Can you guide me through the steps to writing a discursive essay?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A discursive essay has features in common with other essay types, yet has an objective all its own. Often required in exams, where no notes or reference material is allowed, a discursive essay sets out the writer's understanding of and opinion on a topic that may be such as an issue, a problem, or a quotation. The objective of a discursive essay, briefly stated, is to present two to four arguments with supporting evidence, then to conclude your argument, after acknowledging an opposing position, by stating your own influential opinion formed on the basis of the supporting evidence.

You may argue against a topic, for it, or present a balanced argument. Having chosen a stance, some instructors prefer you reserve your opinion for the final paragraph while others require a statement of personal stance in the opening paragraph, depending on the degree of personalization or objectivity required of you. You may introduce your essay with a thought provoking challenge or a balanced assertion, with an anecdote, illustration, or quotation. The BBC Standard Grade website has examples of each of these approaches.

A significant difference between the discursive essay and the persuasive (or argument) essay is intent: in the discursive, to present a well-balanced argument and personal opinion; in the persuasive, to convince that your opinion is correct. Another difference from the persuasive and argumentative essays is that while expert opinion is required in these two, the discursive essay may include opinions from less lustrous people such as friends, parents, and local personages. Of course, standard academic research is a great benefit to your essay but also useful are television, magazine and Internet sources. What constitutes appropriate sources for argument support is a significant distinguishing feature of the discursive essay. 

Whether you are required to provide two, three, or four arguments and supporting sources, each of your next paragraphs will present one argument and its supporting evidence. Your writing will be formal academic writing, though the required level of formality may vary depending on instructor preference. In other words, some may allow "I" in the argument paragraphs while some may require "I" be reserved for the concluding paragraph. All agree you will not use colloquialisms, abbreviations (for example, e.g.,), or contractions. All further agree that an appropriately high level of vocabulary is required and that transition, or linking, words and phrases are necessary.

Transition (linking) words and phrases show the logical connections between thoughts and arguments and help point the reader to the desired conclusion. There are several classes of transitions. These are: continuation and furtherance of thought (secondly, also; since, accordingly, for example), contrasting thought (yet, nonetheless), hedging expressions (possibly, may be) and definite expressions (most certainly, unquestionably), and concluding or summary expressions (as a result, hence, thus). Again the BBC has a useful list of these expressions.

Before your concluding paragraph in which you will restate or state your own opinion, leading readers to form a similar opinion, you will present and explain the opposing point of view, the opposing stance and argument. Your well reasoned essay will also be well balanced because both sides are represented though you draw readers to an enlightened conclusion through supporting evidence.

yonaxna | Student

first paragraph: introduction

(give the basic information and a headstart to your essay)

you can follow the order : background information/current situation, importance,a preview of the argument, and a balanced view.

second paragraph- third paragraph: show your two points to support your answer. you can support with examples that you know.

fourth and fifth paragraph: counter argument. show the reader a different point of view.

sixth paragraph: balanced view or preferred stand.  ( summary of points or recommendation )