Rebutting Arguments - A Skill Every Debater Should Master

Post by Tom Cronin
Rebutting Arguments - A Skill Every Debater Should Master


If you're a debater, no matter your experience, you've probably heard of the rebuttal. However, if you're new to debate or just don't know much about it yet, then this article will give you some insight into how to use this vital tool in your next round!

What is a Rebuttal?

A rebuttal is a way to disprove, weaken, or turn your opponent's arguments. You can use it to expand on your own arguments or attack the opponent's position.

It is important to note that in general, there are three parts of a debate: introduction, rebuttal and summary.

In the introduction, you give an overview of the case you are making; in the rebuttal, you provide additional evidence or arguments to support your case, while also disproving any arguments of your opponents; and in the summary, you summarize your main ideas and offer analysis as to how the debate went (hopefully in your favour!). The key to a good rebuttal is to focus on the logic and reasoning behind your counterargument. You don’t want to get caught up in attacking your opponent personally or making personal attacks on their character!


Why Rebuttals are important in Debate?

Although you may not think it, debate is a competitive sport. Imagine rebuttals like defensive moves in other sports:

In tennis, you return the serve, not just hit offensive shots. The same is true for table tennis (ping pong), and badminton.  Tennis wouldn't be very much fun if each player served and then the point was over, right? What makes the sport engaging to watch and play is that the ball goes back and forth over the net until a player hits too strong a shot or until the other player makes a mistake.

Think of rebuttals like this! You want your rebuttal to either be too strong that your opponent can simply not return it, or to use rebuttals to force your opponent to make a mistake that leaves you an easy opening.


Before debates be sure to put yourself in your opponents' shoes and think of what arguments they are likely to run, then start poking holes in the reasoning, evidence, or impact. Not sounding so easy? That's ok! They may not be easy for every debater, but that's exactly why you should try your best to practice them - rebuttals can certainly win debates! Next we'll go over some types of rebuttals and how you can use them.

Types of Rebuttals

  • Offensive rebuttal: This rebuttal is used to attack your opponent's arguments, usually by challenging their logic or evidence. It can be the hardest to pull off, but can win debates if done right!

  • Defensive rebuttal: This rebuttal is used to defend yourself from attack, usually through explanations and clarifications of why your opponent's arguments are wrong or irrelevant. While this may not win a debate outright, it will keep your arguments standing!

  • Turning Rebuttal: This rebuttal does not aim to disprove your opponent's argument, but instead looks to show that their argument somehow supports your side of the debate

  • Counter rebuttal: A counter-rebuttal is a specific type of defensive response in which you directly address the points brought up by the opposition during their opening statement with new information that refutes those claims, such as statistics or expert testimony.

  • Closing Rebuttal: This final argument gives you one last chance to persuade your audience before they vote on who won the debate round! Don't be afraid to include emotive language & persuasive techniques here!

Let's take a look at the 2 more commonly used types of rebuttals:


Offensive Rebuttal

The rebuttal is a tool every debater should learn. It's an argument that you make to counter your opponent's main point and to undermine their argument. The primary goal of a rebuttal is to show that they are wrong, but it can also be used to make them look bad or like they have no idea what they're talking about.

It's important to remember that you can't just throw out any old argument and expect it to work. Your rebuttal needs to be based on the evidence they presented, and you should use the same kind of reasoning that they did. Try out this simple structure:

  • Our opponents stated that: [Summary of opponents argument]
  • However, this is flawed because: [Flaw in reasoning, evidence, or impact]
  • We say that: [Counterargument, reinforce your argument on opposite side]
  • Therefore: [Their argument is flawed & should not be considered in this debate]


Defensive Rebuttal

The rebuttal is an opportunity for you to defend your position, but it can also be used to rebut the arguments of the opposition. A defensive rebuttal is a type of rebuttal that allows you to defend against an argument made by your opponent.


To use this strategy effectively, think about what their argument was and how they presented it: did they make any claims? If so, what were those claims? Then state how those claims are wrong or misleading by providing evidence from sources like peer-reviewed journal articles or textbooks (preferably written by experts in their fields).

In addition to defending yourself against specific points made by others during debate rounds, keep in mind that some people will try using fallacies against you when arguing with them over certain issues; this means knowing how these fallacies work so that when someone tries using one against you without notice beforehand then simply remind them "that isn't relevant" before continuing on with whatever point was being discussed previously.


Using the Opening Affirmative Point to Shape the Debate's Topic

The first affirmative point is a great opportunity to frame the debate's topic in a way that supports your case. It will also give you an idea of how your opponent wants to respond, which can provide valuable information when making rebuttals and counter-offers later in the round.

The first negative point should respond directly to this framing by either challenging it or building on it with another framing device (such as "we still need X because Y"). This will help set up your rebuttal by allowing you to show how their argument has failed based on what they said in their own speech.


A rebuttal is a response to an argument. It can be used to counter arguments, defend your own arguments and attack your opponents' arguments. In addition, a rebuttal can be used to explain your own arguments or clarify what you mean by certain terms or phrases in them. Rebuttals are an important part of debate, and they can be used in many different ways. They allow you to shape the debate's topic in your favor. The best way to learn how to use them effectively is through practice and experimentation with different types of rebuttals until you find one that works well for you.


If this was helpful, check out an additional article HERE explaining how to prepare for your next debate competition.

Post by Tom Cronin