Argumentative Writing: The Counter Argument

By Ms Thanam Muthusamy

When it comes to argumentative writing, many students in RGC moan and groan.  To some, argumentative writing is an unthinkable task.  Some of them have told me that they have been discouraged to attempt argumentative writing because “it is a difficult genre” and were under the impression that if one is not good in writing, it is best not to attempt it.

They do not know where to start nor what to write about. How does one structure the essay? Are argumentative essays only for the better students?

In my opinion, all students should be taught how to write an argumentative essay. It is a life skill because it forces a person to be critical minded, to think of the points of argument, how to strengthen the points and how to deliver them. It forces the student to have an opinion about the subject.  This is something that everyone needs to have and a life skill that needs to be cultivated and what better place than to learn it in the classroom.

Argumentative Writing: A Structure

While I will be focusing on how to write the counter-argument today, let us revise the structure of a typical 5-paragraph argumentative essay:

Introduction

Paragraph 1

  • Hook
  • Building Sentences
  • Thesis Statement (with 2 point argument)

Body

Paragraphs 2-3 (Points 1 & 2)

  • Point / Topic Sentence
  • Elaboration / Explanation
  • Evidence / Example
  • Linking Sentence

Counter Argument

Paragraph 4

  • Counter Point
  • Elaboration
  • Example
  • Rebuttal
  • Linking Sentence

Conclusion

Paragraph 5

  • Re-state your stand
  • Summarise your points
  • Final Thought

The Counter Argument

Today my focus is how to do the counter-argument. What is the counter-argument? It is the strongest point of view against your stand. Why do you need a counter-argument? It is to ensure that your argument is well- balanced. It is also to show the reader that you have already considered the argument against your own stand and you are going to show that the counter-argument is not valid, thus proving that your stand and your arguments supporting your stand is strong. In an argumentative essay you are trying to convince the reader to your point of view, so you need to engage his opposition in order to convince him of yours.

The Rebuttal

Well at this point some students would just slip in a counter-argument and wish and hope that it will magically suffice for the essay. BUT this is not enough! Having brought in your counter-argument, you have to show clearly that in the face of your stand, this counter-argument will not and cannot stand. So, this is how you do it. You rebut it! Let me show you a couple of examples.

1. STAND: I am not in favour of censorship

Some people believe the government should protect its citizens from harmful influences as it can destroy the peace and harmony of one’s nation. The recent New Zealand mass shooting live streaming was taken down in many countries including Singapore to prevent people from viewing terror first-hand and being traumatised by it. Moreover, it could only fuel hate towards a certain race. However, these videos may not influence many people to do the same. Instead majority of the population will realise how cruel the world can be and fight harder for the world to be a safer place. Thus, I feel that although people may be negatively influenced by uncensored videos most of the population will not. Hence, there should not be censorship of videos.

Counter-argument
Elaboration / Example

Connector – additional evidence (Moreover)
Connector – contrasting viewpoint (However)
Connector – cause & effect (Thus)
Linking sentence

2. STAND: Wild animals should not be kept in zoos

It could be maintained that many of these animals are treated well in a zoo and fed regularly. The Singapore Zoo was recently considered one of the best zoos in the world as most of the animals are kept in enclosures designed to resemble their natural habitat. Timings are also scheduled for meals and zoo keepers are constantly checking for the well-being of the animals. However, being kept in such enclosures can cause the animals to lose their ability to do certain things, such as hunt for survival, as the animals are being pampered with food every day. Moreover, cubs are often taken care of by the zoo keepers and not their mothers, thus not learning the skills necessary to live in the wild. Therefore, I feel wild animals should be left in the wild and not be kept in zoos.

Counter-argument
Elaboration / Example

Connector – constrasting viewpoint (However)
Connector – additional evidence (Moreover)
Connector – cause & effect (Therefore)
Linking sentence

Conclusion

By learning the argumentative genre, students are taught to think critically, to challenge contradictory viewpoints and learn how to present their argument, become confident speakers and make having opinions part and parcel of their lives. In the global community that we are living in today, it pays to be vocal and it pays to have an opinion and it definitely pays to argue your points well. If left to me, I will make it a point to teach all my students to write argumentative essays. This will certainly benefit them when they go on to Junior College or Polytechnic where they are required to write opinions and defend them. In Junior College, for the General Paper, students are given twelve essay questions which are all argumentative in nature or questions that require opinions.

In RGC, we offer a One Page Summary (OPS) course that summarises the best strategies for Argumentative Writing. Students will be taught the skills of writng an argumentative essay. You will not only become more confident, but you will also learn to become more comfortable in learning to speak and express your opinions clearly.