This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-14 04:25:15
In order to present a fair and convincing message, you may need to anticipate, research, and outline some of the common positions (arguments) that dispute your thesis. If the situation (purpose) calls for you to do this, you will present and then refute these other positions in the rebuttal section of your essay.
It is important to consider other positions because in most cases, your primary audience will be fence-sitters. Fence-sitters are people who have not decided which side of the argument to support.
People who are on your side of the argument will not need a lot of information to align with your position. People who are completely against your argument—perhaps for ethical or religious reasons—will probably never align with your position no matter how much information you provide. Therefore, the audience you should consider most important are those people who haven't decided which side of the argument they will support—the fence-sitters.
In many cases, these fence-sitters have not decided which side to align with because they see value in both positions. Therefore, to not consider opposing positions to your own in a fair manner may alienate fence-sitters when they see that you are not addressing their concerns or discussion opposing positions at all.
Organizing your rebuttal section
Following the TTEB method outlined in the Body Paragraph section, forecast all the information that will follow in the rebuttal section and then move point by point through the other positions addressing each one as you go. The outline below, adapted from Seyler's Understanding Argument, is an example of a rebuttal section from a thesis essay.
When you rebut or refute an opposing position, use the following three-part organization:
The opponent’s argument: Usually, you should not assume that your reader has read or remembered the argument you are refuting. Thus, at the beginning of your paragraph, you need to state, accurately and fairly, the main points of the argument you will refute.
Your position: Next, make clear the nature of your disagreement with the argument or position you are refuting. Your position might assert, for example, that a writer has not proved his assertion because he has provided evidence that is outdated, or that the argument is filled with fallacies.
Your refutation: The specifics of your counterargument will depend upon the nature of your disagreement. If you challenge the writer’s evidence, then you must present the more recent evidence. If you challenge assumptions, then you must explain why they do not hold up. If your position is that the piece is filled with fallacies, then you must present and explain each fallacy.
Definition of Refutation
The literary term refutation refers to that part of an argument where a speaker or a writer encounters contradicting points of view. Alternatively, refutation can be described as the negation of an argument, opinion, testimony, doctrine, or theory, through contradicting evidence. It normally constitutes a part of an essay that disproves the opposing arguments.
An important distinction to be appreciated is the difference between refutation and counter-argument. In the case of counter-argument, the writer acknowledges that there is substance in the contradicting argument, yet he provides evidence for his alleged stance. On the other hand, refutation goes a bit further by presenting evidence that in turn negates the opposing arguments.
In a circumstance in which the writer happens to agree with certain aspects of the opposing argument, he makes a concession. However, writers and speakers rarely employ concession, as it can very easily undermine their own stance.
Types of Refutation
There are various ways through which the tool of refutation can be employed. The three most common modes used for the purpose of incorporating the device of refutation in an argument are: (1) refutation through evidence, (2) refutation through logic, and (3) refutation through exposing the discrepancies of opposing argument.
Refutation through Evidence
For an argument to be counted as one of the valid examples of refutation through evidence, it needs to be an argument backed up by some form of evidence. In the absence of clear bases or justifications it cannot be declared valid. Therefore, a writer can refute a contradicting argument if he can provide evidence that conclusively negates it, or by presenting more recent or credible evidence.
Refutation through Logic
Refutation examples through logic are quite tricky to construct. It involves deconstructing the opposing argument, and presenting it in such a way as to highlight the discrepancies present within the argument. Most skilled writers check the validity of their arguments before publishing them. This makes refutation through logic all the more difficult. There is no denying the fact then that refutation through logic constitutes a difficult task at hand. However, writers have employed this tool in their respective writings.
Refutation through Exposing Discrepancies
The method involves showing that one of the contradicting arguments lacks the core ingredient of centrality to the issue as the opposition had intended to project. Also, the writer can logically present his argument as being superior to the one presented by the opposition, by showing that the opposition’s argument lacks the crucial link to the topic. Further, the writer can highlight the insignificance of the opposition’s argument by exposing the deficiencies found within the opposing argument.
Examples of Refutation in Literature
Example #1: Elements of Rhetoric (By Richard Whately)
“If indeed very strong objections have obtained much currency, or have been just stated by an opponent, so that what is asserted is likely to be regarded as paradoxical, it may be advisable to begin with a Refutation.”
As can be seen from the excerpt quoted above, refutation of an objection should be placed in the midst of an argument. However, the nearer it is to the beginning the more effective it is likely to be.
Example #2: Remarks made to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Seattle, Washington (By William Kennard, Chairman of the FCC)
“So we may well hear from a whole chorus of naysayers. And to all of them I have only one response: we cannot afford to wait. We cannot afford to let the homes and schools and businesses throughout America wait. Not when we have seen the future. We have seen what high capacity broadband can do for education and for our economy. We must act today to create an environment where all competitors have a fair shot at bringing high capacity bandwidth to consumers—especially residential consumers. And especially residential consumers in rural and underserved areas.”
This excerpt serves to illustrate the effectiveness of early refutation. The early placement of refutation within the extract has had an enhanced persuasive impact on the audience.
Function of Refutation
The tool of refutation has a crucial significance in writing. It is important in determining whether the speaker or writer has successfully persuaded his readers or not. Mostly, the device of refutation is employed when one is dealing with a controversial topic. It allows the reader to prefer one argument over another. The use of the device is frequently witnessed in intricate arguments.