Sometimes an argument needs further reinforcement through the use of what is known as a warrant, which is an underlying belief that connects a reason and the claim. Usually it is unnecessary to include warrants in an argument since the audience will generally also hold those beliefs, but there are occasions when they are critical to use, such as:
- If the audience is outside of the discourse community, so it is not (as) familiar with the topic and needs additional information;
- If the reason is a new way of thinking or is heavily debated; and
- If the audience is likely to be (highly) resistant to the reason.
Including a warrant when any of these apply can make the difference between whether the argument is successful or unsuccessful.
Take, for example, the following paragraph, written to support the claim that bullying should be collaboratively addressed by educators, parents, and those who experience bullying:
When an adolescent is bullied, he/she often undergoes behavioral and emotional changes, changes that can pose significant harm to him/her as well as others. For example, sometimes the young person who is bullied will abuse substances in order to cope with what he/she is going through, as Litwiller and Brausch (2013) explain: “Several painful and provocative behaviors have been identified consistently as behaviors that relate to both bullying and adolescent suicidal behavior. Of all such risk behaviors, alcohol and/or illicit drug use has most frequently been shown to relate” (p. 676.). If these behaviors go unnoticed, then the person being bullied is likely to continue engaging in the alcohol and/or drug use, which can lead to further consequences for him/her as well as others. Hinduja and Patchin (2013) explain that “bullying (offline and online) has been tied to a host of other negative psychosocial and behavioral outcomes such as suicidal ideation, dropping out of school, aggression and fighting…and carrying a weapon to school” (p. 712). All of these outcomes affect not only the individual being bullied, but also those around him/her, with the potential for violence to occur in the school setting. Ignoring the effects of bullying is not an option, then, and bullying must be addressed by all parties involved.
In the paragraph, the first sentence is the topic sentence, which establishes a reason to support the claim and prepares the reader for the content that will appear in the paragraph. The next sentence then offers an example of the changes the topic sentence refers to, leading into the third sentence that integrates source material to show that substance abuse is indeed one of the behavioral changes that occur. At this point in the paragraph, we have been provided a reason to support the claim as well as evidence that supports the reason, and as the paragraph continues we are given additional examples and source material to demonstrate why the reason is a sound reason to support the claim. The paragraph then concludes by reinforcing the claim, asserting that the harm these changes present to the person who is bullied as well as others makes it critical for all relevant parties to address bullying. Presumably, for most readers, the paragraph represents a clear chain of reasoning, because if bullying presents a threat to the person who is bullied as well as those around him/her, then it is sensible to claim that the bullying should be stopped; further, since in many cases the bullied will be unable to end the abuse himself/herself, it is necessary for others in positions of power to step in.
However, some readers may not think that just because there are potential consequences of bullying for the bullied as well as those around him/her that educators, parents, and the bullied should work together to end the bullying. Instead, some readers may think that stopping bullying is the responsibility of educators and/or parents alone since adolescents are not in the same position of power as these other parties, and the bullying may only escalate if the bullied try to end it. Others may think that, depending on how the bullying is occurring (such as if it is limited to online bullying outside of school grounds) that it is beyond the scope and power of educators to step in, leaving the burden for parents and/or their children who are experiencing the bullying. For these readers then, a warrant would be necessary to demonstrate why the reason clearly supports the claim; otherwise, they would be unpersuaded by this part of the argument—and possibly the argument overall, depending on how central the reason was to supporting the claim.
Thus, when developing your argument you must keep in mind that its structure is sort of like the structure of a building. There are certain parts that are essential (i.e., the claim, reasons, and evidence, just like the foundation, walls, and entry/exit routes), whereas other parts may be useful, but are not always needed (i.e., counterarguments, acknowledgment and response, and warrants, just like upgrades such as heated flooring).