Writing Counterarguments (Counterclaims) in an Argumentative Essay

author By Mary Boies

Unless you are an experienced essay writer, writing a solid counterargument in an essay you are writing can be a challenge.

Writing countearguments in argumentative essays

Counterarguments acknowledge the standpoints against your argument and reaffirm your argument. To write a better argumentative essay, you have to state the arguments by the opposing side and then present your argument as the most logical solution.

Argumentative essays must have a counterargument. It shows that you have carefully researched and considered both sides of the topic. The counterarguments acknowledge the difference in opinion on the topic and strengthen your main argument in the essay. Rebuttals or refutations must follow counterarguments to validate your main argument.

When you use counterarguments in an essay, you show the readers that you are a mature writer who understands and respects multiple sides of an argument.

If you want to write good counterarguments in your essay or have struggled with them, this guide will help you write them as a pro writer would.

What is a Counterargument?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a counterargument is an opposing argument. A counterargument is also called a counterclaim, a mainstay of argumentative essays.

When you have an argument, a stance, or a position, there will always be an alternative or opposing viewpoint/perspective. These contrasting perspectives, viewpoints, or positions are called counterarguments (counterarguments).

Let's assume you are arguing that students should not be allowed to smoke on campus because second-hand smoke will affect other students who are non-smokers; this is the argument. Now, if you again say that students should be allowed to smoke on campus, it is not illegal, and students have free will to choose their habits, which becomes the counterargument to the argument.

We can then define a counterargument as an argument opposed to your thesis or part of your thesis. It is a statement expressing the views of the people or people who disagree with your argument or position. By writing a counterargument, you acknowledge the standpoints of those disagreeing with your position.

A reasonable counterargument is immediately followed by a rebuttal or a refutation, which reaffirms your argument. After introducing the rebuttal, show why the opposing views are less important and cannot overturn your opinion.

Where does the counterargument(counterclaim) go?

It can be overwhelming the first time you hear about counterarguments or when it is a prerequisite in a paper. Worse is if you do not know where to put it.

Although a counterargument (counterclaim) can appear anywhere in your essay, it effectively works when it is part of the introduction before the thesis, after the introduction as a signpost, within paragraphs, and as a section or paragraph before the conclusion.

Counterarguments can be put anywhere in the essay except in the conclusion. We cannot put them in the conclusion because you should never include new information in the conclusion. Only the previous points in your body paragraphs should be summarized in it. Equally, you have to have a rebuttal after the counterargument, which means leaving something out if you write the counterclaim in the conclusion.

Let's look at how to place counterarguments in an essay using examples.

As part of the introduction

You can effectively include a counterargument as part of your introduction. To do this, you should state the counterargument before introducing the thesis statement and topic. Doing this informs the readers of the goal of your argumentative paper and that there is an opposing view that you will also consider. 


Globally, there are hundreds of dams of different sizes serving various purposes. Dams can be used as reservoirs for water for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use. They can also be used for flood defense and hydroelectric power generation. Nevertheless, despite having positive impacts on society, dams also come at a cost. Dams are also a source of conflict, consume valuable land resources, affect endangered species, ruin the ecology and habitat of wildlife, and contribute to the greenhouse effect.

In this example, it is clear that the author wants to discuss the negative impacts of dams on society. Yet, he carefully introduces the counterargument as part of the introduction and just before the thesis statement (underlined in the example). The counterargument here is the positive impacts of dams.

After the introduction

Counterarguments can also be introduced in an essay as a section or paragraph immediately after the introduction to lay out the expected reaction from the readers or standard position before deviating from your own arguments or position. Doing this helps your readers to see that you appreciate a multiple-sided argument and that you are open to ideas by others, which forges trust.


Globally, there are hundreds of dams of different sizes. Dams come at a cost to the communities and the environment. Research has established that dams negatively impact globally because they sit on valuable land resources that can otherwise be used as production factors for other economic activities. Besides, dams also run the wildlife habitats, affect endangered species, and encourage greenhouse gas that damages the environment. (Argument/thesis)

Nevertheless, many people believe that there are many positive aspects of dams. For example, they are used for irrigation, flood defenses, water supply, and hydroelectric power. Individuals see these positive aspects as more important than the ongoing negative effects because they use these resources daily. (Counterargument)

In this example, the first paragraph has a clear thesis focusing on dams' negative impacts. The second paragraph introduces the counterargument, clearly stating the reaction to expect from the readers, which centers on the positive impacts of dams.

Before the conclusion

When writing an argumentative essay, you can place the counterargument in the paragraphs after your main points or arguments. You can use this strategy to effectively lead your readers to the main points and have them balance them with the dissenting voices or opposing viewpoints. Then, you let them have an idea of their own on how to feel about the topic going onwards.

Given our example of the negative impacts of dams, we could spread out the counterargument as follows:

In this case, paragraphs 1-5 have the main argument, the sixth a counterargument, rebuttal, and a conclusion. Finally, the author imagines how someone might object to their argument and then states why even then, the author's arguments remain valid.

As part of the paragraph

You can quickly write an argumentative essay by weaving in counterarguments as part of the paragraph. Here, you will introduce counterarguments to the sub-ideas that each paragraph is about to argue or is arguing.

Take, for example, our example on the negative impacts of dams; if this were the case, one would, for instance, discuss how dams cause conflicts alongside how by supplying water, the dams can end up negating conflicts. When you introduce these mini-counterarguments, ensure that an excellent rebuttal follows them up to reaffirm your stance.

How to Introduce Counterarguments in an Essay

An argumentative essay seeks to persuade the readers to consider your position on an issue even with their individually held beliefs. Therefore, counterarguments are an effective way to advocate for your viewpoint while acknowledging the opposing views on an issue.

As we mentioned, addressing the opposing viewpoints in an argumentative essay is significant because it demonstrates maturity in reasoning, writing, and presentation. It also indicates that you have researched, considered different sides of an argument, and are independent thinkers. But how does one introduce counterarguments in an essay? Here are some suggestions from our top essay writers.

Introducing a counterargument in an essay occurs in two stages: first, turning against your argument and challenging it (counterargument), and second, turning back to reaffirm your argument (refutation).

Introducing a counterargument in an essay

Below are some ways to introduce a counterargument:

  1. By imagining a skeptical reader. You can do this by bringing in an argument that would be raised by a skeptical reader who does not believe in your stance from the beginning.


  1. Citing a scholarly source, critic, or a group of critics that might resist your argument. Introducing a counterargument by citing those opposed allows the readers to clearly understand your argument.


  1. Write about alternative explanations, problems with your conclusion, and disadvantages of your prose. Introducing a counterargument this way shows that you have considered the flaws in your argument.

When introducing a counterargument, ensure to follow it with evidence, examples, and illustrations to strengthen your view of why your argument is flawed. Strongly make a case against yourself before you defend yourself in the rebuttal.

Introducing the Rebuttal/refutation in an essay

Most individuals retain their ideas even as they read yours. Therefore, examining either side of an argument is imperative to make peace with the audience. That way, they get to trust you and read your essay with enthusiasm. To write a good refutation or rebuttal, ask yourself this about the readers:

Answering these questions puts you in a position to be familiar with the opposing viewpoints that can help you understand why your readers might reject your stance. You can then write a rebuttal where you acknowledge their beliefs but then let them know why they might be flawed and why yours

If you are wondering how to refute a counterargument, here are some suggestions:

  1. Quoting scholars and experts. Base your rebuttal on evidence from experts and scholars in the field.

Example: Even though many might consider this argument flawed, evidence from research done by author X, a specialist in Y, suggests that….

  1. Redefining the criteria of the general or common knowledge concepts.

Example: Although it is arguable that…, it is also possible that…

  1. Find a point of agreement and show that your new idea supports a shared idea. Here, you concede that a point is valid but that your argument stands as a better view.

Example: Notably, it is agreeable that… (this is the rebuttal- an idea against yours). Besides, the idea supports the main assertion that… (introduce your point)

  1. By pointing out the faulty assumptions in the critics' arguments against your main argument. Prove that the facts are wrong, the analysis is flawed, and the values that the argument is based on are not acceptable.


After introducing a rebuttal, suggest why the opposing argument is less important, flawed, or less likely than what you have proposed and why it does not overturn your argument.

Examples: Arguments, Counterarguments, and Rebuttal

Below are some examples of related arguments, counterarguments, and rebuttals or refutations to make it easier to distinguish and use each correctly.

Example#1. End-of-life decision-making

Argument: The primary focus in medical end-of-life decisions should be on patient consent rather than doctor intention because it is not a breach of a patient's rights if s/he consents to the termination of their life.

Counterargument: Terminally ill patients are likely to be depressed and, therefore, unable to consent to their hastened death in a balanced or acceptable way.

Rebuttal: Depression can be managed. The relevance of depression must be made on a case-by-case basis. Depression does not warrant a general rule prohibiting patients from consenting to a hastened death.

Example #2: Vaccine Mandates

Argument: Vaccines save lives, so vaccine mandates should take effect.

Counterargument: vaccine mandates arguably go against people's freedom of choice and free will as it forces them to inject foreign substances into their body systems.

Rebuttal or refutation: Although, to some extent, vaccines strip people of their individual liberties, opting out of being vaccinated exposes people to viruses, which jeopardizes their lives and that of their dependents.

Example #3: Death Penalty

Argument: The death penalty might lead to miscarriage of justice if judgments are flawed or biased, leading to the loss of innocent lives.

Counterargument: The death penalty does not strip innocent people of their lives.

Rebuttal or refutation. Although the death penalty could irreversibly lead to miscarriage of justice by stripping innocent people of their lives, limiting it to cases where there is unequivocal evidence of crime commission could lead to only the guilty being punished. Forensic science and criminalistics have infinitely made it easier to have absolute surety that a suspect is guilty of a crime.

Example #4: Legalizing Abortion

Argument: Abortion should be legal in the United States under all circumstances.

Counterargument: Many Christians believe abortion is morally wrong and should not be legal. The Christian Reformed Church states, "Mindful of the sixth commandment…the church condemns the wanton or arbitrary destruction of any human being at any stage of its development from the point of conception to the point of death." This belief is consistent and appropriate for all Christians but for other citizens who do not have those beliefs might disagree with a law outlawing abortion.

Rebuttal/refutation: The values the U.S. founded also state that the U.S. government cannot establish a national religion according to the Constitution's Establishment Clause.

Example #5: Animal testing for cosmetics

Argument: Animal testing for beauty products should be illegalized as it deprives animals of the dignity and right to life for otherwise abstract pursuits.

Counterargument: Some people argue that using animals as test subjects for health products is justifiable. To be fair, animal testing has been used to aid the development of several vaccines, such as smallpox and rabies. 

Rebuttal: However, animal testing for beauty products causes unnecessary pain to animals. There are alternatives to animal testing. Instead of using animals, it is possible to use human volunteers. Additionally, Carl Westmoreland (2006) suggests that alternative methods to animal research are being developed; for example, researchers can use skin constructed from cells to test cosmetics. If animal testing alternatives exist, the practice causes unnecessary animal suffering and should not be used.

Example #6:  Eliminating After-School Sports

Argument: After-school sports should not be eliminated because it benefits the students.

Counterclaim: Those in favor of eliminating after-school sports argue that participating in after-school sports increases the likelihood of sports-related injuries. Experts, especially health professionals, have suggested that life-threatening concussions occur at alarming rates for student-athletes participating in popular after-school sports such as hockey, basketball, wrestling, and soccer. Even when the injuries are minor, they create abscesses that increase the cost of treatment for the schools. Schools must also meet the expenses of creating injury reports, and the injured students miss school days.

Rebuttal: Even though it is true that after-school sports expose students to the risks of severe and minor sport-related injuries, without school-sponsored sports, the likelihood of more injuries from less supervised recreational and curricular activities or private leagues with fewer safety regulations would be higher. Reports have also suggested that few severe injuries occur to students participating in after-school sports compared to those not playing after-school sports, meaning that the statistics might be unfounded and misleading.

Example #7: Electoral College

Counterargument/Counterclaim: Although the electoral college is an old method of selecting a president that has successfully lived to its purpose, it has outlived its importance. Voting in America should be straight through the popular vote representing the people's will. Encouraging it undermines the will and the voice of the people. Without the electoral college and its inconsistencies, America would have had a female president in 2016 through the majority popular vote.

Rebuttal: Abolishing the electoral college system might be a quick fix for some Americans. However, such a hurried response would undermine the wisdom of the founding fathers who guided the elections over the years. In the new age, more tyrants and vocal groups exist to seize any opportunity for their selfish gains. Abolishing it would open the nation up to high-level corruption, imbalance of power, and chaotic leadership. Campaigns would be expensive, and those with interests would fund them. It also increases the chances of rigging to get to power. Protecting the electoral college system is timely, given that most candidates will likely win the popular vote.

Example #8: Homeschooling

Counterclaim: Homeschooling is a perfect school model for students from reserved families and those who are creative yet very sensitive, withdrawn, or unable to thrive in the structured environment of traditional schooling. Experts argue that child development is accelerated, and homeschooled students feel its associated benefits. Talented and gifted students can also be homeschooled to nurture their professional goals. Homeschooling enables the customization of the curriculum to the child-specific needs and preferences that encourage thriving across all domains.

Refutation: While it is open that homeschooling has advantages, such as child-specific curriculum customization, focus on professional goals, and positive development, the benefits are a liability to the child. Traditional school setups allow for socialization and enable the student to deal with challenges and uncertainties such as exhaustion, boring lessons, rivalry, teasing, embarrassment, happiness, competition, and bullying, which impart important life skills. Homeschooled children are not as prepared as those in traditional school settings. Classrooms help students to socialize, learn in groups, negotiate, and interact with the world in structured environments. Even if homeschooling is flexible and less costly, it does not prepare the students for the unforgiving world outside their homes.

Steps for Writing a good Counterargument

As evident from the examples above, when writing a counterargument paragraph:

If introducing a counterargument paragraph, ensure it differs from the main points. A good way is to use effective linking words or transitions such as admittedly, although, conversely, admittedly, agreeably, arguably.

That's how you write an excellent counterargument that meets the requirements of an argumentative essay. A good paper addresses either one or two counterarguments in a rebuttal. The rebuttal is your response to the counterargument. You give more credence to your argument. The rebuttals should be objective and written in a formal tone.

Parting Shot!

Consider writing an argumentative essay as arguing before a jury. Before the jury decides on the case or gives their verdict, they must consider both sides of an issue to reach a relevant, justified, and unbiased conclusion. If there are no counterarguments and refutations, you might probably miscarry justice. As a result, your essay would lack the persuasiveness it deserves.

Related Article guides:

Counterarguments and rebuttals are the only way to convince the audience that your point of view is superior, pragmatic, or rational.

Writing a counterargument entails two steps: Respectfully acknowledging standpoints or evidence that differ from your argument and refuting the stance of opposing opinions.

When refuting, show the readers why your position is more correct than your opponents.

Writing good counterarguments also demonstrates a higher level of thinking and emotional intelligence. It is the hallmark of a seasoned essay writer, a name our professional writers live up to. If you want an argumentative essay with well-balanced arguments, counterarguments, and rebuttals, buy an argumentative essay from us. We will write your argumentative essay on any topic.

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