A Step by Step Guide for Writing A Persuasive Essay
A persuasive essay is an essay that is written by one party, in this case the student, in order to convince a second party, the lecturer or course facilitator, to take your side in an argument. A persuasive essay is like a court of law, where you expound both fact and logic in order to woo the jury to your side.
Writing a persuasive essay is easy. However, writing an effective persuasive essay that convinces your intended to wholeheartedly join you and one that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that yours is the side to be is the ultimate goal.
In order to achieve this, Unemployed Professors have come up with a list of step by step guidelines to help you deliver the most effective persuasive essay you could conjure up.
There are five steps involved in a persuasive essay. These are;
- Take a stance
- Know your audience
- Conduct thorough research
- Structure your essay
- Writing the essay
These steps, with a detailed explanation, are expounded below.
- Take a stance
This simply means taking a position on the topic at hand. This is usually the perspective that you share and the one that you want to convince your audience that it is the right one. It can be a position on gun rights, abortion or any other sensitive topic assigned by the professor. Here are some tips in choosing a position on an argument.
- Pick a position you can identify with – It is much easier to convince someone on a topic you are intimately acquainted to than it is with a topic you barely understand. For example, if the topic is on bullying, you can pick a stand that allows you to outline how you felt when being bullied in your previous school.
- Pick the easier side – Some topics may have a side that is significantly easier to support, or one that already has a lot of content and public opinion in its favor. Such a position would be easier to research on and get strong points on than an obscure side whose facts are scattered and significantly harder to find.
- Pick a side that you are strongly convinced is the right one – Sometimes you may not have personal experience on an issue but you may have strong feelings towards or against a certain argument. A persuasive essay, unlike an argumentative essay, allows you to weigh in your personal experiences and feelings and you cannot go wrong in choosing a side that you are emotionally involved invested in.
- Choose the moral side – Some topics are hinged on what is morally right or wrong. A persuasive topic is much easier to write on if it has a strong moral basis to it. More often than not, this side also has better arguments to add weight to it.
You may still be wondering, “What if the topic is not given or you have to choose your own topic for the persuasive essay from a list of pres elected topics?”. Worry not. The next section will help you select a good topic for your essay, either from a list or on your own.
Choosing a topic for a persuasive essay
Based on the modern world and current events, you can never run short of juicy topics to write about. We compiled a few Dos and Don’ts when choosing a persuasive essay topic.
When choosing a topic, you should choose a topic that;
- Is a controversial issue.
- Has at least two sides to it.
- You feel strongly about.
- Has a lot of depth and complexity.
- You are able to justify, regardless of whichever stand you take for or against it.
You should not choose a topic that:
- Can be answered with a simple yes or no.
- Doesn’t have enough information about it.
- Is outdated or has already been resolved.
- Has too many sides or can easily be refuted.
Persuasive essay topics you can write on
Some issues you can write on include;
- Social media is a threat to education.
- Sports players are paid too much money.
- Churches should be taxed.
- College education should be free of charge.
- Know your audience
After choosing your topic and taking a stance, the next step is knowing your audience. This is easy if your audience is your college professor and you have spent some time with them and know something about their opinions and beliefs.
However, when writing for a broader audience, care should be taken on the kind of voice you choose on the essay.
One of the greatest persuasive essays ever written is Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. The letter was written in response to a newspaper article written by eight clergymen condemning King’s methods against racism.
King’s shows great understanding in his response by using biblical analogies and quotes from Christian writings over the millennia to justify his cause and his means to attain racial equality for all Americans.
Such is the understanding you need to write a persuasive essay. Here are some pointers
- What does your audience think about your stand?
- Why would they disagree with your position?
- What angle would you best reach out to them?
- Are they indifferent to other takes on the issue or are they indecisive?
Once you have the answers to the above questions, you can then go ahead to determine how strong your argument should be in order to convince them to take your position on the matter.
After coming up with an angle, you can then think of counter-arguments that the specific audience you are addressing could come up with against your points and how you can disprove them.
You should also choose arguments that resonate with your audience so as to have an easier time winning them over to your side.
- Conduct Thorough Research
This is undoubtedly, the most important step in writing an effective persuasive essay. Emotions, passion, charisma and personal experiences can only go as far as getting you the attention of the audience.
In order to truly arrest your audience and lure them to your side of the argument, you need to conduct a thorough research and come up with concrete points to cement your position on the issue.
A good and compelling factual basis will soften the stand of even the most bigoted and diehard person.
A good place to start your research is the school or local library. The library is filled with information that could prove invaluable to your argument.
Other places you can get facts to support your position include;
- Newspaper articles and magazines that cover the issue.
- Research papers written on the topic.
- Conduct your own research – this can be done by interviewing people in your locality or through online forms in order to reach a broader audience.
That being said, you are bound to encounter some sources that are either weak or strong. Weak sources are sources that are written with a limited or biased point of view. These sources easily crumble in the face of logic.
Strong sources, on the other hand, can survive much screening. These are the sources you should prioritize when drumming up support for your argument. You will have an easier time defending them against doubt and criticism.
In this research phase, you can re-evaluate the counterarguments that you discover along the way and how these can be debunked.
It is possible to get stuck in this area probably because of the lack of sources you can use to support your stand or because the topic you chose is not controversial enough. If this is the case, you can begin from step one again and select a different topic altogether or try taking the other side of the argument.
- Structure of the essay
In this step, you should take a look at the points you have made to support your argument and the sources you have managed to get that support it.
After considering those points, you can assign random values to them to show the strength of the point. This could be a simple 0 to 5 scale with 5 being the strongest point(s) and 0 being the weakest ones.
In order to deliver a good argument, your stronger points and supported arguments should come first. This helps in increasing the effectiveness of your essay.
It is also in this step that you can find a logical flow of thought to the points you have outlined and how you can blend them to each other. The goal of this is to ease your audience into your opinion instead of just forcing it upon them.
Stating point after point in each subsequent paragraph without finding a link for them will only make your essay feel condescending. Your audience will be less inclined to adopt your view of the matter if the essay has a condescending tone to it.
- Writing the essay
After all has been said and done, it is time to settle down for some serious business. Armed with your points, evidence and anything else you might need, it is time to fire up that word processor on your computer and start typing away.
Structure of a persuasive essay
A persuasive essay, or any other essay for that matter, is divided into three parts;
The introduction typically consists of a hook, some background info and a thesis statement.
A hook is basically a statement or statements carefully designed to capture the attention of your audience. The hook can be a point or a general statement. Whatever hook you choose, it should be able to arouse curiosity in the reader and prompt them to go on with your essay.
An example of a hook can be “The number of abortions has experienced a sharp increase in the past few years”.
- Background info
Background info is a small story explaining the fact stated in your hook or giving a brief history of the issue at hand. In our case, the background info can include a brief analysis of abortion rates in the past twenty years and why you are convinced that the rate is increasing. You can also suggest a reason why the statement in the hook is happening.
- Thesis statement
The thesis is the most important sentence in your essay. The thesis statement is a statement that informs the audience of the position you take on the topic.
The thesis statement is a central nerve that attempts to tie all your arguments together into a convincing argument. It also gives a preview of the type of evidence you will use to convince your reader that your opinion on the matter is the better one.
The body is the area where you present your arguments in a logical manner that was predetermined in an earlier step. In a typical 5-paragraph essay, this is the middle 3 paragraphs.
Each paragraph in the body should contain;
- A point that backs up or attempts to support the position you took on the topic.
- A topic sentence that lets the reader know what argument the paragraph intends to propose.
- Argumentative support for the point detailed in that specific paragraph.
- Evidence from a reliable source or sources that support your argument.
- A transition phrase to link the paragraph to the previous one. These include statements like
- In addition
- Another reason why…
All over the body, remember to appeal to the emotions of the reader. It is easier to convince the reader when they are emotionally compromised on the issue at hand.
You should also use the body to stump out any counter-arguments that may arise in relation to a certain point in your essay.
You should also make sure that the evidence you choose wholly supports your side of the argument. Ambiguous evidence may end up being in support for the other side of the argument.
Remember to challenge your audience all over the essay. This works by forcing your audience to re-evaluate the issue from your point of view.
Lastly, ensure you maintain a logical flow of thought and a smooth transition between the paragraphs to avoid losing your audience along the way.
A good conclusion restates the thesis statement and highlights the key points that you used to support it.
The conclusion also addresses some of the questions that the arguments in the essay might have provoked.
It is also a good idea to finish the essay with a food for thought for the reader. You can also end the essay with a call for action or an open question to provoke your audience.
- If at any point in the essay you feel as if you’ve lost your way, take a step back and rally your thoughts before going on.
- You can discuss the topic with your friends in order to get a better grasp of it.
- Read and revise the essay well to avoid gaps in the flow of the essay and other miscellaneous errors.
- Cite the sources used in the body.
- After completing the essay, take a few days and then re-read it. Does it convince you? If not, then it may not be effective on the audience.
- If the persuasive essay proves too difficult for you to handle, you can always contact us for assistance because at Unemployed Professors, we are always ready to lend a hand.