Write a Counterargument and Refutation

Write a Counterargument and Refutation

Handout created by Justine White & Mary Wood www.richlandcollege.edu/englishcorner

The English Corner at Richland College

Writing a Counterargument and Refutation

Successful academic writers understand the importance of acknowledging multiple points of view in their work. While it may seem that introducing other views could weaken an argument, the best writers acknowledge many opposing views and then prove them wrong. Introducing counterarguments and refutations is a great strategy for making your argument stronger and your essay more developed (and longer!). A counterargument is a view that is different from your own. You may see words like opposing viewpoint, opposition, objection, and naysayer; these are all terms for a counterargument. When you insert a counterargument into your argument essay, you are essentially making a preemptive strike by anticipating objections that an opposing side might bring up and exposing their weaknesses. Successful counterarguments always include a refutation. A refutation or rebuttal is a paragraph that comes after the counterargument and disproves it. In other words, the refutation paragraph explains why the opposing view is incomplete, problematic, or simply wrong. Organizing a Counterargument Paragraph Similar to the argument paragraph, a counterargument paragraph has four parts: the topic sentence, the supporting evidence, the explanation, and the conclusion. The difference between the argument paragraph and the counterargument paragraph is word choice and tone. The argument paragraph uses persuasive words and a persuasive tone, whereas the counterargument uses a neutral tone and qualifying words to let the reader know that you disagree with the view. Qualifying words are words that clearly indicate the opposition or give the sense to the reader that not everyone believes this view. Words like some, claim, contend, object, or disagree are qualifying words. The following is a template with appropriate words to help you build your counterargument paragraph. Each sentence is numbered in the order it should appear in your counterargument paragraph.

1. Topic sentence: States a claim that opposes your view. You should begin with a transition that shows contrast: however, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand. Follow your transition with a noun such as critics, opponents, some, or naysayers. Use a verb that shows that this is a claim or an opinion: argue, claim, contend, believe, object, disagree, or dispute.

a. Transition + noun + verb + that + argument against your thesis.

Example: However, some critics contend that marijuana is a gateway drug and therefore should not be legalized.

OR

Handout created by Justine White & Mary Wood www.richlandcollege.edu/englishcorner

a. Transition + it is argued that + argument against your thesis. Example: On the contrary, it is argued that marijuana is a gateway drug and therefore should not be legalized.

2. Explanation sentence: This sentence explains (if necessary) the claim in the topic

sentence. You do not always need it. 3. Evidence: This sentence provides supporting evidence for the opposition. It can be a

quote or a paraphrase from an expert. It might be anecdotal evidence (a personal story from someone), an example, or statistics. Be sure to include the name of the author and his or her credibility (title, credentials, experience) when you introduce a quote. Follow your quote with a correct citation, usually the page number.

4. Explanation of evidence: This sentence, or sentences, explains the supporting evidence. 5. Concluding sentence: This sentence states what conclusion the reader should come to

when he or she considers the claim of the counterargument and the evidence supporting it.

Here is a model counterargument paragraph. The qualifying words are in squares, so you can identify them. Each sentence is numbered according to the template above. 1. Nevertheless, those who oppose marijuana legalization claim that marijuana is a gateway drug. 2. They believe that once someone tries marijuana, he or she will then move on to harder, more dangerous drugs and become an addict. 3. According to Stacey Sugar, the clinical director at the Towson-based Maryland Addiction Recovery Network, “marijuana could be a gateway drug for some, but not everyone, and that a lot depends on the user and whether they are predisposed to addiction…Marijuana is the easiest drug to get a hold of after alcohol and cigarettes, and some of those who like a marijuana high may be more interested in trying other highs” (qtd. in Synder). 4. Her claim is that addicts may want to try other highs beyond marijuana, and those drugs could potentially have more devastating and addictive effects. 5. In other words, critics of marijuana legalization believe that once a person feels the altered experience of marijuana, he or she will want to experience the increased sensations of dangerous, potentially life-destroying and addictive drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines. Organizing an Refutation Paragraph The refutation paragraph is your chance to say why the opposition in the paragraph above is incorrect. You must prove your naysayer wrong with provable, logical evidence. It is important to include a source in your refutation in order to be credible. Be sure to use strong persuasive language when moving into your claim(s) about why the opposition is incorrect. The following is a template with appropriate words to help you build your refutation paragraph. Each sentence is numbered in the order it should appear in your refutation paragraph.

1. Opening sentence: This sentence summarizes the opposing view from the paragraph above and acknowledges the objection. Use the words may or some to indicate that you disagree with the view.

a. It may be true that + paraphrase the objection.

Example: It may be true that some people use marijuana as a gateway drug to move onto harder, more dangerous drugs.

2. Topic sentence: This sentence states your reason why the objection is wrong. It is in the

form of a claim and begins with a transition. Some good transition words are however,

Handout created by Justine White & Mary Wood www.richlandcollege.edu/englishcorner

nevertheless, nonetheless, but the truth of the matter, contrary to this opinion, or despite this idea.

a. Transition + reason why the objection is wrong.

Example: Yet contrary to this opinion, marijuana is not the first addictive substance tried by first-time users.

3. Expert evidence sentence: This sentence supports the claim in your topic sentence. It

can be a quote or paraphrase from an expert, statistics, surveys from credible organizations, governmental information, etc. Be sure to include the name of the author and his or her credibility (title, credentials, experience) when you introduce a quote or paraphrase. Follow your quote with a correct citation, usually the page number.

4. Explanation of evidence: This sentence, or sentences, explains the supporting evidence. 5. Second evidence: If you have another expert or supporting evidence to support your

refutation, put it here. 6. Second explanation: This sentence, or sentences, explains your second supporting

evidence. 7. Concluding sentence: This sentence, or sentences, answers the so what, who cares, why

does it matter questions. It is your chance to give your opinion about the topic. Furthermore, be sure to refer back to the thesis statement from your introduction.

Here is a model refutation paragraph. The qualifying words are in squares, so you can identify them. The transitions are bolded. Each sentence is numbered according to the template above. It may be true that some people use marijuana as a gateway drug to move on to harder, more dangerous drugs. 2. But the truth of the matter is that marijuana is not the first addictive substance that users initially try. 3. “A study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of School Health has concluded that the theory of a gateway drug is not associated with marijuana, but rather one of the most damaging and socially accepted drugs in the world, alcohol” (Scharff). 4. In other words, alcohol is the drug and high that influences people to try harder, more addictive substances. Alcohol is the drug that the government should be focusing on. Alcohol is the drug that needs more intervention. 5. Furthermore, the gateway theory deteriorates when one considers that drug dealers do not work at 7-11. 6. If a person purchases marijuana in a safe, structured location like a convenience store instead of a back alley, there is no drug dealer to influence the purchaser to try other more dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin. 7. In reality, alcohol should be the focus of reform and recovery programs, and making marijuana legal will eliminate the gateway theory entirely. Adding the Counterargument and Refutation to your Essay There are many ways you can integrate a counterargument and refutation into your essay. Many writers will include the counterargument and refutation just before the conclusion after fully building their own case. However, some writers choose to include several counterarguments and refute them throughout the essay. Deciding where to place the counterargument and refutation depends on the strength of your evidence. Open your essay with a strong argument. Place your weakest points in the middle, and end with a bang by including your strongest argument last. * On the back, you will find the Works Cited and further readings.

Handout created by Justine White & Mary Wood www.richlandcollege.edu/englishcorner

Works Cited

Scharff, Constance. “Marijuana: The Gateway Drug Myth: Science Shows Overwhelmingly That

Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC , 26 Aug.

2014, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201408/marijuana-the-

gateway-drug-myth, accessed 16 June 2015.

Snyder, Ron. “Experts Debate Whether Marijuana Is a ‘Gateway’ Drug.” ABC 2 WMAR

Baltimore. Scripps TV Station Group, 16 Feb. 2014,

www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/hea…#ixzz2tYh3XWgf, accessed 16 June 2015.

Further Readings:

“Counterargument.” Harvard College Writing Center. The Writing Center at Harvard, 1999,

writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/counter-argument, accessed 17 July 2015.

Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. “Skeptics May Object: Planting a Naysayer in Your Text.”

They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. 2nd ed., Norton, 2010, pp.

78-91.

Schick, Kurt and Laura Schubert. “Anticipate and Respond to Opposing Views.” So What?: The

Writer’s Argument. Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 156-60.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201408/marijuana-the-gateway-drug-myth
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201408/marijuana-the-gateway-drug-myth
http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/hea…#ixzz2tYh3XWgf
Writing a Counterargument and Refutation
Organizing a Counterargument Paragraph
Organizing an Refutation Paragraph
Adding the Counterargument and Refutation to your Essay

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