Acknowledgment & Response

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of explaining warrants when necessary, it’s important to discuss acknowledging the opposition to your argument (or portions of it) and responding appropriately. We can think of this task as tackling charges of problems with the logical structure of our arguments (i.e. claims, reasons, evidence. We can refer to this as as “intrinsic soundness”). Though, much of the task with acknowledgment is spent addressing various alternatives to framing the problem the way you do, or considerations of evidence you may have overlooked (we can refer to this as “extrinsic soundness”). It’s not necessarily the case that there will be stark objections that you have to entertain—issues are very rarely black/white, yes/no. This is why it’s important to understand the nuances of your argument so you can anticipate reasonable counterarguments and respond to them. It’s not that you just pull something out of the air that someone could say in response to what you’re saying and then beat it down (this is a Straw Man fallacy). The considerations must be reasonable insofar as someone who is actually invested in the issue may actually have a problem with what you’re asserting and have good reason to take such a problem.

When imagining these kinds of considerations, it’s necessary to have your audience in mind—the stakeholders in what you’re arguing.  Thus, it’s key to think of the actual stakes they have in what you’re saying and what they will say to push back.  And research audiences are not pushovers.  It is helpful to try and put yourselves in their shoes when thinking about possible objections to you portions of your argument: What would people interested in your project say in response to what you present?  More specifically, what would the authors of your sourcework say?

Consider the following dialogue:

Kelly: Sally, you should stop eating soy because it is bad for your health.
Narrator: Sally is making the claim backed up by the one reason—soy is bad for you.
Sally: Wait, what? How is soy bad for me? What about Silken tofu smoothies? Soybean salads? I thought that soy was the health food of choice!
Kelly: Uh, yeah Sally…maybe in the 90s. But recent studies have shown that frequent soy intake can lead to an increase in risk of breast cancer because of high estrogen levels. In fact, Smirkens and Willis (2012) showed that soybeans are the most concentrated source of isoflavones in our diet, and that since isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors, they can have similar effects as estrogen. You don’t want to take this risk so you shouldn’t eat soy. Think about the isoflavones!
Narrator: Here, Kelly is using research to support her assertion that soy is bad for one’s health because of the increased risk of breast cancer.
Sally: Wait a minute… aren’t isoflavones good things? I remember reading a study conducted by Tompkins and White (2013) that showed isoflavones’ positive effects on regulating cell growth, which actually protects us against some cancers. Additionally, Blanch and Phillips (2011) showed that isoflavones have shown to moderately help cholesterol levels. So, I don’t know about all this isoflavone talk.
Narrator: Sally, not too keen on what Kelly is proposing, responds to the point by explaining other evidence supporting an alternative position on isoflavones.
Kelly: Okay, you may be right that Smirkens and Willis’s study may have been too limited—isoflavones may not be all that bad.
Narrator: Kelly is now necessarily conceding a bit given the evidence presented and the limitations of the study she references.
Kelly: Though, there are other reasons why soy is bad for you. For instance, look at processed foods like soy burgers and soy energy bars. When items such as these include the words “soy protein” on the package, it means that they are processed. As Terry and Calvin (2013) showed in their comprehensive study of the Boca “Chik’n” patty, this means that many of the original essential nutrients are stripped from the food. Eating these products only seems healthy given the soy hype–they are just empty nutrients.
Narrator: Kelly is now offering and supporting another reason that soy should not be consumed—certain soy products are bankrupt of nutrients.
Sally: Ugh! I hate empty nutrients!
Kelly: Don’t we all?

The major points here:
*You must make acknowledgements to rebuttals when making claims–nothing is perfect.
*These rebuttals come from your research–you don’t just make them up.
*Conceding to certain points does not mean that your argument is bad–it just means that you need to continue to support your point with additional reasons/evidence.

 The major major point: it’s your job to establish relevant and real acknowledgments you must make given your argument.  This demonstrates your credibility to the reader and helps establish trust, which is essential.

To help illustrate this major major point, previous wonderful UTAs wrote this sample paragraph using the language of A&R. Pay attention to the choices they made with verbs and adverbs when signaling—you will need to make the same kinds of moves when making such points.

Vegetarianism contributes to a healthier diet by eliminating from the diet the saturated fat and cholesterol found in many meat products. However, author Keegan Vegan (2013) noted that many vegetarians consume eggs for added protein, in which case they are not significantly cutting cholesterol out of their diets due to the high cholesterol content in eggs. “In just two eggs,” Vegan points out, “a vegetarian can already exceed his or her recommended daily cholesterol intake” (p. 53). While it is true that vegetarians need to watch how much egg product they are consuming, cholesterol in eggs can be eliminated rather simply. Consumers can separate the egg yolks, which contain the most cholesterol, from the egg whites and use only the egg whites. On the other hand, eliminating meat from the diet also raises the issue of losing other nutrients provided by meat. Author Laura Carnivora (2012) asserted that removing meats from the diet cuts out valuable sources of nutrients like iron and vitamin B12, of which eggs and dairy products contribute significantly less (p. 102). While meats are rich sources of many essential vitamins and nutrients, the vegetarian can obtain these nutrients through a well-researched combination of other fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Substitutions of fruits and vegetables also provide additional necessary nutrients that meat does not contain, while reducing intake of cholesterol and saturated fat at the same time. Through diligence and well-researched choices, vegetarians can make positive substitutions for protein and the vitamins and minerals found in meat while cutting out the negative components in many meat products.

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