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Humanities Libertexts

1.9: Refutation

  • Page ID
    7270
  • Overview

    The purpose for this section is to address (and overcome) any objections or arguments anyone might have with your claim. An objection is anything stating something contrary to your claim. For our purposes, we will stick with a simple formula: state an objection to your claim in as few words as possible, and then explain in detail why your claim is better. Do this for all the objections you can find. As a rule, there should be at least three major objections to your claim, but not more than about five. If you can think of more than five objections, and if you have difficulty explaining many of them, then you should re-think your claim. If you cannot seem to overcome a particular objection, you may have to change the wording of your claim to avoid or otherwise accommodate that objection, or start over completely. Remember, it is never too late to change your mind. If you change your claim, be sure you change it, and anything else that is taken directly from it, all the way through your writing, starting with the Introduction. To find arguments and objections to your claim, ask your classmates (or anyone familiar with your issue), “Why would anyone object to [insert your claim here]?”

    checklist

    1. Draft Checklist:

    ___List objections to the proposal/claim statement (3 to 5 objections)

    ___For each objection, respond with reasons why it is not valid

    Prompts

    checklist

    2. Prompts from Draft Checklist:

    1. What are some major objections to my claim?
    2. However, how do I respond (as completely as possible) to each objection? Why is it that my opponent’s claim will not work? Why is it wrong?

    Template/Draft

    Refutation means, “Overcoming objections to my claim statement.” The formula is to boil down an objection to your claim to one statement only, then to use as many sentences/statements as you can to explain why the objection is wrong.

    Template/Draft from Prompts:

    Refutation

    Some teachers say that this changes the definition of "elements of composition" to something more like "modes," and teaching modes is out of style. Other teachers say that this focus on elements ignores written conventions and “standards.” Others say that a method like this one is too “prescriptive.”

    Some teachers say that this changes the definition of "elements of composition" to something more like "modes," and teaching modes is out of style. However, adding modes to the notion of composition elements reflects a long rhetorical tradition, one much longer than the current emphasis on objective analysis. A little over a hundred years ago, the emphasis in academic writing changed to reflect a strong scientific approach towards knowledge. Student writers went from modeling themselves after classical rhetoricians and various literary genres, as well as "investigating" the world, to primarily investigation as a means of literary interpretation. Writing as a writer became, in the academic world, writing as an observer. It gradually became necessary to write about writing, rather than simply writing. This objective form of writing, in order to stay ostensibly objective, could not consist of the very things it was observing and analyzing. Therefore, instead of objective analysis being made up of "modes" like narrative, analogy, definition, comparison, description, argumentation, and so on, it had to have a structure all its own. Therefore, it shifted from a writing in the "modes" to writing simply in certain kinds of "sentences" and "paragraphs." The argument here is to show that, even though it is a useful form of writing, objective analysis is not "composition." It is, in a sense, "precomposed" for your writing convenience. This position advocates for admitting that writers can be "analytical" and "objective" while learning to utilize modes, or mode-like structures, in an essay. They can also be "narrative," "argumentative," "descriptive," and so on, in an analysis. So the shift from looking at elements of composition as "sentence/paragraph" elements to "mode" elements is more a re-infusion of those elements of composition that have existed for over two thousand years into a system that favors objective analysis, at the expense of other modes, almost exclusively.

    Other teachers say that this focus on elements ignores written conventions and “standards.” However, they do not take into consideration …

    [Note: continue with this pattern for each objection.]

    Tutorial

    How to answer the prompts

    Prompt 1

    What are some major objections to my claim?

    Imagine why anyone would object to your claim, and write down his or her arguments. Remember any objections you have read or heard (or have gotten from classmates and others), and write them down in summary form. Make a one-sentence summary of each objection.

    (Here is my claim: Teachers should teach essays by putting more emphasis on elements of composition and how to arrange those elements in an essay.)

    Here are some possible objections to this claim:

    • "You are changing the definition of "elements of composition" to something more like "modes,” and we all know that teaching modes is out of style."
    • "This is a mechanical and formulaic way to teach writing; it is not "natural"."
    • "Teaching students how to write this way is more like "creative writing"."
    • "Writers should learn the "basics" of grammar and usage before they learn to write in certain styles."

    There may be other objections, but these are the ones I have heard, or expect to hear, most often. Make a list of the major objections to your claim. Put them into sentences and a single paragraph.

    Prompts 2, 3, and 4

    However, how do I respond (as copiously and completely as possible) to each objection? Why is it that my opponent’s claim will not work? Why is it wrong?

    Now take each objection sentence in your list, one at a time, and respond to it. Please note that the response should be much longer than the objection. Be sure that your response to each objection is quite a bit longer than the objection itself. Remember, this is your chance to explain why you are doing or saying what you are doing or saying, in spite of some objections. Give as many reasons as you can for why you think each objection will not work or is wrong in some way. If you need extra prompting to answer this question, ask the other two questions: “Why won’t my opponent’s claim work? Why is it wrong?”

    (Objection number 1 from above):

    Some people say that this changes the definition of "elements of composition" to something more like "modes," and teaching modes is out of style.

    Now I respond to this accusation in at least one paragraph (the more I can respond with the better).

    Note

    Begin your rebuttal with the word “however,” which signals to the reader that you are changing course from the first sentence.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    However, adding modes to the notion of composition elements reflects a long rhetorical tradition, one much longer than the current emphasis on objective analysis. A little over a hundred years ago, the emphasis in academic writing changed to reflect a strong scientific approach towards knowledge. Student writers went from modeling themselves after classical rhetoricians and various literary genres, as well as "investigating" the world, to primarily investigation as a means of literary interpretation. Writing as a writer became, in the academic world, writing as an observer. It gradually became necessary to write about writing, rather than simply writing. This objective form of writing, in order to stay ostensibly objective, could not consist of the very things it was observing and analyzing. Therefore, instead of objective analysis being made up of "modes" like narrative, analogy, definition, comparison, description, argumentation, and so on, it had to have a structure all its own. Therefore, it shifted from a writing in the "modes" to writing simply in certain kinds of "sentences" and "paragraphs." The argument here is to show that, even though it is a useful form of writing, objective analysis is not "composition." It is, in a sense, "pre-composed" for your writing convenience. This position advocates for admitting that writers can be "analytical" and "objective" while learning to utilize modes, or mode-like structures, in an essay. They can also be "narrative," "argumentative," "descriptive," and so on, in an analysis. So the shift from looking at elements of composition as "sentence/paragraph" elements to "mode" elements is more a re-infusion of those elements of composition that have existed for over two thousand years into a system that favors objective analysis, at the expense of other modes, almost exclusively.

    Now, using “however,”, combine the first objection with the first response:

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    Some people say that this changes the definition of "elements of composition" to something more like "modes," and teaching modes is out of style. However, adding modes to the notion of composition elements reflects a long rhetorical tradition...

    Then finish combining the response and the objection. Note that the objection to my claim is only one sentence, but my response is at least one very long paragraph.

    Then go to objection number two and follow the same process. Then follow the same process for each objection until you have answered each one. Finally, arrange them by objection, then response, and one at time, until you have a completed assignment.

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