In an argumentative essay, the writer often presents the other side’s main point first (the counterargument) and then responds to it with his/her own argument. The counterargument informs the reader that you know that some people disagree with you and you are aware of their opinions. When you present the counterargument, it is more effective to admit that there are some positive aspects to it rather than just criticizing it.
Your topic, type of assignment and time availability will determine how many counterarguments you present and disprove and where you place them. If you are writing your first argumentative essay, one counterargument (just a few sentences) may be enough. Follow these guidelines:
1. Choose the most common idea expressed by your opposition (counterargument).
2. Present the opposing viewpoint (counterargument) at the beginning of the body
paragraph and then disprove it. Be careful not to say too much about the other side!
Explain it quickly and simply, and then refute it with your own argument. 3. If you decide to make a concession (present a counterargument) in the last body
paragraph, be sure to go back to your point of view before the end of the paragraph. 4. Use clear transitions, so your readers know exactly when you are changing from
your opponents’ argument to your own. Otherwise, your readers will be confused.
Explanations: Sample body paragraph:
These sentences make a Smokers claim that their personal rights are being denied
concession by mentioning the as more and more public places are declared “smoke-free.” In main opposing argument.
addition, bar owners are losing business because their
smoking customers are staying home. While both smokers The part in italics creates a
transition between the other what they must realize and bar owners have valid arguments,viewpoint and the writer’s.
is that sometimes we have to sacrifice as individuals in
The part in boldface introduces order to help society as a whole. Even though it is an the writer’s opinion, which is the
paragraph’s main idea. individual’s choice to do damage to his or her lungs by
smoking cigarettes, innocent nonsmokers do not have a
The rest of the paragraph explains choice if a smoker is around. They should not have to expose the writer’s point of view and
refutes the opposing argument. their lungs to second-hand smoke when they go out for a
drink or a meal. In addition, bar employees have the right to
work in a smoke-free environment. Smokers and bar owners
can help keep the air clean and safe for the elderly, asthma
sufferers, other customers and employees by following the
Exercise 1 – Form a group with 2-3 classmates. Read the sample body paragraph again. Underline any transition words or expressions (e.g.: but, nevertheless, in addition…).
How do these transitions help the flow of the paragraph? Discuss your answers with your group.
Exercise 2 –Together with your group, choose one topic from the list below. List the main arguments on one side, and the opposite arguments on the other side.
1. Students learn more/learn less by using computers in the classrooms.
2. Couples should/should not live together before they get married.
3. Immigrants should/should not give up their traditional ways to fit in their
4. Parents are responsible/not responsible for their children’s bad behavior.
5. Parents should/should not use spanking to discipline their children.
Pro (in favor) Con (against)
Homework Assignment – Write a short paragraph based on the brainstorming you did with your group; begin by presenting the most typical opposing argument, and then refute it. Use the paragraph on page 1 as a model. Use some of the transitions listed below.
Transition Words and Phrases
a) Introduce the counterargument. Use one of these phrases:
; “There are people who believe____ and they may think that _____,”
; “The writer states that____”
; Some people may feel that ____”
; Supporters of [this issue] claim that ____”
; Opponents of [this issue] insist that ____”
b) Afterward, come back to your own argument. Here are some phrases you can use:
; “… however, I think that it is more important to consider ____ because ____”
; “In spite of/Despite these arguments, I still think ____ because ____”
; The writer’s point has some validity, but ____”
; It is true that____; however, ____”
; Some people may feel that ____ , but I disagree because _____”
In the following examples you can see how different transitions can help you to switch from the counterargument to your own argument. [These are not complete paragraphs because they lack supporting evidence and explanations]
1. Many people nowadays believe that technology has improved our quality of life. They feel
that with technology we live happier lives because it makes our work easier: cars take us
places, computers store our information, machines wash clothes and dishes, and so on.
However, the knowledge required to use modern technology, especially computers,
does not make life easier.
2. Timberg seems to be sympathetic to the Bushmen when he talks about how Botswana’s
government moved them away from the game reserve (p 6). Although the transition to
a different lifestyle has been traumatic and mostly negative for the Bushmen, the
government’s actions were necessary to the development of Botswana, which will lead to
a better quality of life for Botswana’s people.
3. In “Is GE Food Safe?” G. Williams mentions all the possible problems of biotechnology.
He is especially worried that the lack of extensive research makes it impossible to
determine what the future consequences of genetically engineered plants may be (p. 4).
Williams makes a valid point, and scientists need to be more cautious about
introducing new technology; nevertheless, we should not let our fears about
technological changes stop us from using technology to improve our lives.
4. In “Navajo Vs Navajo” the author discusses the problem the Navajo face about their
water resources. If they allow mining on their land, they will make money, but they will
poison their water and destroy nature (p. 7). Many people would argue that mining
will bring economic development to the Navajo and will improve their lives. The mines
will give jobs to unemployed young Navajo, so they will be able to stay on the
reservation instead of moving away. Despite these valid arguments, I am
convinced that in the long run the economic gains will not be worth it. Once the natural
balance is destroyed, it will cause negative consequences that will threaten human life
and will outweigh any economic progress.
Here’s an example of a complete argument. Notice that the writer breaks down the
counterargument and argument into two paragraphs:
In “Nothing is Black, Nothing is White”, Helena Norberg-Hodge expresses her opinions
about how the Ladakhi lived more happily without advanced technology. She mentions that the quality of life for them was not about having advanced technology or material products, but it was about bonding together as a family and working together. The beauty of life for them was based upon the joy of using nature wisely and respectfully (p. 6-8). In spite of the rosy picture
Helena Norberg-Hodge paints, I don’t agree with her views. It’s true that nature must be
treated with respect and that bonding and working together as a family is important, but the
Ladakhi can do those things even better if they have technology.
Without modem technology, the Ladakhi suffered from diseases and hard labor. Although they worked together as family members, they were not enjoying the comforts of life and were not stress-free because they had to worry about finding food and doing hard physical work. They had to fetch water every morning and hunt for their food. With advanced technology, now they can enjoy the feeling of spending time with their loved ones and living a
safer life. Advanced technology, such as telephones and computers (e-mail), will enable them to communicate with their loved ones who live far away. If someone needs urgent medical care, the Ladakhi will be able to use the telephone to call for help. Advanced medical technology will reduce the number of people suffering from disease and dying. With machines to help them with daily chores such as planting and harvesting crops, the Ladakhi will have more time to enjoy their families and nature. Ultimately, the Ladakhi will enjoy life more because life will be easier for them.