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Rebuttals

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Rebuttals

Have you ever watched a professional debate? It’s a lot like watching a tennis match with the ball flying from one side to the other, except in a debate the “ball” is a claim followed by a series of rebuttals. One side argues a position, and the other side offers a response to that claim, also known as a rebuttal. Then the original side can offer a rebuttal to that, and so it goes for several rounds.

Rebuttals, People in a discourse sitting in a circle, StudySmarterA rebuttal is an essential part of debate and integral to meaningful discourse on disputed topics, Unsplash.

Rebuttal Definition

Every time you present an argument, your aim is to convince your audience to agree with you that a particular action or idea is somehow right or wrong.

Here’s an example of a potential argument: “The Oxford comma makes language easier to understand, so everyone should use it in their writing.”

An argument, by definition, is a perspective on a topic that has an opposing point of view. So by taking a stance and presenting an argument on a topic or issue, you must acknowledge there is an opposite perspective, ready with a counterargument (or counterclaim).

Here’s a potential counterargument to the above argument: “The Oxford comma is unnecessary and takes more effort to include, so it should not be required in composition.”

Because you know there is always a counterargument to your argument, it’s wise to prepare a rebuttal to any potential differing perspectives that are likely to arise out of the conversation. A rebuttal is a response to someone’s counterclaim about an original argument.

Here’s a rebuttal to the counterargument from above: “Without the Oxford comma, the meaning of a message can be confused, resulting in a breakdown in communication. For example, the statement, ‘I invited my parents, Thomas and Carol’ could be the speaker addressing two people named Thomas and Carol, or Thomas and Carol could be two people who were invited to the party in addition to the speaker’s parents.”

Concession: Counterclaim and Rebuttal

To compose a thorough argument, you should consider the counterclaims that are likely to arise in response to your claim and include a rebuttal in your concession.

A concession is an argumentative strategy where the speaker or writer addresses a point made by their opponent.

Whether you’re writing an argumentative essay or writing out a debate, the concession is the section of your argument that you devote to acknowledging the opposing argument(s).

A concession is not necessary to make a solid argument; you could argue your point completely and logically without one. However, a concession will build your credibility as an authority on the topic because it demonstrates that you thought about the issue globally. By simply recognizing that there are other perspectives in the discussion at hand, the speaker or writer shows themselves to be a mature, well-rounded thinker who is trustworthy. In this case, the audience is more likely to agree with your stance.

In a concession, you might simply acknowledge the major opposing argument, or you might also offer a rebuttal.

How to Include a Rebuttal in a Concession

Rebuttal, statue of a man sitting in a thinking position, StudySmarterConcession is a literary device used in argumentative writing and is a hallmark of a conscientious thinker, Unsplash.

If you feel your audience might be likely to side with your opposition, you can use your rebuttal to either offer additional evidence that your argument is more valid, or to help the audience see the error in your opponent’s claims.

To illustrate the inaccuracy of the counterargument, try offering evidence that makes the counterargument impossible or unlikely. If there is any data or factual evidence to suggest that the opposing side’s claim isn’t likely to be true or even possible, then include that information in your rebuttal.

In chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), readers find Atticus Finch in the courtroom arguing on Tom Robinson's behalf against charges of the rape of Mayella Ewell. Here he provides evidence against the claim—that Tom Robinson can only use his right hand, when the attacker used mostly his left.

What did her father do? We don’t know, but there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led most exclusively with his left. We do know in part what Mr. Ewell did: he did what any God-fearing, preserving, respectable white man would do under circumstances—he swore a warrant, no doubt signing with his left hand, and Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken the oath with the only good hand he possesses—his right hand.

You can also point out any flaws in reasoning; start at the beginning of the conversation and follow the steps one would have to take to reach the conclusion they’re suggesting. Did you come across any inductive or deductive flaws?

Inductive reasoning is a method of drawing conclusions that looks at individual factors to form a generalization.

Deductive reasoning starts out with a general principle and uses that to draw a specific logical conclusion.

You can also attack the logic of the counterargument. Does the opposition use a logical fallacy to make their claim?

A logical fallacy is the use of faulty or incorrect reasoning in the construction of an argument. Logical fallacies are often used to bolster an argument, but will actually render the argument invalid because all logical fallacies are non sequiturs—an argument with a conclusion that doesn’t follow logically from what came before.

Here are a few ways that logical fallacies are often used in an argument:

  • Attacking the speaker (rather than the argument)

  • Appealing to audience’s bandwagon impulse

  • Presenting part of the truth

  • Arousing fear

  • Inaccurate connections

  • Twisting language around

  • Evidence and conclusion mismatch

If you can identify any of these fallacies in the counterargument of your opposition, you can bring this up in your rebuttal. This will render your opponent’s argument invalid, or at the very least weaken it.

Types of Rebuttal and Examples

There are three different types of rebuttals you can use to argue against the counterclaims posed by your opponent: your rebuttal can attack assumptions, relevance, or logic leaps.

Rebuttal Attacking Assumptions

In this type of rebuttal, the key is to point out flaws regarding unfair or unwise assumptions in the other argument. For example, imagine you’re writing an argument that age appropriate video games are a safe and fun pastime for kids, but your opponent says video games have caused a rise in violent behavior in children. Your rebuttal could look like this:

“While some people argue that video games have caused children to behave with more violence, there are no studies that have proved a cause and effect relationship between the two. Those who would argue against video games are actually pointing out a correlation between violence and video game use, but a correlation is not the same as cause and effect.”

This rebuttal attacks the assumptions (i.e. video games cause violent behavior) at the foundation of the counterargument posed.

Rebuttal Attacking Relevance

The next type of rebuttal attacks the relevance of the opponent’s counterargument. If you can point out that the counterclaim is irrelevant to your original argument, then you can render it useless.

For instance, say you’re arguing that homework doesn’t promote learning in students. The opposing argument might be that homework doesn’t take that much time. Your rebuttal could be:

“The question at hand is not how convenient is homework, but rather does it promote student learning? Spare time is important, but it has no direct bearing on student educational outcomes.”

The counterclaim is irrelevant, and so the best rebuttal here is to point out that fact.

Rebuttal Attacking Logic Leap

The last type of rebuttal attacks the lack of logical links an argument uses to get to its conclusion. For example, say you're arguing that there should not be a universal language that everyone speaks around the world, but your opposition says that there should be a universal language because many governmental officials around the globe already speak English.

“There is no link between the use of English in governmental officials and implementing a single language for every citizen of every country. First, English was never mentioned as a potential for the universal language. Second, the language and education of dignitaries do not always represent that of the citizens of their nation.”

The counterargument took a leap in logic to suggest that English might be the global language, when the original argument hadn’t mentioned English at all. The counterargument also takes a logical leap in supposing that just because a representative of a country speaks a particular language means that the average citizen speaks it as well.

Rebuttal in an Argumentative Essay

The goal of writing an argumentative essay is to get your reader to agree with your stance on a particular topic.

Rebuttals are important to argumentative writing because they give you the opportunity to address those other perspectives and prove that you are a fair-minded authority on the subject. Rebuttals also offer an opportunity to voice your response as to why they claims of the opposition are not true or accurate.

An argumentative essay is composed of a main argument (also known as a thesis statement) which is supported by smaller ideas or claims. Each of these mini claims is made into the subject of a body paragraph of the essay. Below is an example of a how a body paragraph of an argumentative essay is constructed:

Body Paragraph

  1. Topic sentence (mini claim)

  2. Evidence

  3. Concession

    1. Acknowledge counterclaim

    2. Rebuttal

You can include a rebuttal after acknowledging the counterclaim to the point made in the topic sentence of the body paragraph. You can do this for every counterclaim you feel is important to address.

Rebuttal in a Persuasive Essay

The goal of writing a persuasive essay is to get your reader to agree that your point is valid and deserves consideration. The goal of persuasive writing is more single-minded than argumentative writing, so including a concession is less constructive.

Rather than including a concession for each smaller claim in your essay, you might consider only including a concession for the main claim, and only doing so if it is crucial to convince your audience that your claim is more valid. You could devote a short paragraph to the concession of your main point, or add it to your conclusion.

Be sure to allow space for discussion of the topic, though. Don't just acknowledge the counterclaim and forget to offer your rebuttal. Remember, your rebuttal is the opportunity to let your argument stand up to its counterarguments, so take advantage of the opportunity.

Rebuttals - Key takeaways

  • A rebuttal is a response to someone’s counterclaim about an original argument.
  • To compose a thorough argument, you should consider the counterclaims that are likely to arise in response to your claim and include a rebuttal in your concession.
  • A concession is an argumentative strategy where the speaker or writer addresses a point made by their opponent.
  • A rebuttal can attack assumptions, leaps in logic, and relevance in the counterarguments.
  • Use a rebuttal in an argumentative essay to discuss any counterclaims to support your main claim.
  • Use a rebuttal in a persuasive essay to discuss a counterclaim to your main claim.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rebuttals

A rebuttal is a response to someone’s counterclaim about an original argument. 

In persuasive writing, a rebuttal is a part of the writer’s concession. The rebuttal is the writer’s response to the counterclaim about their initial argument. 

The difference between a counterclaim and a rebuttal is that a rebuttal is the response to a counterclaim. The counterclaim is the response to the initial claim or argument.

To write a rebuttal in an argumentative essay, start with a topic sentence that introduces the claim for the paragraph and include a concession, or mention possible counterclaims to your claim. Conclude with your rebuttal to the counterclaim(s). 

Yes, your counterclaim to other claims can be in the same paragraph as your rebuttal.

Final Rebuttals Quiz

Question

True or false: Every time you present an argument, your aim is to convince your audience to agree with you that a particular action or idea is somehow right or wrong

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

What is another word for counterargument?

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Answer

Counterclaim

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Question

What is a counterargument?

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Answer

A counterargument is what the opposition is arguing about your topic. 

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Question

How is a counterargument different than a rebuttal?

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Answer

A counterargument is the stance your opposition takes on the topic of discussion, and a rebuttal is your response to that stance.

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Question

A concession contains a mention of the counterargument and often also a _________. 

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Answer

Rebuttal

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Question

There are three ways to rebut a counterclaim, and they are:

  • Offer evidence
  • Point out flaws in reasoning
  • _________________

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Answer

Look for logical fallacies

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Question

Define "logical fallacy"

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Answer

A logical fallacy is the use of faulty or incorrect reasoning in the construction of an argument. 

Show question

Question

The following are examples of ____________ :

  • Attacking the speaker (rather than the argument)

  • Appealing to audience’s bandwagon impulse

  • Presenting part of the truth 

  • Arousing fear

  • Inaccurate connections

  • Twisting language around

  • Evidence and conclusion mismatch

Show answer

Answer

Types of logical fallacies

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Question

True or false: identifying a logical fallacy in your opponent's counterclaim renders that argument invalid.

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Answer

True

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Question

There are three types of rebuttals:

  1. Rebuttal attacking relevance
  2. Rebuttal attacking logic leaps
  3. _______________________


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Answer

Rebuttal attacking assumptions

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Question

How is argumentative writing different from persuasive writing?

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Answer

The goal of writing an argumentative essay is to get your reader to agree with your stance on a particular topic, while the goal of persuasive writing is to get the audience to agree that you point is valid. 

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Question

Fill in the blank for the template for an argumentative essay body paragraph:

Body Paragraph

  1. Topic sentence (mini claim)

  2. Evidence

  3. Concession

    1. _______________

    2. Rebuttal

Show answer

Answer

Acknowledge counterclaim

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Question

True or false: persuasive writing is open-minded and not focused on proving a single point, and so it's a good idea to include several concessions throughout a persuasive essay.

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Answer

False

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Question

An argumentative essay is composed of a main argument (also known as a ____________) which is supported by smaller ideas or claims

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Answer

Thesis statement

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Question

What value does a concession add to your argument?

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Answer

Adding a concession will build your credibility as an authority on the topic because it demonstrates that you thought about the issue globally. It also gives you the chance to offer your rebuttal. 

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Question

What is the difference between a counterclaim and a rebuttal? 


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Answer

A rebuttal is a response to a counterclaim. 


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Question

What should writers start with when writing a rebuttal paragraph in an argumentative essay? 


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Answer

A topic sentence that introduces the claim for the paragraph. 


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Question

Which type of reasoning starts with a general principle and uses that to draw a specific logical conclusion?


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Answer

Deductive reasoning 


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Question

What is the goal of writing an argumentative essay?


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Answer

To get your reader to agree with your stance on a particular topic. 


Show question

Question

Can your counterclaim and rebuttal be in the same paragraph? 


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Answer

Yes


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