Defining the Thesis
A persuasive paper is only as strong as its thesis. It's not a good strategy to simply pick a topic that seems interesting. For example, abortion is a topic many people have an opinion about, which might make it seem like a good choice for a persuasive paper. However, the issue is so large and complex that it is necessary to narrow it down to one specific aspect in order to create an effective argument. Therefore, a student might choose, for example, to write about why she thinks it is important to limit abortions to the first trimester or whether she thinks certain counseling should be required before an abortion is permitted. The more specific the thesis, the easier it will be to write the persuasive paper, and the more effective it will be.
The strength of a persuasive paper relies largely on the evidence used to support the opening thesis statement (claim or argument). While logical reasoning is essential, it is not enough to provide that logic. For example, a persuasive paper that proposes a solution for feeding the homeless cannot just explain why the plan makes sense, the paper must also include study results, budget analysis, statistics and other information that backs up the proposal. Coming up with all the empirical evidence needed to support a persuasive essay can require substantial research and some creative thinking.
The strongest persuasive papers are those that think through all the counterarguments to their thesis and then provide evidence dispelling them. For example, a persuasive paper that argues in favor of adopting school uniforms should not only provide evidence in support of that proposal, but should also provide arguments that address the issues of loss of freedom of expression, cost to students, and additional management responsibilities placed on staff. Overlooking a counterargument in a persuasive paper makes the thesis weaker, leaving an opening for opponents to undermine the proposal.
Many topics students to choose to write about are likely to be those about which they also feel the most passionate. Emotion can cause a student to overlook weaknesses in his argument and lose focus on the issue at hand. It is important to remain objective so that the strongest argument possible can be crafted. The argument should include supporting evidence, and avoid a reliance on assertions and anecdotal evidence.