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Home Journal Index 2020-1

What Makes Proficient Writers' Essays More Persuasive? A Toulmin Perspective

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Donghong Liu

Central China Normal University, China

 

Fang Wan 

No. 1 Junior Middle School of Suzhou New District, China

 

Abstract

Although many studies have been done based on the Toulmin model, only a few involve EFL students at different proficiency levels. The present study compares the English argumentative essays of first-year students with those of the fourth-year students in terms of the use of Toulmin elements and argument complexity. Altogether 62 timed argumentative writings were selected from Spoken and Written English Corpus of Chinese Learners. Toulmin elements, namely Claim, Subclaim, Data, Warrant-Backing, Counterargument-claim, Counterargument-data, and Rebuttal were investigated, as well as Data length, Warrant-Backing length, argument depth and width. The results show that the two groups of essays have almost no difference in the use of Toulmin elements except Warrant-Backing, and that the fourth-year students perform better in argument complexity. It is concluded that the use of the Toulmin elements cannot clearly differentiate proficient writers; however, argument complexity showed improvement.

 

Keywords

Toulmin model, argumentation, persuasive, argument complexity