Discursive Writing
• Choose a topic you find interesting. Research this topic
and write a discursive essay which presents a range of
arguments on this topic.
Step 1: Persuasive or argumentative?
• Persuasive
• Where you give your
personal opinion on a
topic or issue, and
endeavour to persuade
the reader to your way of
thinking. Works best if
you are genuinely
committed to the issue.
• Argumentative
• Allows you to consider, in
a balanced way, the pros
and cons of a particular
topic or issue. Useful if
you feel there are strong
arguments on a least two
sides of the issue or
Step 2: Choosing your topic.
• Pick something relevant to you.
• You are going to have to demonstrate knowledge and
understanding of your issues, as well as do extended
reading and research, so it is best if you choose
something in which you have a genuine interest and on
which you have a genuine opinion.
Possible Tasks
• Choose something that matters to you e.g.
– A local environmental issue
– A charity you want people to support
– Supporting your local high street
Or consider national issues e.g.
- 16 and 17 year olds having the vote
- Scottish independence
- The Commonwealth Games
• Or consider ‘broader’ issues e.g.
– Global Warming
– Cruelty to animals (fox hunting; cosmetic testing;
battery hens etc.)
– Mobile Phones
Creating a Task
• Question or Statement?
Have people have become overly dependent on technology?
Is marriage still important?
Both parents should assume equal responsibility in raising a child.
Participating in team sports helps to develop good character.
The production and sale of cigarettes should be made illegal.
To encourage healthy eating, higher taxes should
be imposed on soft drinks and junk food.
• Zoos are cruel places for animals and
should be shut down.
Step 3: Sourcing relevant and reliable
• How do you find the information you need from books,
articles in journals, magazines and newspapers, to begin
research for a discursive essay?
• What information do you want from the source?
• Look initially at the title of the book or article, the
contents page and the index if they are present. Do they
indicate that the information you are looking for is here?
If so your next step is to skim-read the information to see
if it is useful. If it seems to be, read over it again
• When you are first presented with a written source of
information about the topic how you should consider
whether the information is:•
• Biased or balanced
• Relevant
• Reliable
• Supported by evidence
• Up to date
• Internet Research
• The above is particularly important to ensure the
reliability of internet sources.
• Always check the information on more than one site.
• Access RELIABLE websites e.g. newspapers; BBC,
Government web pages etc.
• Use KEY WORDS to focus on relevant and reliable
information and narrow your search.
• Remember, to research both sides of the debate.
Look at sites that contain arguments both for and
Step 4: Recording your sources
• It is essential that you give credit to information and
ideas from other sources. At the end of your essay you
must provide a bibliography, or a list of sources you
have consulted during your research.
• Make sure you keep this record as you go – you may
find it very difficult to go back and find sources later.
Step 5: Note-taking – WRITING Skills
• You MUST NOT copy chunks of information from any text, nor can
you copy or paste from a source to a word document.
• This is Plagiarism: taking ideas/ passages / sentences from someone
else’s work and presenting them as your own.
• Instead you must:
• Summarise: sum up the key points, in your own words
• Paraphrase: write down someone else’s ideas in your own words.
• Quote: making sure you reference the material, either with a footnote or
in brackets after the actual quotation.
• Also, ensure you lay out the quotation correctly.
• An article in the Scotsman newspaper suggests that some bar owners
allow young people to buy alcohol. However, one owner said, "it is difficult
to tell if young people are over 18.“
• Do make the quotation part of a sentence and not stuck out on its own!
Step 6: Planning the essay!
• Structure
• Introduction
• Arguments & counter
• Conclusion
• LINKING: connectives
and topic sentences
Quality ideas
Development of ideas
Supporting evidence
Fact and opinion
• Style
• Persuasive or
• Formal
• Present tense
• Rhetoric
• Emotive Language
Make a Plan!
Try a paragraph plan or a table (for and against), or a mind map.
Possible Structures
• Opening statement – giving
• Opening statement introducing
topic and range of arguments
• Series of paragraphs:
– Argument 1
– Counter-argument
– Rebuttal (refuting)
– Argument 2
– Counter-argument
– Rebuttal (refuting)
– Argument 3...
• Series of paragraphs:
– Argument 1
• For
• Against
– Argument 2
• For
• Against
– Argument 3...
• Summary/Conclusion
• Summary / Conclusion
• Restating key arguments
– Restating opinion
Step 6: Writing the essay!
Key features:
Putting forward ‘for’ arguments
Reformulating your ideas
Presenting ‘against’ arguments
Introducing evidence and examples
Tone in a discursive essay
• Do
• Write in proper,
complete sentences
• Use complete words
and expressions
• Use proper, standard
• Do not
• Use abbreviations
• Slang (e.g. bloke/geezer
• Colloquial language
(mate/bolshy etc.)
You should also try to make sure that you use a decent standard of vocabulary
In particular, try to avoid weak vocabulary such as 'get', 'got' and 'getting'.
Relying on this level of vocabulary too often suggests that your power of
expression is weak. Build up your word power!
Useful Language Features
First Person
Present Tense
Phrases to give own opinion
Rhetorical Questions – to pose the issue and involve
Similes / Metaphors
Exclamations - to make dramatic point
Connectives (linking words and phrases – see SIGNAL
WORDS sheet)
Topic Sentences
Emotive language
Joined-up thinking: Connectives
• WHY?
• 1. To give sequence /structure to whole text
• e.g. firstly secondly, thirdly etc
• 2. To connect CAUSE and EFFECT, linking points
within paragraphs
• e.g consequently, as a result, therefore
• 3. To COMPARE and LINK DIFFERENT arguments
• e.g. however, on the other hand, but
• GO
First, second…
In addition
At the same
In retrospect
In brief
As a result
To conclude
Without doubt
On the
On the other
Putting forward ‘for’ arguments
People in favour of + topic
Supporters of + topic
Advocates of + topic
Campaigners of + topic
Proponents of + topic
Those who support + topic
Pressure groups in favour of + topic
Believers in + topic
Followers of + topic
Users of + topic
believe that...
maintain that...
claim that...
feel that...
suggest that...
agree that...
argue that...
Reformulating Ideas
• OR is used when you want to put two different ideas
together or reformulate what you have stated earlier,
some alternatives are:
In other words...
To put it more simply...
It would be better to say...
To put it straightforwardly ...
Putting forward a contrasting argument
• BUT appears when you need to contrast one
statement with another:
Nevertheless ...
In spite of that...
In contrast...
On the other hand...
Despite the fact that...
All the same...
Putting forward ‘against’ arguments
• People against + topic
• Critics of + topic
• Opponents of + topic
• Challengers of + topic
• Campaigners against + topic
• Those opposed to + topic
• Pressure groups against + topic
argue that...
believe that...
maintain that...
claim that...
feel that...
suggest that...
agree that...
Introducing Evidence and Examples
This clearly demonstrates that...
This illustrates how…
There is some/clear evidence that…
There is mounting evidence that…
A recent study found that…
Research tells us that…
Refuting – the counter argument
• Whilst in an argumentative essay you will present an
evenly balanced view of the different sides of an
issue, when writing persuasively you will need to
imply the key skill of rebuttal, as follows:
• 1. Give an opinion which goes against your argument
– Some people believe...
– It has been said that...
– There are those who say...
• 2. Make a statement say the opinion given is
– However this is not the case...
– This is far from true...
– Clearly this is unfounded...
• 3. Restate your own opinion (counter-argument)
• In actual fact...
• In my opinion...
• The truth is that...
• In my view...
• I believe / I feel...
• I am convinced...
Writing a Conclusion
Sum up your main points
State your point of view
Give your reason for this
Offer a solution if you have one
Expressing Opinion in the Conclusion
I agree/ disagree with the above statement (that...)
In my opinion...
I believe that...
I am in favour of...
I am against the idea of...
It seems to me that...
I sympathise with...
To sum up/ altogether
On this basis, I can conclude that...
Given this, it can be concluded that...
Having proved this, I would like to...
In conclusion, I would like to stress that…
All in all, I believe that...
Finally I would conclude that…
As outlined previously/earlier
As previously stated
We could conclude that..
Methods of Opening a Discursive Essay
• The following methods are suggestions. It is up to you to decide which
style suits your writing best.
• Provocative
• e.g."It is difficult to see how anyone can approve of fox hunting."
• Balanced
• e.g."Fox hunting is a subject about which people hold strongly
contrasting views."
• Quotation
• e.g."Oscar Wilde once described fox hunting as 'The unspeakable in
pursuit of the uneatable.'."
• Illustration
• e.g."On a glorious autumn morning a terrified, exhausted animal is
savaged to death by a pack of baying dogs while a group of expensively
dressed humans encourage the dogs in their bloody work."
• Anecdote
• e.g."I have always detested fox hunting since I was almost physically
sick while watching a television film of the kill at the end of a hunt."
Cities versus the Countryside
• Introduction
• Section 3
• FOR the Countryside:
• Section 1
• FOR Cities:
Argument 1
Argument 1
Argument 2
Argument 3
• Section 2
• AGAINST Cities:
Argument 1
Argument 2
Argument 3
Argument 2
Argument 3
• Section 4
• AGAINST the Countryside:
Argument 1
Argument 2
Argument 3
• Conclusion
• My essay is going to be about living in the town and the
country. In this essay I will look at both sides of the
• Deciding whether to live in the town(city) or the
countryside can be difficult, as there are many reasons
why both locations might be attractive. However both
choices also offer a number of disadvantages which can
put people off.
• City life: bright, exciting, challenging. Rural life: peaceful,
idyllic, relaxing. How do you choose between two such
different locations when making the crucial decision of
where to live?
Some topic sentences
• The first advantage of living in the city is…
• Another reason people might find living in the city a
positive experience..
• As well as this, cities also…
• In addition, cities offer…
• However, in many cities…
• But not all cities…
• Nevertheless not everybody wants to live in the city
• Another problem with living in the city is…
Some more topic sentences
• Given the choice, many people prefer to live in the
country. One reason for this is…
• The countryside also…
• Furthermore, living in the country also…
• Additionally, country living means that …
• On the other hand , many people feel that country living…
• But rural life is not always…
• However not everybody agrees that living in the country
is… Another problem with living in the country is…
• To finish my essay I am going to sum up my ideas for and
against living in the town and living in the country.
• In conclusion there are many good reasons to live in the
town, but there are also many good reasons to live in the
country. I think I would prefer to live in the town.
• To conclude, deciding whether to live in the town or the
country is a very personal decision. Whilst some people
adore the hustle and bustle of the city, other much prefer
the tranquil world of the countryside. Having lived in both,
I can honestly say that the many amenities and the ‘bight
lights’ of the city are what appeal to me most. I definitely
prefer living in the city.
• Now choose your topic and get started!
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