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Even confident writers find the task of essay writing daunting.

Given the right amount of guidance and encouragement, students across a broad spectrum of ages and abilities can find the process manageable and enjoyable.

So, whether you’re a student looking to impress a teacher on your next assignment or an educator looking to help your pupils produce excellent pieces of writing, we’ve put together the following helpful guide detailing how to write a persuasive essay.

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What makes a persuasive paper?

Virtually all persuasive writing displays an academic and confident tone and the ability to use reason and logic to make a particular point of view seem convincing. Writing a persuasive essay also involves conducting plenty of prior research and collecting facts that can be woven throughout the piece.

Topics for persuasive essays

Persuasive essay titles need to be open-ended and, ideally, provocative. This will give them plenty of opportunities to thoroughly research the topic and angle their answer toward their point of view. If you’re a teacher hoping to come up with some good essay titles or a student tasked with inventing your intriguing question, we’ve listed a few examples below:

  • Cats or dogs: which is the better pet?
  • Should biological weapons ever be used?
  • Are humans fundamentally good?
  • Does genetics determine human behavior?
  • Is the death penalty ever justified?
  • Should borders between countries be abolished?

A step-by-step guide to writing the perfect persuasive research essay

Before jumping in and writing your essay, it is important to conduct sufficient research to ensure that your argument is well-informed and grounded in fact. Remember that the whole purpose of persuasive writing is to convince readers to reconsider or accept a specific notion. This is almost impossible without having a decent grasp of both sides of the argument. An effective persuasive essay can offer a convincing argument and an informed explanation about why the opposing side is incorrect. To help you approach the essay, try taking the following steps:

1. Planning the essay

Whether you’re writing under timed conditions or have weeks left to submit your essay, the planning stage of the process is hugely important and should never be overlooked. To ensure that you have planned effectively, make sure that you complete the following tasks:

  1. Decide what position you want to take: This may seem obvious, but it is very important. Persuasive essays should not be ambivalent.
  2. Gauge the right tone for your audience: Understanding the reader’s perspective and level of background knowledge is essential if you want to convince them effectively. Are they likely to drift towards one side of the argument? How can you persuade them to agree with you?
  3. Research, research, research: A successful persuasive essay is always supported by ample facts and evidence. Do not rely on one book or a single piece of the source material. Rather, use various reference materials and take as many notes as possible. During this process, you may even change which side of the argument you fall on.
  4. Pick out the most convincing pieces of evidence: This will help you to write eloquent arguments. It is also a good idea to identify the most convincing arguments likely to be given by the other side and write about why they are wrong or questionable.

2. Coming up with an effective persuasive essay format

Next on the agenda is to develop an outline for your essay. Start by organizing your sources and facts in a way that offers a persuasive argument. Usually, a persuasive essay will feature around five paragraphs or sections and will be organized in the following way:

Introductory section

This will include a paragraph or two and capture the reader’s attention by offering an intriguing or controversial “hook”. You should also include an overview of your argument and close the section with a clear statement of your thesis.

Middle paragraphs

Each paragraph or section in the main body of the text should focus on one idea or piece of evidence. You should explain thoroughly why this evidence is relevant to your argument.

A paragraph explaining the opposing view

Spend at least a paragraph explaining the main ideas offered by those on the other side of the argument and why you believe they are incorrect.

The conclusion

The conclusion should draw together the argument, restating and reinforcing your central thesis.

3. Draft the essay

When drafting your essay, it is a good idea to make sure that you have addressed the following points:

  1. The introductory paragraph must be clear and captivating. You could even grab the reader’s attention with a hook, such as a shocking statistic, a provocative question, or an interesting quotation.
  2. The reader should be certain of your thesis.
  3. Each paragraph or section in the body of your essay should address a different point and feature plenty of statistics, facts, and quotations.
  4. You could try various ways to make your arguments, including using analogies or addressing hypothetical situations.
  5. Make sure you do not take your audience’s knowledge level for granted. Define any tricky or technical terms and give plenty of background information.
  6. Ensure your conclusion summarizes the evidence and encourages the reader to adopt your viewpoint. The final sentence should be captivating and affect the reader. It may want them to take action or to think more deeply about a certain issue. You may also want to offer recommendations regarding what the reader can do to address the problem.

4. Revise your draft essay

Once you have come up with a first draft, you can start reviewing, reorganizing, and editing your writing. To ensure that the essay is as persuasive and eloquent as possible, you should try to answer the following questions:

  • Is the opening of the essay engaging? Will readers want to keep reading?
  • Does the essay take a confident stand on the issue, and is your viewpoint backed up by sufficient examples, facts, quotations, and statistics?
  • Does every paragraph or section include enough evidence to support a particular point?
  • Are your sentences varied in terms of length and word choice? Do they hang together well, and is the transition between ideas easy to follow?
  • Does your conclusion encourage the reader to act or think deeply about an issue?

If your essay does not address one or more of these questions, read it and consider whether your argument is strong enough. Test your thesis by trying to plan an essay that favors the opposite side. This could help you to strengthen your argument.

5. Edit the essay

Once you have drawn up an essay that you believe is convincing, you must proofread it to eliminate any grammar or spelling errors. You may also wish to make tweaks to improve the style and clarity of your prose. One way to do this is by asking a friend to read through the essay and offer helpful hints or tips.

6. Use any feedback

Once you have submitted the essay and received feedback, it is important to consider any comments about how you can improve future persuasive essays. If you’re still struggling to master the art of essays, it may be worth checking out these persuasive writing examples.