Formulating Counterclaims

To be an effective critical thinker, it is not enough just to be able to identify claims and assertions. The ability to analyze an argument is essential to understanding the text more deeply, but understanding the claim is not the only facet of the argument. You must also learn how to analyze the counterclaims and evidence provided by the text. Being able to recognize and formulate counterclaims in reaction to an argument is a characteristic of a good critical reader. Counterclaims are claims made to rebut a previous claim. They provide a contrasting perspective to the main argument.

By being able to locate and provide counterclaims to an argument, you show a deep competence and familiarity with the writer’s topic. It shows that you are examining different perspectives and not just passively accepting the writer’s claim. It shows that you have thoroughly considered the topic, and are willing to engage different viewpoints from your own, thus remaining objective. It also helps you clarify what your personal position is on the topic.

The following questions will help you formulate a counterclaim:

  • What are the major points on which you and the author can disagree?
  • What is their strongest argument? What did they say to defend their position?
  • What are the merits of their view?
  • What are the weaknesses or shortcomings in their argument? Are there any hidden assumptions?
  • Which lines from the text best support the counterclaim you have formulated?

READ: Determining Textual Evidence