Skills Hub

Counter-arguments

Being aware of counter-arguments is like defending yourself against attack. Your argument is stronger when you acknowledge other points of view and explain why you are not persuaded by them.

You don’t need to give them equal coverage but by identifying them, you prove you know your subject.

Sometimes there may be a weakness in your argument but it is not enough to abandon the argument entirely. If this is the case, you need to acknowledge and explore this weakness.

Good referencing is very important here.

Try coming up with as many counter-arguments as you can - and then check out the evidence for them. Anticipate opposition to what you argue.

Here is an extract from a second-year English Literature essay. The highlighted sections show where this student successfully introduces counter-arguments, suggests weaknesses in these arguments and uses them to further his own argument:

A passage of text with highlighted sections

Arguments activity

Look at the students' work below. Can you identify their arguments? What evidence do they use to support their arguments? Do they consider counter-arguments?

  1. English Literature Essay
  2. International Security Essay 

Second year student: English Literature essay

Discuss the relation between narrative style and moral judgement in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness [pdf 117KB]

Reveal essay

Second year student: international Security essay

Discuss with examples how and why major international actors have been perceived as failing the victims of genocide [pdf 98 KB]

Reveal essay

The text resources (excluding the example student essays) on this page have been adapted from original work by Moira Wilson, copyright 2009.

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