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What is Argument Mapping?

Argument mapping is, roughly, making a picture of reasoning.  More precisely, it is the graphical display of the structure of reasoning and argumentation. 

Typically, argument maps are box-and-arrow diagrams, a bit like flowcharts. Argument mapping belongs to a family of "thought mapping" techniques which includes concept mapping and mind mapping.  Argument mapping is distinctive in focusing exclusively on reasoning or argument structure, and is specialized for that purpose. 

Argument mapping can traced back to the work of Charles Wigmore, who in the early part of last century produced maps of complex legal argumentation.  Click thumbnail to view full-sized image.

A Wigmore argument map.
In 1958, philosopher Stephen Toulmin published The Uses of Argument, which presented a simple argument mapping schema.  This work has had quite an influence.
A Toulmin argument map.
In the 1990s, with the arrival of personal computers and graphical software, argument mapping has started to become more widely used.  One of the leaders in the field is Robert Horn, who has produced argument maps of very complex debates.
A Horn-style argument map.
The most recent development has been the development of quality software tools dedicated to producing argument maps, such as Rationale™. 
A Rationale™-style map.

As you can see from these examples, there are many different kinds of argument mapping.  What they have in common is the graphical display of evidential relationships - that is, how some things are evidence for or against others.

Argument mapping is a form of intelligence enhancement or augmentation.  Using graphical techniques, it extends the power of the brain to process complex reasoning by allowing the brain to apply more of its resources.

More information on argument mapping

Follow these links for more general information about argument mapping.  Note that you don't need to read these in order to do the tutorials.

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 Last updated 28-Nov-2006