Structure and organization are integral components of an effective persuasive essay. No matter how intelligent the ideas, a paper lacking a strong introduction, well-organized body paragraphs and an insightful conclusion is not an effective paper.
Simply enough, the introductory paragraph introduces the argument of your paper. A well-constructed introductory paragraph immediately captures a reader’s interest and gives appropriate background information about the paper’s topic. Such a paragraph might include a brief summary of the ideas to be discussed in body of the paper as well as other information relevant to your paper’s argument. The most important function of the introductory paragraph, however, is to present a clear statement of the paper’s argument. This sentence is your paper’s thesis. Without a thesis, it is impossible for you to present an effective argument. The thesis sentence should reflect both the position that you will argue and the organizational pattern with which you will present and support your argument. A useful way to think about the construction of a thesis sentence is to view it in terms of stating both the “what” and the “how” of the paper’s argument. The “what” is simply the basic argument in your paper: what exactly are you arguing? The “how” is the strategy you will use to present this argument. The following are helpful questions for you to consider when formulating a thesis sentence:
- What is the argument that I am trying to convince the reader to accept?
- How exactly do I expect to convince the reader that this argument is sound?
Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to synthesize these answers into a single thesis sentence, or, if necessary, two thesis sentences.
For example: You want to convince your reader that the forces of industry did not shape American foreign policy from the late 19th century through 1914, and you plan to do this by showing that there were other factors which were much more influential in shaping American foreign policy. Both of these elements can be synthesized into a thesis sentence:
Fear of foreign influence in the Western hemisphere, national pride, and contemporary popular ideas concerning both expansion and foreign peoples had significantly more influence on American foreign policy than did the voices of industrialists.
This sentence shows the position you will argue and also sets up the organizational pattern of your paper's body.
The body of your paper contains the actual development of your paper’s argument. Each body paragraph presents a single idea or set of related ideas that provides support for your paper’s argument. Each body paragraph addresses one key aspect of your paper’s thesis and brings the reader closer to accepting the validity of your paper’s argument. Because each body paragraph should be a step in your argument, you should be mindful of the overall organization of your body paragraphs.
The first step in writing an effective body paragraph is the construction of the first sentence of this paragraph, the topic sentence. Just as the thesis sentence holds together your essay, the topic sentence is the glue binding each individual body paragraph. A body paragraph’s topic sentence serves two main purposes: introducing the content of the paragraph and introducing the next step of your argument. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of the topic sentence is to advance your paper's argument, not just to describe the content of the paragraph.
The first part in your thesis on page two states that fear of foreign influence in the Western Hemisphere had more influence on American foreign policy than did industry. Thus, you need to elaborate on this point in your body paragraphs.
An effective topic sentence for one of these paragraphs could be:
American fear of foreign influence was a key factor in the United States’ actions in the Spanish-American War. Subsequent body paragraphs might offer further evidence for the idea presented in this body paragraph.
A good way to test the strength of both your topic sentences and your argument as a whole is to construct an outline of your paper using only your paper's thesis statement and topic sentences. This outline should be a logical overview of your paper's argument; all of your paper’s topic sentences should work together to support your thesis statement.
A basic purpose of your paper’s concluding paragraph is both to restate the paper’s argument and to restate how you have supported this argument in the body of the paper. However, your conclusion should not simply be a copy of your introduction. The conclusion draws together the threads of the paper’s argument and shows where the argument of your paper has gone. An effective conclusion gives the reader reasons for bothering to read your paper. One of the most important functions of this paragraph is to bring in fresh insight. Some possible questions to consider when writing your conclusion are:
- What are some real world applications of this paper’s argument?
- Why is what I am writing about important?
- What are some of the questions that this paper’s argument raises?
- What are the implications of this paper’s argument?
While the organization and structure described in this handout are necessary components of an effective persuasive essay, keep in mind that writing itself is a fluid process. There are no steadfast rules that you need to adhere to as you write. Simply because the introduction is the first paragraph in your essay does not mean that you must write this paragraph before any other. Think of the act of writing as an exploration of ideas, and let this sense of exploration guide you as you write your essay.
by Adam Polak ’98 and Jen Collins ’96
The main purpose of writing a persuasive essay is, like the name suggests it, to convince the audience of a certain point. This type of academic writing task is also known as argumentative essay — it is expected that you use sufficient arguments to defend your position.
But what is persuasive essay writing exactly? How to nail it by making your reader take your side of the argument? How to write a persuasive essay and how to end it? What are the secrets of making your opponent believe you and winning the argument? Read on to discover some useful tips, hints, and tactics.
Let us start with some steps you should follow when writing an argumentative essay.
How to Write Argumentative Essay: Steps
Step 1: Preparation
- Choose a topic. It should be contradictory enough, with more than one point of view possible. Moreover, the author is supposed to select the topic that is dear to their heart to enjoy the process of writing later. Ensure that your topic is something specific. For example, the topics “Does Facebook Cause Isolation and How?” or “Are Security Cameras Invading Our Privacy?” are a great choice for those who are searching for something that’s not super broad. Remember, in case your stance on the issue can be easily boiled down to a simple “no/yes”, then, you won’t have too much talk on the topic. So, it’s better to choose a specific statement to disclose.
- Choose the side you are on. Now, your task is to choose your perspective and convince the reader of its legitimacy and logical supremacy as compared to other points of view. For instance, if your topic sounds like “Should Citizens Be Provided with the Right to Keep Exotic Pets?” you have to decide whether it’s their right to keep such animals at home or such pets create a serious danger to other individuals (let alone, keeping such pets is harmful to the animals!). Make certain that you can defend your position. In case you find it hard to consider any solid defenses against the opponent’s counter arguments, maybe it’s the right moment to re-think the topic you’ve picked.
- Pick an argument to appeal to human emotions. Thus, you will give your audience a chance to connect with what you’re saying. The reality is that people argue rationally quite rarely, which means that making them dive emotionally into your viewpoint is the amazing way to change their mind. Without a doubt, you’ll have to provide rational arguments in your argumentative essay, but things will be tough in case you introduce the topic that never arouses any feelings.
- Picture your audience. Which side of the argument are they on? What do you presume, will they agree or disagree with your perspective, or will they be indifferent or indecisive? You will need this information to understand how strong your evidence should be.
- Do a thorough research. Find robust evidence that supports your position. It might be facts, logical arguments, or statements from experts. Sometimes, inserting fragments of your personal experience can be helpful.
- Think about the objections your reader might raise. When elaborating a persuasive essay, you should try to overrule them with stronger evidence. Anticipate their counter-arguments and rebut them in advance.
- Organize your evidence. You should order it in the most persuasive way, usually by presenting the strongest arguments in the end, in order to rid your reader of any doubts.
These are some general steps; without them, you simply won’t write a persuasive essay. Still, if you want your paper to hit the bulls-eye and change the way your reader thinks, you need a few tactics. Below, we’ll share with you some tips on how to make argumentative essay most convincing.
Step 2: Structure Your Essay
Before you start working on your essay, you should consider drafting its structure first. If you are wondering how to write an argumentative essay outline, then it’s no different from any other essay outline. Just remember that the body paragraphs should correspond with your key arguments. For example, when you have a classic 5-paragraph essay, make sure that paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 dwell on an argument each. What’s more, consider tackling a possible counterargument in the third paragraph, in order to make your rationale more convincing.
You must be aware of not just your side of the argument, but also the one of your opponent. Acknowledgment of the opposing views is called concession. It allows you to win your argument more gracefully by first discovering the common ground with the opponent. Find out what kind of evidence they might use, what data they might operate, or what information they might appeal to. Then refute those with even stronger arguments. You might even mention the actual counter-arguments before confusing them.
Step 3: Write the Introduction
Importantly, you should think about how to write argumentative essay introduction and make it effective. We advise you to start your opening paragraph with a hook, an attention-grabber for your reader. You can insert a quote here, introduce a curious fact or draw some stats, or construct a vivid situation. Your hook is the very first sentence that can help you convince your audience. As long as it draws your reader in, you’ve done your job! For instance, feel free to start your persuasive essay on the necessity of entering college like this: “There are individuals, who have never been to college and are doing better than those with a degree.” This simple statement tells nothing special at all. However, it encourages your readers to keep on reading in order to find out why things are like that.
Do you feel like you can’t come up with a hook at the moment? Proceed to the next writing steps! You can always come back to this part later even after you’ve accomplished your project.
Then, it’s time for a thesis statement. In this sentence—the most important part of your essay — you should:
- introduce the topic;
- present your point of view;
- tell your readers how you are going to do that (e.g., by providing some factual evidence).
- Don’t forget about a transition to the body part of the essay.
Use the last sentence of every ‘body’ paragraph as a smooth transition to the next paragraph. Make sure to provide a natural transition from the last sentence of one paragraph to the first one of the next. For instance, the end of the paragraph: “Wearing a school uniform would blend all pupils together avoiding any class inequality” and the beginning of the following paragraph: “School uniforms provide students with the environment that is free from bullying.”
Ensure to construct a thesis statement that is both specific and focused. Your audience should know exactly what the author is going to debate and why. “Fracking Should Be Banned” is a pretty weak thesis since it’s not focused enough. A solid thesis statement would be, “While some people say that fracking is a very effective method to extract natural gas, the others insist that it’s quite dangerous and hazardous to the environment.”
Step 4: Write the Body
Every ‘body’ paragraph should be solidly focused on a single evidence. Make sure to include references and facts to support each of your claims. Use the so-called rule of thumb: every time you make a claim that isn’t a typical one for the subject, support it. One of the best ways to cope with it lies in reverse. Make sure your evidence leads you and your readers to your arguments.
Here is a good example of the case:
- “Liberty and equal opportunities aren’t just essential for people, they are good for the whole global community in general. What’s more, the lack of those is considered “demoralization and perversion” and prevents “any social improvement.” (Mill, 98)
Also, have a look at the poor one:
- “The prison helps to keep dangerous criminals and drug dealers off the cities, and people are safer because of that.”
However, if you support it with solid evidence, it won’t be pointless.
Just like in your research paper, dissertation or speech writing, challenging your audience is always a good idea! According to the basics of the persuasive essay writing, the author of the paper shouldn’t be confrontational. However, you need to force your audience to re-evaluate their points of view.
A good way to do so:
- “Every person wants lower crime rates, stronger families, and safer streets. However, we should ask ourselves if we’re ready to leave the comfort zone to get the desired results”
But, try to avoid those may sound poor:
- “This policy is a total failure and every individual that believes it is delusional and completely stupid.”
At a minimum, generate 3 ‘body’ paragraphs to justify your points and provide your evidence. Check how all the paragraphs flow together. It is important to ensure the persuasive essay points are naturally presented one after another, rather than scattered all over the text.
Step 5: Craft the Conclusion
So, we’ve given you a few tips on how to write persuasive essay introduction and what to remember about in your body paragraphs. Now, let’s get to the final point — how to end the persuasive essay. The main tips for closing your argumentative essay are to rephrase your thesis statement or summarize your main points (in this case, your key arguments). Then, to spice it all up, put your central statement in the broader context. Let your final sentence make the reader wonder, “what’s next?” They will surely want to know where they can go from here or how they can make use of their new point of view. A call for action, a recommendation, or just an open question might provide them with a hint.
Take a day or two off. Let your essay sit and your mind rest. Then, read your persuasive essay with fresh eyes. Ask yourself if your essay is logical and convincing.
Step 6: Polish Up Your Essay
OK, you've completed your persuasive essay, and the time for an effective revision has come. When you revise your essay, you have to ensure its organization is absolutely appropriate to your target audience, the paper context, and the purpose. Remember, the message of your essay will be both more controversial and effective if your project connects with the target audience, serves the specified purpose as well as explains the intended context to your readers. To make sure your writing is of the good quality, overlook this our step by step guide on how to perform a thorough revision of your assignment.
Start by reading your project to yourself paragraph after paragraph. Do that out loud to make certain your persuasive essay says what you have planned to say. Pay due attention to the way you use various types of sentences, how you choose the right words for the text as well as how you tend to express what’s on your mind. Do not hesitate to change what you feel should be changed. Feel free to switch the sentences location or order, add or erase words and ideas, or fix anything else in a paper structure or its context to make it better and more concise. Use the word counter to ensure your essay meets all the college requirements.
Then, approach your college mates and ask them to check your work to give you a fresh viewpoint about your writing. Listen to what they say and consider their tips to write a good persuasive paper.
Consider the following questions as a part of the revision process:
- Do the introduction, the body, and the concluding part of the essay include a clearly presented main idea with strong facts, explanations or/and details?
- Do you, as the writer, provide a consistent viewpoint, focus, and organizational outline, including the proper paragraphing?
- Have you successfully proved a clear understanding of the core purpose?
- Did you use various types of sentences?
- Does your content include any language errors – spelling, punctuation or grammar ones?
- Have you removed every error that wouldn’t let your audience understand the text?
Summing it up, the “how to write argumentative essay effectively” formula is simple: present your point of view on a controversial topic, support your arguments with strong evidence, and always keep your opponents in mind. In this article, we have walked you through the essential steps in writing an argumentative essay and prepared some tips for each part of your piece. Now it’s your turn to use all of these in practice and craft a powerful persuasive text.