Helpful tips for writing a successful persuasive essay
Last updated: May 19, 2016
A persuasive essay uses reason to demonstrate that certain ideas are more valid than others in academic writing. The purpose of such an essay is to encourage readers to accept a particular viewpoint or act in a particular way. A persuasive essay must be based on sound logic and must contain factual evidence to support the argument.
How to write a persuasive essay
Take a stance. What do you think about the issue? What side will you take? Be aware of any prejudices you might have that could color your argument. What resolution will you suggest?
Know your audience. Determine if your audience will agree with your position and why they may not. You must be able to understand both sides of the issue in order to successfully argue your point of view.
Thoroughly research your topic. The point of a persuasive essay is to provide detailed and compelling evidence—you should be able to disprove the opposing argument. It will likely be necessary to undertake library-based research in order to accomplish this.
Think about the structure of your essay. Determine what evidence you will include and the order in which you will present it. Remember, it must be logical.
Support your argument. Use hard facts. You can gather these from your research, observations, or personal experiences. But be careful! In order to avoid plagiarism, you must cite your sources. You should always use verifiable statistics. It is important to be able to back up your argument with data. In order to further strengthen the argument in your persuasive essay, try using one or two direct quotes from experts on the topic. Finally, provide meaningful examples to enhance and clearly illustrate your argument.
How to organize your persuasive essay
The introduction.The introduction in your persuasive essay should grab the readers' attention and provide background information about your subject. It should end with a clear statement of your thesis.
The body. The body should consist of all the arguments that support your thesis. Each paragraph should focus on one particular point. Next, include one or two paragraphs to succinctly explain and refute the most compelling opposing argument.
The conclusion. The conclusion should restate the main argument and supporting points. After all, the point of a persuasive essay is to convert your readers to your point of view.
Take a breather
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. Will your readersbe persuaded by your argument? Did you provide enough evidence in the way of facts, statistics, quotes, and examples?
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If you've been told time and time again that you express great ideas in your essay writing but your writing needs polishing, you aren't alone. The following tips will help improve your writing skills and turn you into a great writer.
You've come up with the perfect thesis or essay topic, you've done plenty of research, and know everything that there is to know about your topic, and yet you can't seem to put pen to paper. This is where an outline comes in.
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Tips on writing a persuasive paper:
(Adapted from Nancy Huddleston Packer and John Timpane, 1986 Writing Worth Reading: A Practical Guide, St. Martin's Press: New York)
A good way to learn about persuasive writing/evidence is to critically evaluate while you read. Starr is making an argument that medicine in America has developed in certain ways, with specific outcomes. Along the way, he makes subarguments and presents evidence to support his ideas. You should evaluate whether you think his arguments are solid or not. As you gain skills in assessing other's writing, you will become a better writer yourself.
Persuasion and Making an Argument
An argument has several components. Right now, most of you have only chosen a subject, but as you commence your research, you will find answers to the questions you are posing. Your job in the term paper is to persuade the reader that your position is better than the alternative. The answer(s) you find are the claim.
|For example, in your reading by "The Cost of Prevention, Don't expect a Free Lunch", Sisk claims that the clinical researchers should not promise cost savings for all preventive measures.|
Evidence is support for your claim, and the best way to make your argument persuasive is to find evidence and present it in appropriate ways.
|As one piece of evidence evidence, Sisk cites studies that find many preventive measures do not save costs.|
Within your claim, you may need to present subpoints and subarguments.
|One of her subpoints is that promising cost savings for an intervention when it cannot deliver them may backfire. Her subargument is that while these interventions may have health benefits, if the cost savings do not materialize, clinicians might not use the intervention. It would be a stronger argument if she had information (evidence) on whether providers actually stop using preventive measures.|
Finally, you will need to connect your evidence to the arguments. Essentially, you should elaborate on how the evidence supports your argument.
No argument has only one side to it. In order to write a truly great persuasive paper, you should acknowledge the opposition; there are two ways to talk about the opposition, depending on the evidence available.
The opposition will have arguments of its own. If you have good evidence that weakens the opposing argument, you should use it to rebut their position.
Sometimes, the opposition will have a point that you cannot refute, and you may have to concede this point. In economics, this acknowledgment might be as simple as conceding and enumerating the costs of your policy (which there will always be). You can still make arguments in favor of your policy by showing that the benefits are greater than the costs.
Tips on Persuasion
- Be clear in what you are claiming.
- Tell the reader which claims are based on facts and which on values.
- Provide good evidence in support of your claim.
- If a connection between the evidence and the claim is not obvious, tell the reader the connection.
- Discuss the opposing arguments and either provide a rebuttal or concession, whichever is appropriate given your evidence.
There are many different types of evidence that you can use in writing a persuasive or informational paper.
If you have incomplete information in support of your claim, you should tell the reader. The "perfect" data is rarely available, so researchers often make do with the imperfect information that is available.
However, careful researchers will admit that their conclusions rely on imperfection and may turn out to be false when better data becomes available.
You will probably run across studies conducted by clinicians, economists, or other types of researchers. The information they provide will be one of three types:
- informed opinions,
- and speculation.
Factual information is incontrovertible; anyone could find the same information. See the section on statistics below for some warnings about facts.
Informed opinions and speculation will be the interpretation that the researcher applies to the information. For instance, a researcher might conclude that treatment Y is cost-effective, based on a cost-effectiveness ratio of $50,000 per quality of life year saved. Another researcher might think that an appropriate cut-off for "cost-effectiveness" is $10,000 per QUALY, and would disagree. The conclusion that the treatment is cost-effective is an informed opinion.
Speculation is another form of interpretation. Often, the answers many economists get are based on information from a select sample of individuals, let's say middle-age women. Applying these results to another group of the population, for example, elderly women, would call for "out-of-sample" predictions, and these are really just speculation. Another potential problem is that predictions might be based on a particular statistical technique and using a different method might give one different predictions. I don't expect you to know all of these nuances in statistics, but be aware that the conclusions you read in others' research are not hard-and-fast rules.
The first thing to do is to check the credentials of the expert. Check for possible conflicts of interest (did a pharmaceutical company fund the research?) If you find many different researchers coming to the same opinion, that lends greater weight to the evidence.
You already have some basic definitions of statistics. The choice of statistic that you might use is very important, and the main way that statistics can be misused. For instance, if you say that Z people are uninsured in the U.S. and this is the largest number of uninsured in history, this is a statistic. However, if the population has grown, a smaller percentage of people might be uninsured than at any other time, so your previous statistic was misleading.
Sometimes making an argument can be strengthened by being specific. If I tell you in class that not having insurance is a problem, this is a claim, but does not have any evidence supporting it. I may then go on and describe that people without insurance often delay going to the doctor, go to emergency rooms for routine care instead of to clinics or doctors' offices, or go without care at all. These last points are examples. The examples could further be strengthened by statistics on how often uninsured people delay care, go to the emergency room, or go without care. The information could be strengthened yet further by comparing these statistics to similar statistics on people who have insurance. And so on...
We have talked about the dangers of relying on anecdotal experience, but there are appropriate ways to use this type of evidence. It may focus an argument, provide an example, ore illuminate. It may make the reading more interesting. Just don't rely on this type of information only.
Analogies may be a writing tool to make your points clear and interesting, but you may also use analogies as evidence. For instance, if you are studying a relatively new government policy or a new trend in health care markets, you may need to speculate on the benefits/costs of the policy based on results from similar policies that have been instituted in the past or in trends from other markets that are similar. You will need to use reasoning and logic to make the connections. You should also describe the possible differences between past policies and today or non-health markets and healthcare markets, etc... and how these differences might affect your conclusions, but this type of evidence can be very persuasive.
Criteria for Evidence
Last, some tips on what makes up solid evidence:
- Relevance: speak directly to the point.
- Representativeness: you cannot make a point for the whole U.S. population based on information about one state, for example. If information is only available for one state, present the evidence, but note the problems.
- Accuracy: try to find the same information in more than one place, if possible.
- Detail: provide as much as possible. If you know how many thousands of people smoke, tell us the exact number, don't just say "thousands smoke."
- Adequacy: Figure out which are the most important points in your arguments and support these in the most detail. Lesser points also need evidence, but don't get bogged down on debating a minor detail of the policy.
Tips for Using Evidence
- Distinguish facts from informed opinion or speculation.
- Use statistics carefully.
- Use examples to clarify meaning, demonstrate why, or to entertain.
- Use logic and reason to connect the evidence to the points.
- Use personal experience or anecdotal evidence sparingly.
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