Chapter 9

Concession, Refutation, and Rebuttal

If you believe an argument is worth making, chances are good that somebody else will believe it worth opposing. However, as you learn in Chapter 9, the key to surviving opposing arguments is anticipating them and responding directly—through concession, refutation, and rebuttal.


When you introduce an argument that challenges the strength and validity of your own argument, you are creating a counterargument. Some authors draw counterarguments from the research they have conducted. Other authors prefer to create counterarguments that are hypothetical.

Watch Eric Dieter and Todd Battistelli explain counterarguments in this video

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, authors of They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, refer to counterarguments as “planting naysayers.” This presentation suggests some tips for planting naysayers in your own writing. 


It is sometimes necessary, even beneficial, to admit when your opponent is right. As Chapter 9 explains, this helps you seem trustworthy and able to tell a strong argument from a weak one.

The University of Washington offers advice for making effective concessions.


Arguments you don’t concede you will likely refute. That is, you will explain why your audience should find them inferior to the ones that you—the better, smarter arguer—have made.

One way to refute another person’s argument is to argue that it is based on a flawed assumption. Many internet resources refer to flawed assumptions as rhetorical or logical fallacies. However, Controversies avoids these phrases because they imply that some arguments are inherently stronger than others. In fact, it is the audience that will decide whether or not an author’s line of argumentation is valid and effective.

Trish Roberts-Miller, a rhetoric professor at UT, describes fallacies in greater detail in this video. The handout she refers to is available here

There are many lists of fallacies to point out in your opponents’ arguments and avoid in your own. Some helpful ones can be found at UT’s Undergraduate Writing Center, the Purdue OWL, and the Nizkor Project.

See how much flawed argumentation you can identify in this game


After conceding or refuting your opponents’ arguments, you must return to the merits of your own argument. This, as the Purdue OWL explains in greater detail, is the act of rebuttal. 

Remember that your rebuttal should not simply repeat your previous arguments.

Tips for Writing an Opposition Paper

After reading Chapter 9, you will write a short paper opposing another author’s viewpoint. The resources listed above should help you decide when and what to concede, refute, and rebut.