5.13 Counterargument and Response

Robin Jeffrey and Adam Falik

A counterargument asks, But what about other perspectives? Are there opinions or even data that support an argument different (counter) to my own? As one researches an argument, it becomes evident that there most always a counterargument that could be made. If your claim is that there should be more laws protecting consumers, someone else is arguing that deregulation is what’s more necessary in a free market.

One question that students have is: Is it necessary to include every counterargument in my paper? The answer is: It depends. Anticipating a counterargument and demonstrating that the counterargument does not diminish your own claim is a powerful argumentative tool. At the same time, spending your essay defending your claim against every counterclaim is not an effective way to earn agreement.

Here are some ways counterarguments can be used effectively:

  • to summarize opposing views
  • to explain how and where you agree with some opposing views while demonstrating that the counterargument does not diminish your own claim.

You must be careful that you are not conveying to a reader that you are NOT rejecting your own claim.

Why Respond to Counterarguments?

Just as it is important to include counterarguments to show that you are fair-minded and balanced, you must respond to the counterargument so that a reader clearly sees that you are not agreeing with the counterargument and thus abandoning or somehow undermining your own claim. You can:

  • concede to a specific point or idea from the counterargument by explaining why that point or idea has validity. However, you must then be sure to return to your own claim and explain why even that concession does not lead you to completely accept or support the counterargument.
  • reject the counterargument if you find it to be incorrect, fallacious, or otherwise invalid.
  • explain why the counterargument perspective does not invalidate your own.

A note about where to put the counterargument:

Some people prefer to have their counterargument right at the start of their essay where they can address it, then spend the rest of their essay building their own case and supporting their own claim. However, it is just as valid to have the counterargument + response appear at the end of the paper, after you have discussed all of your reasons.

It is important to remember that wherever you place your counterargument, you should address it fully.

Address the counterargument(s) fully:

  • Explain what the counter perspectives are. Describe them thoroughly. Cite authors who have these counter perspectives.
  • Quote them and summarize their thinking.
  • Then, respond to these counterarguments.
  • Make it clear to the reader of your argument why you concede to certain points of the counterargument or why you reject them. Make it clear that you do not accept the counterargument, even though you understand it. Be sure to use transition phrases that make this clear to your reader.

Counterarguments may include ideas from:

  • Someone who disagrees with your claim.
  • Someone who draws a different conclusion from any of the facts or examples you present. If so, what is that different conclusion? Explain this different conclusion and then respond to it.
  • Someone who questions any of your assumptions or claims? If so, which ones would they question? Explain then respond.
  • Someone who offers a different explanation of an issue? If so, what might their explanation be? Describe this different explanation then respond to it.
  • Someone who questions the evidence you use to support your claim, or who cites different evidence.

Disagreement does not necessarily mean that you have a weak argument. Good arguments can and do have counterarguments; it is important to discuss them. But if you address a counterargument, you must also respond to them.

How to respond to counterarguments:

  • If you agree with some of the counterargument perspectives, you can concede some of their points. (“I do agree that…,” “Some of the points made by are valid.…”) You could then challenge the importance/usefulness of those points. “However, this information does not apply to our topic because…”
  • If the counterargument perspective is one that contains different evidence than you have in your own argument, you can explain why a reader should not accept the evidence that the counterargument presents.
  • If the counterargument perspective is one that contains a different interpretation of evidence than you have in your own argument, you can explain why a reader should not accept the interpretation of the evidence that your opponent (counter-arguer) presents.
  • If the counterargument is an acknowledgment of evidence that threatens to weaken your argument, you can explain why and how that evidence does not, in fact, invalidate your claim.

Using transitional phrases in your paper alerts readers when you’re about to present a counterargument. It’s usually best to put this phrase at the beginning of a paragraph. For example:

  • Researchers have challenged these claims with…
  • Critics argue that this view…
  • Some readers may point to…
  • A perspective that challenges the idea that . . .

Transitional phrases will again be useful to highlight your shift from counterargument to response:

  • Indeed, some of those points are valid. However, . . .
  • While I agree that . . . , it is more important to consider . . .
  • These are all compelling points. Still, other information suggests that…
  • While I understand . . . , I cannot accept the evidence because . . .

Attribution: This page contains material from “About Writing: A Guide” by Robin Jeffrey, OpenOregon Educational ResourcesHigher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Editing and original content was created by Dr. Adam Falik for the LOUIS OER Dual Enrollment course development program to create “English Composition II” and has been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Creative Commons license


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Rhetoric Matters: A Guide to Success in the First Year Writing Class Copyright © 2022 by Robin Jeffrey and Adam Falik is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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