In your essay, you will state an opinion about an academic topic and persuade readers to agree with your opinion.
Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your outline.
When you research for a persuasive essay, look for the opinions of the supporters, but also look for the opinions of the opponents. To best support your opinion, you will need to consider all of your audience, even those who have different opinions. Strong support often acknowledges the opposite point of view.
You can use a mind map, a free write, a general internet search, or a discussion group if you are having a difficult time thinking of things to write about.
As you brainstorm, you may want to consider the following questions:
1. Opinion: What do I think?
2. Reason: Why do I think it?
3. Evidence: How do I know?
4. Appeal: How can I convince my reader of my opinion?
Questions 1-3 adapted from (Sedita, 2017, para. 7)
While it is okay to choose a personally difficult or sensitive topic to write your essay on if given the choice of choosing your own topic, you may find it more difficult as you continue researching, writing, and revising. It is okay in those situations to talk with your teacher and switch your essay topic to a different one. If you feel comfortable writing about the topic, feel free to continue to do so, but if dealing with that topic becomes too much, it is okay to change topics.
Make sure the topic isn't too broad to cover in your essay. If you choose to state a broad opinion, you will need a lot of evidence to support the broad opinion that you have. Furthermore, when you have a broad topic, your readers will likely have more doubts about your opinion because they can think of more exceptions or other reasons that your opinion might not be true. Therefore, it is easier to defend an opinion with a more narrow focus and to do so with the time and word count restraints of a school assignment.
You can use these questions to find the focus of your essay:
As you determine your focus, also determine which of the effective rhetoric appeals would best help you support the narrowed topic you choose. Would ethos, pathos, or logos best convince your reader that your opinion is right? You can use one, two, or all three appeals if you think it will help your argument. For more information on effective rhetoric Purdue OWL's resources on this topic.
Also, begin an outline for your essay. As you research your topic, start organizing your findings. Some people begin an outline by listing topics and quotes. Others write topic sentences and supporting sentences. A persuasive essay follows typical essay organization, but you may find the body paragraphs don't always follow the regular 5-paragraph essay rules. You may need to plan for more or fewer body paragraphs depending on the support you need for your opinion.
Your introduction should start by describing any background that will be important for the reader to know.
Here are some questions that can help you think about background information that the reader needs to be able to understand the problem:
At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should give your thesis. The thesis should clearly state the opinion that you will defend in your essay.
Everyone should begin taking small steps today to begin reducing the negative effects of air pollution on our environment, our health, and the global climate.
Review the characteristics of an effective thesis as needed. For a persuasive essay, it is especially important that you don't simply state a fact; your thesis should be an opinion. You can tell if it is an opinion by asking if someone else could have a different opinion on the topic. For example, "Dogs are animals." is a fact, but "Dogs are the best pets ever." is an opinion. Someone else could think that cats or some other animal are the best pets, so you can tell it is an opinion.
An effective thesis statement...
Your body paragraphs should give reasons that support your thesis. As you plan your essay, you should think about what type of appeal you will use to convince your reader your opinion is correct. You will need to use effective rhetoric to convince the reader.
Rhetoric is "the art of speaking or writing effectively" using principles of composition made by ancient critics to communicate and persuade (Merriam-Webster, 2022). Rhetoric was created by the ancient Greeks to effectively communicate and persuade (Sloane and Perelman, 2022). Aristotle, a famous Greek philosopher, divided rhetorical appeals into what we now call ethos, pathos, and logos (Sloane and Perelman, 2022).
Ethos is the appeal to authority. This is where you use experts or show yourself to be an expert in order to get the reader to trust you and believe your opinion.
Pathos is the appeal to emotion. This is where you use the emotions of the reader, specifically their emotional response to what you write, to convince them to agree with your opinion
Logos is the appeal to logic. This is where you use logical reasoning and evidence to show readers why they should believe your opinion. This is one of the most common appeals you will use in academic writing.
Watch this video from Texas A&M University Writing Center. Can you identify the different examples of ethos, pathos, and logos in the video?
|A commercial for basketball shoes that features a celebrity basketball player saying how great the shoes are.
|Telling a sad story about dogs in animal shelters to convince people not to give dogs as surprise presents.
|Explaining that everyone should drive more carefully in winter weather because accidents increase by X% with snow on the roads.
As you try to persuade your reader, you can use these appeals to convince them. You can use one, two, or all of the appeals in the defense of your opinion.
Optional Opposition Paragraph
Another way to support your opinion in the body paragraphs is actually to add a counterargument that shows how other people may disagree with you. This is optional in a persuasive essay. You follow this counter-argument with your reply or rebuttal about why your opinion is still good despite what the other opinion may be. This can be done in its own paragraph(s) or worked into the supporting paragraphs. A counterargument is usually followed by evidence for the counterargument and then a rebuttal with evidence for the rebuttal. When writing the counterargument, make sure you keep a respectful tone in your writing.
Example Opposition Paragraph:
Some people say that regulations on guns are unwise because....
The evidence they offer in opposition to these regulations includes....
|There is evidence to support this such as...
If you use a counterclaim, you will want your counterclaim to be strong so your rebuttal can stand out and give really good support to your opinion. If you give a good rebuttal to a strong and fairly presented counterclaim, your opinion will be even more convincing to the reader.
Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis to remind your reader of your main idea, your opinion. Then you should discuss your problem more generally and apply your opinion to the general context you established in your introduction. The middle part of your conclusion could be a summary or it could build on the information from your body paragraphs to apply the ideas of your essay to a bigger community.
You can end with a closing statement that is a suggestion, prediction, or opinion. For persuasive essays, you might also try using a call to action, asking your readers to join you in your cause.
Call to Action Examples:
Make an outline for the example essay "Students Should Keep Using Physical Textbooks" at the start of this unit.
Make an outline for an essay with the following prompt.
Prompt: What is one way your town should improve? Support your answer with reasons and details.
Your outline could include any of the following parts in the order that you think would be most effective for convincing people of your opinion.
Read the titles of persuasive essays below. Consider the topic of the essay, and then write an effective thesis sentence for each one. Your thesis statement should clearly state your opinion.
1. Card Games: Boring or Brain Building?
2. Why Everyone Should Go Camping
3. Designated Napping Zones on College Campuses?
Revise the thesis statements to be more effective for a persuasive essay.
Identify which appeal is being used in each sentence. Write E for ethos, P for pathos, and L for logos. If more than one appeal is being used, you can write more than one letter.
Write a topic sentence to answer the prompt below as though you were writing a persuasive paragraph. Then write 1-2 sentences of support for your opinion using ethos, pathos, and logos.
Some people consider carving a pumpkin for Halloween a wasteful tradition while others consider it an acceptable part of the holiday festivities. In your opinion, is Halloween pumpkin carving good or bad?
Write a rebuttal for the counterclaim below.
Thesis Opinion: All school grades should include at least one day of mandatory outdoor classes.
Counterclaim: While there may be many benefits to outdoor classes, with outdoor classes come more opportunities for students to get hurt through physical activity, inclement weather, or even seasonal allergies.
Read the titles of essays below and write a call to action for each one.
1. Comic Books' and Graphic Novels' Place in Reading Education
2. Vanity in Today's Generation
3. Do Essential Oils Work?
4. Multi-Generational Homes
Read the outline for an essay about vaccines. Evaluate it. What would make the outline more effective? Revise the outline to better support an opinion.
TH = thesis statement, TS = topic sentence, RTH = restated thesis statement
Complete the outline below by filling in the six blanks. You may need to write phrases or sentences to show your ideas. You may also need to fill in the missing cohesive devices to show the relationship between the ideas.
TH = thesis statement, TS = topic sentence, CC = counterclaim, R = rebuttal, RTH = restated thesis statement
Make an outline for an argumentative essay that answers the prompt below.
Prompt: What is the best breakfast food? Support your opinion with examples and details.
Beall, G., (2017) How hackers are using social media to hack. Retrieved From https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/08/23/hackers-using-social-media-hack/
Costello, Jane. (2015). Students’ stories of studying abroad : Reflections upon return. Journal of International Students, Volume 5, Issue 1, 50-59. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1052834.pdf
Sedita, J. (2017, March 1). Teaching Basic Argument Writing Components [web log]. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from https://keystoliteracy.com/blog/teaching-basic-argument-writing-components/.
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