Counter Argument

In writing an argumentative essay, your goal is to persuade an audience that your claim is correct. You research, think about your topic deeply, and determine what information will support that argument. However, strong argumentation requires you to address opposing views. How will you incorporate them into your essay? How will you prove your argument is the better one? Identifying and addressing counterarguments will make your argumentative essays stronger. 

Counter Argument Counter Argument

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Contents
Table of contents

    Counterargument Meaning

    A counterargument is a contrasting or opposing argument. Counterarguments are common in persuasive writing. In argumentation, you are trying to convince an audience of your claim. Claims are the writer's main ideas and position. In an argumentative essay, your goal is for the audience to believe your claim. To convince your audience that your claim is correct, you will need reasons–the evidence that supports your claim.

    The counterargument is the opposing argument to the one you are writing about. You include counterarguments in your writing to form a rebuttal. A rebuttal is where you explain why your position is stronger than the counterargument. When incorporating counterarguments in your essay, you will need to know the counterargument's claims and reasons. For example, in an essay about whether teachers should assign homework, you take the position that teachers should not give homework. The counterargument is that teachers should assign homework.

    To write about this counterargument, you will need to explain the claims and reasons why teachers should assign homework. You will refute these points and spend the rest of your essay explaining why teachers should not assign homework.

    Counter Argument, Illustration of silhouettes of two men sitting and debating, StudySmarterCounterarguments and rebuttals are a dialogue between ideas that show why your argument is best

    Counterargument Example

    The example above demonstrates how a writer may present the counterargument to the claim that teachers should not assign homework.

    While some researchers advocate for teachers' limiting homework, others find teachers should assign homework to reinforce content and skills learned in school. According to an analysis of multiple studies done examining the effects of homework on academic achievement by Cooper et al. (2006), homework for grades 7-12 positively affected students' educational outcomes, such as grades on unit tests and national exams.1 Cooper et al. (2006) found consistency across studies that 1.5-2.5 hours per day of homework was the optimal amount for students to complete. Students gain practice and exposure to the material through this practice, which increases academic performance. Other research found that homework may not be as effective as Cooper et al. (2006) suggest. Galloway et al. (2013) argue that teachers assigning homework often do not follow these recommendations, negatively impacting students.2

    Based on survey results from Galloway et al. (2013), secondary students reported having an average of 3 hours of homework per night, an estimate higher than Cooper et al.'s (2006) recommendation. This amount of homework negatively impacted students since it increased mental stress and decreased time spent on socialization. This research shows that while assigning homework may benefit students, teachers do not follow best practices and instead harm students. Teachers should err on the side of not giving homework to prevent placing too much stress on students.

    This paragraph addresses the counterargument: why teachers should assign homework. The first part of the paragraph addresses why teachers should assign homework and cites research on the optimal way teachers should assign it. The counterargument contains strong evidence and claims on why teachers should assign homework.

    This evidence improves the essay because it strengthens the rebuttal. The writer needs to address the counterargument's convincing claims in the rebuttal, which makes the rebuttal and overall argument more persuasive. The second half of the paragraph is the rebuttal to this argument. It cites research on how teachers do not frequently use these best practices and harm students. The rebuttal also directly addresses the counterargument about these best practices.

    Purpose of Counterarguments

    There are several reasons why you may include counterarguments in your writing. First, counterarguments and rebuttals strengthen your overall argument. It seems counterintuitive, but your overall argument becomes stronger when you outline and address opposing views. By incorporating and rebutting opposing claims, you challenge the validity of the counterargument. If you can effectively address and rebuke your opposition, your argument will appear more credible to your audience than the counterargument.

    Second, it will help you persuade your audience that your position is correct, especially if they are skeptical of your position. Arguments can be one-sided, which do not include counterarguments or opposing views, or multisided, which incorporate multiple views. One-sided arguments work best for an audience who already accepts your claims and reasoning. Because your audience already believes your idea, you do not have to spend time addressing opposing opinions.

    In a multisided argument, you present counterarguments, include rebuttals, and argue why your position is stronger. This method works best for an audience with diverse opinions because you show you understand their beliefs while advocating for your position. Counterarguments help convince your audience that your position is correct. You acknowledge their beliefs while explaining why your position is better.

    Counter Argument, Three candidates at a presidential debate, StudySmarterPoliticians often use counterarguments to make their claims stronger at presidential debates

    Counterarguments in an Essay

    In academic writing, you can incorporate several strategies for including counterarguments. Often, addressing the counterarguments is kept to one paragraph within the essay. This section outlines a common essay structure for incorporating counterarguments, how to write them, and strategies for creating your counterarguments.

    Structuring an Argumentative Essay

    Writers, all the way from antiquity, have thought about the best way to incorporate opposing viewpoints into their writing. Writers can choose several ways to structure an argumentative essay to have counterarguments. The most common method is the classical structure, which originated in Ancient Greece. There are four main parts to this structure.

    1. Introduction

      • Memorable statement or information to gain readers' attention.

      • Present background information necessary to your argument.

      • State your primary claim or thesis.

      • Discuss how you will structure your overall argument by outlining your main claims and counterarguments.

    2. Writer's position

      • The central part of your essay.

      • State your claim(s) and supporting evidence.

      • Incorporate hard evidence or other rhetorical appeals as reasons to help you support your claims.

    3. Counterarguments

      • Outline alternative points of view in a non-biased manner.

      • Refute their claims by discussing negative aspects of the counterargument.

      • May concede to the positive aspects of the counterargument.

      • Explain why your view is preferable to others.

    4. Conclusion

      • Summarize your primary claim or thesis.

      • Explain the importance of your argument based on background information.

      • Encourage the audience to act on this information.

    Counter Argument, Painting of Socrates debating others, StudySmarterThe classical structure, originating in Ancient Greece, helps structure arguments and counterarguments in an essay

    Strategies for Addressing Counterarguments

    Remember that arguments can be one-sided or multisided. If you are writing a multisided argument, you will need to know how to address counterarguments based on your audience's views. There are several strategies for addressing counterarguments and forming your rebuttals. The two major categories for these strategies include refutation and concession.

    Refutation

    Refutation describes the process of showing how the counterargument contains logical fallacies or is not supported with evidence. Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning. You can point out these logical fallacies to discredit and weaken an argument. Refutation is a good strategy if you are trying to convince an audience who may be more sympathetic toward your viewpoint. There are several ways you can refute a counterargument.

    • Identify logical fallacies. When looking at a counterargument, take the time to break down its claims and reasons. You may discover logical fallacies in the counterargument, such as faulty reasoning or an overgeneralization. You can highlight these fallacies in your rebuttal and discuss why your argument is stronger.
    • Point out unstated assumptions made in the argument. In general, arguments often contain unstated assumptions. For example, suppose you are exploring the counterargument that teachers should assign homework to help students master academic material. In that case, there is the unstated assumption that students will have the time to complete assignments at home. You can address the flaws in these assumptions using evidence and facts. To discredit this assumption in your rebuttal, you would incorporate data on how students do not have the time to complete homework.
    • Find counterexamples or counter-evidence. The counterargument will incorporate data and evidence to support their claims. You will need to find evidence and data to support your rebuttal. You will want to use this evidence and data if it casts doubt on the counterargument's evidence.
    • Question the data used to support the counterargument. Authors will cite data and statistics when making logical claims in an essay. You will want to analyze the author's use of this data to discover if they cited it correctly. If they misrepresented it, or it's outdated, you can point this out in your rebuttal and offer a better interpretation.
    • Show how the counterargument's experts or examples are flawed or not valid. Take the time to find out which sources the author uses. If you find out that a cited expert is not credible on the subject, or if an example is inaccurate, you can cast doubt on the counterargument by discussing the lack of credibility of an authority or an example. Cite stronger, more accurate evidence in your rebuttal.

    Concession

    Concession is the rebuttal strategy of admitting that an opposing argument is correct. However, you will show that your claims are stronger since it has better reasons to support them. For example, you may write an essay about why teachers should not assign homework. You would concede that the research on the homework is correct. However, you would present multiple pieces of evidence and explain how this research shows teachers should not support homework.

    There are two reasons why you may want to include concessions in your writing. First, a concession is a good strategy if your audience is sympathetic to the counterargument. Because you acknowledge the strength of the counterargument, you will not alienate your audience. Second, a concession may strengthen your argument. Because you explain that the counterargument is strong, you can increase the strength of your overall argument by including more convincing evidence on why your position is correct.

    Writing a Counterargument Paragraph

    Often, counterarguments for papers in school are around a paragraph in length. To begin writing a counterargument, research the opposing views. You will need to do this research to understand the reasons and claims behind the opposing viewpoint. This research selects the opposing viewpoint's most substantial claims and reasons. Begin your counterargument paragraph by summarizing and explaining these claims. Your argument will be more persuasive if you can engage and address the counterargument's most compelling information.

    After describing the opposing viewpoints, write the rebuttal in the second half of the paragraph. You will want to select one of the strategies above to address the counterargument. The counterargument you choose will depend on the audience and your goals. Remember, a skeptical audience may find concession more persuasive, while a neutral or supportive audience may support refutation. In the rebuttal, address the specific reasons and claims from the counterargument. You will want to use research to support your rebuttal.

    Whether you place the counterargument or your main argument first depends on your goals. A counterargument rebutted using refutation is traditionally near the end of the essay after discussing your main points. After laying out your claims and evidence, you can use this information to form the evidence you will use to create your rebuttal against the counterargument. If you primarily want to use concessions, it will be better near the beginning of the paper after the introduction. Because your main points show how your argument is stronger, you will want to introduce the opposing viewpoint at the beginning.

    Counter Argument - Key Takeaways

    • A counterargument is a contrasting or opposing argument. The counterargument is the opposite argument of the one you are writing about.
    • You include counterarguments in your writing to form a rebuttal. A rebuttal is where you explain why your position is stronger than the other.
    • Including counterarguments strengthens your argument by making it more credible and helps to convince your audience of your claims.
    • The classical argumentation structure is a common one to follow for incorporating counterarguments.
    • Two strategies for rebutting your counterargument include refutation and concession. Refutation describes the process of showing how the counterargument contains logical fallacies or is not supported with evidence. Concession is the strategy of admitting that an opposing argument is correct.

    References

    1. Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson, and Erika Patall, "Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003," 2006.
    2. Mollie Galloway, Jerusha Connor, and Denise Pope, "Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools," 2013.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Counter Argument

    What's a counterargument?

    A counterargument is a contrasting or opposing argument. Counterarguments are common in argumentative essays. The counterargument is the opposing argument to the one you are writing about. You include counterarguments in your writing to form a rebuttal. A rebuttal is where you explain why your position is stronger than the counterargument.

    How should a counterargument be presented?

    There are several strategies for addressing counterarguments and forming your rebuttals. The two major categories for these strategies include refutation and concession. Refutation describes the process of showing how the counterargument contains logical fallacies or is not supported with evidence. Concession is the strategy of admitting that an opposing argument is correct.


    How to start a counterargument paragraph?

    To begin writing a counterargument, research the opposing views. You will need to do this research to understand the reasons and claims behind the opposing viewpoint. From this research, select the opposing viewpoint's strongest claims and reasons. Begin your counterargument paragraph summarizing and explaining these claims.

    How to write a counterargument paragraph

    Begin your counterargument paragraph by summarizing and explaining the claims. After describing the opposing viewpoints, write the rebuttal in the second half of the paragraph. The counterargument you choose will depend on the audience and your goals. A skeptical audience may find concession more persuasive, while a neutral or supportive audience may support refutation.

    How does a counterargument strengthen your argument?

    Your argument becomes stronger because you have to address your opposition's claims. If you can effectively address and rebuke your opposition's arguments, your argument will appear more credible to your audience. It will help you persuade your audience that your argument is correct, especially if they are skeptical of your position.


    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    A red herring is a(n) _____ used to divert an argument away from its resolution.

    Is a red herring an informal or formal fallacy?

    Although red herrings are irrelevant ideas, they are not _____. 

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