This post shows how to write a great term paper using the Toulmin Model of Argumentation as a structure for the paper as a whole as well as for each supporting point. In high school, your teachers were concerned with your ability to demonstrate an understanding of the material presented. Your assignments were designed to test your recollection of materials, your ability to synthesize that recollection, and your ability to compose that synthesis as proof of your comprehension. In college, your professors will be more concerned with your ability to infer conclusions and theories from the material presented.
You will find that topics in college are far more open-ended than those you were assigned in high school. In high school, you might receive an assignment that reads, “Describe how Mark Twain expresses his disdain for certain social conventions in Huckleberry Finn.” In college, a similar paper would be something along the lines of “Write a paper discussing Mark Twain’s attitude toward social conventions in Huckleberry Finn.” As you can see, in the first case, the assignment presents the expected conclusion. In the second case, you’re responsible for creating a conclusion and defending it. In short, a great college term paper requires you to present and support an argument.
There is an excellent model for crafting an argument that works well for a great term paper. This model was presented first by Stephen Toulmin, and is thus called the Toulmin Model of Argumentation. You may have been taught the thesis, support, conclusion model of writing in high school, and this is a similar but more direct and effective technique. Initially, the argument claim itself is made. The claim is simply the point being made. For example, you might write, “Mark Twain disdains most of the social conventions of the early 1800s.” This is a claim, a statement of opinion. It becomes an argument, and thus a great term paper when additional parts of the argument are included.
The next step in crafting an argument involves offering evidence of the claim. Toulmin called this the grounds. You might call Twain’s treatment of the relationship between Jim and Huck evidence that he abhorred slavery. You might discuss the satire presented with the behavior of the charlatans. You might discuss the way the feud represents silly concepts of honor. Grounds are simply statements of fact. They become proof of the claim when a warrant is presented. The warrant links the claim to the grounds. A warrant adds the link. For example, you might write that the companionship between Jim, a slave, and Huck, a white boy, illustrates a dramatic break from social convention and Twain’s favorable treatment of it indicates disdain for the social convention of slavery.
Using the claim, grounds, and warrant method will make a great term paper; but using all aspects of the Toulmin model will make an even better paper. An additional step is backing. This is similar to grounds, except it provides evidence for the warrant. Backing here might say, “It was unacceptable in Twain’s day to discuss positive interactions between slaves and whites, so Twain’s decision to look favorably on their relationship shows disdain for that convention.” Add a qualifier, and you have an even better argument. A qualifier does just that, it qualifies the warrant. You might choose to say that while Twain may not clearly disdain the entirety of the slavery institution, he very clearly disdains the notion that slaves had no worth as individual persons.
A final step using this model as your path to a great term paper is addressing potential rebuttals. You may, for example, write the following. “Recently, many have found fault with the use of an antiquated word (the “n” word) and suggested that Twain was racist and did not disdain slavery. This argument assumes the modern association with that word was present in Twain’s day. In reality, that word became offensive to society as a whole (including African-Americans) long after Twain’s death. Therefore, assigning motivation on his part for the use of that word is unwise.”
When you use the Toulmin Model for each particular point in your assignment, you will find that you build a great term paper by forcing yourself to focus on each statement you make and how that statement affects the thesis of the paper. You’ll create excellent college-level work that will not only meet the requirements of your professors, but will certainly surpass their expectations.
How to Write a Great Term Paper posted by WJ Rosser at USCollegeRanking.org