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Counterclaims In Writing Assignments

Argument Essay Writing Claims

Students often struggle to find meaningful argument topics (or claims) for their formal essays. Not only do they get tired of writing about capital punishment, abortion, and dress codes, but we teachers get tired of reading the same old arguments.

TIP: To make the assignment more meaningful, ask students what THEY feel strongly about. We all know they have a million complaints because we are usually the ones they share them with. When they do, jot them down in a notebook or have them write it down. Keep this running list as a "go-to" for argument essay and/or debate topics or claims.

If your students are fresh out of ideas, here are some that seem to be "hot" topics with teenagers today (these are not my personal opinion, by the way). These are worded in statements rather than questions. Students who feel strongly about the topic can revise the statement to suit their opinion:

1. Students should be allowed to use their cell phones freely in the classroom.

2. Drivers who text and drive should be punished the same as those who drink and drive.

3. Cell phone companies should not make customers wait two years (or however long) to upgrade their phone.

4. Boys should be allowed to play volleyball on the girl's team (if a boy's team is not offered at school).

5. Energy drinks should not be sold to anyone under the age of 16.

6. Schools should ban the sales of all soft drinks and junk food in their buildings.

7. Minors should be allowed to get a tattoo without parent's permission.

8. Birth control should be free for anyone who wants to use it to help combat over population.

9. Same-sex couples should be treated the same as other couples in regards to discounts for dance tickets, meals, corsages, and any other "couples" perks.

10. Schools should not be responsible for after-hours dances such as Prom or other formals.

11. Schools should offer (and pay for) an online recovery course for students who fail the class.

12. Schools should not filter or block the internet.

13. Students should have to pass an exit test before graduating.

14. States should not use the ACT college entrance exam (or any college entrance exam) as a gauge for adequate yearly progress (AYP) of high school juniors.

15. Standardized tests should include all subjects that are required, such as government/social studies.

16. Teachers should not be allowed to be "friends" with or "followers" of students on Facebook®, Twitter®, Instagram®, or any other social media site.

17. All teachers should carry guns. {OR} All schools should have at least one armed police officer on duty while students are present.

18. Students should not be required to take physical education classes.

19. Professional athletes who have taken performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from that sport for life.

20. Single mothers on welfare should get free child care services so they can go to work.

21. Schools should not have to make up snow or weather-emergency days.

22. High schools should drop sports and extracurriculars and use the extra savings for educational purposes only.

23. Schools should provide more lunch choices for students.

24. Homework should be eliminated completely.

25. Corporal punishment should be allowed in schools (with parental consent).

26. Cheerleading is not a sport.

27. Basic health care should be provided for all citizens.

28. Parents should be held accountable/punished when minors break the law.

29. All schools should be year-round.

30. Students are more successful in single-sex classes (or schools).

Many of these claims may not apply to your school or students, but perhaps discussing them will lead to even more relevant topics. Students usually feel very strongly one way or the other when these are read. Have them write a couple of sentences in response. Those topics that they seem to write more about or feel the strongest about are good contenders for their argument topic.

For additional resources, you can see my argument essay pack for grades 6-12:

Organizing Your Argument


These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.

Contributors: Stacy Weida, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2017-06-19 09:33:00

How can I effectively present my argument?

Use an organizational structure that arranges the argument in a way that will make sense to the reader. The Toulmin Method of logic is a common and easy to use formula for organizing an argument.

The basic format for the Toulmin Method is as follows.

Claim: The overall thesis the writer will argue for.

Data: Evidence gathered to support the claim.

Warrant (also referred to as a bridge): Explanation of why or how the data supports the claim, the underlying assumption that connects your data to your claim.

Backing (also referred to as the foundation): Additional logic or reasoning that may be necessary to support the warrant.

Counterclaim: A claim that negates or disagrees with the thesis/claim.

Rebuttal: Evidence that negates or disagrees with the counterclaim.

Including a well-thought-out warrant or bridge is essential to writing a good argumentative essay or paper. If you present data to your audience without explaining how it supports your thesis your readers may not make a connection between the two or they may draw different conclusions.

Don't avoid the opposing side of an argument. Instead, include the opposing side as a counterclaim. Find out what the other side is saying and respond to it within your own argument. This is important so that the audience is not swayed by weak, but unrefuted, arguments. Including counterclaims allows you to find common ground with more of your readers. It also makes you look more credible because you appear to be knowledgeable about the entirety of the debate rather than just being biased or uninformed. You may want to include several counterclaims to show that you have thoroughly researched the topic.


Claim: Hybrid cars are an effective strategy to fight pollution.

Data1: Driving a private car is a typical citizen's most air polluting activity.

Warrant 1: Because cars are the largest source of private, as opposed to industry produced, air pollution, switching to hybrid cars should have an impact on fighting pollution.

Data 2: Each vehicle produced is going to stay on the road for roughly 12 to 15 years.

Warrant 2: Cars generally have a long lifespan, meaning that a decision to switch to a hybrid car will make a long-term impact on pollution levels.

Data 3: Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor.

Warrant 3: This combination of technologies means that less pollution is produced. According to "the hybrid engine of the Prius, made by Toyota, produces 90 percent fewer harmful emissions than a comparable gasoline engine."

Counterclaim: Instead of focusing on cars, which still encourages a culture of driving even if it cuts down on pollution, the nation should focus on building and encouraging use of mass transit systems.

Rebuttal: While mass transit is an environmentally sound idea that should be encouraged, it is not feasible in many rural and suburban areas, or for people who must commute to work; thus hybrid cars are a better solution for much of the nation's population.