How to Write a Persuasive Essay
A persuasive essay requires a clear thesis defining your stance and solid facts to support your position. Persuading the reader with your writing is a little different than persuading your friend to go to that huge party this weekend. Instead of begging the audience to agree with your position, you need to build your case throughout the piece with a powerful final argument in the conclusion.
Narrow Down Your Topic
Persuasive papers typically center on an issue that polarizes people, such as immigration, global warming, downloading free music or school uniforms. Drill down into the topic to focus on a specific stance. If your broad topic is adoption, you might write about adopting babies from foreign countries, focusing your persuasive paper either on a pro and con position, depending on your opinion. Choose a topic you are passionate about and have a strong opinion either for or against.
Test out your topic by writing a thesis statement that defines your stance. List points to support your opinion and arguments against your position. Check out references on the topic to ensure you find enough supporting material.
The main arguments supporting your position on the subject become the topic sentences of the paragraphs in the persuasive paper. Use each paragraph to fully explore and provide support for each argument. In a paper supporting school uniforms, potential arguments are increased school performance, decreased bullying, sense of school community and less time enforcing dress codes. Think about the opposing opinions to help you develop stronger arguments for your stance. Use those contradicting opinions to find evidence that supports your stance and disproves the contradicting approach.
Gather Supporting Facts
Simply presenting your arguments isn't enough to create a quality persuasive paper. Supporting facts provide the evidence needed to give the paper credibility. Examples of data to back up your arguments include statistics, research results, case studies, expert insight and real-world examples that illustrate your point.
A paper against foreign adoption might include costs of international versus domestic adoptions or the number of children in the United States waiting to be adopted.
A pro-school uniform paper could include statistics on student success rate and violence in the schools to show how uniforms help. The paper might quote a school administrator who saw marked improvement in her district after implementing school uniforms.
Document your sources for each fact. Provide in-text citations when appropriate, particularly for statistics or studies.
Organize Your Essay
Once you gather all your data, you're ready to arrange those pieces of information into a logical flow. Lead with the specific topic covered in the paper.
Include your stance on the subject in the first paragraph to set the stage for the arguments. Set up each paragraph to argue a particular point in the debate. Save your most compelling argument for last to leave a strong impression on your readers.
Don't shy away from mentioning the opposing viewpoint. Mention the opposite opinion before presenting your data that debunks that stance. You might say, "Some argue that part-time jobs for high school students take away from studies, but working can help teens learn to prioritize."
Finish the persuasive paper with a concluding paragraph that rephrases the thesis. Include a strong closing that drives home your point, such as a quote that synthesizes your position or a call to action.
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.