Some Last-Minute Concession/Refutation Advice

Here are a couple of things students have asked me about in regard to the concession/refutation.

1. How do I organize it?

There are two ways that will work. One way is to do all your concession in a paragraph and then all your refutation in another paragraph. HOWEVER, remember that you want to avoid those LONG paragraphs! Many people struggled with that in the confirmation and it ended up costing them a lot of points. So, this approach only works if you have only one or two points to concede. Don’t try this if you concession/refutation is longer than a page to a page and a half!

For longer concessions/refutations, you will need to follow the lead of  MLK in “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Concede a point and then immediately refute that point. This can be done in one paragraph, BUT, if you are including several specific examples for both the concession and refutation, once again, it may be better to do the concession in one paragraph and then the refutation in another in order to keep the paragraph length under control. With this model, if you had, say, 3 points to concede/refute, you would have six paragraphs.

2. Can I qualify my refutation?

Absolutely! In fact, doing so often lets you explore those “shades of gray” I’m looking for. (If you don’t know what this question or answer means, then the answer for YOU is, “No. You’re safer not to try this.”)

3. What should I have asked about the concession/refutation that I didn’t?

No one really asked about these, but here are two important points to keep in mind: First, TRANSITIONS are very, very important in concession/refutations! You MUST clearly indicate when you are switching from a concession to its refutation–otherwise, you just sound wishy-washy and incoherent. So, I expect to see lots of “switching sides” transitions, like “however,” “but,” “on the contrary,” etc. If you want more information, this is a good handout. It is pretty formulaic, but being formulaic is better than being incoherent. So, if you’re struggling with this, use the suggested formula!

The other point is actually made by this handout, too. BOTH the concession and the refutation MUST include researched, specific evidence. Often, students make the mistake of supporting their refutation but NOT supporting the opposing/alternate viewpoint. If you neglect this, you will lose points in BOTH logical appeal (not enough support) and ethical appeal (not acknowledging complexities, etc.).

4. How do I include emotional appeal without sounding stupid?

I will let some student examples explain this for me:

“…the adverse implications of immediately grafting third parties into the American scene are palpably visible.” (Charles Miller) Here Charles creates a subtle metaphor (a trope) with the verb “grafts.” This is the best way to do a metaphor in an otherwise factual paper. Third parties can’t really be grafted into the American scene, so this is figurative. “Grafting” is something you do to plants when you want to grow a new one. So, it creates the image of trying to get a new branch to grow on an established trunk–an apt comparison for Charles’s argument. (POSSIBLE PROBLEMS: If using any metaphor–and especially this sly kind–you do have to be careful not to MIX metaphors, or, in other words, try to cram in too many unrelated comparisons. This just distracts and confuses the reader.)

“Detroit residents would rather have colorful, attractive vegetation than decaying and abandoned industrial buildings.” (Chase Heimemann)  This is simple imagery–with  an antithesis thrown in for good measure. Yet, it doesn’t seem over done. (POSSIBLE PROBLEMS: You can easily over-do imagery! One sentence is good. Three filled with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs is just annoying.)

“As if the mystery of the human genome could not become even more complex, thousands of connections between genes determine only possibilities for an individual’s health: ‘DNA says more about out risk than our fate. It governs probabilities, not necessarily destinies’ (Agus 22). To exemplify, these unique, intricate connections between the genes cause every individual to react differently to the same medicines (Agus 118). Thus, the task of creating generic elixirs by analyzing a single genome becomes a daunting task because humans hold completely dissimilar chromosomes, completely dissimilar genes, and completely dissimilar proteins. To conclude, DNA should not receive patents because it is highly intricate and it dictates potentials for an individual’s health.” (Olivia Favor) Here, Olivia does a few things, but none of it seems overdone. The use of the words “mystery” and “elixirs” are figurative (metaphor). But also notice how they work together to emphasize the magical or mysterious nature of DNA, so these aren’t random but actually reinforce her side of the argument–that’s how you want to do it! Plus, she has the effective but not heavy-handed or annoying anaphora, which also emphasizes her point, rather than just randomly emphasizing something in the paragraph. Bravo!

“The 9/11 attacks startled and scarred the United States, causing the World Trade Centers and once-unyielding confidence to crumble.” (Josh Li) I don’t see many zeugmas, so brownie points here for using a more challenging scheme. (Although, if you really want to impress me, write an effective chiasmus or two!) Once again, however, notice that the zeugma is effective, helping to make Josh’s point, not just a random zeugma for the sake of zeugma. As any good zeugma should, it creates and image, and (what do ya know!) uses a metaphor!  So, one object (World Trade Centers) crumbles in a literal sense, while the other object (confidence) crumbles in the metaphorical sense. THAT is doing more than just getting a scheme worked in. THAT is being artistic!

4. How do you feel about the word “evidently” used as a concluding transition?

No one asked me this, either. But I’ve noticed a few people doing this, and, frankly, it just sounds odd to me. I guess it isn’t literally WRONG, but it just seems to throw off the tone. Whenever I hear people use “evidently,” it’s always as in “Well, that’s a thing now, evidently.” To me, it carries the tone of, “Well, I guess this is something, but I never heard about it.” Which is not exactly the tone you want when you are trying to sum up your own claim…



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