In argumentative essays you need to be able to effectively raise objections against arguments and opinions that are different from your own. In writing, this can be called a refutation and in oral debates it is known as rebuttal. When you write a refutation, always briefly restate the argument that you are about to rebut (the counterargument). To increase your academic (or democratic) ethos, you can give a concession to the counterargument or hedge your own assertion or examples. Remember, your refutation/rebuttal can attack any part of the counterargument: its hidden or explicit assumptions, its reasoning/logic, its evidence, or its linkage to the writer’s main argument (or the proposition in debating).
TASK: Read the example sentences below and consider the effect of the underlined words in carrying and reinforcing the author’s stance/position.
Example Refutation Structure
- Proposition (topic sentence = your claim): p ∴ q.
“Mixed-ability schools and classrooms have clear educational benefits.”
- X’s claim (+ data = counterargument): X argues/claims/assumes that p1 ∴ q1.
“Callow (2016), a proponent of streaming, claims that separate schools for gifted children would lead to ‘greater educational attainment’ (45).”
- Concession: p1 may be conceded in (problematic) case n1
“Separate schools would of course benefit brighter children, who would receive more attention from teachers and benefit from high-quality peer input.”
- Objection (your counter claim): However, ¬p1 in case n.
“However, it is equally likely that, if brighter children are educated separately, quality in general schools will deteriorate…”
- Reasoning (your reasons): … because p.
“… because teachers and weaker students will no longer have access to the benefits that come from high-achieving students.”
- Evidence (your data): For instance, f1.
“As psychological studies, such as those by Greenacre and Wiston (2017) have shown, brighter children challenge teachers to do better and inspire less gifted classmates to succeed.”
- Restate proposition (concluding sentence = your claim): Therefore, q (¬q1).
“Therefore, instead of segregating children by achievement, we must continue to educate children of mixed ability in the same classes and schools.”
Language for Refuting/Rebutting
It is clearly / surely the case / observable that …It is clear / evident that …Evidently, …Obviously, …
X may be right to argue that … because …This may be true to a certain extent because …Notwithstanding/ In spite of / Despite [noun phrase], we shouldn’t forget that…So far as [noun phrase] goes, this may be true because …
One question that needs to be asked, however, is whether …A serious weakness /fallacy with this argument, however, is that …However, there is an inconsistency with this argument, in that ….X’s argument relies too heavily on [noun phrase] / the assumption that [full sentence] …
However, X points out/argues/shows that …Many [x] now argue/hold/think that ….An experiment by X, for example, seems to demonstrate /suggest that …X is also very critical of the idea that …