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Counterargument

A counterargument is an argument that challenges your thesis.

 

Lincoln and Davis tug of war   The True Issue or "That's Whats the Matter."

Political cartoon courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints
and Photographs Division. From its bibliographic notes:

In a rare pro-Democrat cartoon presidential aspirant George
Brinton McClellan is portrayed as the intermediary between
Abraham Lincoln and Confederacy president Jefferson Davis. Gen.
McClellan is in the center acting as a go-between in a tug-of-
war over a "Map of the United States" engaged in by Lincoln
(left) and Davis.

George Brinton holds the two men by their lapels and asserts, 
"The Union must be preserved at all hazards!" 

Lincoln tugs at the northern side of the map, saying, "No peace
without abolition."
 

Davis pulls at the southern portion, advocating, "No peace
without Separation!!"

 

Why is it important?

Contrary to the notion that it would make your essay weaker (by identifying potential faults that a reader might not
even come up with), it can strengthen your point and be a disarming strategy. It allows you the writer to anticipate doubts
and pre-empt objections that a skeptical reader might have. If done objectively, you can appear more credible for seeming
fair-minded and having thoroughly considered the issue at hand.
 

Writing a counter-argument includes two steps:

1) You turn against your argument to challenge it.
2) You disprove the alternate view with evidence.

 

Step 1: Challenging your thesis

How do I come up with a counterargument?

 

  • If possible, take the direct opposition position from your thesis.

Example:

Your thesis: World War II was a watershed for women.

Counterargument: World War II was not a watershed for women.

  • Look at the evidence you’ve used and consider whether another potential conclusion is possible.

Example:

Women remained in the workforce in the postwar era because of their positive experience in the wartime workforce.

Women remained in the workforce in the postwar era because of rising costs of living and economic necessity.

  • Ask other students about your topic to determine other commonly held views.
  • If all else fails and you cannot see beyond your thesis, do a bit of research to determine other popular arguments.
  • Most importantly, you must provide evidence or support for the counterargument.

Example:

Of course, World War II was not a watershed for women because discrimination in hiring and wage disparities persisted and because many women lost their jobs at the war’s end.   

How do I write a counterargument?

  • Signal words: Of course, Admittedly, While, On the other hand, But, Yet, However
  • Sample sentence frames
                               One might [object/ think/ imagine] that… ____________________ .

Many people [believe/ argue/ feel/think/ suppose] that__________________.

It is [thought/ imagined/ supposed] that ______________________.

It is [true/ plausible/ possible] that______________________.

_______________argues, writes, asserts that _____________________.

 

counterargument graphic 1

 

Step 2: The Rebuttal: Reaffirming your argument

Rebuttal using evidence

Finally, you offer a rebuttal to the counterargument. This is where you show the error in the counterargument with providing evidence. This in turn, strengthens your own thesis. When writing a rebuttal you might consider whether the counterargument is based upon:

  • Wrong Facts
  • Wrong Analysis
  • Wrong Significance

 

[However/ But, Still/ Nevertheless] this [view, position, claim] fails to consider/overlooks/ ignores________________.

[While, Although] this view, position, claim is [logical/valid/popular] it [ignores/overlooks]______________.

 

counterargument graphic 2

 

An Example

An example of a thesis followed by the counterargument and rebuttal

World War II was a watershed for women. Some might argue that World War II did not transform the workplace for women, because discrimination in hiring and wage disparities persisted and because many women lost their jobs at the war’s end.  Although many younger women did return home and resume domestic responsibilities after the war, statistics show that the number of older, married women actually increased in the workplace in the postwar era. Furthermore, for the women who had returned home after work to bear children, they instructed their daughters to “be anything they wanted.”