Did Shakespeare write all his own works? Is climate change real? Do dogs make better pets than cats? All these topics and more could be subjects for a persuasive essay. While other essays are meant to entertain, such as the narrative essay, or inform such as the informative essay, the goal of a persuasive essay is to champion a single belief.
Meghan Daurm said it best: “The point of essays is the point of writing anything. It’s not to tell people what they already think or to give them more of what they already believe; it’s to challenge people, and it’s to suggest alternate ways of thinking about things.”
What Is a Persuasive Essay?
A persuasive essay is a piece of academic writing that clearly outlines author’s position on a specific issue or topic. The main purpose behind this type of paper is to show facts and present ideas that would serve to convince the reader to take author’s side (on the issue or a question raised).
There is a common misconception that a persuasive essay is literally the same as an argumentative essay. That is far from the truth. While argumentative essay presents information that supports the claim or argument, persuasive essay serves a sole mission – to persuade the reader to take your side of the argument.
This article will cover the main steps on writing a persuasive essay. Let’s get straight into it.
Writing the Persuasive Essay – Steps to Take
This guide will provide all the basic information students need to create an outstanding persuasive essay. We’ll review the outline, research, drafting, and revising process. As with most academic essays, the persuasive essay should have an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your research should appear mainly in the body paragraphs as the introduction’s purpose is to provide background while the conclusion should review the essay’s strongest points.
Conduct research and pre-write
A great essay requires some work before beginning to write. It’s always helpful to sit down and do some prewriting. Consider answering the following questions before you conduct any research:
- What audience am I writing for?
- What information will be useful to my audience?
- What background information would be relevant to this topic?
- What are the different sides to this issue?
- What side will I be persuading the audience is correct?
- What type of primary resources would be best for this topic?
Once you’ve answered these prewriting questions, it’s time to choose your approach. Select an approach that you feel comfortable arguing in the persuasive essay, and work to find sources that support this particular viewpoint. It’s imperative that you understand the audience the essay targets. Finally, begin to research. Go into the research process armed with the following tools:
- At least 10-20 different search terms relevant to the topic
- A list of best sources: books? Journal articles? Magazine articles? Newspaper articles?
- Required citation method (MLA, APA, Chicago…)
- A note-taking method that works best for you (notecards, sentence outlines…)
Organize ideas and examples
As you’re conducting research, save yourself some time and organize the ideas as you find them. All your claims should be supported with proper examples – illustrate ideas with the help of vivid examples. Occasions from your life experience would work as good as more conventional or common examples.
Evaluate the research’s purpose and place it into an outline where the research directly supports the paragraph’s main idea. For example, if it’s background information, it would go into the introduction paragraph.
Create an outline
Outlines are a great way to see what research you’ve found, and what you still need to find to create a strong, balanced argument regarding the topic of the persuasive essay. By creating an outline, you’ll be able to see if you’ve found research that supports the idea within the topic sentence for every body paragraph or for only two out of the three. The outline also helps you create an argument that flows. Remember: body paragraphs should always be organized weakest to strongest—that way the audience is left with the best paragraph.
Here is a persuasive essay outline example:
- Thesis: Democracy is the best form of government as it allows the most voices to be heard.
- Body Paragraph 1: Identify and discuss a theocracy
- Example 1: Vatican City
- Example 2: Saudi Arabia
- Body Paragraph 2: Dictatorship
- Example 1: North Korea
- Example 2: Zimbabwe
- Body Paragraph 3: Monarchy
- Example 1: Britain
- Example 2: Spain
- Body Paragraph 4: Democracy
- Example 1: United States of America
- Example 2: Iceland
- Conclusion: Based on provided examples, comparing the examples between each other to show that democracy drives the most progressive and wealthy countries.
For this example outline, the student needs to find research for each country and its form of government. Once the research has been gathered, it’s time to begin drafting the paragraphs.
Check our Persuasive Essay Outline writing guide:
Compose the introduction
Each introduction should begin with a hook. This sentence draws the reader into the topic by “hooking” his or her interest. A hook is typically one of four types of sentences:
- A fact or statistic
- A quotation
- A rhetorical question
- An anecdote
In a persuasive essay, the introduction paragraph tends to be longer than other academic essays. This is because all sides of the controversial must be introduced and defined. Remember: not every issue will have two sides; many issues are very complex and may have three or four or more sides that need to be acknowledged, defined, and discussed before moving into the body paragraphs.
Not sure how a subject could have more than merely two sides? Let’s take a look at a common persuasive essay assigned in social studies or history class: what kind of government is the best kind? In order to answer this question, the student would have to acknowledge and consider the most common forms of government including a democracy, theocracy, dictatorship, and monarchy. A well-written persuasive essay would introduce all the forms and define them in the introduction before delving into the strengths and weaknesses within the body paragraphs.
Finally, the introduction should end with the thesis statement. This statement should be argumentative in nature and clearly state which side the writer intends to prove as the stronger side. As the last sentence in the introduction paragraph, it acts as a natural transition to the first body paragraph.
Tips for a great introduction
- Introduce all sides of the issue
- Provide key background information relevant to the subject
- Clearly state which side is stronger, and why
Formulate body paragraphs
Like most other academic essays, the body paragraphs should follow the typical format of including five kinds of sentences:
- Topic sentence
- Background sentence
- Quotations of support from primary sources
- Analysis of support
- Conclusion/transition sentence
While there are five kinds of sentences, there will likely be more than five sentences in the paragraph. There may be several background sentences, and in your research, you may find quotations from several different sources to include in one paragraph…that’s great! The most important part of the paragraph is the analysis section; this is where you make your case for supporting or weakening an argument.
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A key aspect of persuasive essays is the counter argument. This form of argument allows the writer to acknowledge any opposition to their stance and then pick it apart. For example, if the writer is arguing that democracy is the best form of government, he or she needs to take the time to acknowledge counter arguments FOR other forms of governments and then disprove them. Including counter arguments as paragraphs themselves ultimately strengthens one’s own argument.
Hints for Great Body Paragraphs
- Create clear, concise topic sentences
- Provide correctly quoted support from primary sources
- Thoroughly analyze the support to strengthen your position
- Use strong persuasive language such as
- In reality
- The majority
- The experts agree
- Polls show
- Research proves
Sum up the conclusion
This paragraph signals the end of the persuasive essay. Want to know how to write a stellar conclusion? First, don’t introduce any new information. The cardinal rule of conclusion paragraphs is this: only discuss what’s already in the paper. Begin by restating the thesis; this reminds the audience about the essay’s goals and purpose. Next, review the main points covered in the body paragraphs.
Finally, here’s where the persuasive essay is a bit different than other academic essays: the call to action. In a persuasive essay, the conclusion should offer a call to action; if the reader agrees with the writer’s thesis then he or she should be willing to take some form of action. Set forth a call to action before ending the essay.
In order to put up a proper conclusion, ask yourself a question: “what’s the takeaway for the reader?” Unlike the conclusion in an informative essay, the final section your persuasive essay should put an exclamation on your view of the argument or issue.
3 Hints for a Great Conclusion
- Restate the thesis to link back to the introduction and remind the reader of your argument
- Review the paper’s stronger points to persuade the audience of a particular side
- End with a strong call to action
Revise your persuasive essay
Done the first draft? Then, it’s time to revise to make the essay stronger both content-wise and grammatically. Check out these great questions to help you revise:
- Does the essay begin with a hook that captures the reader’s interest?
- Does the introduction introduce all sides of the issue and provide background information?
- Does the introduction ends with a clearly worded thesis statement?
- Does the essay clearly convey a specific position regarding the topic?
- Are the counter arguments stated and refuted?
- Do the body paragraph offer relevant and reliable research to substantiate claims?
- Does the conclusion review the main points made within the paper?
- Are all sentences complete and grammatically correct?
Once you are through with the seven steps of writing the persuasive essay, you can happily enjoy what you accomplished. Feel free to submit the final piece to your professor/instructor.
Persuasive Essay Sample
Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own argumentative essay. Link: Persuasive essay on Global Warming
Remember: writing is more of a triathlon than a walk in the park. Just like a triathlon involves three key components, so too does writing: brainstorming, drafting, and revising. Begin the persuasive essay early and work through the various stages of writing to ensure that the final product is polished and grammatically flawless. If your school offers a Writing Center, use these resources.
It’s hard to catch one’s own mistakes, so ask a classmate or friend to review your paper. And don’t forget about your as well as a professional writing/editing service! Skip the stress of beginning the assignment the night before it’s due and instead plan out your writing process and begin as soon as you receive the assignment. While content and grammar are the major players “gradewise”, don’t discount formatting. How you format your final paper is the first impression your professor will have of your work. Therefore, take the time to check the margins, font, headings, spacing, title page, and Works Cited page to ensure that they meet the professor’s expectations.