How to Write a Pros & Cons Essay
Much like writing a debate essay, writing a pros and cons essay argues an issue. However, unlike a debate essay, which addresses one viewpoint, the pros and cons essay deals with both sides of the issue. With research and preparation, students can write a thought-provoking -- and grade-worthy -- pros and cons essay.
First Things First
Unlike the debate paper, for which you conduct research to support your position on an issue, you must research the issue extensively so that you can dispassionately describe the pros and cons. Find resources that cover opposing sides of the issue. Take thorough notes and resist the temptation to discard positions that repel you. You might use a graphic organizer to bring order to your findings. Draw a large lowercase "t" on a sheet of paper. Title the left side "pros" and list all the pros of the issue on the left side. Include citations from your research. Title the right side "cons" and repeat the process.
The Positive View
Your introductory paragraph must briefly and dispassionately describe the issue. Follow with a sentence that summarizes the pro side of the debate, followed by a sentence that summarizes the con. Then, open with the case for the pro. Devote one paragraph to each of your primary points. You can cover secondary points in groups of two or three in a single paragraph. When you cover multiple points in a paragraph, reread the paragraph several times and ask others to review it. You don't want the multiplicity of your points to muddy the information you're trying to convey. Support each pro point with evidence based on your research.
The Negative Side
Follow your pro points with the arguments for the other side. Open with a brief introduction that clearly summarizes the opposing view. Each con paragraph should support your point with meticulously researched evidence. Emphasize any points that contradict a pro point you may have highlighted in the preceding section.
Wrap It Up
Your conclusion should state the issue and why it is important. Choose one strong pro and one strong con to include in your conclusion to illustrate the most prominent points. Finally, craft a strong sentence that ties all of your ideas together to end your essay.
One Last Look for Fairness
Read the essay to ensure you've applied the same rigorous standards for evidence to both sides. Check whether you've used transitional language to link the paragraphs into cohesive arguments. Have others read it and ask them to tell you whether they can detect any biases.
Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.