Using counterarguments appropriately is central to composing an effective persuasive piece. Remember that you should assume that your audience does not agree with you. Therefore, your goal is to make your readers change their mind by helping them see the matter from a different perspective. To accomplish this, you need to begin by acknowledging your audeince’s point of view and then address any weak point in their arguments. This is called “conceding and refuting.” It means that you first partially accept something your opponent says (concede), but then argue that your opponent’s view is not entirely true or accurate (refute).
Examples of Counterarguments
The following examples were taken from compositions written by international students who were requested to take a side in a controversy. Examples 1 and 2 discuss the pertinence of allowing college students use a new technological device called Google Glass in the classroom. Some people believe that this device will enhance students’ learning, while others fear that it will only distract students. If you want to know more about Google Glass, you can click on the link provided in Example 1. Example 3 focuses on the dangers of using nuclear energy and whether it could harm the environment or help to improve it. Read the examples carefully and use brackets to identify where the writers are conceding and where they are refuting their opponents’ arguments.
Advocates of Google Glass think that it is a miraculous tool that can enhance students’ learning experience at school. They hold that the device will help students search information about many subjects during class and use class time more efficiently. For example, by using voice recognition technology and screenshots to take notes. Information can be easily registered and retrieved when needed. While this may be true, an excessive dependence on these tools can make students’ minds lose those thinking skills usually needed when taking notes in a traditionally way.
Opponents of using Google Glass on campus claim that it can cause accidents because people would tend to be distracted while driving or riding their bikes. These concerns are understandable. However, plenty of accidents caused by distracted drivers are associated to the use of other devices such as smart phones or car navigation systems. In fact, the National Safety Council (2015) reports that one out of four car accidents in the United States is due to using cellphones while driving. In spite of this statistics, cell phone use is not consider an issue in our campus. Why should Google Glass be treated differently?
Scientists believe that nuclear power can solve the energy crisis once for all. Currently, nuclear-based power stations are already used in aircraft carriers and submarines. Moreover, the use of nuclear power can be environmentally friendly because it helps reduce fossil fuel consumption. Although there is some truth in these assumptions, they are based on one condition: that all these nuclear power stations never leak. Unfortunately, bad things always happen. In 1986, the nuclear power station in Chernobyl exploded due to a failure in the cooling system. Thousands of people lost their lives and the environmental damage was appalling.
Circle those words or phrases that the writers used in their pieces to:
- Introduce their opponents’ position
- Introduce the concession and the refutation
Language focus: Phrases and Verbs
Fill the following chart with the phrases/words that you circled in the text:
|Introducing the opponents’ view
|Concession and Refutation
To present their opponents’ way of thinking the writers used the following verbs: think, hold, and claim. Which other verbs do you think could be useful for the same purpose? Write a list of at least 5 alternative options:
Language Focus: Transitions
To introduce the concession and the refutation, the writers of the examples given above used transitional words such as: although, however, and while. Observe how other writers used these words in the examples below and answer the following questions:
- Where does the concession part appear? After or before the transitional word?
- Where is the refutation placed?
- How is punctuation used to separate concession from refutation?
- Are while, however, and although used in the same way? If not, where does the difference reside?
- Some researchers have emphasized the importance of peer support in establishing good reading habits. While this support is beneficial, it is clearly not essential to sustain reading.
- It is true that those who enjoy numbers may be more able to take on billing challenges than others. However, medical billing involves more than comfort with numbers.
- The use of technology in the teaching and learning of reading has been highly praised. Although it is true that technology does play a significant role in creating artifacts, these activities did not preclude the students’ need to critically assess the texts they read in their digital world.
- Colleges and universities have been working hard to provide their students with wider online access. Although these efforts are commendable, they will undoubtedly result in an increase of tuition and fees.
- Reading interventions programs are often selected on the basis of their availability, familiarity, and ease. While this may seem like a practical approach, it is not always the best way to determine their suitability for students’ needs.
- Traditionally, the diversity of the learner is defined by ethnicity, economic conditions, and gender. These variables are undoubtedly useful to conform this definition: however, there are other issues of diversity that can affect learning and should be considered. For instance, variable such as visual or auditory abilities or the disposition of the learner should not be overlooked.
With your colleagues, work out a rule to sue while, although, and however to concede and refute. To understand more about these transitional words you can refer to the Transitional Devices chapter.
As a final exercise, you can go back to the essay by Victoria DeCesare and observe how she used concession and refutation in her piece. Identify in which sentences she used words such as while, however, and although. Do you think she used them effectively to present her counter argumentation? Why?