My Worthy Opponent is Wrong
Your third short argument is due WED NOV 11. It will make an argument essential to your Research Position Paper, due FRI DEC 04. Combined with your Definition Argument and your Causal Argument, the Rebuttal Argument will contribute so much material to your Research Position Paper you’ll have very little original writing left to do to meet that deadline.
This Rebuttal Argument will identify (and demolish) the argument you feel is the strongest rebuttal to your own thesis. You know there are plenty of good arguments against your thesis. You’ve chosen a controversial thesis deliberately, knowing that—in fact because—it’s contrary to common knowledge. Lucky for you, common knowledge is almost always wrong, but still you must defend your position against it. Rebuttal arguments are respectful, specific, and firm. They acknowledge that your position is not the most popular opinion on a topic and that reasonable people hold opinions very different from your own but that nonetheless, yours is the correct position.
What’s the “Opposite” of my thesis? You may think the only legitimate rebuttal position is the opposite of your thesis, but that’s not true. First, we can’t always clearly state the opposite of a position; second, there are far more than two points of view on a topic. Let me offer an example. Your thesis may be that, contrary to popular opinion, car seats are unsafe for infants, toddlers, and young children. In your research, you may discover experts or studies that claim any of the following:
- Car seats are safe for infants, toddlers, and young children
- Car seats are safe for toddlers (or infants, or young children, but not all three)
- Car seats aren’t perfect, but they’re safer than no car seats
- Car seats are safe if used correctly
- Car seats are effective in several different types of accident
- Car seats are safe if they’re the right size
- Car seats are safe unless they’re faulty, broken, or improperly fitted
The best rebuttal argument takes on a real opponent, not a “straw man.” While it may be satisfying to offer a weak argument against your thesis that you can easily demolish, your victory is unlikely to impress your readers as persuasive. Instead, you need to imagine what your most hostile and critical reader is thinking about your argument, acknowledge that she has reasonable objections to your thesis, and then lower the boom on her.
So, what’s your rebuttal? Your rebuttal is to detail all the qualifications that must be met to make a car seat safe, taken directly from your opponents’ arguments. To not injure children, car seats have to be of good quality, the right size for the child (whose size keeps changing), and installed correctly; furthermore, the accident has to be the right kind of accident. If any of these conditions are not met, the child can be injured worse than if there had been no car seat! One by one, you could detail the likelihood that each of the conditions will not be met.
Whether the sources you cite in this essay already appear in your earlier posts or not, you’ll need a Works Cited for this assignment. Check the links yourself to be sure they lead back to a page we can all access (even if it’s the page in the databases that “launches” the actual document).
You’ll find several examples of how a professional essay might be refuted with a variety of rebuttals in the Rebuttal Exercise post.
Early Feedback to Your Classmates
Should students post early looking for guidance in planning their rebuttal essays, I will respond as promptly as possible, to give the rest of you a chance to learn from our conversations. I applaud the enterprise of early posters, and I’ll always respond as helpfully as I can if I have the time.
- Write your third Short Argument.
- The paper will take the form of a Rebuttal Argument, as described above and explained further in the “Rebuttal Exercise” post.
- Identify the strongest rebuttal (or rebuttals) that can be made against your thesis.
- Examine those rebuttal positions carefully.
- Refute those positions.
- Include Works Cited.
- Call your post Rebuttal—Username.
- But in addition to that placeholder title, also give your essay a proper title. For example, this post is titled “My Worthy Opponent is Wrong.”
- Publish your definition essay in the A09: Rebuttal