Writing a Persuasion Essay Using Evidence

Learning Objective:

  • Write a multi-page persuasion essay and incorporate research to support personal opinion.

A persuasion essayA writing that takes a position for or against something and tries to convince the reader to accept the same view. Also called an argument essay., which is sometimes referred to as an argument essayA writing that takes a position for or against something and tries to convince the reader to accept the same view. Also called a persuasion essay., is one of the most common writing assignments in college classes and is the type of writing most used in the working world. Writing effective persuasion essays is essential to your success in college, as well as in many aspects of your career since a resumeA brief written history of a person's education, work, and volunteer experience, submitted for the purpose of obtaining a job. and cover letterA letter that is sent along with a resume that provides context and more information for the reader. are types of persuasion essays convincing someone to hire you. In this lesson, you will learn the twelve-step process for writing a persuasion essay.

Step 1: Understand the assignment.

The first step in developing any essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. is making sure you understand the focus and scopeThe extent or aims of a project. of your assignment. Remember that a persuasion essay should incorporate researchThe use of outside sources as well as investigations and observations in order to form ideas and support claims. Also, the information obtained from such efforts. to support your personal opinionPoint of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true. on an issue. While the research is essential to provide evidentiary supportEvidence that supports the claims or viewpoints expressed in an essay and helps convince readers that an argument has merit. Evidentiary support may take the form of facts and statistics, expert opinions, or anecdotal evidence. for your claimA statement that something is true, such as the thesis of an essay. A successful writer must present evidence to prove his/her claim., the essay is not a summaryA brief restatement of an author’s main idea and major supporting details. Summaries are factual and should be written in the third-person with an objective point of view. of others' work. Additionally, be sure to read your assignment carefully before you begin and refer to it often throughout your writing process to make sure you stay on track.

Step 2: Write your thesis.

While it may be acceptable to start some essays without knowing what your thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work. will be, this is not a recommended strategy with a persuasion essay. Not only does the thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? help you to identify where to begin your research, it narrows your topicThe subject of a reading. so that you do not waste time and energy researching things that you will ultimately not use.

The thesis statement of a persuasion essay requires you to strongly convey a debatable position, which is why it is often referred to as an argument. It should be the type of statement that you know others will disagree with, not because the statement is wildly unconventional, but because it takes a position on a topic that is surprising or unusual to the reader.

Step 3: Research your topic.

Once you have developed your thesis statement, you are ready to begin researching your topic. You need to gather evidence to both provide the contextThe larger setting in which something happens; the "big picture." for your argument and to support the claims that you make in your argument. Whether you conduct your research using hard copies of newspapers, journals, magazine, books, or online sources such as blogsA website that hosts a series of articles, photos, and other postings, sometimes by a single writer (blogger) or by a community of contributors. and databases, it is essential that the sources be credibleDescribes a person who is trusted and able to be believed; reliable.. Evidentiary support may take the form of factsA piece of information that can be proven. Something that is true and indisputable. and statisticsA numerical value that provides information about something., expertSomeone who is very knowledgeable about a topic. opinionsPoint of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true., or anecdotal evidenceA brief, interesting story that supports a claim in a critical analysis or persuasion essay..

Step 4: Prewrite.

After gathering enough evidentiary support to begin shaping your main ideas and analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing., some prewriting exercises may be useful in further refining how you wish to go about persuasively arguing your claim. For example, a graphic organizerPictorial tools used to brainstorm and arrange ideas before writing, such as webbing diagrams, flow charts, story maps, and Venn diagrams. or diagram may help you to group your thoughts and evidentiary support into appropriate subsections. A brainstormingA prewriting technique where the author lists multiple ideas as he or she thinks of them, not considering one more than another until all ideas are captured. The objective is to create one great idea, or many ideas, on which to base a writing. list is another prewriting tool you may use to organize the contentThe text in a writing that includes facts, thoughts, and ideas. The information that forms the body of the work. of your essay. Simply begin by writing your thesis statement at the top of a piece of paper. Then spend some time freethinkingA technique used in prewriting in which any and all ideas that come to mind are written down for later review. ideas that branch off from that thesis statement. OutliningA preliminary plan for a piece of a writing, often in the form of a list. It should include a topic, audience, purpose, thesis statement, and main and supporting points. is another good prewriting tactic. At this point, you may find you need to return to the research stage to find evidence to support new or more nuancedSubtle differences in meaning and style of expression. arguments, or you may be prepared to begin writing your essay.

Step 5: Write the body of your essay.

Begin writing your essay with a rough draftThe first version of a writing that will undergo rewriting, additions, and editing before it becomes the final draft. of the body of your essay, which is made up of well-developed body paragraphsThe part of an essay that comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. Body paragraphs lay out the main ideas of an argument and provide the support for the thesis. All body paragraphs should include these elements: a topic sentence, major and minor details, and a concluding statement. Each body paragraph should stand on its own but also fit into the context of the entire essay, as well as support the thesis and work with the other supporting paragraphs. for each of your supporting claims. These should include evidence from legitimate sources and explanation as to how the evidence supports the claim. CounterargumentsIdeas, data, or discussion in opposition to a viewpoint. , which are opposing viewpoints that argue against your thesis, should also be addressed in at least one paragraph. You can address them in three ways: as they come up in your claims, prior to delving into your own arguments in a one-paragraph overview of those opposing viewpoints, or after you present your claims, in a summary paragraph.

Step 6: Identify gaps in your argument.

Once you've completed the first draft of your essay, outlining your rough draft can be a useful way to expand your ideas, remove unneeded and/or confusing material (in other words, that which does little to add to your essay and may actually detract from its persuasive power), and identify gaps in your argument. Additionally, consider the flow of your essay. You may need to add or revise transitionsTying two events, passages, or pieces of information together in a smooth way. In writing, transitions are sometimes called links. and/or linksTo connect ideas together within a paragraph or to create a transition from one paragraph to the next, as well as back to the thesis. between paragraphs in order to make your essay one continuous and cohesive piece.

Step 7: Do more research.

At this point, you may need to do more research to fill in the gaps you discovered in the prior step. Fill in these holes and answer any questions that your outline reveals. If you are unable to see any gaps in your reasoning, it may help to ask a friend or colleague to review your draft. If you have adequate and relevant evidence that you tied into the claim you make, the reader will likely not have very many questions. However, if the reader is confused about any of your points, you may not have adequately defended your position. Have your reader note any arguments that you cannot defend or any points that you make that are not currently in your essay. Focus on these questions as you further research and write the final draft of your essay.

Step 8: Write a conclusion.

It may seem strange to write your conclusionThe end portion of a writing that contains a summary or synthesis of the idea in the work. This includes a recap of key points and reminders of the author's purpose and thesis statement. before your introduction, but sometimes doing this can help you focus your ideas. It is somewhat like giving directions. You need to know where you want your reader to end up before you can lead him or her there. Remember that a strong conclusion summarizes and synthesizesTo combine ideas, as in the writing at the end of an essay that ties all the discussion and evidence together into a unified concept. the most important details of your persuasion essay. It reminds the reader of your thesis—without simply restating it with a few minor changes—and reinforces your main pointsThe most important idea in a paragraph. Main points support the main idea of a reading.. In the case of a persuasion essay, it is also the last opportunity to convince the reader of your position on the issue.

Step 9: Write an introduction.

Now that you know where you want your reader to end up, go back to the introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis. and prepare the way. An effective introduction contains four elements:

  1. HookIn writing, a device used to grab a readers' attention, often in the form of interesting, surprising, or provocative information.
  2. ToneThe feeling or attitude that a writer expresses toward a topic. The words the writer chooses express this tone. Examples of tones can include: objective, biased, humorous, optimistic, and cynical, among many others.
  3. BackgroundInformation that describes the history or circumstances of a topic.
  4. Thesis

A good introductory paragraph to a persuasion essay hooks the reader with a compelling idea, sets the tone for the remainder of the essay, provides any necessary background or context for the reader, and presents your debatable thesis statement.

Step 10: Cite your sources.

While a persuasion essay is going to rely heavily upon your own interpretation of other sources, it is still critical to citeTo give credit to the source of ideas or information. your sourcesA person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. by incorporating attributive phrasesA short introduction to source material that identifies the author and often the title of a work that will be quoted or discussed in an essay or research paper. and in-text citationsInformation about a source, such as the author, date, and page number, in an essay or research paper that helps readers find the source in the works cited or references page. There are different rules for how to use in-text citations depending on the context of the citation and the style of formatting you are using..

Attributive phrases are useful when you are summarizing, paraphrasingThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech., or quotingTo use the exact words of someone else in a writing. Quotes are indicted in a writing using quotation marks and attributive phrases. a source. Not only do they indicate to your reader that you are incorporating a source, they provide the context for that source.

In-text citations are used in addition to attributive phrases when you incorporate a source into your essay. In-text citations give the readers the necessary information to be able to find the original sources listed in the works cited pageAn alphabetized list of publication information about the sources used in an MLA-formatted essay or research paper. or references pageAn alphabetized list of publication information about the sources used in an APA-formatted essay or research paper..

An MLAA grammar and reference guide used mainly by students and scholars writing about the humanities (languages and literature). in-text citation should include the author's last name and the page number (if a specific numbered page is referenced). If the author's name is mentioned in the attributive phrase, only the page number should be included in parentheses. An APAA set of guidelines for citing sources used in literary and academic writing. APA style is most commonly used in the social sciences. in-text citation should include the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number (if a specific numbered page is referenced). If the author's name is mentioned in the attributive phrase, the year of publication should follow it, and only the page number should be included in parentheses.

Step 11: Create a works cited or references page.

The in-text citations do not include all the information to find the original source, so writers include a list at the end of the paper with all the information needed to locate a source. MLA refers to this list as a works cited page while APA refers to it as a references page. Both types of citations pages come at the end of the work and include information needed to locate a source, including articleA non-fiction, often informative writing that forms a part of a publication, such as a magazine or newspaper. title, journal/book title, year published, authors, publisher, and place of publishing. These details vary by the type of source used, and since there are many types of sources, you should refer to a style guide to confirm the correct citation model to use. All sources on a works cited or references page should be listed in alphabetical order.

Step 12: ReviseThe process of making changes to a work by editing and proofreading it to improve, correct, and increase clarity. your essay.

When you have a suitable draft of your essay, ask yourself these questions:

Review and revise your entire essay with these questions in mind. Remember, you may need to add information, remove information, or reorganize your writing. Being a careful reviewer of your own work is essential to a quality essay. When you have completed this step, be sure to go back one more time to verify that your grammarA set of rules about how words are used in a particular language., spelling, and punctuationMarks such as such as a comma (,), period (.), question mark (?), and exclamation mark (!), among others, that help break a writing into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Different types of punctuation marks give the reader different impressions of the writer’s purpose in that sentence. are correct.