its employees a wage increase.



The price

of steel

will be increased.

Since (Warrant) A wage increase is likely to result in a price increase.

In addition to the three elements essential to all argument, the Toulmin construct recognizes the existence of three supporting elements which may or may not be present depending on the demands of the particular argument. These supporting elements are:

1. Support for Warrant--materials designed to certify the assumption expressed in the warrant.10

2. Reservations--statements appended to the claim which recognize certain conditions under which the claim may not be completely acceptable.11

3. Qualifier--a term which registers the degree of force the speaker deems a claim to possess.

If we add these elements to the previous example, we have a diagram of the complete Toulmin model on the following page.

(Data) The steel industry has granted its employees a wage increase. Therefore




The price of

steel will be


Since (Warrant) A wage increase is likely

to result in a

price increase.

Unless (Reservations) The additional money can be subtracted from company profits/ productivity can be increased so that more money can be made with the same amount of labor/ the government will intervene/ etc.
Because (Support for Warrant) Money to e sent by management on wages must come from the consumer of the product or service/ Expert X testifies that price increases have always followed wage increases in the steel industry.

The basic concept of the Toulmin analysis is the "movement" of argument from data through warrant to claim. In other words, the audience is directed by an inference to accept a conclusion on the basis of previously accepted facts or opinions. The major difference between this approach to logical analysis and the traditional formal approach to logic is its dependence upon the audience rather than formal tests for "validity." The significance of this difference was best expressed by Wilson and Arnold. They stated:

It seems to us that the formal rules of scientific or philosophical reasoning are far too rigid and specialized to be fruitfully applied in speaker-listener relationships where cautiously analytical thought processes are but partially developed at best and where, except when expert addresses expert, private rather than universal standards of validity and adequacy operate. Perhaps it should not be so, but centuries of experience and numerous experimental studies of communicative processes indicate that in the logic of popular communication at least, 'One man's meat is another's poison.' What constitutes sufficient rational proof of any idea depends on who is the audience. The very degree to which every speaker is, himself, a powerful proof or disproof of his ideas is a further indication that the role of formal logic in popular communication is limited indeed.12

Before we examine how the Toulmin construct can be employed to achieve the specific pedagogical objectives previously mentioned, let us consider the general problems of invention and disposition and what the speaker's needs are in these areas.

In these phases of speech preparation, authors of one popular text stated, "time will be saved, and efficiency promoted, if a systematic, orderly procedure is adopted."13 Writers of other texts apparently hold similar beliefs. Authors of texts in public speaking commonly have listed from six to twelve steps that the speaker should follow in preparing his speech.14 In many of these lists, audience analysis appears as one of the steps. No doubt a series of steps should be followed in the preparation of a speech. However, it is doubtful whether audience analysis should be considered as one of these discrete steps.

Authors of most texts have stressed the importance and difficulty of audience analysis. McBurney and Wrage, for example, provide a list of items to consider about audiences and tell the speaker that he should confine his inquiry to "those items that are relevant to your needs."15 Other writers approach the problem in similar fashion.16 This is of some value, but it does not answer the vital question, "What does the speaker need to know about his audience?"

(Data) I think we should expand our plant immediately. Therefore (Claim) We should expand our plant immediately.
Since (Warrant) I am a

credible source.

Because (Support for Warrant) As president of the firm, I am in the best position to know the needs of the firm in the area of physical plant.

Aristotle stated that rhetoric is"a faculty of discovering all possible means of persuasion in any subject."17 The audience is the factor which determines whether an argument (or a portion of an argument) is a means of persuasion. What is a means of persuasion with one audience may repel another. Thus, to be a means of persuasion, an argument must have "audience validity." If the audience accepts the argument as valid in their context, it is a means of persuasion. If they do not, it is of no value to the speaker. Therefore, the speaker must use a "systematic, orderly procedure" which will aid him in determining audience validity both in the classroom and in later speaking situations.

Such a procedure must be heuristic in nature. A prescriptive list of tests will be of little or no value, for the tests of audience validity vary immensely from audience to audience. The student speaker must learn to discover the standards of audience validity in the given situation as well as to apply them. Treating audience analysis as one of the discrete "steps" in preparation assumes the possibility of the speaker understanding at the outset of his preparation precisely what he needs to know about his audience. This would rarely be the case.

The Toulmin lay-out provides us with the essence of an heuristic approach to invention. It is an approach to analysis of argument which allows audience analysis to become an integral part of argument construction. Applying this tool in the intentional process does not give the speaker the right answers about his audience; rather, it leads him to ask the right question, i.e., it does not analyze his audience for him but it tells him of what his audience analysis must consist.

Let us take an hypothetical situation. The speaker, the president of a super market chain, wishes to convince the board of directors that they should approve immediately a plan for plant expansion rather than wait until next year. He knows his ultimate claim at the outset--"We should expand our planet immediately." The speaker's invention must be based on this ultimate claim. He should ask himself, "What data and warrant can I use that will lead my audience to accept this claim?" He may consider basing his argument on his own authority. Such an argument may be diagramed as shown on the preceding page.

In this case the speaker would be depending upon his own ethos as his means of persuasion. His needs in audience analysis are simple: will his audience accept his argument on the basis of his personal prestige? If the speaker can answer yes to this question, he has found his means of persuasion. If he must answer no, he will need to continue this phase of the intentional process.


Our company will save a large amount of money by expanding now rather than waiting until later.



We should expand our plant immediately.

Since (Warrant) Our basic self-interest is served by saving money.

The speaker may next consider an appeal to the audience's self-interest. Such an argument may be diagramed as above.

In this case the speaker would need to analyze his audience to determine whether they consider saving money to be a major motive. If he determines that they do, he can continue to consider this argument; if he determines that they do not, he is forced to discard it.



costs will go

up at least

ten percent

after July 1.



Our company will save a large amount of money by expanding now rather than waiting until later.

Since (Warrant)

A ten percent increase in construction costs would represent a large amount of money.

Assuming the above argument is deemed appropriate for the audience, the speaker should next consider how to obtain audience acceptance of the data from which the claim is drawn. He can do this by treating the data as a claim and following the procedure outlined above. The following could be the result of the next step, shown on preceding page.

This integrated process of invention and audience analysis should continue until the speaker is confident that he has found data acceptable to his audience from which he can draw his claims. At this point he will have discovered his means of persuasion. During this portion of the inventional process, he may find that he does not have certain necessary data, thus further research would be indicated. If the essential data are not available, the speaker may conclude that there is no means of persuasion available to him, no way to obtain audience acceptance of his original purpose. At this point he has to choose between modifying his purpose and not speaking at all. Following the procedure outlined above will enable the speaker to reach this point of decision relatively early in his speech preparation, thus preventing much unnecessary labor.

Unfortunately the speaker will not always be able to predict confidently his audience's reaction to data and claims. He may determine that he needs to know something about his audience, but that there is no way to obtain this necessary information. When this is the case, he should recognize the need for developing additional arguments to supplement or replace the ones in question. The speaker may, and very probably will, develop dozens of arguments that can be used in the speech, all of which may be based upon specific problems uncovered in attempts at audience analysis. If the speech is presented extemporaneously, he can make his final decision on some data and claims on the basis of the observable audience response. This may cause him to exclude some arguments as unneeded and to bring in some that he had held in reserve.

Thus, by rigorously applying this method, the speaker should be able to discover the possible means of persuasion and, at the same time, identify most of what does not fit into the category. It is a method that permits consideration of all modes of proof--ethos, pathos, and logos--either together or separately. Most importantly, it is useful to any speaker on any subject with any audience.


Using the approach to invention and audience analysis based on the Toulmin construct should certainly aid any student attain increased ability to analyze and adapt to audiences. If the student speaker can learn to evaluate his resources by beginning with his claim and then proceeding to find the data and warrant needed to establish that claim with his particular audience, he will determine what he needs to know about that audience. By teaching this kind of inventive procedure, the instructor should be able to instill the concept of audience-centered communication in the mind of the student much more easily than if he treats audience analysis as a discrete "step" in the preparation of a speech. It is in this sense that using the Toulmin construct in the basic course can be expected to contribute to the improvement of ability in analyzing and adapting to audiences.

The second objective, increased efficiency in the selection of supporting materials, is closely related to improved ability in audience analysis and adaptation. Student speakers are advised in textbooks and by teachers that they must have reserve materials beyond what can be used in the time allotted for their speeches. The author of one text referred to the development of this reserve material as the "iceberg technique."18 The success of this technique can not be measured by the amount of material accumulated. Rather, the success of the "iceberg technique" must be determined on the basis of whether the speaker has the proper materials at the proper time to accomplish the purpose of his speech. This criterion can not be met by merely accumulating massive amounts of material. Rather, preparation beyond the material needed for original inclusion in the speech must be based upon hypothesized audience responses which could be problematic for the speaker.

By applying the Toulmin analysis in invention, the speaker can determine what materials he will need to support claims. More importantly, however, he is led by the same process to determine what materials he may need for he has had to predict a great number of audience responses. Therefore, since efficiency in selecting supporting materials is dependent on audience analysis, the application of the Toulmin analysis should substantially aid in achieving this objective of the course.

Applying any logical process of analysis should help to achieve the third objective: to improve the quality and integrity of ideas and materials. Since his application of the Toulmin analysis forces the speaker to examine each part of each argument and to apply his own evaluative and ethical standards in deciding whether it should be included, the quality and integrity of ideas and materials should parallel the quality and integrity of the speaker. This would seem to meet the objective of the course as well as it is possible to meet it through rhetorical methods.

The final teaching objective which will be considered is improving ability to evaluate the criticize speeches. Many instructors introduce basic principles of rhetorical criticism into the first course and ask their students to read and evaluate significant contemporary or historical speeches. Others prefer to restrict evaluation and criticism to speeches by students in the classroom. In either case, the student needs to analyze and evaluate arguments included in speeches.

Arguments can be diagramed on the Toulmin model and examined element by element. The Toulmin lay-out should prove to be very helpful for evaluating speeches for material and audience validity. If the student can become familiar with this system of descriptive analysis, it should improve his ability to evaluate and criticize speeches whether they are live or on the printed page.


Use of the Toulmin model in the basic course can potentially aid in the achievement of at least four objectives of the first course in speech. What specific assignments can the instructor use to transform these potentialities into realities? Certain assignments are common in basic speech courses. By taking advantage of opportunities to inject Toulmin's model into these assignments, the advantages of Toulmin's ideas can be obtained and still all other advantages which normally lead teachers to make these assignments can be maintained. The following are assignments which have been used in conjunction with the ideas developed in this essay and found to be helpful.19


To the best of this writer's knowledge, only one textbook designed for a basic course includes material on the Toulmin analysis.20 Since even here the treatment is brief and offered for illustrative purposes only, the instructor will probably find it necessary to require additional reading if he is to make such uses of Toulmin's model as have been suggested. Chapters eight through twelve of Decision by Debate21 constitute valuable supplementary reading of the kind that will be needed. In addition, the instructor should spend at least two or three class periods on the concepts of the Toulmin approach to analyzing arguments. This should cause no hardship in scheduling. Much of the discussion of Toulmin's approach will deal with material and concepts which would be covered in the course anyway. The amount of additional material which must be included is minimal.

One-Point Speech

The one-point speech is commonly used as an early speaking assignment. Frequently one of its purposes is to provide the student with the opportunity to construct an argument on a single idea. This assignment provides an excellent opportunity for utilizing the Toulmin analysis. The student should be asked to prepare a diagram of his argument instead of, or in addition to, an outline. This requirement should aid the student in the development of his one-point speech. In addition, it will provide the opportunity for him to make practical application of the Toulmin analysis in invention. The instructor has the opportunity to examine the student's application of the Toulmin analysis and to discuss it with him either separately or in conjunction with his overall criticism of the student's speech.

A highly desirable supplementary assignment is to ask each class member to pick out the various parts of each speaker's argument. This will provide a substantial introductory experience in analyzing and evaluating arguments in speeches and can help to strengthen the student's understanding of the practical application of the Toulmin analysis.

Persuasive Speech

The assignment of a persuasive speech is probably the most universal of all assignments in the basic course. Not infrequently, however, much of its potential value is lost because the student's preparation is left, more or less, to chance. The teacher listens to the end product of the preparation and examines the student's outline, but may only guess what the student actually did in preparation. This is most unfortunate. This neglected portion is actually the most important aspect of our basic course. The first three objectives of the basic course discussed above are all concerned primarily with the preparation phase of speaking. If the teacher is to evaluate the student's abilities in preparation and aid them to improve, he needs to know what the student does to prepare for his speeches. A speech from the fraternity file or Reader's Digest may have an excellent outline and be presented exceptionally well, but the student has not obtained the benefits intended by the assignment and the objectives of the course have not been met.

There are at least two ways for the instructor to overcome this problem. The first of these is through the speech conference.22 In this conference, the instructor can guide the student's use of the Toulmin analysis in determining what the speaker needs to know about his audience, what research is needed, et cetera. This procedure brings the instructor and student together for this important phase of speech preparation. Clearly such conferences are extremely valuable. Unfortunately, however, class size and course load may make such conferences with every student infeasible.

A second way to overcome the problem of lack of preparation is to ask the student to prepare diagrams of all arguments that he plans to use in his speech. In addition, he should be required to prepare several which he concludes may be needed in order to adapt to his audience during the presentation of the speech. This assignment stresses the importance of individual point development, the prediction of audience reaction, and the value of the "iceberg technique." The instructor can examine these diagrams and inform the student of weaknesses and strengths. When feasible, these two methods of overcoming the preparation problem can be used together. Whether used alone or together, they have the effect of opening the student's preparation process to the instructor's evaluation and assistance. Such procedure should substantially aid the instructor to accomplish the first three objectives of the course with which this essay is concerned.

Speech of Analysis-Evaluation.

Most instructors include some type of impromptu speaking assignment in the basic course. Most also include student criticism of their classmates' speeches. The speech of analysis-evaluation is a practical combination of these two assignments. Each student may be asked to listen particularly to the speech of one other member of the class. Immediately after the classmate's speech, he should be required to give an impromptu speech analyzing and evaluating the speech just completed. He should indicate the major claims of the speech, point out the data and warrants leading to those claims, and evaluate the arguments on the basis of material and audience validity. The instructor may also ask the speaker to analyze and evaluate other aspects of the speech if he feels it appropriate.

While this assignment provides the student with a practical impromptu speaking assignment, it has the additional advantage of stressing the fourth objective of the course with which we are concerned: the ability to evaluate and criticize speeches. The utilization of the Toulmin approach to argument analysis provides the student with a practical structure around which he can construct his analysis-evaluation. This assignment should aid the student to become more acute in listening to arguments in speeches and, in turn, better able to evaluate and criticize them.

Listening Assignments

It has become more and more popular recently to ask students in the basic course to listen to one or more speeches outside class and hand in some type of written report. If the instructor requires the report to be an analysis-evaluation much like that of the impromptu speech discussed above, this assignment can be very valuable. In addition to the benefits of such an analysis-evaluation, the listening assignment will enable the student to practice his evaluative and critical skills in surroundings other than the classroom. He will be forced to listen to speakers who may not practice the desirable speech skills that the student is studying in the classroom. This should stress the difficulty that even the trained critic faces in evaluating a live speech. Once again, the use of the Toulmin method of argument analysis can provide the student with a structure around which he can develop his evaluation of the speaking he hears.

Term Project

Although not a universal requirement, a term paper of some type is not infrequently an assignment in the basic course. Some instructors require an analysis-evaluation of a published speech by a contemporary or historical speaker. If the instructor chooses to use such an assignment, it can be helpful to have the student submit Toulmin diagrams of the important arguments included in the speech. Such diagrams in the assignment will cause the student to examine the speech argument by argument. This procedure will significantly aid the student in determining the strengths and weaknesses of the speaker's arguments.

The suggestions in this essay are designed to aid the instructor in guiding his student to develop their abilities in invention and disposition while at the same time providing them with a tool which can be helpful in improving their ability to evaluate and criticize speeches. The main advantage of the Toulmin construct as discussed in this essay is its breadth of application. While the construct was originally developed as a method of looking at arguments, its applications for audience analysis and selection of materials make it extremely valuable for speakers, and, hence, for teachers of speech. While the inclusion of this construct in the basic course certainly will not solve all of the problems of meeting course objectives, the writer has found it to be very helpful in the objectives with which this essay is concerned. He hopes that others will find it to be equally helpful.


1. Donald E. Hargis, "The First Course in Speech," Speech Teacher, Vol. 5, No. 1 (January, 1956), pp. 26-33. See also, Hugh F. Seabury, "Objectives and Scope of the Fundamentals Course in Speech in High School," Speech Teacher, Vol. 3, No. 2 (March, 1954), pp. 117-120.

2. Stephen A. Toulmin, The Uses of Argument (London: Cambridge University Press, 1958).

3. These are not the only objectives aided by this approach. Space does not permit consideration of each objective.

4. Wayne Brockriede and Douglas Ehninger, "Toulmin on Argument: An Interpretation and Application," Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 46, No. 1 (February, 1960), pp. 44-53.

5. See Douglas Ehninger and Wayne Brockriede, Decision by Debate (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1963); Austin J. Freeley, Argumentation and Debate (San Francisco: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1961); Halbert E. Gulley, Discussion, Conference, and Group Process (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960); Glen E. Mills, Reason in Controversy (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1964); and John F. Wilson and Carroll C. Arnold, Public Speaking as a Liberal Art (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1964).

6. Ehninger and Brockriede, pp. 98-186.

7. Forbes I. Hill, "Discussion: Analysis of Proof in Decision by Debate," Journal of the American Forensic Association, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January, 1964), p. 36.

8. Arthur Hastings, "A Reformulation of the Modes of Reasoning in Argumentation," Ph.D. Dissertation, Northwestern University, 1962, and Forbes I. Hill, "The Genetic Method in Recent Criticism on the Rhetoric of Aristotle," Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University, 1963.

9. For a thorough discussion of the Toulmin construct, see Ehninger and Brockriede, pp. 98-186, or Mills, pp. 125-147.

10. "Support for Warrant" is the term used by Ehninger and Brockriede. Toulmin used the term "Backing."

11. "Reservations" is the term used by Ehninger and Brockriede, Toulmin used the term "Rebuttal."

12. Wilson and Arnold, p. 143.

13. William P. Sandford and Willard H. Yeager, Principles of Effective Speaking (New York: Ronald Press Company, 1963), p. 93.

14. See, for example, A. Craig Baird and Franklin H. Knower, General Speech (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1936), pp. 26-30; Raymond G. Smith, Principles of Public Speaking (New York: Ronald Press Company, 1958), pp. 25-32; Paul L. Soper, Basic Public Speaking (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), pp. 15-17; Milton Dickens, Speech Dynamic Communication (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1963), pp. 51-63; Alan H. Monroe, Principles of Speech (Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1958), pp. 14-20; Robert T. Oliver, Harold P. Zelko, and Paul D. Holtzman, Communicative Speech (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962), p. 59.

15. James H. McBurney and Ernest J. Wrage, The Art of Good Speech (New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1953), p. 219.

16. See, for example, Dickens, pp. 231-247; Lionel Crocker, Public Speaking for College Students (New York: American Book Company, 1956), pp. 323-330; and Glenn R. Capp, How to Communicate Orally (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961), pp. 45-61.

17. Rhetoric. Trans. by J. E. C. Welldon (London, 1886), pp. 1 and 10.

18. Oliver, Zelko, and Holtzman, pp. 93, 139, 162, 278, and 301-304.

19. The writer first incorporated material derived from Toulmin into his basic course at Old Dominion College in 1961, and has continued to use it since moving to The Pennsylvania State University. Several other instructors are using similar assignments.

20. Wilson and Arnold, pp. 139-143.

21. Ehninger and Brockriede, pp. 98-186.

22. The value of such conferences is discussed by Walter W. Stevens, "The Speech-Building Conference," Speech Teacher, Vol. 12, No. 1 (January, 1963), pp. 27-29.

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