Identifying & Addressing Alternate or Opposing Claims

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

When creating a solid argument, there are several points you need to address in order to make your claim as strong as it can be. In this lesson, you'll learn about identifying and addressing counterclaims to your argument.

Introduction

You might think of an argument as something negative, like having a fight. In reality, though, it just means you're making a claim and defending it, and it's something that people do on a regular basis. In any kind of argument, whether in person or in writing, there are certain things you have to address in order to make your argument strong and credible. One of these is the opposing viewpoints, or counterclaims.

Every argument is going to have at least one counterclaim, and probably more. In a one-on-one argument in person, it's pretty easy to identify the opposing viewpoint and address it, but in writing, or in situations where there are multiple viewpoints, this can become much harder. Regardless of the situation, it's important to know how to identify and properly address counterclaims in your argument. Without them, your argument is basically incomplete.

Finding Counterclaims

While every argument will have a counterclaim, you have to be careful which ones you use, especially in a written argument such as an academic paper. You can't just use anyone's opinion. If it is not from a credible source, the counterclaim will undermine your argument by making it look as though you didn't do the proper research.

Treat researching a counterclaim just like you would any kind of research. You have to find information that comes from credible sources. Examples of this would include journal articles, websites ending in .org, newspaper articles, and even columns if they come from an established columnist who has done their research in turn. Just remember: if you wouldn't want to cite it as a source to support your argument, don't use it as a source for a counterclaim, either.

Addressing the Claim

The counterclaim is generally the last thing you address in your argument, before the conclusion in a written paper. When you address it, be sure to include the author and source of the opposing viewpoint. Summarizing an opposing view without citing it is just as bad as using a non-credible source. It undermines your argument and makes it look as though you did one-sided research.

Even though this view goes against yours, you still need to introduce it neutrally. Describe and explain the source and the counterclaim without trying to negate what they say. For example, say something like, 'Dr. Steve of University X, however, argues that swimming at night is good,' rather than 'Even though they are wrong, some people supposedly claim that swimming at night is good for you.'

The idea there is that you don't need to state that they are wrong, as your facts should speak for themselves. After providing the counterclaim, you would then provide a rebuttal, where you state your research that shows why the counterclaim is wrong. For example, you might say, 'While Dr. Steve's research shows that swimming at night might be healthier than day swimming, these statistics show that the dangers far outweigh the benefits.' (This would be followed, of course, by providing the statistics or research you mention).

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