How To Write the Counterargument Paragraph

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  • Concession: acknowledgement of the other side
  • Refutation or Rebuttal: an answer that challenges a specific claim or charge
  • Counterargument: the other side of an argument

Format of the counterargument:

  1. Topic Sentence:  Introduce the opposing side’s arguments. You are acknowledging the other point of view. You will use phrases such as the following:
    • Some critics argue/assert/contend/claim/state . . .
    • Many believe that . . .
    • It has been argued/asserted/contended/claimed/stated . . .
    • Opponents argue/assert/contend/claim/state . . .

  1. Expert Source that supports the counterargument:  This sentence backs up the
sentence with a quotation or paraphrase of evidence from an expert. It includes
the name of the author/source, the title of the article or web site, and, if necessary,
the expertise of the source to show the validity of the evidence.

For example:
            In “When Patients Request Assistance with Suicide,” Dr. Michael Maskin,
            an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia-Presbyterian
            Medical Center in New York, argues that in many cases, dying patients’
            thinking is simply occupied by negative reactions to their condition (2).

  1. Explanation sentence: This sentence begins with a transition (therefore,
thus, to explain, as a result, to elaborate, in other words, etc.)  and explains the evidence and/or provides an example of what it is saying.

  1. Concession sentence: Concede (acknowledge) the other side’s validity in a
respectful way. You might begin with phrases such as the following:
    • For this reason, opponents believe/argue/claim/contend/stress etc.
    • As a result of _______________, many believe/argue etc.
    • It is understandable why the opposition believes/argues etc.
    • Critics have a valid point about . . .

  1. Refutation/Rebuttal sentence: This is where you refute or challenge the
opposition’s viewpoint and remind readers of your stance. You will begin
by using a phrase such as the following:
·        Nevertheless/nonetheless/however + your argument
·        Though it is a valid point/argument + your argument
·        Even though (one part of the argument) is true, it still does not . . .
·        Though he/she/they make a good point, + your argument

            Make sure that you complete the rebuttal by refuting the actual counterargument
            that you are using in this paragraph. Do not argue against a different
            counterargument, as there are usually several. Stick to the one counterargument
            throughout the entire paragraph. If you want to address more than one counter-
            argument, then you will need to do so in separate paragraphs. Obviously, it helps
            to pick counterarguments that you can refute easily.


Main Claim: Terminally ill patients have the right to end their own lives, and those who choose to help them should not be punished for doing so.

1 Critics argue that the reason why some terminally ill patients wish to commit suicide is nothing more than melancholia. Patients suffering terminal illness might tend to be negative, hopeless, and depressed. 2 In “When Patients Request Assistance with Suicide,” Dr. Michael Maskin, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, argues that in many cases, dying patients’ thinking is simply occupied by negative reactions to their critical condition (2). 3 In other words, most of the reasons why terminally ill patients request doctors and/or loved ones to assist them in committing suicide might be caused by certain problems such as hopelessness, because there is no effective treatment, anxiety over expensive medical bills, and regret for being a burden to their families (Maskin 2). 4 For this reason, opponents argue that the terminally ill patient needs psychotherapy, and that his wish to end his life should never be considered. 5 Though it is true that psychotherapy might help the terminally ill patient confirm his decision, and that it is not a medical doctor’s job to help patients end their lives, it is, however, ultimately the patient’s decision and his life to end. No person or law should prevent or punish loved ones who assist in that choice.
adapted with revisions from Sourcework, by Heinle & Heinle, 2006.

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20/20:  There is a clearly written topic sentence(s) that introduces the counterargument,     using appropriate transitions. The introduction to the counterargument is followed by expert evidence in the form of a quote or paraphrase that includes the source’s expertise. Then, there is an explanation of the evidence and an example to illustrate the evidence. Following the explanation, there is a concession sentence respectfully acknowledging the opposition’s view point. Finally, the writer refutes the counterargument in a respectful tone. In addition, transitions are used appropriately, the wording is accurate, and the sentence and paragraph structure are sound. The paragraph reads smoothly and is practically error-free in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

18/20: All of elements of the counterargument paragraph are there as explained above. However, a citation might be missing, or there may be an awkward sentence, a mistake in wording, or a couple of other minor errors that do not impact the overall meaning of the paragraph.
16/20:  In this paragraph, there are a few errors in sentence structure, wording, grammar, etc., but they do not impede understanding. Also, transitions might be needed, or one of the five elements of the counterargument paragraph might need some work; it’s all there, but it needs revision.

14/20:  In this paragraph, there are several errors in sentence structure, wording, grammar, etc. that make reading the paragraph difficult in places. Or, there is a missing element, such as no evidence, explanation and example, concession, or rebuttal. Or the parts do not go together, meaning that the rebuttal might argue against a different counterargument.

12/20: This paragraph is missing more than one of the five elements. Or the errors are so frequent that the point of the paragraph is lost. Or the handwriting is difficult to read. Or there is language used that is condescending or disrespectful of the opposition.

10/20: This is not a counterargument paragraph.


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