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The Writing Center

Acknowledging Counterarguments

Counterarguments are crucial because, according to Wayne C. Booth, "you must respond to [the] predictable questions and objections" of your readers to make a well-rounded argument (139).This worksheet will use counterargument tactics outlined by Booth in his book The Craft of Research (3rd ed.) and will help to you to become more comfortable with counterarguments, using an argument about the "Freshman 15." The argument will be as follows:

During their first year of college, freshmen gain 15 pounds (known as the "Freshman 15") because they are living away from home and making poor dietary choices.

There are three main reasons why writers do not acknowledge counterarguments:

  1. Students think it will make their argument weaker

    The opposite is actually true! Your argument is stronger when you acknowledge an opposing side; it shows that you have thought deeply about your argument.

    Your job is to (relatively briefly) tell readers about any possible counterarguments, but then convince them that your argument is better.

  2. Students cannot think of any

    Here are four things to think about if you cannot think of a counterargument:

    • Are there other causes to the issue you are discussing?
      • For example, if you are arguing that the "Freshman 15" occurs because students are away from home, could another cause be that they are stress-eating?
    • Are there exceptions to the issue you are discussing?
      • For example,what about commuting freshmen?
    • Is the definition of your issue different from other's definitions?
      • For example, if you are arguing that the "Freshman 15" occurs within the first year, could others perhaps think that it occurs during the first semester?
    • Imagine someone reading your argument who wants you to be wrong. What would they find wrong with your argument?
      • For example, the opposition might argue: what about making poor dietary choices during lunch hour in high school? Students are not supervised then either!
  3. Students do not have the vocabulary to address the counterargument well

    Think about incorporating these words (listed in bold):

    • To undermine a counterargument:
      • (Despite, regardless of, notwithstanding, although, however, while, even though) the "Freshman 15" could (seem to, appear to, may have, plausibly) occur because students stress-eat, it is much more likely thatů
      • This (argument, idea, viewpoint) is (untenable, weak, confused, shaky, thin, confused, simplistic) and (ignores,overlooks,misses) key factors...
    • To attribute counterargument to a named source:
      • Include: The author of the idea, where it came from, and what his or her argument is
      • According to Bob Smith, in his article "The 'Freshman 15' is a Myth," the "Freshman 15" is actually something that happens to sophomores. Howeverů
      • Be careful not to insult the opposing side by using words such as "na´ve" or even "wrong". It does not reflect well on you if you resort to insults!
    • To attribute counterargument to an unnamed source (suggesting that this is could be a general opinion):
      • This technique uses a combination of the next two categories:
      • Many, some, a few, people
      • Think, imagine, claim, argue, say, suggest
      • (Many, some, a few, people) (think, imagine, claim, argue, say, suggest) that the "Freshman 15" is caused by stress-eating, butů
    • You can use the second set of these words alone to suggest no source at all:
      • It is easy to (think, imagine, claim, argue, say, suggest) that the "Freshman 15" does not apply to commuting students, butů

Reasearch Writing: Trustworthy Sources pdf icon

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