In high-quality argumentative writing, defending a position is not enough. It is necessary to provide counterarguments and rebuttals. To strengthen the quality of your argumentation, ask critical questions from the proponent (the side in favour of the argument) and the opponent’s (the side opposed to the argument) sides, and don’t hesitate to include critical questions in your argumentative writing. Asking questions is an effective method that guides self-explanation, elaboration, and self-regulatory learning. The main components of an argumentative paper are:
Claims assert your position on an issue. Your claims must be arguable. This is not an arguable claim: “this paper will examine the extent to which grouping students based on ability would accommodate their different needs.” Examining the extent of an issue suggests an expository paper instead of an argumentative one. You should claim your position by stating: “grouping students based on ability accommodates their different needs.”
You also need to provide reasons to support your claim(s), and back up your reasons with evidence (note: your "evidence" is usually what you have found by doing your research!).
Counterarguments predict what an opponent would say to reject an argument. When you provide a counterargument, you provide reasonable objections to an argument that may arise for some who disagrees with you. For example, someone claims, “making learning fun in classrooms allows for good learning because it motivates students to learn.” Ask yourself: are there people who would say that having fun in classrooms is not necessary for learning? What would be the reasons that would support that claim? Could someone argue that emotional interest stimulated through fun activities is not as important as cognitive interest stimulated through relevant information? Would they have evidence to back up their reason? Can they explain how and why the evidence supports their claim?
After you set up the counterarguments, you need to respond to, address, or refute those counterarguments. Otherwise, your read might end up being convinced by the opposing argument!
In the previous example, you could ask yourself: “What can I say to show that it isn't right to suggest that emotional interest isn't as important as cognitive interest?"
To provide a reasonable rebuttal, weigh up the balance of evidence and reasons provided in the arguments and the counterarguments, and prove that you have more evidence and reasons for the argument.
-- blog post by Teeba Obaid, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education
For more support on writing effective argumentative papers, check out the SLC's new resources on using templates to structure an argumentative essay, including practice exercises!:
Thank you to SLC Graduate Writing Facilitator Mohsen for his work creating these resources!
Content writing by Vectors Point from the Noun Project