Argument: your position/opinion about the topic (usually stated in the thesis and then supported with main points throughout the essay)
Counterargument: a section in your essay that describes the other side of the issue (what would someone say who disagrees with your position?)
Rebuttal (or Refutation): a section where you respond to the counterargument in a way that shows your position is the stronger one (what would you say to defeat their point?)
Why would I want to include a counterargument in my essay?
- It gives you the opportunity to anticipate your reader’s concerns or objections to your viewpoint and address them head-on.
- It improves your credibility by showing your reader you are a reasonable, fair, and informed person who has considered all sides of the issue.
- Part of being a strong critical thinker and communicator is examining a subject from all sides and angles.
What do I do after I explain the other side's position?
- Defeat it with a rebuttal.
- How you do this depends on what you perceive as weaknesses in the opposing argument. There may be any number of faults you find with the other side's position (it uses outdated information; it relies on perception or opinion rather than facts; it is based on false assumptions).
- After you identify weaknesses, point those out to your reader, and present your response to them. For example, if you feel that the other side's position is based on outdated information, you’ll have to present more current research to support your point.
- In some cases, you might think that the other side makes a good point. In that instance, you can acknowledge that and establish common ground with the other side, but then describe why even though their reasons have validity, your reasons outweigh theirs on this particular issue.
Where does the counterargument go in the paper?
Counterarguments are often placed toward the end of the essay after the author has argued all their points supporting their position. You might decide to tackle both the counterargument and rebuttal in one paragraph, or you may decide to break them up into separate paragraphs, as seen in the example outline below:
- Introduction and thesis
- Supporting point #1
- Supporting point #2 (there can be any number of supporting points)
Example of a counterargument and rebuttal in the same paragraph; common words/phrases used in a counterargument are in bold:
Supporters of spanking as a means to punish children claim that it is the most effective method of discipline. Parents might feel that it’s the only punishment their children take seriously, and it teaches their children that there are real and immediate consequences to their actions. They believe that this lesson far outweighs the small and momentary pain of the actual spanking. Although this may be a popular position and spanking might seem to be an effective method of discipline in the short term, studies have shown that children who are spanked actually act out more than children who are not (Adams 12). In fact, according to child psychologist Lucille Murray, when alternate forms of discipline are used (time-outs, confiscating toys, etc.), children still learn about consequences but without the pain and humiliation that comes with spanking.
Suggested phrases to help you start the counterargument and rebuttal
How can I start the counterargument?
- Some people believe/argue/feel/think that…
- It is true that…
- Opposing views claim…
- One common concern about (the issue) is…
- Supporters of….
How can I start my rebuttal?
- What this argument overlooks…
- This view seems convincing/plausible/persuasive at first, but…
- While this position is popular, it is not supported by the facts…
- Although part of this claim is valid, it suffers from a flaw…