Skip to Main Content

Gordon-Conwell Writing Center

Addressing Counterarguments

So What?

Rarely do two people agree on everything. People’s backgrounds, experiences, and ideologies naturally cause differences in opinion. Therefore, a writer must not assume that all readers will agree with his/her ideas and should subsequently seek to present information in a unbiased way. Presenting information in an unbiased way can be tricky, but it is an important part of maintaining credibility as a writer. With this in mind, readers are not likely to take a writer seriously if he/she has only presented one side of an argument. Writers must consider all sides of a topic. This is accomplished by integrating counterarguments within a written text.

Summarized Explanation

  • Counterarguments increase a writer’s credibility by avoiding bias.
  • Counterarguments address alternative views on a given topic.
  • Counterarguments involve refuting or conceding alternative views.
  • Counterarguments should be fully developed.


Detailed Explanation

Writers should aim to include counterarguments in their writing to show that they have considered all major perspectives on a given topic. After first explaining the alternative perspective, a writer can choose to refute or concede it. Refuting an alternative view means to disprove it, and conceding an alternative view means acknowledging its merit (either fully or partially). Ideally, each key idea presented in a text should be followed by a counterargument. Furthermore, counterarguments should be fully developed like other body paragraphs using the sandwich template, and they should make use of transitions, especially those that show contrast. The counterargument section of a written text should read like a very polite debate. Counterarguments should ideally be presented after each corresponding key idea; see the example outlines.


The following example counterarguments will be based on one of the mock thesis statements presented in the related writing guide Creating a Clear Thesis Statement.

Thesis Statement: This writing guide will likely have a far-reaching effect since it is intended to support people who are writing for school, work, and ministry.

Based on this thesis statement, the writer’s three key ideas/arguments are:

  • This writing guide will support people who are writing for school.
  • This writing guide will support people who are writing for work.
  • This writing guide will support people who are writing for ministry.

The easiest way to identity potential counterarguments is by making the original argument statements negative and expanding from there.

  • This writing guide will NOT support people who are writing for school BECAUSE professors all have different expectations.
  • This writing guide will NOT support people who are writing for work BECAUSE workers are not as concerned with the quality of their writing as students are.
  • This writing guide will NOT support people who are writing for ministry BECAUSE it was primarily designed with academic writing in mind.

Now the writer must refute or concede each counterargument. Examples are provided below.

         (PARTIAL CONCESSION) Some may argue that this writing guide will not support people who are writing for school because professors all have different expectations, but this argument is misguided. It is true that professors have different general expectations for student writing, yet essentially all professors expect students to demonstrate the basic writing principles laid out in the guide. By following the writing guide, students will only strengthen their writing, and professors will presumably be impressed, which will result not only in increased knowledge but higher grades. Thus, while some may not see the value in students using the writing guide, it is unlikely that any harm can be done as students seek to write more effectively. 

         (PARTIAL CONCESSION) Additionally, while workers may not be as concerned with the quality of their writing as students are, the writing guide will indeed be helpful for people who are writing for work. Workers may not receive a grade for their writing, but they should care because their writing can leave bosses and colleagues with a positive or negative impression. Therefore, the guide will hopefully emphasize the importance of writing well in all areas of life. In brief, whether workers care about their writing is not the point; all people should strive to write effectively, and this writing guide is here to help. 

          (REFUTATION) Moreover, even though the writing guide is published by a school, it was not primarily designed with academic writing in mind. The writing guide and website were designed to provide support for all types of writing since people, even students, must regularly write for many purposes. For that reason, the writing guide and website speak frequently of different types of writing and give a variety of examples to be applicable to all. Therefore, whether a person is writing for school, work, or ministry, much knowledge can be gleaned from this resource.