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Logical arguments are everywhere. From social media posts, newspaper op-eds, TV advertisements, and academic journals, people want to convince us of the validity of their argument. They make a claim and use reasons in the form of evidence or data to convince us their argument is correct. They structure their claims and reasons so their audience can easily understand them. Arguments that use well-chosen reasons, careful reasoning, and logical structures are logical arguments.
A logical argument is a type of argument that uses logic to convince an audience of the validity of a claim. Logic is the use of reasoning and good argumentation.
Philosophers and rhetoricians agree that a logical argument is made up of claims and reasons. A claim is a position a writer takes in an argument. In an essay, your goal is for the audience to believe your claim. To convince your audience that your claim is correct, you will need reasons–the evidence that supports your claim.
Let’s see how Thomas Jefferson states his claim and reasons in “The Declaration of Independence.” Jefferson believes that the British colonies on the North American continent should separate from the British government and form their own country. He writes the following claim to convince his audience of his beliefs:1
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
Jefferson states his claim and then provides his evidence, which is broken down below, to prove why King George III is a tyrannical leader.
Claim: King George III imposed tyranny over the colonies.
Reason: He does not acknowledge the laws that the colonists' legislatures passed.
You must use claims with reasons to make logical arguments. Making logical arguments in essays will require you to think critically about how you want to make your claims and which reasons you want to use them.
Writers have different ways of forming reasons to support their claims in a logical argument. The Greek philosopher Aristotle broke down these methods into two general categories: artistic and inartistic proofs.
Source of Reason
Types of Reasons
Arguments the writer creates
Arguments the writer gives
Facts; statistics; expert testimony
Artistic proofs are arguments the writer creates. Instead of using hard evidence, the writer's reasoning comes from various rhetorical appeals. These appeals include
Ethos (appealing to the writer’s credibility or morals/values).
Logos (appealing to logic).
Pathos (appealing to emotions).
Writers consider how to balance these different appeals within their essays. Most audiences are convinced by logical appeals, and you will soon learn how authors use logical reasoning. However, logical arguments incorporate ethical and emotional appeals. You can appeal to ethos by highlighting your expertise. To incorporate pathos, you can have a well-chosen anecdote as evidence to support your argument. Writers using logical arguments in their essays choose these different appeals by knowing their audience’s values and interests.
Inartistic proofs are arguments the writer gives in an essay. They are the hard evidence used to support logical arguments.
Using factual information, such as information from scholarly research or government reports, is crucial for writing a logical argument. If you have credible evidence, your audience will listen to your argument, even if they disagree with you. Make sure the factual information you include in your essay is from reliable sources, presented fairly, and supports your claim.
You can use statistics to strengthen a logical argument by providing concrete data about an issue. You will need to interpret this data and explain how it supports your argument. Be careful with how you present statistics in your argument to avoid presenting them in a biased manner. Since there are different ways to interpret data, make sure you understand the statistics you are using.
Expert testimonies help in making a logical argument. Expert testimonies are the stories and knowledge that come from personal experience and expertise about the topic. They can come from your own experiences with the topic or another individual's experiences with it. These narratives are compelling because they provide evidence the audience can trust and demonstrate how your topic affects people.
Study tip: To help you remember the difference between artistic and inartistic proofs, remember that artists create!
There are two main types of logical reasoning used in academic writing: deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning.
Deductive reasoning is a type of reasoning where you use general statements to form a more specific claim. Writers use deductive reasoning in essays to lead readers to their conclusion. They begin with a broad claim and lead their audience to a specific claim using logical reasoning, using this structure:
Statement of a general claim.
Statement of another general claim. This claim has a direct connection to your first general claim.
Combining the first and second claims to make a specific claim.
Deductive reasoning follows this pattern to form general claims and combine them into a specific claim:
Let’s see a simple example of deductive reasoning to see how general claims form a specific claim.
Hot objects burn your skin if you touch them. (General claim)
A stove that is on is a hot object. (General claim)
Therefore, a stove that is on will burn your skin if you touch it. (Specific claim)
Deductive reasoning is a common form of logic found in argumentation. While it is popular, you will need to make sure that your claims are true and follow the above pattern for your logic to be valid. See the example below to observe errors in deductive reasoning.
All cats are orange. (All cats are not orange!)
Pumpkins are orange. (The statement is formed around the color orange [Y], not cats [X].)
Therefore, all cats are pumpkins. (The two errors above result in this inaccurate claim.)
You can use deductive reasoning to structure the overall argument of a portion of your essay or your entire essay. Thomas Jefferson uses deductive reasoning to structure "The Declaration of Independence." The first general claim is developed in the first section of the essay. For example, in the first two paragraphs, Jefferson argues people have the right to form a new government if it acts tyrannically.
For the second claim, look toward the middle, especially where the topic transitions into a new idea. After two paragraphs, Jefferson's argument shifts toward explaining how King George III is a tyrannical leader.
To identify the final claim, find the argument at the end of the text. In the final paragraph, Jefferson concludes that the colonies have the right to form their own government since King George III does not rule fairly.
Below is the outline of Jefferson's deductive reasoning in his argument.
If their current government is tyrannical, people have the right to form a new government.
King George III's government is tyrannical.
Because King George III's government is tyrannical, the colonies have the right to form a new government.
Inductive reasoning is another form of logical reasoning commonly found in essays. With inductive reasoning, you use specific details or examples to form a general claim. Let's say you observe a classmate carrying a large instrument case, talking about going to rehearsals, and wearing the school's band t-shirt. Using inductive reasoning, you would use these specific details to form the claim that your classmate is in the school band.
Inductive reasoning is common in academic writing, especially scientific writing. You use inductive reasoning when you want to discuss patterns you observed and form a general claim based on this evidence. For example, scientists conduct clinical experiments on new medical drugs in a trial group. Based on these results, they need to make generalizations on how this drug will affect the general population to argue if the drug is effective.
Because inductive reasoning relies on generalizations, it is easier to have a faulty claim because you do not have enough evidence. Let's say you want to argue in an essay that all schools should decrease athletic funding. You argue that funding sports is a waste of money because you observed your school funds sports programs, and the teams always lose. This would be an example of bad inductive reasoning because your experience does not support the claim that all schools should decrease funding. Not all school teams lose their games. Observations and generalizations can help you make logical arguments, but be careful that you have sufficient and correct evidence.
Thomas Jefferson uses inductive reasoning in "The Declaration of Independence" to argue King George III is a tyrannical ruler. Jefferson forms this general claim based on his observations of the King's behavior. He lists 27 examples as his evidence. These examples vary, with multiple examples of ignoring colonial government, enforcing unpopular laws, and forcing colonists to house British soldiers in their homes. The number and variety of examples lead Jefferson to conclude that King George III is a tyrannical ruler.
Beyond forming their claims and reasons, writers also consider the structure of their essays when making logical arguments. One of the most useful methods for structuring logical arguments is based on philosopher Stephen Toulmin's method.
Toulmin's method of argumentation is a popular structure in advanced English Language exams and academic writing. This structure helps writers anticipate and create complex arguments using logical reasoning. Toulmin's method is useful for arguing about complex situations that lack a concrete solution. There are six main parts to Toulmin's method of argumentation.
The claim is the argument you want to prove.
Qualifiers are the limits placed on your claim. Because you are arguing about complex situations, the qualifiers moderate your claim.
You will support your claim with reasons and evidence--remember your artistic and inartistic proofs!
Warrants are the assumptions that support your claim. Arguments can have unsaid assumptions, and you are responsible for stating them.
Backing is the evidence for your warrant. Not only do you need evidence for your claim, but you will need evidence for your warrant.
Rebuttals are the potential objections to your argument. You will want to anticipate these rebuttals and address them.
Considering the popularity of Toulmin's method, let's look at an example. Using the argument that teachers should not assign homework, let's outline the structure of an argument using Toulmin's method.
Claim: Teachers should not assign homework because it prevents students from pursuing responsibilities outside of school.
Qualifiers: Not all students have responsibilities outside of school, especially younger students. High school students would have more responsibilities outside of school, and you can qualify the claim to address this population.
Reasons/evidence: About 30% of students have jobs outside of school,2 and about 80% participate in extracurricular activities.3
Warrant: Homework is time-consuming, which leads to students not fully committing to their responsibilities outside of school.
Backing: High-school students have an average of 2.7 hours of homework per day.4
Rebuttals: Research shows targeted homework practice on skills learned in class helps students' learning.4 However, most homework is not targeted at skills, but a continuation of work started in class.
Using the outline above, try to write a paragraph using all of the elements of Toulmin's argument. Compare your paragraph with the example below. What elements are similar and different? What elements did you find easy or difficult to include? How could you incorporate this structure when writing for your exam?
Here is an example of a paragraph with the above argument based on Toulmin's method.
Teachers should minimize the amount of homework assigned to high school students because it prevents students from dedicating themselves to their responsibilities outside of school. While research shows learning gains with targeted homework practice, homework often is a timely continuation of classwork.4 Unless teachers can give short assignments targeted at skills, they should not assign homework. Not only is assigned homework failing to follow best practices, but it prevents students from not fully committing to their responsibilities outside of school. Many students have other activities they complete outside of school. About 30% of students have jobs,2 and about 80% participate in extracurricular activities.3 The amount of time it takes to complete homework can prevent students from participating in these activities. On average, high-school students spend 2.7 hours each weekday on homework.4 This amount of time spent on homework leads students to put less time into jobs or extracurriculars that they may be interested in joining. To help students participate and tend to their responsibilities outside of school, teachers should assign less homework.
1. Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence," 1776.
2. Chris Kolmar, "High School Job Statistics ," 2022.
3. Kristin Moore and Jennifer Ehrle, "Children’s Environment and Behavior: Participation in Extracurricular Activities," 2000.
4. Challenge Success, "Quality over Quantity: Elements of Effective Homework," 2020.
A logical argument uses logic to convince readers of a claim. Thomas Jefferson uses logical arguments in "The Declaration of Independence." He claims that King George III is a despot. He uses logic to support this claim by supplying reasons. Jefferson lists 27 reasons why King George III is a despot. Jefferson supporting his claim with a variety of evidence and reasons is an example of a logical argument.
You can use several logical structures for an argumentative essay. One of the most common is Toulmin's method. This structure contains six parts (claims, qualifiers, reasons/evidence, warrants, backing, and rebuttals). Toulmin's method produces logical and well-developed essays.
Logical arguments contain claims and reasons. Writers select a variety of different types of reasons, such as hard evidence or different rhetorical appeals, to support their claims. They also use logical reasoning, such as deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, to structure their claims.
You can use logic in an essay by using deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is where you guide the audience from a general claim to a specific claim. With inductive reasoning, you use overwhelming evidence and observations to form a general claim.
There are two types of logical arguments: deductive and inductive arguments. Deductive reasoning is where you guide the audience from a general claim to a specific claim. With inductive reasoning, you use overwhelming evidence and observations to form a general claim.
What is a logical argument?
A type of argument that uses logic to convince an audience of the validity of a claim.
What is logic?
The use of reasoning and good argumentation.
What are claims?
A position a writer takes in an argument
What are reasons?
The evidence that supports your claim
"Teachers should assign less homework because students spend an average of 2.7 hours on it."
What type of reason does this statement use?
"Teachers should assign less homework because the amount of time it takes to complete homework violates students' human rights."
What type of reason does this statement use?
Which type of reasons includes facts, statistics, and expert testimony?
"All dogs are corgis.
Corgis have big ears.
Therefore, all dogs have big ears."
Is this statement a good example of deductive reasoning?
"Mammals have hair.
Dogs are mammals.
Therefore, dogs have hair."
Is this statement a good example of deductive reasoning?
What type of logical reasoning uses evidence or observations to form a general claim?
What type of essay structure for logical arguments is best for finding common ground with your opponent?
What part is unique to Toulmin's method of argumentation?
In Toulmin's method of argumentation, what is the purpose of "backing"?
Provides evidence for the warrant
Which essay structure is best for writing about complex arguments or situations?
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