Refutation: Six Easy Ways to Attack or Refute an Argument

Refutation is not mainly about your standpoint, but rather about the other personís point of view, and why it is incorrect. In a refutation, first, give a very brief but honest summary of the opposing argument.Then, you show why that argument is wrong, mistaken, or should not be accepted or believed.


Refutation is a  crucial part of adult-level discourse! Show why opposing arguments are:

  • unclear (jumbled, disorganized, confused, obscure, contradicts itself, impossible for an intelligent person to understand, full of holes, leaves too many questions unanswered, uses too many obscure or undefined words, too general, too badly mixed up to make any sense, or presented in language or style that readers cannot understand);
  • incredible (unbelievable, incoherent, beyond credibility, a flat-out lie or deception, strains the audienceís suspension of disbelief, offers no reasons to believe the opponentís statements, gives no solid sources for unusual or extraordinary claims, relies on questionable, outdated or biased sources, relies on personal stories instead of objective evidence, or relies on evidence that is missing or cannot be produced or reproduced);
  • impossible (not anchored in the real world, a proposal that is not possible to accomplish, a fantasy masquerading as reality, strains the readerís imagination, is silly or preposterous, ignores the laws of nature, turns the world on its head, requires a miracle or an act of God to come true, or is a million-to-one long shot)
  • illogical (not standing up to the test of logic, paranoid, not an intelligent argument, jumps to conclusions, includes gross logical fallacies, is ignorant, uneducated, childish or infantile, lacks necesary evidence or proof for statements or claims, is closed-minded, is ideologically driven, or conveniently ignores the facts);
  • unfitting (coarse or boorish, simply not right or moral in a civilized society, evil-minded, unworthy of decent people, immature, vicious or hateful, racist, sexist or discriminatory, or culturally unacceptable, disagrees with your own faith or morals, is inhumane, is written in bad faith [i.e., even the writer does not believe it], conveniently ignores the fate of certain groups of people, is self-centered); or
  • unprofitable (makes no sense financially or money-wise, is wasteful, will cost more than it saves, throws good money after bad, robs Peter to pay Paul, is a zero- [or negative] sum game, throws money at the problem instead of solving the causes, will result in poverty, bankruptcy or starvation, will enrich the few at the cost of the many, will trade short-term gain for long term disaster, or will ruin the environment).




Hint:  As with any other argument, you can refute with logos, pathos or ethos, or  any combination of these!

O.W. 11/05 rev 1/10


NOTE: When writing a refutation, write as an educated adult when addressing your intended audience.  As a beginning scholar, if you write that an argument is illogical, crazy, or impossible to understand but many other people (perhaps other discourse communities) think that it is important and great, readers will probably not agree with you, but they may conclude instead that you are too immature or uneducated to comprehend what important arguments your opponents are offering against your standpoint.  Instead, choose other ways to refute, ways that your intended audience will more likely accept.  



Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
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