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What Is a Rebuttal?

Attorneys often call expert witnesses with contrasting opinions to rebut the argument of the opposing side.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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A rebuttal is a response to evidence or an argument which is intended to refute it. In law, the rebuttal comes up in a very specific context, and the idea of the rebuttal in law has been expanded to other areas of human endeavor. For example, rebuttals are integrated into the structure of debates. When making a rebuttal, people can use a variety of techniques to respond to the statement or evidence they are challenging.

In a court of law, both sides are expected to file information with the court before the start of the case about the witnesses and evidence they intend to use. This gives them a chance to prepare ahead of time, and part of the preparation includes rebuttals. For example, if the defense says that it plans to call a weather expert to testify about the weather conditions on the day of the event in question, the prosecution may decide to call a witness of its own with the goal of refuting any arguments made by the defense witness.

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In situations where evidence which was unexpected is presented, the court also gives the opposing counsel an opportunity for a rebuttal which can include surprise evidence or a surprise witness. In this case, the rebuttal is limited only to the information under discussion. For example, if a weather expert says “driving conditions on the day of the crime were such that the defendant could not have traveled between work and the park in the allotted time,” the rebuttal can include a refutation of that statement, but not an introduction of new evidence.

The rebuttal offers an opportunity to respond to evidence, an argument, or a claim. During the rebuttal, an attempt is made to refute or invalidate the information, and a variety of tactics may be used ranging from questioning the credentials of the witness to showing that another version of events may be just as plausible. Rebuttals are deemed an important part of a fair trial, as many legal systems protect the right to respond to evidence and witnesses.

In debate, another area in which the rebuttal is frequently used, people are usually given a short period of time to rebut arguments made by the opposing side. People can also rebut arguments during their closing statements, a tactic which is sometimes utilized to leave people with the rebuttals fresh in their minds. A well crafted counterargument can sway the response to a debate very effectively.

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anon334956
Post 4

How about in science fair conclusions?

anon279448
Post 3

During a criminal trial, can the prosecution during rebuttal introduce surprise evidence that had not been discussed or brought out during the entire trial or during the pretrial discovery?

Sunny27
Post 2

@SauteePan - I agree that knowing the opposing argument as well as your own is going to make you stronger when you develop your rebuttal because when you understand the opposing side you have a quick come back when you are challenged.

You really have to think about what potential challenges that you will face and have an answer ready. Most topics have no right or wrong answer because both points of view are equally valid. For example, if you have to do a rebuttal video realize that the flipside of your argument is equally valid as well and maintain a level of respect to your opponent.

SauteePan
Post 1

I think that knowing the pros and cons of an argument is going to put you in a better position to develop a rebuttal. A great way to develop rebuttal essay topics is to look at opinion editorials from major newspapers.

These sample opinions give you great topics to discuss and also provides information on how they formulated the opinion.

You can then develop a rebuttal to the essay which is great practice when you are on a debate team or having to write a persuasive essay.

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