Chapter 4: Summary

4.2 Representing Counterarguments

When summarizing a source, you may disagree with the argument. That’s fine. It’s also fine if you agree, although you may have to work harder to add something to the previous work in your own essay, as you’ll see in Chapter 5: The Essay. Finally, because you are aiming for a nuanced argument, you may in fact agree with some parts of the argument, and disagree with others. That’s also fine.

Your own reaction is important, because it provides the spur to your writing. Ideally, it also makes the writing interesting to your reader. Remember, it is your job to “hook” the reader by providing some combination of interesting details, information, ideas, and a point of view in your summary. Ideally, you do this in the first sentence, as described in Chapter 3: Paragraph Structure. But “hooking” the reader can also be done throughout your summary.

One way to make your summary interesting is to compare and contrast your point of view with the viewpoint found in your source. If the source disagrees with your argument, it is called a counterargument.

Don’t be afraid of conflict in your writing. Simply make sure that you do two things when you disagree with your source. As noted above, relate the source’s counterargument with as much persuasive power as you can. Secondly, be sure to refute the counterargument.

As described in Chapter 3.4: Persuasive Paragraphs, the better you refute, or disprove, a counterargument, the stronger your own argument becomes. Seeing you handle a counterargument (“Some say the Prime Minister’s apology came at the perfect time. However, it is important to note that …”) dispels any doubts the reader may have (“But what about …”) and persuades them to go along with your point of view.

Review Questions

  1. Look at the first sentence of the summary you wrote for question 1 in Chapter 4.1: Accurate Summary. If you can find a hook, underline it. If there is no hook in the first sentence, go back to the source and see if you can find one: an interesting fact or example, your view, or a counterargument you plan to refute. Exchange your first sentence with a classmate. Do your first sentences “hook” each other as readers? Why or why not?
  2. If you disagree with the source you found for question 1 in Chapter 1.1: Finding Sources, state that counterargument as strongly as you can. Then refute it. If you agree, make up a counterargument (“Some say the Prime Minister’s apology came at the perfect time”). Then refute it. (Hint: You may wish to use the suggested X and Y format in Chapter 3.4 Persuasive Paragraphs.)


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Building Blocks of Academic Writing Copyright © 2020 by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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