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Guide: How to write a discursive essay

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  • Subject area(s): Education essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: 23 October 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 596 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 3 (approx)
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discursive essay thoroughly investigates an argument by offering two opposing perspectives. It’s a practical method of establishing the writer’s opinion on a topic and persuading one’s stance by exploring the reasons why each view may or may not be valid. The author usually maintains a calm and neutral stance throughout the text to establish an unbiased and informative argument.

1. Define your topic

Before you begin your essay you need to define what the topic is. Discursive essay topics can be about anything, but they are primarily used to argue ideas about controversial topics such as gun control or abortion. You should decide at this point which side you are supporting.

2. Outline

The foundation of any well structured essay is an outline. A discursive essay should have:

  • Introduction: The Introduction clearly states the topic and explains why it is important.
  • Body: The Body contains the arguments and logic for both sides.
  • Conclusion: The Conclusion is where you establish your personal stance on the argument and explain why. Here you explain why it is difficult to establish a solid stance on the topic.

Discursive essay

Image source: http://larrybuttrose.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/discursive.html

3. Write 4-6 different points to include in body

“Discursive writing does not argue for or against a point throughout the essay”.

Knowing in advance which points you will discuss will help during the actual writing process. Make sure that each point has a counterargument. For example, if you have 3 points for one side, you should have 3 points against it to balance it out. This ensures your argument is unbiased as well as thorough.
Hint: Try to choose strong and valid points that would be difficult to argue against. This makes it more exciting and informative to the reader when you DO introduce its counter-argument.
The points should descend in order from strongest argument to least supportive argument. Alternate back and forth between each perspective to illustrate the argument. Think of it like a “ping-pong” match. The body of the outline should appear as follows:

  • Point A)
  • Point B)
  • Point A)
  • Point B)
  • etc..

Each individual argument is a paragraph. The amount of paragraphs is up to your discretion, but if this is for a class there should be at least 4.

4. Fill in the content

Now that you’ve fully outlined your essay, it’s time to flesh it out. Establish credibility by citing valid sources. Don’t believe everything you read. Look for scientific studies or valid statistics. Hard facts enrich any argument.
Your tone should be neutral throughout the body, giving each point its turn to truly speak. Try to be as thorough and unbiased as possible.

5. Write a conclusion

In the last paragraph you will wrap up the argument by stating your personal stance on the issue. Try to explain why you feel the way you do, and if you don’t actually have an opinion, try to define as to why that is. Mention again why the issue is important and should be evaluated further.


  • Stay in formal third person perspective throughout the body (“he”, “she”, “one” or “it is” / “they are”, rather than “Me”, “I” – read more here)
  • Before you begin writing, you should create a “spider-diagram”, or “mind-map” to help clearly relate your points.
  • When writing the separate arguments, try to pretend as though a person from that specific viewpoint “has the floor”. Pretend as though you are trying to convince another person of that viewpoint, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. Make sure to keep a third person writing style, though.

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