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Sound Writing

Subsection 3.1.4 Counterpoint

No matter how effective or well-laid out an argument may be, it will always have some limitations.

Tip 3.1.4.

To help you identify areas of weakness in your argument, try asking yourself questions like “What are the opposing arguments?” and “Why are these counterpoints valid?”
For instance, a naysayer of the caffeine argument may bring up the potential negative health effects of caffeine addiction, which may lead to poorer student health and therefore poorer academic success. Rather than covering up these counterpoints or uncertainties and pretending they don’t exist, strong arguments confront potential naysayers head-on. By acknowledging areas of weakness in your argument, you actually strengthen your claim by setting yourself up to address and respond to other points of view. For instance, you might address the concerns of caffeine addiction by describing some of the negative health effects of caffeine dependence, such as sleep deprivation and withdrawal symptoms when caffeine is unavailable. You might even acknowledge that caffeine dependence may impact student academic success in the short term by promoting procrastination and enabling a series of all-nighters as compensation. However, you can also weaken and overturn these opposing arguments by asking yourself why your argument outweighs its counterpoints.
To help you determine how your argument might respond to opposing views, ask yourself questions like “Why does my argument still hold true despite these counterpoints?” “Why do these counterpoints fall short of invalidating my argument?” and “How might these counterpoints actually strengthen my own argument?”
For instance, the writer of the caffeine argument may both acknowledge and disable opposing viewpoints through the proposal that “While caffeine dependence may lead to some negative health effects, the ultimate academic benefits resulting from increased productivity outweigh the immediate impacts on student health and behavior.” This statement would then be followed by counterevidence displaying why the long term academic benefits of caffeine outweigh the negative health effects, and perhaps even how any negative health effects may actually generate academic success by spurring student performance and productivity.

Warning 3.1.5. New Perspective.

After considering counterpoints, you may end up deciding that the counterpoints are more persuasive than your original point. That’s okay! It’s a sign of intellectual growth when you are able to reconsider your original views on the basis of further research. Just be sure to revise your paper so that the new argument is cohesive.