P06: Rebuttal Argument

My Worthy Opponent is Wrong

Your third short argument is due SUN MAR 18 at midnight. It will make an argument essential to your Research Position Paper, which will be due roughly two weeks after your last Rewrite assignment. This substantial amount of work over the next few weeks is the best way to get you to finish the largest part of your Research Position Paper before the Thanksgiving break, so you can enjoy yourselves and come back refreshed to wrap things up.

This Rebuttal Argument will identify (and demolish) the argument you feel is the strongest rebuttal to your own thesis. You know there are plenty of good arguments against your thesis. You’ve chosen a controversial thesis deliberately, knowing that—in fact because—it’s contrary to common knowledge. Lucky for you, common knowledge is almost always wrong, but still you must defend your position against it. Rebuttal arguments are respectful, specific, and firm. They acknowledge that your position is not the most popular opinion on a topic and that reasonable people hold opinions very different from your own but that nonetheless, yours is the correct position.

I repeat, the purpose of your Rebuttal Argument IS TO REFUTE, not advance, the strongest rebuttal to your own thesis.

What’s the “Opposite” of my thesis? You may think the only legitimate rebuttal position is the opposite of your thesis, but that’s not true. First, we can’t always clearly state the opposite of a position; second, there are far more than two points of view on a topic. Let me offer an example.

My Thesis: Your thesis may be that, contrary to popular opinion, car seats are unsafe for infants, toddlers, and young children. In your research, you may discover experts or studies that claim any of the following:

  1. Car seats are safe for infants, toddlers, and young children
  2. Car seats are safe for toddlers (or infants, or young children, but not all three)
  3. Car seats aren’t perfect, but they’re safer than no car seats
  4. Car seats are safe if used correctly
  5. Car seats are effective in several different types of accident
  6. Car seats are safe if they’re the right size
  7. Car seats are safe unless they’re faulty, broken, or improperly fitted

The best rebuttal argument takes on a real opponent, not a “straw man.” While it may be satisfying to offer a weak argument against your thesis that you can easily demolish, your victory is unlikely to impress your readers as persuasive. Instead, you need to imagine what your most hostile and critical reader is thinking about your argument, acknowledge that she has reasonable objections to your thesis, and then lower the boom on her.

So, what’s your rebuttal? Your rebuttal is to detail all the qualifications that must be met to make a car seat safe, taken directly from your opponents’ arguments. To not injure children, car seats have to be of good quality, the right size for the child (whose size keeps changing), and installed correctly; furthermore, the accident has to be the right kind of accident. If any of these conditions are not met, the child can be injured worse than if there had been no car seat! One by one, you could detail the likelihood that each of the conditions will not be met.

Works Cited
Whether the sources you cite in this essay already appear in your earlier posts or not, you’ll need a Works Cited for this assignment. Check the links yourself to be sure they lead back to a page we can all access (even if it’s the page in the databases that “launches” the actual document).

Useful Models
You’ll find several examples of how a professional essay might be refuted with a variety of rebuttals on the Nuclear Power Rebuttal Argument page.

Early Feedback to Your Classmates
Should students post early looking for guidance in planning their rebuttal essays, I will respond as promptly as possible, to give the rest of you a chance to learn from our conversations. I applaud the enterprise of early posters, and I’ll always respond as helpfully as I can if I have the time.


  • Write your third Short Argument.
  • The paper will take the form of a Rebuttal Argument, as described above and explained further on the Nuclear Power Rebuttal Argument page.
  • Identify the strongest rebuttal (or rebuttals) that can be made against your thesis.
  • Examine those rebuttal positions carefully.
  • Refute those positions.
  • Include Works Cited.
  • Call your post Rebuttal—Username.
  • But in addition to that placeholder title, also give your essay a proper title. For example, this post is titled “My Worthy Opponent is Wrong.”
  • Publish your Rebuttal Argument in the P06: Rebuttal category, and your Username.


  • Due midnight SUN MAR 18
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Portfolio Essay
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