Refuting Opposing Positions
Refuting opposing positions is an important part of building an argument. Not only is it important, it is expected. Addressing the arguments of those who disagree is a way of identifying the opposition and exposing the primary weakness(s) in their argument. Doing so helps establish the contextual parameters, or boundaries, in which your argument will be contained. It's best to start with a summary.
Summarizing the opposing positions demonstrates that you are being fair to the other side. It also allows you to set the table for the claims you are going to be laying out. Here are a few general guidelines for composing a summary:
- Provide only a sentence or two describing the focus of the opposing argument.
- Focus only on the details that will be important to what you are going to present.
- Avoid slanting the summary. It provides grounds for discounting your position.
George Will's editorial in Newsweek states that the reason "Johnny Can't Write" is the misguided nature of English teachers who focus more on issues of multiculturalism, political correctness, new theories of reading such as deconstruction, and so on, than on the hard and fast rules for paragraph development, grammar, and sentence structure. [Summary: A concise yet fair summary of Will's main argument.] Although Will interviews students and uses sample course descriptions to back up his opinion, he misses the main point: all the "fashionable" theories and approaches he decries have actually been proven to teach writing more effectively than the traditional methods he favors. [Refutation: The beginning of a refutation that will go on to show why Will's judgment is wrong.]