Parts of an Argument

Using a Counter-Example

Using a counter-example, or an instance that flies in the face of the opposition's claim, is one way of refuting an opposing argument. If it can be shown that their research is inadequate, it can be shown that their position is faulty, or at least inconclusive. Casting a shadow of doubt over the opposing argument provides strong evidence that your argument has merit. Be sure to use real instances of how your opponent's position doesn't account for the counter-example.

For example:

As Henry Johnson, a vice-president of student services at the University of Michigan explained, "To discuss sexual assault is to send a message to your potential student cohort that it is an unsafe campus, and therefore institutions tend to play that down" (Warshaw, 1994). When deciding which university to attend, prospective students do compare statistics regarding the ratio of males to females, student to faculty and-yes-the incidence of crime. Therefore it is no surprise that more than 60 colleges rejected requests to conduct surveys concerning sexual assault at their schools even though anonymity was guaranteed (Warshaw, 1994). [The writer sets up the opponents' view that information about sexual assault on campus damages universities' reputations.]
Universities fear negative publicity, but at Bates College, a rally of 300 angry college students outside the president's house demanding to know why the college hadn't informed them of a recent series of sexual assaults on campus, did get publicized. This resulted in further negative publicity because it came out that the university, in order to cover-up the occurrence of sexual assaults, punished the assailants without providing fair trials (Gose, 1998). [The counter-example shows that even more negative publicity results from trying to hide sexual assault information.]
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