Main Article Content

Michael Hammond
 Marina Charalampidi


The paper shows how a framework adapted from Toulmin (1958) was valuable in exploring the force of online argument in an educational setting. In past research of online discussions there has been a focus on interaction patterns at the expense of exploring questions of content. In seeking to address this imbalance, we used Toulmin’s key terms of claim, data, warrant, rebuttal and backing in an analysis of an educational network for young learners (13-18) in which a debate on whether Britain should leave the EU was carried out. Drawing on these key terms, a framework was constructed in order to categorise messages as: claims with no force; insufficient argument; constructed argument; forceful argument. This framework was used to unpack the claims and warrants put forward in the course of the debate. The paper shows that Toulmin’s approach can be adapted to provide a feasible and useful framework for assessing the force of argument within forums. However, it is recognised that there are also challenges and limitations in using such an approach.

Article Details

Articles - General topics


Anderson, B. (2004). Dimensions of learning and support in an online community. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 19(2), 183-190.
Anderson, R. C., Guerreiro, M., & Smith, J. (2016). Are all biases bad? Collaborative grounded theory in developmental evaluation of education policy. Journal of Multidisciplinary Evaluation, 12(27), 44-57.
Austin, R. (2006). The role of ICT in bridge-building and social inclusion: theory, policy and practice issues. European Journal of Teacher Education, 29(2), 145-161.
Bacha, N. N. (2010). Teaching the academic argument in a university EFL environment. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 9(3), 229-241.
Blake, C., & Scanlon, E. (2014) Analysing online discussions in educational and work based settings. In S. Bayne, C. Jones, M. de Laat, T. Ryberg & C. Sinclair (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014, 7-9 April, Edinburgh UK: University of Edinburgh.
Boshier, R. (1990). Socio-psychological factors in electronic networking. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 9(1), 49-64.
Boutyline, A., & Willer, R. (2017). The social structure of political echo chambers: Variation in ideological homophily in online networks. Political Psychology, 38(3), 551-569.
Bowell, T., & Kingsbury, J. (2013). Virtue and argument: Taking character into account. Informal Logic, 33(1), 22-32.
Boyd, G. (1996). Emancipative educational technology. Canadian Journal of Educational Communication, 25, 179-186.
Cacciamani, S., Perrucci, V., & Khanlari, A. (2018). Conversational functions for knowledge building: a study of an online course at university. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 14(1) 98-109.
Charalampidi, M., & Hammond, M. (2016). How do we know what is happening online?: a triangulated approach to data analysis. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on e-Learning. Madeira, Portugal, 1-3 July 2016. Retrieved from
Charalampidi, M., Hammond, M., & Boddison, A. (2014) Exploring the use of an international online network for “gifted” students – a research in progress. In Proceedings of Edulearn14. The 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, Barcelona, Spain, 7-9 July, 2014. Retrieved from
Cohen, D. (2017). The virtuous troll: argumentative virtues in the age of (technologically enhanced) argumentative pluralism. Philosophy & Technology, 30(2), 179-189.
Coirier, P., Andriessen, J., & Chanquoy, L. (1999). From planning to translating: The specificity of argumentative writing. In J. Andriessen, & P. Coirier (Eds.), Foundation of argumentative text processing (pp. 1–28). Amsterdam, NL: Amsterdam University Press.
Del Vicario, M., Vivaldo, G., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). Echo chambers: Emotional contagion and group polarization on Facebook. Nature, Scientific Reports, 6, 37825.
Duschl, R. A., & Osborne, J. (2002). Supporting and promoting argumentation discourse in science education. Studies in Science Education, 38(1), 39-72.
Elliott, A. (2014). Contemporary social theory: An introduction. London, UK: Routledge.
Erduran, S., Simon, S., & Osborne, J. (2004). TAPping into argumentation: Developments in the application of Toulmin's argument pattern for studying science discourse. Science Education, 88(6), 915-933.
Eve, J., & Brabazon, T. (2008). Learning to leisure? Failure, flame, blame, shame, homophobia and other everyday practices in online education. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 9(1), 36-61.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 7-23.
Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: A retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1), 5-9.
Gee, J. (2005). Semiotic social spaces and affinity spaces. In D. Barton & K. Tusting (Eds.), Beyond Communities of Practice: Language power and social context (pp. 214-232). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Gunawardena, C., Lowe, C., & Anderson, T. (1997). Analysis of a global online debate and the development of an interaction analysis model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(4), 397-431.
Hammond, M. (2015). A Habermasian perspective on joint meaning making online: What does it offer and what are the difficulties? International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 10(3), 223-237.
Hammond, M., & Charalampidi, M. (2019). Supplementary File: Who believes in evolution?, Is giftedness genetic?. Coventry, UK: University of Warwick. Retrieved from
Henri, F. (1992). Computer conferencing and content analysis. In A. Kaye (Ed.), Collaborative learning through computer conferencing (pp. 117-136). Berlin, DE: Springer.
Henri, F., & Pudelko, B. (2003). Understanding and analysing activity and learning in virtual communities. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 19(4), 474-487.
Jimenez-Aleixandre, M. P., Rodriguez, A. B., & Duschl, R. A. (2000). 'Doing the lesson' or ‘doing science’: Argument in high school genetics. Science Education, 84(6), 757-792.
Ke, F., & Xie, K. (2009). Toward deep learning for adult students in online courses. The Internet and Higher Education, 12(3), 136-145.
Kuhn, D. (1992). Thinking as argument. Harvard Educational Review, 62(2), 155-179.
Kuhn, D., & Pearsall, S. (2000). Developmental origins of scientific thinking. Journal of Cognition and Development, 1(1), 113-129.
Lee, B.-W., Son, J.-W., & Lee, S.-M. (2005). Science-gifted students' scientific inquiry change in online argumentative discussion. Journal of The Korean Association For Science Education, 25(6), 642-649.
Lee, O. (2017). Common core state standards for ELA / literacy and next generation science standards: convergences and discrepancies using argument as an example. Educational Researcher, 46(2), 90-102.
Littleton, K., & Whitelock, D. (2005). The negotiation and co‐construction of meaning and understanding within a postgraduate online learning community. Learning, Media and Technology, 30(2), 147-164.
McConnell, D. (2000). Implementing computer supported cooperative learning. London, UK: Kogan Page.
Mercer, N. (1995). The Guided construction of knowledge: Talk amongst teachers and learners. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Nussbaum, E. M., & Schraw, G. (2007). Promoting argument-counterargument integration in students' writing. The Journal of Experimental Education, 76(1), 59-92.
Nussbaum, E. M., Hartley, K., Sinatra, G. M., Reynolds, R. E., & Bendixen, L. D. (2004). Personality interactions and scaffolding in on-line discussions. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 30(1-2), 113-137.
Oh, S., & Jonassen, D. H. (2007). Scaffolding online argumentation during problem solving. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(2), 95-110.
Paglieri, F., & Reed, C. (2017). Introduction: Theoretical and technological perspectives on online arguments. Philosophy & Technology, 30(2), 131-135.
Pezzotti, A., & Gambini, A. (2012). Indicatori di qualità per l’analisi della comunicazione di un corso online. TD Tecnologie Didattiche, 20(2), 90-98.
Pontecorvo, C. (1987). Discussing and reasoning: The role of argument in knowledge construction. In E. De Corte, H. Lodewıjks, R. Parmentier, & P. Span (Eds.), Learning and instruction: European research in an international context (pp. 239–250). Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press.
Pontecorvo, C., & Girardet, H. (1993). Arguing and reasoning in understanding historical topics. Cognition and Instruction, 11(3-4), 365-395.
Qin, J., & Karabacak, E. (2010). The analysis of Toulmin elements in Chinese EFL university argumentative writing. System, 38(3), 444-456.
Rheingold, H. (1993). The Virtual community: homesteading on the electronic frontier. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Rheingold, H. (2008). Using participatory media and public voice to encourage civic engagement. In W. Bennett (Ed.), Civic life online: Learning how digital media can engage youth (pp. 97-118). Cambridge, MA, USA: The MIT Press.
Salmon, G., Nie, M., & Edirisingha, P. (2010). Developing a five-stage model of learning in Second Life. Educational Research, 52(2), 169-182.
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2014). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 397–417). New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.
Schwarz, B. & De Groot, R. (2007). Argumentation in a changing world. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 2(2-3), 297-313.
Schwarz, B., Neuman, Y., Gil, J., & Ilya, M. (2003). Construction of collective and individual knowledge in argumentative activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(2), 219-256.
Simon, D., & Holyoak, K. J. (2002). Structural dynamics of cognition: From consistency theories to constraint satisfaction. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6(4), 283-294.
Simon, S. (2008). Using Toulmin’s argument pattern in the evaluation of argumentation in school science. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 31(3), 277-289.
Sloam, J. (2016, April 18th). Young voters: most are for remaining in the EU, yet many will not vote [Blog post]. Retrieved from
Stegmann, K., Weinberger, A., Fischer, F., & Mandl, H. (2004). Scripting argumentation in computer-supported learning environments. In P. Gerjets, P. A. Kirschner, J. Elen & R. Joiner (Eds.), Instructional design for effective and enjoyable computer-supported learning (pp. 320-330). Tübingen, DE: Knowledge Media Research Center.
Subrahmanyam, K., & Greenfield, P. (2008). Online communication and adolescent relationships. The Future of Children, 18(1), 119-146.
Tomai, M., Rosa, V., Mebane, M. E., D'Acunti, A., Benedetti, M., & Francescato, D. (2010). Virtual communities in schools as tools to promote social capital with high schools students. Computers & Education, 54(1), 265-274.
Toulmin, S. (1958). The Uses of Argument, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Toulmin, S. (1977). From form to function: Philosophy and history of science in the 1950s and now. Daedalus, 106(3), 143-162.
van Eemeren, F., & Houtlosser, P. (2015). The case of Pragma-Dialectics. In F. van Emmeren (Ed.), Reasonableness and effectiveness in argumentative discourse (pp. 149-179). Cham, CH: Springer.
Walton, D. (2015). Argument evaluation and evidence. Cham, CH: Springer.
Zhang, J., Scardamalia, M., Reeve, R., & Messina, R. (2009). Designs for collective cognitive responsibility in knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 18(1), 7-44.