How to nail a counterargument the right way

Last Updated: 28 September 2021

How to develop a counterargument

Without wasting too many words, we know you are here because you want to learn how to write counterarguments. Today is your lucky day because our authoritative guide covers everything there is to know to write an outstanding counter-argument for your argumentative essays.

We begin with the definition then stray a little on how to introduce counterarguments and rebuttals before presenting some examples. You will also find transition and signal words to use instead of ambushing your readers.

If, however, all you need now is help with your argumentative or persuasive essay, reach out to our support team. They know how to find the best academic writers to help you out.

Otherwise, let the sweet journey begin!

What is a counter-argument?

Let’s begin with the counter-argument definition before we delve deep into its mechanics.

It is natural that every position or argument attracts an alternative or opposing viewpoint/standpoint. The opposing standpoints are defined as counter-arguments. So, what does a counter-argument mean?

A counter-argument is an argument recognizing the opposing viewpoint. It is an argument opposed to your thesis or part of the thesis that expresses the standpoint of a person who likely disagrees with your position.

Synonyms to counter-argument include rebuttal, reply, counter reason, comeback, response, and counterstatement.

For instance, if my argument is that feral cats at a school arboretum should be killed because they are a nuisance, and you argue instead that feral cats should not be killed because it is unethical, your position over the issue is a counter-argument to my position and vice versa.

In an essay, counter-argument entails acknowledging the opposing views or standpoints to your main argument then reaffirming your argument. It is a standard academic writing practice primarily used in argumentative essays to show the readers that you are wise or rational enough to understand and respect the multiple sides of an argument.

It is an attempt to refute the main argument by generating a counter-argument or presenting a counterexample. Synonyms to counter-arguments include rebuttal, reply, counter reason, comeback, response, and counterstatement.

The Purpose of a counter-argument

You probably wonder why a counter-argument should be used in an essay or whether it dilutes or weakens your main argument. Or what’s its purpose, anyway?

The Best way to present a counter-argument

Now that we understand the counter-argument meaning let’s explore how you can present them in your essay or research paper. We asked our top argumentative essay writers about this, and here is what they had to say.

In terms of presentation, counter-arguments must be objective, thorough, concise, and fair. Avoid the temptation of writing a quick sentence and immediately rebutting it. Instead, give reasons why the view is plausible.

A counter-argument can either be a few sentences or even an entire paragraph. In terms of fairness and objectivity, ensure that the person who holds the contrary view would accept your way of stating it. It is vital to put yourself in the shoes of the other person holding the opposing view and give them the benefit of the doubt. Again, avoid biased language or stack the deck when presenting the position. It is easier for a reader to spot such and get bored with your paper.

A good counter-argument is reasonable and popular. This means that you should pick counter-arguments that a lot of people, including yourself, feel reasonable. As long as you can answer objections, you have a chance to make your case.

Even when you believe that the position stated in your thesis can affect your objectivity, strive to express the counter-argument as objectively as possible. After all, a counter-argument is meant to address the positions held by people that you think are mistaken. You should be respectful enough to give them a blind eye even if you have reasons to believe their views are wrong or misplaced. Doing so persuades the other parties.

You could also use sarcasm or satire to expose the mistaken viewpoints. However, these two powerful tools must be used rationally and with moderation, especially if you are not a master of the art of rhetoric.

In a nutshell, you can present the counter-argument in these two steps:

  1. Respectfully acknowledging the standpoints or evidence that differs from your argument.
  2. Refuting the stance of opposing arguments through using the proper counterargument transitions such as “although,” “however,” or “in retrospect,” among others. When presenting a refutation, aim to show the reader why your position is correct than the opposing idea.

Where are counter-arguments placed in an essay?

A counter-argument can appear anywhere in your essay; there is no rule as to where it appears. However, most counter-arguments appear:

With an understanding of what it is, how to present it, and where to place it in an essay, let’s now jump to how you can rebut your counter-argument.

Counter-argument placement anatomy/structure

This is probably the most common counter-argument where you write the counter-argument and rebuttal before the conclusion:

  1. Introduction
  2. Supporting point #1
  3. Supporting point #2
  4. Supporting point #3
  5. Supporting point #4
  6. [there can be any number of supporting points]
  7. Counter-argument
  8. Rebuttal
  9. Conclusion

The second method, although least common, is where you begin with a counter-argument in your introduction. In this sense, you include the rebuttal as part of your thesis statement. Here is an illustration:

  1. Counter-argument, which also serves as an introduction
  2. Rebuttal, which would usually include the thesis statement
  3. Supporting point #1
  4. Supporting point #2
  5. Supporting point #3
  6. Supporting point #4
  7. [there can be any number of supporting points depending on the word count of your essay]
  8. Conclusion

Introducing a counter-argument

So far, we know that a counter-argument in an essay entails two stages: turning against your argument to challenge it and turning back to it by reaffirming it (rebuttal). To introduce a counter-argument, here are some templates you can use to structure it:

  1. Looking at your arguments themselves for the possibility of:
  1. Citing an actual source, critic, or a group of critics arguing against your chief argument e.g.
  1. Imagining a skeptical readerg

The three ways explored above are the best ways you could introduce counter-arguments. They are not exhaustive; you can always generate and brainstorm in innovative ways.

When done with the counter-arguments, you then briefly state a case against yourself but have to point out evidence where possible forcefully. Then you can enter the second stage, where you turn your back and reaffirm your argument.

How to Rebut a Counter-argument in an Essay

A common question most of our editorial team members remember being asked by their students, of course, before becoming unemployed tutors or professors, is “how do I rebut a counter-argument?” So we lay it bare here for anyone who cares to read.

Immediately after stating your counter-argument, you need to turn back and reaffirm your argument. The process is called a rebuttal. There are different rebuttal tactics and models. Here are a few examples you can use to structure your rebuttals:

  1. Finding agreement and showing how your new idea supports the shared idea. For instance, you can say It is agreeable that…. just as X explains. The idea supports the argument that…. because….
  2. Redefining a criterion of the Known concepts. For example, “Even though it is granted that animal testing enables the best cosmetic research outcomes, couldn’t it be possible that alternative animal testing methods also do that effectively without subjecting animals to unnecessary pain.”
  3. Quoting acknowledged experts that support your central argument/position.

For example, “While many might view this argument as flawed because of… X (author’s in-text citation), who is a knowledgeable figure in this field, also states that….

  1. Pointing out the faulty assumptions in the critic's arguments where the analysis is incorrect, the values the opposing arguments are based on are unacceptable, and the facts are wrong. Here are examples:

When to concede a counter-argument

There are instances when you have to concede a counter-argument. Here is what to do in case you encounter that when writing your essay.

You might sometimes think that your counter-argument is valid and believe it responds to your actual argument and not some other point. If this is the case, you need to tweak, modify, and refine your thesis instead of abandoning it altogether. Yes, this applies when you are almost adopting the counter-argument as your position.

Refining your thesis helps you retain your original standpoint while at the same time fortifying it by incorporating part of what those opposed to it hold as a belief.

Additionally, you take away the reasons your reader might have to front a disagreement with your viewpoints – you persuade your reader.

Counter-argument Paragraph Example

We want to make it as easy as possible to write a counter-argument. It is the sole reason we have presented a few examples to guide you through. A quick one, though; when writing counter-arguments, ask yourself: Based on your argument, what might other people front as disagreements?

It is also possible to discover counter-arguments as you research. You only need to pay attention to the authors who disagree with your argument, which skilled essay writers explain they rely on when developing counterarguments.

Here are examples of a counter-argument structure:

1. Arguing against smoking on campus

Although many students want to smoke on campus, some people are bound to rightfully argue that the very idea of smoking on campus is not illegal and should be permitted. Nevertheless, credible evidence from scientific research indicates that second-hand smoke can affect those with underlying health issues such as asthma, possibly exposing them to risks and adverse events.

2. Arguing against animal testing (an essay on animal testing in cosmetics production)

There is a group of people who believe that using animals for research purposes for health products targeting humans is justifiable. Realistically, animal testing has been used in the past to develop vaccines for otherwise deadly diseases such as chickenpox, mumps, hepatitis A and B, polio, shingles, and measles, to mention a few. However, animal testing for beauty products only causes unnecessary pain to animals. If this is the case, there are very many effective animal testing alternatives. For example, instead of using animals for research, it is possible to use volunteer studies. Furthermore, experts from Cruelty-Free International also suggest using alternatives such as computer models, human tissues, and cell cultures. For instance, skins created from cells can be used to test cosmetics. If there are efficient alternatives to animal testing, it is high time animal testing be abandoned to save animals the unnecessary pain they go through during the research processes.

3. Arguing against patients’ right to end-of-life decisions

Here is an example of argument, counter-argument, and rebuttal when writing a euthanasia essay or arguing against patients’ right to make end-of-life decisions.

ArgumentCounter-argumentRebuttal
The focus of end-of-life decisions should be on the consent of a patient rather than the intention of the doctor, given a possible breach of the rights of a patient when the doctor decides for the patient to end their life. Terminally ill patients are likely not to be mentally apt due to such things as depression or pain, making them unable to consent to a hastened death in an acceptable or balanced way.Pain and depression can be managed in terminally ill patients. Therefore, the relevance of depression and pain must be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, pain and depression do not warrant the general rule that prohibits patients from consenting to their hastened death.

4. Argument for opioid crisis essay

Imagine that you are writing an argumentative essay on a current topic such as the opioid crisis in the U.S. your argument might be that: State governments should allocate part of their budgets to community-based addiction recovery centers in areas that are drastically affected by the opioid crisis/epidemic.

Then your counter-arguments can be:

A rebuttal would be that the government has the responsibility to take care of the health of the citizens.

Transitions to use when presenting counter-arguments

To introduce a counter-argument, you need to use clear signal words that inform your reader that you are about to throw in a counter-argument to your thesis. Signals are important because they make you avoid ambushing your reader with new thoughts suddenly. After all, the counter-argument supports your topic and thesis; without the counter-argument, the paper might appear contradictory and incoherent.

Phrases or sentences that show that the following statement will not be your view as an author but that of people opposed to your ideas can precede a counter-argument. You can use these transition words:

Other counter-argument statements can be complex sentences formatted as below:

References used in Developing our Guide

When writing this guide, we found the following resources helpful:

Parting Shot!

According to Gordon Harvey, when writing an academic essay, you make an argument by proposing a thesis and offering reasoning through presenting credible evidence that suggests why your thesis is true. However, when you are counter-arguing, you consider the potential argument against your thesis or the aspects of your viewpoint. Thus, Counterarguing is an instant disarming tactic that helps you to be persuasive in your essay.

When counter-arguing, you first turn against your argument by challenging it, and then you turn back to reaffirm it. Our guide has examples, guidelines, tips, and nifty strategies to use when writing a counter-argument.

We have covered the essential tips and tricks you can use to develop an excellent counter-argument. It might sound like rocket science, but soon as you grasp it, you are on a pedestal towards excellent grades.

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Approach us to help you structure your counter-arguments, write persuasive essays, and get the chance to work with some best minds in scholarly/academic writing. Here, we have mentored great orators, poets, politicians, professors; you name it, and we can do the same to you. You can also contact us as a parent to work with your child in improving their writing process through model papers and plagiarism-free samples.