As you compose an argument essay, you must anticipate your audience’s objections. The ability to refute opposition in an argument essay is a key element in a successful essay.
Some writers make the mistake of introducing a weak or silly opposition to make it easier to refute. But this actually weakens the writer’s argument. Introducing the strongest point of opposition and strongly refuting it with a well thought-out response serves to make the writer’s position stronger.
Who is Your Audience?
The first step for creating a strong opposition section is to thoroughly understand your audience. Who are they? Where are they on the scale of opposition? Are they against your entire argument, or only against a few points?
Will They Oppose Your Argument?
How can you anticipate what the opposition might be? It’s always a good idea at this stage to get some peer feedback, as your peers might be a good source of opposing views. Ask your peers what their responses are to your argument to gain a clearer understanding of differing viewpoints.
As you introduce opposition, take care to be respectful of the other side’s opinions. Put yourself in the other side’s shoes. Coming across as disrespectful or failing to take the opposition seriously is a sure way to make your own argument seem weak.
Let’s consider the argument below and how you might include opposition:
Argument: Schools should move to a year round curriculum
Reason: because students lose much of the previous year’s information and must be re-taught, wasting precious time and resources.
For the reason stated above, the opposition may disagree the contention that information is lost and must be retaught. In fact, the opposition may state that studies on year-round schools have been inconclusive regarding the academic benefits.
Now that there is a clear statement of opposition, it’s your turn to rebut, or reinforce your point – that schools should move to a year round curriculum because students lose much of the previous year’s information and must be re-taught.
Opposition = Faulty Assumption
If the opposition states that the research in inconclusive, this is your opportunity to show strong, valid research that does support a year-round curriculum on the basis of lost information over the long break. You will argue that the opposition has based their argument on a faulty assumption — that research shows there is no benefit. The opposition/rebuttal paragraph would look something like this:
Those against changing our current 9-month school calendar to year-round,is that there has been no conclusive research that supports that it has any academic benefit. However, this is untrue. Researchers at Chimi-Changa Education Labs have done extensive studies focusing on the effectiveness of year-round schools, and their conclusions show an increase in learning in all areas of study. “The students we have tested in districts who have implemented year-round curriculum show higher test scores in math, reading, and science from those students in traditional 9-month districts,” says Sam Smith, Chair of Curriculum Design at Chimi-Changa.
Note the highlighted transitional cue word, “However.” This is a cue word that indicates that you are now stating your rebuttal, or disagreement with the opposition.
Conceding to Opposition
Often, the opposition has a very valid disagreement against your position, so valid that it might cause you to rethink your position. Instead of changing your thesis, consider conceding the point. By conceding to their point, or agreeing that the opposition has a strong argument, you are positioning yourself as respectful and are more likely to gain the audience’s trust. This is not only respectful, but also a great opportunity to drive home your own points to re-emphasize your argument.
Concession & Rebuttal:
Those against year-round school argue that the costs of running many of the aging buildings year-round are too high. While it is true that keeping schools open throughout the year may cost more, the higher costs could be subsidized by making the buildings available for community rental to offset those costs.
As you can see by the previous example, the opposition has a valid point. By conceding this point is actually true and then responding with a strong rebuttal — an alternative to offset the high costs — the writer’s position becomes even stronger. The cue words, “while it is true” lets the reader know the writer is conceding, but will refute this idea.
As you can see, a lot of thought and planning must go into building your argument and considering how the opposition may disagree with you. Consider what points of your argument may garner the strongest debate, and carefully think through how you will counter those who will disagree with you. A respectful and well thought-out response will put you on the path toward a successful argument!