Address the Opposing View

Address the Opposing View

If you’re writing a paper about women’s rights, and your sources consist only of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Molly Ivins, you will no doubt be branded a committed liberal. On the other hand, if your sources are only Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and Rush Limbaugh…well, you get the idea.

The point is, to write a compelling essay, you’ve got to tackle both sides of the issue. And face it—there are (at least) two sides to nearly every issue. Successful debaters know how to not only make the case for their own side’s views, but are also able to persuasively defend their position against the viewpoint of their opposition.

How is this done? With plenty of facts backed up by persuasive writing. But to be persuasive, it helps to acknowledge that there are other perspectives and that in some measure they may have a certain amount of validity—only your view happens to be better (and then explain why).

Do the research

Part of a teacher’s job is to play devil’s advocate to your position. So, you need to know what the opposing views are, and what their arguments are. You need to know their positions as well as you know your own, if you’re going to be able to defend against them.

Give the other side credit

Unless you’re arguing against something truly reprehensible (such as child abuse), the counterview to your position will likely have merit in some areas. Be sure to give due respect to these areas. If you don’t, your arguments will look weak, as though they cannot stand up to any serious scrutiny. You might also come across as mean-spirited or immature.

So, know your stuff. And know the other side’s stuff, too. Your writing will be far more interesting—and possibly persuasive—if you make the effort to be fair-minded and well-informed.