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3.4: Describing How the Author Treats Counterarguments

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    If the argument we are summarizing mentions a counterargument, a summary will need to describe how the author handles it. A phrase introducing the author's treatment of the counterargument can signal whether the writer sees some merit in the counterargument or rejects it entirely. In either case, we will almost always want to follow up by describing the author’s response. If the writer sees merit in the objection, we need to explain why they still maintain their position. On the other hand, if the author dismisses the counterargument, we need to show how they justify this dismissal.

    A woman holds up a post-it note with an X on it in front of her face.
    If a writer rejects a counterargument entirely, we can point that out when we summarize. Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels under the Pexels License.

    Phrases to Introduce a Writer's Handling of a Counterargument

    If the Author Sees Some Merit in the Counterargument

    • The writer acknowledges that _____________, but still insists that _____________.
    • They concede that _____________; however they consider that _____________.
    • He grants the idea that _____________, yet still maintains that _____________.
    • She admits that _____________, but she points out that_____________.
    • The author sees merit in the idea that _____________, but cannot accept_____________.
    • Even though he sympathizes with those who believe _____________, the author emphasizes that _____________.

    If the Author Rejects the Counterargument Entirely

    • She refutes this claim by arguing that _____________.
    • However, he questions the very idea that _____________, observing that _____________.
    • She disagrees with the claim that _____________ because _____________.
    • They challenge the idea that _____________ by arguing that _____________.
    • He rejects the argument that_____________, claiming that _____________.
    • She defends her position against those who claim _____________ by explaining that _____________.

    In the case of the sample border argument, we might summarize the treatment of the counterargument thus:

    Mills acknowledges that opening the borders completely would compromise security, but she believes that we can “regulate” our borders without blocking or imprisoning migrants.

    Note the choice here to quote the one word “regulate” instead of paraphrasing or using the word without quotation marks. The quotation marks draw attention to the author's original word choice and suggest there may be a problem or question about this word choice. In this case, the summary might observe that the writer does not specify what kind of regulation she means.

    Practice Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Below are two sample paragraphs in which an author describes a counterargument. For each description, decide whether the author sees some merit in the counterargument or not (see 2.6).  Choose a phrase from the suggestions above to help you summarize the author’s handling of the counterargument.  

    1. Not everyone agrees with my celebration of coffee. Some object that ingesting substances to help us study leads to addiction.  They worry that even a boost to mental functioning will ultimately hurt us because it encourages us to try to fix our mind with substances any time we feel out of sorts. This argument, however, is nothing short of paranoid. It would result in some ridiculous conclusions.  By its logic, we should not drink water when we’re thirsty because we will become addicted. 
    2. Many feel that black tea is a better choice than coffee, arguing that it can improve performance just as well with fewer side effects. This depends on the individual, though.  While black tea is worth considering, remember that it can also have side effects, and for many, it simply will not give enough of a boost to the brain.

    This page titled 3.4: Describing How the Author Treats Counterarguments is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .