At high school and also at tertiary institutions you need to be able to write about different points of view. Here are some tips on how to write a discursive essay.
Discursive essays are like a debate, where you give different arguments about the same topic.
Topics can be something like:
• Should cellphones be allowed at school?
• Uniforms at school: the pros and cons.
Example of a discursive essay
Technology – good or bad?
Some people believe that technology is bad, other people believe that technology is fantastic. However everyone must agree that now it is hard to imagine the world without technology. In this essay I look at the good and bad side of technology. I believe that we cannot blame technology for what goes wrong. We should rather blame the people who use it badly.
My parents and grandparents often talk about a time when there were no cellphones. My grandmother even remembers when there was no TV anywhere. And when my great-grandparents were around, there were no cars or buses. People took the train, or rode horses or wagons. Imagine!
Cellphones are great in many ways. We can keep in touch with people easily. I can let my mother know when I am going to come home, and I can find my friends when we are in town and in different places. I can get Maths help on Mxit and also can listen to music when I want to relax.
But cellphones can also be bad. My friend’s father gets cross when we are always texting and using our phones. “In our days we talked to each other, and got out in the world,” he always says. “You are all stuck to your phones.” And it is true that it can be addictive to play games or talk on Mxit or BBM. People sometimes use this to hurt others. Last year someone put very rude comments on Mxit about all the girls in my class. The comment about me was that I’d never find a boyfriend because I was so ugly. This was very hurtful.
But the problem really is the people, not technology. People can do bad things with technology, but people can also do very good things too. Perhaps the problem is more with people. Reckless drivers can kill, but that doesn’t mean cars aren’t very useful.
Tips for writing good discursive essays
Plan and structure your essay very carefully:
• Introduction: introduces the topic and summarises the essay
• First paragraph: gives one argument supporting the topic
• Second paragraph: gives another argument that supports the topic
• Third paragraph: gives an argument against the topic
• Fourth paragraph: gives an argument against the topic
• Conclusion: summarises your point of view.
• Use examples from your own life and experience to show what you mean (for school essays)
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PURPOSE: to persuade
A point of view and thesis statement are required for both argumentative and discursive essays. We may use the analogy of a court case. Consider the thesis statement as the defence and the antithesis as the prosecution. There is no point in holding a trial without a verdict. In terms of spoken text, consider your discursive essay as a debate in which both sides are presented. Without a final adjudication, the debate has little purpose. Remember the purpose of an exposition (argumentative or discursive) is to persuade, if the writer has no clear viewpoint, then it is impossible to persuade the reader.
‘There’s no need to write letters any more. Telephoning is a better way of communicating with people.’
1. Introduction – a short paragraph stating both points of view and a thesis statement. (The thesis indicates your point of view)
It’s certainly quicker to telephone than to write a letter but it may not always be the best way to communicate. The use depends, like so many other things in life, on the circumstances.
2. Points For – one paragraph giving reasons in favour. These reasons should be supported by evidence and examples. (This will develop the antithesis)
Telephoning is ideal if you want immediate action. You wouldn’t want to write to the plumber if you had water pouring through your ceiling, for example. It’s also the obvious choice if you need a quick answer to a question like ‘What time is the next train to Oxford?’ or ‘Did I leave my wallet in your shop?’ Many problems can be solved more easily and decisions taken more quickly if you can discuss them with someone on the phone rather than wait for a reply to a letter. Finally, few people would disagree that telephoning is a pleasant way to keep in touch with friends and family.
3. Points Against – one paragraph giving reasons against. These reasons should be supported by evidence and examples. (This will develop the thesis)
On the other hand, there can be a number of disadvantages to telephoning. In the first place, some problems are too complicated to explain on the phone, especially if they involve facts and figures, and it may be clearer if you set them out in a letter. Secondly, it might be important to have a record of what you say, especially if it’s a booking or a complaint. Last but not least, telephoning, especially long-distance, can be terribly expensive.
4. Further support and follow a logical argument.
The nice thing about receiving letters is that you can keep them and re-read them. Who wouldn’t rather have a six-page letter full of news from a friend abroad than a two-minute telephone call on a bad line?
5. Conclusion – a brief paragraph stating your point of view (thesis) based on the reasons and evidence you have given.
To sum up, letter writing is far from dead, in my view. Each form of communication has its advantages and disadvantages: the important thing to recognise is which is more appropriate for what you want to say, and to whom.
ANOTHER DISCURSIVE ESSAY:
‘The Future is Bright’
The future is a mystery to everyone. Some people would argue that the future is bright because modern technology will soon be able to solve most problems in our society. Other people think that modern technology will bring about the destruction of the world. If we consider the recent negative environmental and social trends in the world today it is impossible to be optimistic about the future.
It can be argued that modern technology has solved many of the world’s problems, and may continue to do so in the future. We have made rapid progress, especially in the fields of medicine, communication and transport.[ Scientists are now able to cure or prevent many of the diseases that previously affected millions of people. For example, polio can be eliminated simply by vaccination.[ As well as this there has been an explosion in the area of information technology and communication. This also makes it easier to conduct business in any part of the world.[ Along with the advances made in communication, transport has also been improved all over the world. Even in developing countries, many people now own private transport or are able to travel quickly and easily using public transport. Therefore, it is sometimes claimed that technology will provide mankind with the universal panacea of the future.
However, modern technology also brings many disadvantages.[ Pollution is one result of increased technology and industrialization. The effects of this can be seen in the destruction of the ozone layer as well as global warming. [Improvements in technology have also increased the effectiveness of weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction. [As a direct result of modern technology, certainly in the future new diseases will appear. [Although transport has improved, it brings with it the danger of air pollution and traffic congestion. [Overpopulation and starvation will increase in the future because natural resources are limited and undoubtedly the amount of fertile land is decreasing steadily.
In conclusion, it is clear that for most people in the world the future is not bright because mankind is destroying the environment through unsustainable development. Modern technology can solve some problems but without careful planning the future looks bleak.
Typical discussion topics include statements which you are asked to agree or disagree with (e.g. There’s too much violence on television.) and invitations to discuss aspects of a subject
Generally, the important thing is to consider the various aspects of the topic before giving a balanced opinion. Occasionally, you may be asked directly for a personal opinion (e.g What’s the best way to bring up children?), but even here you would need to consider some different views so that you can contrast them with your own.
The structure of a discursive composition should be clear and logical. In the first paragraph, introduce the topic and your argument. In the next, deal with one aspect of the topic. Give supporting evidence in following paragraphs if necessary. After that, consider the opposite point of view. In the final paragraph, sum up your argument and give a balanced personal opinion.
It is usually a statement or a question.
The mobile phone has made a positive contribution to our lives today
Friendships have become more important than family relationships
The computer has greatly improved our lives today
Are electric cars a replacement for those powered by fossil fuels?
Is money the most important thing in life?
INTRODUCING THE TOPIC
Many people believe /feel that… / It is often claimed that… / We often hear that…
People’s opinions on … differ widely.
DEVELOPING YOUR ARGUMENT
One of the main advantages of … is that …
In the first place, / Firstly, / To begin with, / To start with, / First of all,
Second, / Secondly, / In the second place, / Thirdly, / Finally, /Lastly, / Last but not least, …
In addition to that, / Apart from that, / Besides,
At first sight … but in fact,
Apparently (al parecer), / the fact is that, / As a matter of fact,
For example… For instance… A case in point is… (un caso que lo explica es)
Clearly, / Obviously, / Needless to say, / As everyone knows,
FOLLOWING A LOGICAL ARGUMENT
Therefore, / Consequently, / As a result, / Thus, / Hence, / For this reason,
For one reason or another, / Up to a point,
In general, / As a rule, / On the whole,
In a way, / In a sense, / In some sense, (e.g. In some sense I agree with you, but not entirely)
In particular, / Especially,
Let alone (aún menos) / Not to mention (por no decir).
In other words… (en otras palabras). In any case… (en cualquier caso)
Things being as they are…
INTRODUCING ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Both … and / not only … but also …
In addition, / additionally, / in addition to this, / What is more, / Furthermore, /Moreover,/ likewise,
If this were not enough, / To make matters worse,
Above all, / On top of all this,
In these circumstances, /
With regard to, / For that matter, (respecto a ese asunto)
As for… (en lo que se refiere a).
Another advantage/ disadvantage is
EXPRESSING AN OPPOSITE POINT OF VIEW
Although, / However, / At the same time,
After all, /
In spite of + noun phrase/ -ing/ the fact that…
Despite + noun phrase/ -ing/ the fact that…
Some people… while/whereas others …
On the one hand … on the other hand…
While it is true that… / that maybe so, but, surely…
On the positive side... On the negative side
In my view, / In my opinion, / It seems to me that… / As I see it, / To my mind,
I think/feel that … / I can honestly say that…
As far as I am concerned, / As far as I know, / For all I know, / To the best of my knowledge,
It is my firm belief that
I would dispute the claim that
It is probably true to say that
It is true to some extent that
It cannot be denied that
It would be wrong to argue that
There can be no doubt that
It is simply not the case that
It is difficult to accept the idea that
Saying what other people think
It is widely believed that
It is generally agreed that
No one would dispute the fact that
Few people would contest (/kənˈtest/oppose) (the fact) that
Few people would dispute (the fact) that
Some people feel that
Others argue that
There are those who argue that
It has been suggested that
It is often claimed that
Opponents/ Supporters/ Proponents (supporters) of (bullfighting) argue that
Referring to sources
All the evidence/research suggests/shows that
A recent survey proved that
Judging by the comments made by
Interviews with (students) have revealed that
REACHING CONCLUSIONS / SUMMING UP
In conclusion, / To conclude, / To sum up, / On balance,
All in all, / All things considered,
Taking everything into consideration, there are some good arguments for…
On balance: after considering all the information. E.g. On balance, the company has had a successful year.
Students, not the state, should pay university tuition fees.
Twenty years ago, if you went to university in the UK, all of your tuition fees were paid for by the government. Now, however, you have to pay for them yourself. There is currently a lot of debate about
which of these two situations is better. What is more, there are no straightforward answers.
In an ideal world, all education would be free, including tertiary education. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that we do not live in an ideal world and there is not an unlimited supply of money.
In addition to this, the more money the government spends, the more it taxes its citizens, and the less money they have.
On the other hand, it could be argued that in a modern democratic society, citizens have some basic rights. For example, many people would agree that universal free healthcare is a basic right: no one should go without medical attention because they can’t afford it. Likewise, a significant number of people also think university fees should be free of charge. After all, they maintain, if healthcare is free, why shouldn’t university be free, too?
In my own view, university tuition fees should not be totally free. If they are, many people will go to university just because they don’t know what to do after secondary school. Obviously, this is not the purpose of going to university. At the same time, fees should not be so expensive that they put off people from poor families from carrying on with their studies. Consequently, the best solution would be for the government to subsidise tuition fees, but not to pay for them entirely.
Are electric cars a replacement for those powered by fossil fuels?
Electric cars are currently being developed by many well-known automotive companies. Many people still question whether electric cars are a feasible replacement for petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles. In this essay, I will explore the opinions for and against the use of electric cars and their replacement of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars.
On one hand, electric cars are environmentally friendly. Not only are they powered by renewable energy sources, but they are clean to run and maintain on the road. To support this opinion, recent studies show that the use of electric cars helps to minimize pollution in urban and rural areas. Clearly, electric cars are one way to tackle ecological concerns and support a ‘greener’ environment.
On the other hand, electric cars are inconvenient to maintain and to dispose of. The driver of an electric vehicle must recharge his car approximately every 100 kilometres. In addition, the plutonium battery of an electric car is toxic to the environment and must be safely disposed of through expensive means. In brief, scientists are still exploring ways to produce these types of vehicles so that they are easier to manufacture, maintain and use safely.
To sum up, it is evident that there are both pros and cons in the development of electric vehicles. Despite the expense of development and the inconvenience of recharging electric cars, I strongly believe that continuing with the research and production of these vehicles is well worth the investment and that we should remain supportive to the use of electric cars and to their development in the future.
Is money the most important thing in life?
Money is certainly something which is often discussed in today's world. Hardly a day goes by without the subject of money being raised in most people's lives. However, it is highly debatable whether it is more important than other considerations, such as health and happiness, which some people consider to be of greater significance.
To begin with, it is often argued that having money enables people to exert influence over others. Wealthy businessmen, for example, are often the most highly respected members of society, and business tycoons are often consulted by world leaders, who then make policies which affect the whole population. As a consequence, money can be seen as the single most important factor in our daily lives. Secondly, from the point of view of the individual, money is vital for survival. Our society is structured in such a way that, without money, people are deprived of the means to obtain proper nutrition and health care. Furthermore, in some cases where state benefits are inadequate, the inability to pay heating bills can indeed become a matter of life and death. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that, according to Social Services, the majority of deaths due to hypothermia each winter occur among low-income groups.
On the other hand, many people claim that undoubtedly health is of greater importance than money. Izaak Walton said “health is a blessing that money cannot buy.” What is more, money is of little consolation to those who are suffering from health problems. Despite the fact that money can pay for the best medical treatment and care available, this is no guarantee of a longer life. In addition, most people would agree that personal happiness easily outweighs money in importance. Even if an individual is extremely rich, this does not necessarily lead to happiness. In some cases, the contrary is true and vast wealth brings with it a whole range of problems and insecurities. Genuine happiness cannot be bought and does not usually have anything to do with financial status.
On the whole, although there are those who would rank money the single most important thing in life, the vast majority would disagree. Money, they argue, has an important part to play but perhaps the world would be a more harmonious place to live in if this were kept in proportion and society put more emphasis on moral issues.
1. Delete the incorrect alternative in each sentence.
1- He pays his own fees. For this reason / However / Consequently, he wants to complete his degree as
soon as possible.
2- Jane’s family have a lot of money. However / Thus / Nevertheless, they don’t give her much.
3- Everybody failed the exam. Evidently / In addition to this / Obviously, it was too difficult.
4- Healthcare is very expensive in the United States. On the contrary / For this reason / Hence, it’s a
good idea to have health insurance.
5- She lives a long way from the university. Furthermore / Consequently / What’s more, public transport
in the area is very poor.
6- His sister studied Maths at university. Thus / However / In contrast, he studied French.
3 In addition to this
4 On the contrary
Choose one of these options:
1. It has been said that childhood is the happiest time of one’s life. Do you agree?
2. What do you think of the idea, expressed in some countries that women should be paid a wage for the work they do in the home?
3. ‘The most important quality in a partner is a sense of humour’. Do you agree?