How To Write A Refutation In A Research Paper

2 Sample Refutation Paragraphs
(Each these samples have 2-paragraph refutation; some essays may only have a 1 paragraph refutation while other essays, like research papers, may require a much longer refutation)

Charter Schools Vs. Public Schools (School Choice)
By Mark Liles

Thesis: School choice turns out to not only be a bad idea; it’s also a violation of our constitution.

Refutation: ...[Introduce Opposing Arguments] Considering the many challenges facing public schools, it’s understandable that many people would be eager to pursue new options. Supporters of school choice point out that under the current public school system, parents with economic means already exercise school choice by moving from areas with failing or dangerous schools to neighborhoods with better, safer schools. Their argument is that school choice would allow all parents the freedom, regardless of income level, to select the school that provides the best education (Chub and Moe). Schools would then have to compete for students by offering higher academic results and greater safety. Schools unable to measure up to the standards of successful schools would fail and possibly close. [Acknowledge Valid Parts] Activists within the school choice movement can be applauded for seeking to improve public education, but the changes they propose would in fact seriously damage public education as a whole.

[Counter Arguments] One of the biggest dangers of school choice is the power behind large corporations specializing in opening and operating charter schools. Two notable companies are Green Dot, which is the leading public school operator in Los Angeles (Green Dot), and KIPP, which operates 65 schools in 19 different states [KIPP]. These companies represent a growing trend of privatization of public schools by large corporations. It is feared that these corporations could grow to a point that public control of education would be lost. Education policy would be left in the hands of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate boards of directors, and lobbyists who are more interested in profit than educating students [Miller and Gerson]. [Begin Concluding] Education should be left in the hands of professional educators and not business people with MBAs. To do otherwise is not only dangerous, it defies common sense.

What I liked about this refutation: The writer calmly and clearly outlines the true concerns and reasons why people oppose the opinion. He makes sure the reader knows that he is outlining opposing viewpoints because he gives hints like "Supporters of school choice point out that..." or "Their argument is that...". This is a nice way for readers to be aware of what others think.

Also, towards the end of the first paragraph, and throughout the second paragraph, the writer spends time clearly attacking these opposing views. He helps the reader feel like the opposing views might SEEM good on the surface, but they are indeed not good enough. He helps the reader see this with hints like "One of the biggest dangers of school choice is..." or "It is feared that...". This paragraph particularly draws in any hostile readers; the writer cunningly draws them in by complimenting their views when he says "Activists within the school choice movement can be applauded for seeking to improve public education," but he immediately points out the flaws, saying that " the changes they propose would in fact seriously damage public education as a whole." Complimenting the opposing argument really invites all your hesitant readers; they’re not threatened, and they’re now more willing to listen to the arguments.

Finally, at the end of the refutation, there is a clear conclusion.

Safe Traveler Cards
Taken from College Writers pg. 733-734

........[Introduce Opposing Arguments] As attractive as Safe Traveler Cards or national ID cards are, they are not without drawbacks. For one thing, as Easterbrook notes, these cards would expedite security procedures only for travelers who do not mind volunteering such information to obtain a card. Moreover they would not prevent passengers with "clean" backgrounds from bringing weapons or explosives on board, as was the case in the September 11 attacks. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that some people believe that these cards would deprive people of their privacy and that for this reason, their disadvantages outweigh their advantages (168).

........However, there are many who disagree with these contentions. [Acknowledge Valid Parts] While national ID cards could lessen a person's anonymity and privacy, [Counter Argument] this is a small loss that would be offset by a great increase in personal security. To Dershowitz--a self proclaimed civil libertarian--this tradeoff would be well worth it. According to Dershowitz, the national ID card would be only a little more intrusive than a photo ID card or social security card. Best of all, it would reduce or eliminate the need for racial profiling: "Anyone who had the [national ID] card could be allowed to pass through airports or building security more expeditiously, and anyone who opted out could be examined much more closely" (590). Such cards would enable airport security officials to do instant background checks on everyone. [Begin Concluding] The personal information in the system would stay in the system and never be made public. The only information on the card would be a person's "name, address, photo, and [finger]print" (Dershowitz 591).

Definition of Refutation

The literary term refutation refers to that part of an argument where a speaker or a writer encounters contradicting points of view. Alternatively, refutation can be described as the negation of an argument, opinion, testimony, doctrine, or theory, through contradicting evidence. It normally constitutes a part of an essay that disproves the opposing arguments.

An important distinction to be appreciated is the difference between refutation and counter-argument. In the case of counter-argument, the writer acknowledges that there is substance in the contradicting argument, yet he provides evidence for his alleged stance. On the other hand, refutation goes a bit further by presenting evidence that in turn negates the opposing arguments.

In a circumstance in which the writer happens to agree with certain aspects of the opposing argument, he makes a concession. However, writers and speakers rarely employ concession, as it can very easily undermine their own stance.

Types of Refutation

There are various ways through which the tool of refutation can be employed. The three most common modes used for the purpose of incorporating the device of refutation in an argument are: (1) refutation through evidence, (2) refutation through logic, and (3) refutation through exposing the discrepancies of opposing argument.

Refutation through Evidence

For an argument to be counted as one of the valid examples of refutation through evidence, it needs to be an argument backed up by some form of evidence. In the absence of clear bases or justifications it cannot be declared valid. Therefore, a writer can refute a contradicting argument if he can provide evidence that conclusively negates it, or by presenting more recent or credible evidence.

Refutation through Logic

Refutation examples through logic are quite tricky to construct. It involves deconstructing the opposing argument, and presenting it in such a way as to highlight the discrepancies present within the argument. Most skilled writers check the validity of their arguments before publishing them. This makes refutation through logic all the more difficult. There is no denying the fact then that refutation through logic constitutes a difficult task at hand. However, writers have employed this tool in their respective writings.

Refutation through Exposing Discrepancies

The method involves showing that one of the contradicting arguments lacks the core ingredient of centrality to the issue as the opposition had intended to project. Also, the writer can logically present his argument as being superior to the one presented by the opposition, by showing that the opposition’s argument lacks the crucial link to the topic. Further, the writer can highlight the insignificance of the opposition’s argument by exposing the deficiencies found within the opposing argument.

Examples of Refutation in Literature

Example #1: Elements of Rhetoric (By Richard Whately)

“If indeed very strong objections have obtained much currency, or have been just stated by an opponent, so that what is asserted is likely to be regarded as paradoxical, it may be advisable to begin with a Refutation.”

As can be seen from the excerpt quoted above, refutation of an objection should be placed in the midst of an argument. However, the nearer it is to the beginning the more effective it is likely to be.

Example #2: Remarks made to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Seattle, Washington (By William Kennard, Chairman of the FCC)

“So we may well hear from a whole chorus of naysayers. And to all of them I have only one response: we cannot afford to wait. We cannot afford to let the homes and schools and businesses throughout America wait. Not when we have seen the future. We have seen what high capacity broadband can do for education and for our economy. We must act today to create an environment where all competitors have a fair shot at bringing high capacity bandwidth to consumers—especially residential consumers. And especially residential consumers in rural and underserved areas.”

This excerpt serves to illustrate the effectiveness of early refutation. The early placement of refutation within the extract has had an enhanced persuasive impact on the audience.

Function of Refutation

The tool of refutation has a crucial significance in writing. It is important in determining whether the speaker or writer has successfully persuaded his readers or not. Mostly, the device of refutation is employed when one is dealing with a controversial topic. It allows the reader to prefer one argument over another. The use of the device is frequently witnessed in intricate arguments.


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