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How to Write a Discursive Essay: Expert Guide, Examples, and Template

29 Sep 2023,5:22 AM



In the ever-evolving landscape of academic writing, mastering the art of essay composition is a crucial skill for students of all levels. Among the various essay types, the discursive essay stands out as a challenging yet intellectually stimulating form of expression. It requires students to explore a topic from multiple perspectives, analyze arguments, and present their own thoughts coherently. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the intricacies of crafting a compelling discursive essay, providing expert insights, practical advice, and valuable examples. Moreover, we will offer an actionable template to facilitate the process. Aspiring writers, brace yourselves for an enlightening journey into the world of discursive essay writing.


Understanding the Discursive Essay

What is a Discursive Essay?

Before delving into the art of crafting a discursive essay, it's essential to grasp the concept. A discursive essay, often referred to as a persuasive essay, is a type of academic writing that requires you to explore a controversial or debatable topic from multiple viewpoints. Unlike an argumentative essay, where you take a clear stance and defend it, a discursive essay calls for a balanced examination of both sides of the issue.

In essence, a discursive essay presents an intellectual discourse, a structured discussion that examines various aspects of the topic, showcasing your ability to critically analyze, synthesize information, and express well-reasoned arguments.


Key Characteristics of a Discursive Essay

  1. Objective Tone: Maintain a neutral, objective tone throughout the essay. Avoid taking a strong personal stance, as the primary goal is to present multiple perspectives.

  2. Balanced Analysis: Explore both sides of the issue thoroughly. This means acknowledging opposing arguments and providing evidence to support them.

  3. Logical Structure: Organize your essay logically, using clear paragraphs and transitional phrases to guide readers through your discussion.

  4. In-depth Research: A well-researched discursive essay is built on a foundation of credible sources. Ensure you gather information from reputable academic journals, books, and authoritative websites.

  5. Critical Thinking: Engage in critical thinking to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various arguments. This skill is essential for constructing a convincing essay.

  6. Clarity and Coherence: Write in a clear and coherent manner. Your essay should be easy to follow, even when presenting complex ideas.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what a discursive essay is, let's move on to the step-by-step process of crafting one.

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The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Discursive Essay

Step 1: Choose an Engaging Topic

The first and arguably most crucial step in writing a discursive essay is selecting an engaging and debatable topic. Your topic should be relevant, intriguing, and capable of eliciting diverse opinions. Here are some tips to help you choose the right topic:

  • Research: Start by conducting preliminary research to identify potential topics. Look for subjects with varying viewpoints and sufficient credible sources.

  • Personal Interest: Select a topic that genuinely interests you. Your passion for the subject matter will shine through in your writing.

  • Relevance: Ensure that your chosen topic is relevant to your course or assignment requirements.

  • Controversy: Seek topics that have some level of controversy or disagreement. A topic that everyone agrees on may not be suitable for a discursive essay.

  • Scope: Consider the scope of your topic. It should be narrow enough to explore in-depth within the confines of your essay.

Once you've settled on a topic, it's time to move on to the next step.


Step 2: Conduct In-depth Research

Research is the backbone of any successful discursive essay. It's essential to gather a wide range of sources that provide different perspectives on your chosen topic. Here's how to conduct effective research:

  • Library Resources: Utilize your university or local library's resources, including books, academic journals, and databases.

  • Online Research: Access reputable online databases such as JSTOR, Google Scholar, and academic search engines like PubMed.

  • Credible Websites: Be cautious when using websites. Stick to reputable sources such as government publications, academic institutions, and established news outlets.

  • Expert Interviews: If possible, interview experts or individuals with firsthand experience related to your topic. Their insights can add depth to your essay.

  • Note-taking: While researching, take detailed notes. Record key arguments, statistics, and quotes that you can use to support your points.

  • Cite Sources Properly: Keep track of your sources and cite them correctly following the citation style specified by your institution (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).


Step 3: Plan Your Essay Structure

A well-structured essay is easier to read and understand. Before you start writing, create a clear outline that outlines the main sections of your essay. A typical discursive essay structure includes:

  • Introduction: Begin with a captivating hook or an interesting fact related to your topic. Provide background information and clearly state the issue you'll be discussing. Finally, present a concise thesis statement that outlines the purpose of your essay.

  • Body Paragraphs: Divide the body of your essay into multiple paragraphs, each focusing on a specific aspect or argument related to the topic. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, followed by supporting evidence and examples. Remember to include counterarguments and refute them with strong reasoning.

  • Counterarguments: Dedicate a section of your essay to counterarguments. Address opposing viewpoints and provide evidence to support them. Then, systematically refute these arguments with well-reasoned counterarguments.

  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points of your essay and restate your thesis. Emphasize the significance of the issue and leave the reader with a thought-provoking closing statement.


Step 4: Write the Introduction

The introduction is your essay's first impression, so make it count. Here are some strategies for writing a compelling introduction:

  • Hook the Reader: Start with an attention-grabbing hook. This could be a surprising statistic, a relevant quote, or a thought-provoking question.

  • Provide Context: Offer some background information about the topic to ensure your readers understand the context.

  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state your thesis in a concise and focused manner. Your thesis should encapsulate the main argument of your essay.

  • Outline of the Essay: Briefly outline the structure of your essay to provide readers with a roadmap of what to expect.

Here's an example of an introduction for a discursive essay on the topic of climate change:

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, with far-reaching consequences for our planet and future generations. The alarming rise in global temperatures, melting ice caps, and extreme weather events all serve as undeniable evidence of the crisis at hand. However, the response to climate change is far from uniform, as it sparks intense debates and conflicting viewpoints. In this discursive essay, we will navigate the intricate web of arguments surrounding climate change, exploring both the dire warnings and the skeptics' claims. By examining a spectrum of perspectives, we aim to foster a deeper understanding of this critical issue and its implications for our world.


Step 5: Develop Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of your discursive essay are where you present your arguments, evidence, and analysis. Each paragraph should focus on a single point or argument related to your topic. Here's how to effectively structure and write body paragraphs:

  • Topic Sentence: Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main point of the paragraph.

  • Supporting Evidence: Provide evidence to support your argument. This may include statistics, data, quotes from experts, or examples from real-life situations.

  • Counterarguments: Incorporate counterarguments within your body paragraphs. Acknowledge opposing viewpoints and explain why they exist.

  • Refutation: After presenting counterarguments, refute them with strong reasoning and evidence. This demonstrates your ability to critically evaluate different perspectives.

  • Transitional Phrases: Use transitional phrases and words to guide readers through your essay. These phrases create cohesion and improve the flow of your arguments.

  • Balance: Maintain a balance between arguments for and against the topic. Avoid appearing biased by presenting a fair and comprehensive analysis.

  • Paragraph Length: Aim for paragraphs of a moderate length, typically around 150-200 words. This keeps your essay readable and ensures you delve deep into each point.

Let's illustrate this with a body paragraph example from our climate change essay:

One of the primary arguments against immediate action on climate change is the economic impact it might have. Critics argue that stringent regulations and a rapid transition to renewable energy sources could lead to job losses in industries reliant on fossil fuels. For instance, the coal mining industry employs thousands of workers in various regions, and a sudden decline in demand for coal could result in unemployment and economic hardship for these communities. While this concern is valid, it's essential to consider the broader economic benefits of transitioning to clean energy. Renewable energy industries, such as solar and wind, have experienced exponential growth in recent years, offering new employment opportunities and long-term sustainability. Additionally, the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to decrease, making them increasingly competitive. Therefore, while there may be short-term challenges, the long-term economic benefits of addressing climate change are undeniable.


Step 6: Address Counterarguments

Dedicate a specific section of your essay to counterarguments. This demonstrates your ability to engage with opposing viewpoints and strengthens your essay's credibility. Here's how to effectively address counterarguments:

  • Identify Counterarguments: Clearly present the counterarguments related to your topic. This shows that you have thoroughly researched and considered all perspectives.

  • Support with Evidence: Back up counterarguments with evidence and examples. Treat them with the same level of rigor as your main arguments.

  • Refutation: After presenting counterarguments, provide a well-reasoned refutation. Explain why these counterarguments, while valid, do not outweigh the arguments in favor of your thesis.

  • Maintain Objectivity: Maintain an objective and respectful tone when addressing counterarguments. Avoid dismissing opposing viewpoints outright.

Continuing with our climate change essay, here's an example of addressing a counterargument:

While concerns about the economic impact of climate change mitigation efforts are valid, it's essential to recognize that the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term challenges. Transitioning to renewable energy sources not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also promotes economic growth in the clean energy sector. In fact, a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlights that the renewable energy sector has the potential to create millions of jobs globally in the coming decades. Furthermore, renewable energy technologies are becoming increasingly cost-competitive, making them a viable and sustainable choice for the future. While there may be transitional difficulties, the economic advantages of addressing climate change cannot be overstated.


Step 7: Craft a Compelling Conclusion

The conclusion of your discursive essay should wrap up your arguments, restate your thesis, and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Here's how to write a compelling conclusion:

  • Summarize Main Points: Briefly recap the main points you've discussed in your essay. Avoid introducing new information in the conclusion.

  • Restate Thesis: Reiterate your thesis statement, but do so in a way that highlights its significance.

  • Final Thoughts: Provide a closing statement that leaves the reader with something to ponder. This could be a call to action, a question, or a thought-provoking idea.

  • Avoid Repetition: While summarizing is essential, avoid repeating verbatim what you've already stated in the essay. Add a new perspective or insight to keep the conclusion fresh.

  • Conciseness: Keep your conclusion concise and to the point. It should be a concise reflection of your entire essay.

Here's an example of a conclusion for our climate change essay:

In conclusion, the discourse surrounding climate change is complex, encompassing a wide array of opinions and concerns. While critics argue that addressing climate change may have short-term economic consequences, a comprehensive analysis reveals that the long-term benefits far outweigh the challenges. The urgency of mitigating climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and transitioning to sustainable energy sources cannot be overstated. It is not only an environmental imperative but also an economic opportunity to foster innovation and create a better future for generations to come. As individuals and societies, we must embrace this challenge and work collaboratively towards a more sustainable and resilient planet.


Step 8: Revise and Edit

Writing is rewriting, and this step cannot be stressed enough. After completing your initial draft, take the time to revise and edit your essay meticulously. Here are some tips for effective revision:

  • Check for Clarity: Ensure that your writing is clear and concise. Avoid overly complex sentences or jargon that may confuse readers.

  • Grammar and Spelling: Proofread for grammar and spelling errors. Use grammar-checking software and enlist the help of peers or tutors if necessary.

  • Consistency: Maintain consistency in formatting, citation style, and tone throughout your essay.

  • Sentence Structure: Vary your sentence structure to make your writing more engaging. Avoid monotonous, repetitive phrasing.

  • Coherence: Check the flow of your essay. Ensure that each paragraph logically connects to the next and that your arguments progress in a cohesive manner.

  • Word Count: Verify that your essay adheres to the specified word count. Trim any unnecessary content and expand on areas that need further explanation.

  • Peer Review: Seek feedback from peers or professors. Fresh perspectives can uncover blind spots and areas for improvement.

  • Citation Accuracy: Double-check your citations to ensure they are accurate and properly formatted according to the designated style guide.

  • Read Aloud: Read your essay aloud to catch awkward phrasing or unclear sentences.


Step 9: Finalize Your Essay

Once you've completed the revision process, it's time to finalize your discursive essay. Ensure that you've followed all formatting guidelines, including margins, font size, and citation style. Create a title page, if required, and include a bibliography or works cited page listing all your sources.


Step 10: Seek Feedback

Before submitting your essay, seek feedback from trusted sources. This could be a professor, tutor, or writing center. Constructive criticism can help you refine your essay further and ensure it meets the highest academic standards.

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Discursive Essay Template

To make the process of writing a discursive essay even more accessible, here is a template you can use as a starting point:

Title: [Your Engaging Title]


  • Hook the reader with an interesting fact, quote, or question.
  • Provide background information on the topic.
  • State the issue and present a clear thesis statement.
  • Outline the structure of your essay.

Body Paragraphs:

Paragraph 1:

  • Topic sentence for the first argument.
  • Supporting evidence or example.
  • Counterargument and evidence, if applicable.
  • Refutation of the counterargument.

Paragraph 2:

  • Topic sentence for the second argument.
  • Supporting evidence or example.
  • Counterargument and evidence, if applicable.
  • Refutation of the counterargument.

[Repeat the pattern for as many paragraphs as necessary.]


  • Identify and present counterarguments related to your topic.
  • Provide evidence and examples for each counterargument.
  • Refute counterarguments with well-reasoned responses.


  • Summarize the main points of your essay.
  • Restate your thesis statement with emphasis on its significance.
  • Leave the reader with a thought-provoking closing statement.

Final Steps:

  • Revise and edit your essay for clarity, grammar, and coherence.
  • Ensure proper formatting and citation according to the style guide.
  • Seek feedback from peers or mentors.

By following this template and the steps outlined in this guide, you'll be well-equipped to craft a compelling discursive essay on any topic.


Examples of Discursive Essays

To further illustrate the concepts and techniques discussed, let's explore two examples of discursive essays on different topics: one on the legalization of recreational marijuana and another on the impact of social media on mental health.

Example 1: The Legalization of Recreational Marijuana


The legalization of recreational marijuana has been a topic of heated debate in recent years. Proponents argue that it could generate substantial tax revenue, reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, and grant individuals the freedom to make choices about their own bodies. Conversely, opponents express concerns about potential health risks, increased use among adolescents, and the impact on road safety. This essay aims to navigate the complex web of arguments surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana, offering a comprehensive analysis of both sides of the issue.

Body Paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: Economic Benefits

One of the primary arguments in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana is its potential economic benefits. States that have legalized cannabis for recreational use have reported significant tax revenue gains. For example, in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, tax revenue from cannabis sales exceeded $1 billion in 2020 alone. This revenue has been used to fund education, infrastructure, and public health programs, providing tangible benefits to communities.

Paragraph 2: Health Concerns

However, opponents of legalization raise valid concerns about potential health risks associated with marijuana use. Long-term use of cannabis has been linked to cognitive impairments, addiction, and mental health issues, particularly among adolescents. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that regular marijuana use during adolescence was associated with a higher risk of developing depression and suicidal tendencies in young adulthood. These findings underscore the importance of careful consideration when legalizing a substance with potential health consequences.


Counterargument 1: Regulation and Control

One counterargument to the health concerns is the potential for better regulation and control of marijuana in a legalized market. Proponents argue that legalizing marijuana allows for quality control and the implementation of safety measures, reducing the risks associated with unregulated products on the black market.

Counterargument 2: Criminal Justice Reform

Opponents' concerns about the criminal justice system may be addressed through legalization. By removing the criminalization of marijuana possession, legalization can reduce the burden on the justice system and eliminate the disproportionate impact on communities of color, as highlighted in a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).


In conclusion, the debate over the legalization of recreational marijuana is multifaceted, with valid arguments on both sides. While economic benefits and criminal justice reform provide compelling reasons to legalize, concerns about health and social consequences should not be dismissed. Striking a balance between personal freedom and public health is a complex challenge that requires careful consideration and ongoing research.

Example 2: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health


The rise of social media platforms has revolutionized the way we connect, communicate, and share information. However, alongside its many benefits, social media has sparked concerns about its impact on mental health. Proponents argue that it provides a sense of community and support, especially for marginalized groups, while opponents express concerns about cyberbullying, addiction, and the negative effects on self-esteem. This essay will delve into the intricate discourse surrounding the impact of social media on mental health, offering a comprehensive analysis of both its advantages and disadvantages.

Body Paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: Sense of Community

One of the primary arguments in favor of social media is its ability to create a sense of community and support. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have connected individuals with shared interests, providing spaces for emotional expression and solidarity. For example, online support groups for individuals facing rare medical conditions or mental health challenges have become lifelines for those who might otherwise feel isolated.

Paragraph 2: Cyberbullying and Mental Health

However, concerns about cyberbullying and its detrimental effects on mental health cannot be ignored. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found a significant association between cyberbullying victimization and increased odds of depression among adolescents. The anonymity afforded by social media can embolden individuals to engage in hurtful behavior they might not otherwise exhibit in face-to-face interactions, exacerbating the problem.


Counterargument 1: Connectivity and Awareness

One counterargument to the negative effects of social media is its potential to raise awareness of mental health issues and promote dialogue. Mental health advocates and organizations use platforms like Instagram and TikTok to share resources, personal stories, and coping strategies, reaching a wide and diverse audience.

Counterargument 2: Individual Responsibility

Opponents' concerns about addiction and self-esteem may be addressed by emphasizing individual responsibility. Users can take steps to limit screen time, curate their online experiences, and seek professional help if needed. Additionally, research indicates that the impact of social media on self-esteem can vary widely depending on how individuals use these platforms and the types of content they consume.


In conclusion, the influence of social media on mental health is a multifaceted issue with valid arguments on both sides. While it can foster a sense of community and support, it also carries risks, such as cyberbullying and addiction. The key lies in harnessing the positive aspects of social media while implementing strategies to mitigate its negative effects. Ultimately, it is a tool that can be wielded for both harm and good, making responsible usage and awareness critical in the digital age.


Actionable Tips for Crafting a Stellar Discursive Essay

To elevate your discursive essay writing skills and establish yourself as an expert in the field, here are some actionable tips:

Tip 1: Dive Deep into Research

  • Go beyond surface-level research. Explore academic journals, scholarly articles, and books to gather comprehensive and authoritative sources.

  • Consider conducting interviews with experts or individuals with firsthand experience related to your topic. These interviews can provide unique insights and enrich your essay.

  • Stay updated on the latest developments and research related to your topic. This demonstrates your commitment to staying informed and delivering up-to-date content.

Tip 2: Master the Art of Counterarguments

  • Invest time in understanding opposing viewpoints thoroughly. This not only strengthens your essay but also showcases your ability to engage with diverse perspectives.

  • Practice the art of refutation. Provide compelling counterarguments and back them up with strong evidence and reasoning.

  • Anticipate potential counterarguments and address them preemptively within your essay. This demonstrates a proactive and comprehensive approach.

Tip 3: Enhance Clarity and Coherence

  • Prioritize clarity in your writing. Use straightforward language and avoid unnecessary jargon or convoluted sentences.

  • Employ transitional phrases and words to guide readers through your essay smoothly. This enhances the flow of your arguments and makes your essay easier to follow.

  • Structure your essay logically, ensuring that each paragraph connects seamlessly to the next. A well-organized essay is a pleasure to read.

Tip 4: Embrace Critical Thinking

  • Cultivate your critical thinking skills. Engage in in-depth analysis and evaluation of arguments, evidence, and sources.

  • Avoid relying solely on emotional appeals. Instead, base your arguments on solid logic and well-substantiated evidence.

  • Encourage readers to think critically by presenting thought-provoking questions or challenges in your conclusion.

Tip 5: Seek Feedback and Continuous Improvement

  • Don't shy away from seeking feedback from professors, peers, or writing centers. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool for improvement.

  • Continuously refine your writing skills by practicing regularly. The more you write, the better you become at articulating complex ideas and arguments.

  • Stay open to learning and adapting. As you receive feedback and gain experience, be willing to adjust your writing style and approach.

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In the world of academia, the ability to craft a compelling discursive essay is a valuable skill that showcases your critical thinking, research, and communication abilities. By following the comprehensive guide provided here, you now have the tools and knowledge to excel in this challenging yet intellectually rewarding form of academic writing.

Remember, the key to success lies in choosing an engaging topic, conducting thorough research, presenting balanced arguments, addressing counterarguments effectively, and crafting a clear and cohesive essay. Whether you're addressing the legalization of recreational marijuana or exploring the impact of social media on mental health, the principles of discursive essay writing remain consistent.

As you embark on your discursive essay writing journey, embrace the opportunity to become an expert in your chosen field of study. Continuously seek to refine your skills, engage with diverse perspectives, and contribute to the ongoing discourse on important issues. Your well-crafted discursive essays have the potential to shape conversations, challenge assumptions, and inspire positive change in the world.

For further guidance and expert assistance in your academic writing endeavors, consider exploring the online tutoring services offered by Apax Researchers. Our team of experienced tutors is dedicated to helping students like you excel in their writing assignments and reach their academic goals. Together, we can embark on a journey of knowledge and intellectual growth, one discursive essay at a time.

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