Audio Version (September 2021):
If we can’t agree with the argument’s main claim, we probably have some ideas of our own on the subject. For example, let’s say a student, let’s call her Anoush, has just read an article that celebrates the fashion industry’s inclusion of multiple ethnicities and body types. Let’s say Anoush is not impressed with the fashion industry’s efforts. She has critiqued the article, but she knows that her readers may not be satisfied if she stops there. If the article was wrong, then what would a better article on the topic look like?
We don’t always have to have a fully formed or researched argument to put our own ideas into a college essay. If our main task is to summarize and assess with just a little response, this part can be tentative and not fully developed. The idea is to point the reader in a new direction. We may want to qualify or limit our suggestion with words like “perhaps,” “it may be that,” or “The idea that _____________ is worth considering…”
Suggest an alternate claim that addresses the same issue
If we just analyzed an argument we found to be weak, we may already have an opposing argument or an alternate argument in mind. If readers are convinced that the first argument is without merit, they will be looking for a replacement. Our critique puts us in a good position to present an alternate vision.
In the example above, the student Anoush could give her take on where the fashion industry is right now in terms of inclusion. She might argue that the industry needs to represent a greater range of ethnicities and sizes and make sure that diverse models are shown as regular people, not as exotic.
The following phrases introduce alternate claims:
- Instead of _____________, I would argue that _____________.
- A more accurate claim would be _____________.
- In actuality, _____________.
- The idea that _____________ better accounts for the evidence.
- We can find a better explanation of _____________ in _____________.
- As we have seen, it is not true that _____________. Rather, _____________.
Suggest a different way to frame the issue
Even if we are not ready with an alternate argument, we may at least have some recommendations for a better way to approach the topic. We can suggest a particular angle or lens. For example, we might suggest that in order to understand the scarcity of Black, Latino, and Asian CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, we should stop focusing so narrowly on CEOS and should look at the demographics of management positions more generally since CEOs are almost always promoted from other leadership positions.
Here are some phrases for reframing an issue:
- Instead of focusing on _____________, we should look at the question in the light of _____________.
- A better way to frame the issue of _____________ would be in terms of _____________.
- To better understand _____________, we should first ask ourselves _____________.
Choose an argument about immigration that you find problematic, such as “The Weight of the World” by Saramanda Swigart, “Wouldn’t We All Cross the Border” by Anna Mills, or another of your choosing. Suggest an alternate claim or an alternate way to frame the issue. Consider using a phrase suggested in this section.