Ways to respond to an argument (Essay 3)

There are many ways to respond to others’ ideas, but let’s focus on the most common:

agreeing
disagreeing
or some combination of both

It’s a good idea to begin your response in Essay 3 not by launching into a mass of details but by stating clearly whether you agree, disagree or both, using a direct no-nonsense formula such as: “I agree” or “I disagree” or “I am of two minds. I agree that the state should pay some restitution, but I cannot agree that ________.”

Once you make a clear statement like this, readers will have a grasp of your position.

DISAGREE AND EXPLAIN WHY

Disagreeing can easily generate an essay – find something you can disagree with in what has been said about your topic, summarize it, and argue with it.

But disagreement can be tricky. You need to do more than just disagree – you have to offer persuasive reasons why you disagree.

After all, disagreeing means more than just saying “no.” To turn a response into an argument, you need to give reasons to support what you say because

another’s argument fails to take relevant factors into account
or
another’s arguments is based on questionable assumptions, etc.

Here are some templates for Essay 3 in a response that is disagreeing:

The author is mistaken because he overlooks _____
The author’s claim that _________ rests upon the questionable assumption that __________
I disagree with Stevenson’s view that __________ because __________
By focusing on ________ the author overlooks the deeper problem of _____________

AGREE BUT WITH A DIFFERENCE

You need to do more than just echo views you agree with. It’s important to bring something new to the conversation.

You could cite some personal experience
or
point out unnoticed implications or
explain something that needs to be understood.

The important thing is to open up some difference or contrast between your position and the one you’re agreeing with rather than just repeating.
Here are some templates:

I agree that ___________ , because in my experience _____________

The author’s position is useful, because it sheds light on the problem of _________

But be aware that whenever you agree with someone’s view, you are likely disagreeing with someone else’s. It’s hard to align yourself with one position without implicitly positioning yourself against others.

AGREE AND DISAGREE SIMULTANEOUSLY

This last option is helpful because it gets us beyond the simple agree/disagree format that can oversimplify complex issues.

If you respond with a “yes and no” or “on the one hand I agree, on the other, I disagree” enables readers to place your argument in context.

Templates for this type of response:

Although I agree with the author up to a point, I cannot accept his overriding assumption that _________________________

Although I disagree with the authors’ specific point, I fully endorse their overall point that ________

You could call this a “Yes, but” and “No, but” kind of response.

My feelings on this issue are mixed. I do support the authors’ position that ______ , but I find Stevenson’s argument to be equally persuasive.

This is a good template when you’re dealing with complex issues.

But as I said before, whether you are agreeing, disagreeing or both agreeing and disagreeing, you need to be clear as possible in the introduction to your essay.


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