Writing a discursive essay

Discursive Writing Worksheet Two
A. Look at the question below :
“Keeping animals in zoos is cruel and should be banned.” What do you think?
Think about the question
What is the text type?
Who will read your article?
What will the style be?
Why are you writing?
An article / speech / discursive essay
Newspaper readers / the examiner / friends
Formal / informal / colloquial
To give an opinion and argue / to describe / to
discuss a topic
B. Brainstorm the topic
Think about the subject and ask yourself questions connected to the subject. This might help
you have some ideas e.g. why are animals kept in zoos? Think about your last visit to a zoo –
what was it like? Why might people defend zoos? Etc
Look at the student’s notes below. Which of these would you include in your essay?
Are there any which are irrelevant?
poor conditions in some zoos (cruelty)
cramped conditions / no room to move
testing beauty products on animals is cruel
helps save species
animals are looked after and cared for by experts
allows them to breed in safety
NB. When you have some interesting points make sure you can justify them and give reasons
for your arguments. Avoid generalised comments which you cannot substantiate.
C. Think about vocabulary: try to think of some good expressions and vocabulary linked to
the topic. Match the words on the left with the words on the right:
Lack of
Show signs of distress
Living conditions
In captivity
D. Model Answer
For many people a trip to the zoo is a pleasant and enjoyable experience; however, more and
more people are questioning this particular view of zoos and suggesting that they are in fact a
cruel and inhumane place for the animals which live there. So how far is it true that zoos are
cruel and if so does this mean that they should be closed down in the future?
One of the most significant advantages of zoos is that zoos offer protection to species of
animals which are in danger of becoming extinct. Zoo staff are fully trained and know how to
look after and care for the animals in the best way possible. It can be argued that thanks to this
care many species have been saved whereas if they had been left in the wild they would
almost certainly have died. Some experts claim that over 100 species have been saved from
extinction. If zoos are shut down what would happen to all those animals in danger?
Furthermore, zoos also provide an important public service. Not only do they allow young
people in towns to have access to animals they would never normally see, but they can also be
used by schools for school visits. Moreover, these school visits allow children to learn about
the animal kingdom and as a result develop greater respect for animals. It could be argued that
closing down zoos would therefore destroy this connection between children and the animal
world – a connection which is very important if we want our children to become more
environmentally aware in the future.
While it is true that in many zoos animals are well looked after, it is not always the case. Not
a week goes by without newspapers reporting the latest mistreatment of an animal in a zoo.
Anyone who has ever visited a zoo will testify to the cramped conditions that many animals
live in. It is difficult to defend the idea of an elephant being forced to live in a tiny cage when
we know that its natural habitat is the wilds of Africa. How can an animal be happy living in
captivity? Furthermore, some scientist argue that living in such conditions causes great
distress in the animals and that this distress is reflected in repetitive behaviour such as animals
pacing up and down in their cage. Studies have also shown that animals kept in captivity
often reach only half the age they would have in the wild.
To sum up, I believe that it is unacceptable to keep wild animals in zoos as it often causes
them to suffer from stress and fear. We now have a much closer relationship to animals and so
we should treat them with more respect. Zoos should therefore be banned and animals
released back into the wild where they can live as nature intended. Failure to do so, is I
believe, barbaric and unacceptable in our modern society.
What do you think of this model answer?
a) Underline the topic sentences for each paragraph. Is it easy to know what each
paragraph is about?
b) Underline all the useful linking expressions.
c) Techniques: find statistics, use of indirect quotes, facts, questions. Are there any other
persuasive techniques?
d) Underline any interesting vocabulary.
E. Useful expressions:
The following expressions can be used at the beginning of topic sentences.
Can you insert them into the essay above?
It is often said that …
It is often argued that ...
It is a fact that …
Over the past few years, it seems that …
Nowadays, we are all aware of the fact that …
Recently, we have all become concerned by / that …
Giving an opinion: now add some of these into the essay:
It seems to me that …
I would argue that …
I feel strongly …
I am convinced that …
I am greatly in favour of / against
I am totally / completely opposed to …
Personally, I feel that …