Academic Argument

Questions for Thinking about Counterarguments

Robin Jeffrey

Almost anything you can argue or claim in a paper can be refuted. Opposing points of view and arguments exist in every debate, and it’s important to anticipate possible objections to your arguments. In order to do that, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Could someone draw a different conclusion from the facts or examples you present? if so, what are they?
  • Could a reader question any of your assumptions or claims? If so, which ones?
  • Could a reader offer a different explanation of an issue? If so, what might their explanation be?
  • Is there any evidence out there that could weaken your position? If so, what is it?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the next set of questions can help you respond to these potential objections:

  • Is it possible to concede the point of the opposition, but then challenge that point’s importance/usefulness?
  • Can you offer an explanation of why a reader should question a piece of evidence or consider a different point of view than the one that your opponent (counterarguer) presents?
  • Can you explain how your position responds to any contradicting evidence?
  • Can you put forward a different interpretation of evidence?

You can use transitional phrases in your paper to alert readers that you’re about to present an objection. It’s usually best to put this phrase at the beginning of a paragraph such as:

  • Researchers have challenged these claims with…
  • Critics argue that this view…
  • Some readers may point to…

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Questions for Thinking about Counterarguments by Robin Jeffrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.