This article introduces the concept of backing within Stephen Toulmin's model of argumentation, highlighting its role in providing additional evidence or reasoning to support the warrant, thereby strengthening the overall argument. It explains how backing reinforces the logical connection between evidence and claim, making arguments more persuasive and understandable. By mastering the use of backing, you will be able to enhance the credibility of your arguments and effectively address counterarguments, improving both your writing and critical thinking skills.

Golden Gate Bridge under clear skies, supported by exaggerated beams, with cars crossing over.

Backing is a key part of building a strong argument, as defined by Stephen Toulmin in his model of argumentation. It’s the additional evidence or reasoning that supports the warrant, which is the logical link connecting your evidence to your main point or claim. In simpler terms, if your claim is what you’re trying to prove, and your evidence is the data or facts you use to support it, the warrant explains why your evidence actually supports your claim. Backing, then, strengthens that explanation, making your argument more convincing.

Consider a debate on the effects of social media on mental health among college students. If one side argues that high social media use leads to increased anxiety, citing studies that find a correlation between screen time and anxiety levels, they’re making a claim supported by evidence. The warrant here is the assumption that more screen time directly causes higher anxiety. To make their warrant stronger, the debaters can use backing, such as additional psychological studies showing specifically how social media algorithms designed to keep users engaged also contribute to increased anxiety. This backing helps ensure the audience understands and believes the connection between the evidence (screen time) and the claim (increased anxiety).

Synonymous Terms

In contemporary discourse, the term “backing” may be used synonymously with

  1. Support
    This term emphasizes the role of backing as a pillar that upholds the warrant, ensuring that the leap from evidence to claim is not just a leap of faith but a step built on solid ground.
  2. Justification
    Justification highlights the reasoning aspect of backing, focusing on how it rationalizes the warrant’s applicability to the claim, thereby reinforcing the argument’s logical structure.
  3. Foundation
    Similar to architectural foundations, this term underscores the fundamental importance of backing in providing a stable base for the warrant, without which the argument might collapse under scrutiny.

Related Concepts

  1. Citation – How to Connect Evidence to Your Claims
  2. Counterarguments
  3. Interpretive Framework
  4. Paraphrasing – How to Paraphrase with Clarity & Concision


Toulmin argumentation can be diagrammed as a conclusion established more or less on the basis of a fact supported by a warrant with backing and a possible rebuttal Toulmin Model Chiswick Chap CC BY SA 30

Why, in Toulmin’s model of argument, is backing necessary?

The need for backing is crucial in arguments where the warrant, the assumption that links evidence to a claim, may not be self-evident or could invite skepticism. For instance, people around the globe may debate the impact of caffeine consumption on academic performance. They might argue that caffeine improves concentration, citing studies that show increased alertness and cognitive function after caffeine intake as evidence. The warrant in this context is that short-term increase in alertness directly translates to better academic performance.

Critical audiences — people who have been educated, inculcated, in Information Literacy Perspectives & Practices — may push back on the idea that alertness causes or is correlated with academic performance. Perhaps, they might argue, alertness needs to be measured across the landscape of a day, from the morning when a writer is fresh, to the evening, before bedtime.

In short, educated audiences tend to be critical. They use various critical, interpretive frameworks to analyze a situation, including rhetorical reasoning and textual analysis.

As a result, speakers and writers engage in backing: they offer additional evidence to further justify, clarify, and exemplify the warrant. They, might, for example, provide a review of research. They might cite research studies that investigated a link between caffeine’s immediate effects on cognitive functions and the long-term This additional layer of justification helps to address potential doubts and reinforces the argument’s credibility, making the transition from evidence to claim smoother and more convincing.

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