How to Write a Discursive Essay

Write a concise discursive essay to inform and persuade.
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A discursive essay, sometimes called a argument essay, is a critical analysis of a controversial topic that supports an opinion about that topic. The writer of a discursive essay attempts to present both sides of an issue, while showing why one side has greater merit. Discursive writing is a good way to learn how to structure an argument logically and to anticipate and counter the arguments of the other side. These fundamentals are essential for a good essay.

Introduce a controversial topic in the first paragraph and explain the topic and how you feel about it.

Explain your strongest argument in the second paragraph. This should be the most compelling piece of evidence that you can support logically to aid your position. Strengthen it with expert opinions, statistics and real-world examples, but avoid anecdotal claims, especially when writing college essays.

Write supporting paragraphs in descending order of importance. Each paragraph should illustrate a single argument.

Explain the counterarguments to your essay's thesis. Explain their beliefs and reasoning as completely as possible. Don't artificially weaken your opponent's arguments. Your essay will be stronger if you represent the counterarguments fairly.

Explain why you reject the opponent's arguments. Your reasons might be moral, practical or logical. You may start with a concession statement, admitting that some of the opposing arguments are valid, but state that you still think your side is right.

Write a conclusion for your discursive essay that acknowledges your opponents' principal argument, and explain why you don't subscribe to it. For example, if you were writing a paper against the death penalty, you might say, "I acknowledge that murderers deserve the most severe punishment society has, but I believe the death penalty should not be used because it can lead to the execution of innocent people."

Isaiah David is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has over five years experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.