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Academic writing styles: Persuasive academic writing

Academic writing is far from a one-size-fits-all genre. Applicable to the broad variety of academic disciplines and their unique approaches to conducting and documenting research efforts in the field, one might find it challenging to identify clearly what constitutes academic writing.

In our latest series of #AcWriChat TweetChat events on Twitter, we explored four commonly accepted academic writing styles: descriptive, analytical, persuasive, and critical. This article focuses on the discussion about the third of those four styles – persuasive academic writing.

Defining persuasive academic writing

We began our discussion with the foundational question, “What is persuasive academic writing?” Eric Schmieder replied, “Academic persuasive writing is research-based articles intended to encourage others to see your point of view on a topic of interest or discussion.”

An online resource from Roane State Community College distinguishes a persuasive essay from a typical research paper stating, “It’s important to remember that a persuasive essay doesn’t simply report information (like a typical research paper would)–it uses that information to make an argument or prove a point!”

Virginia Kearney with Owlcation provides a list of 100 Academic Persuasive Research Topics for consideration. She introduces the list with an answer to our fundamental question, saying that in academic persuasive writing “Your job is to make a claim and support it using facts, logic, and research.”

Choosing an argument that is discussable/debatable

Perhaps one of the hundred topics on Kearney’s list fits your research interests, but if not, our discussion continued with the question, “How do you choose an argument?” Specifically, “What factors are critical to ensuring the topic is discussable/debatable?”

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) claims that “An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on.” For topics that may be worthy of argument, the Natural Therapies Institute states, “Hot issues in the news often make good topics for argument essays because the majority of people are aware of them.”

In their article, “Tips on How to Write and Argumentative Essay”, ThoughtCo offers, “To find a good topic for an argumentative essay, consider several issues and choose a few that spark at least two solid, conflicting points of view.”

Schmieder noted during the discussion, “I find that I can argue either side of a topic (and sometimes enjoy researching and arguing against my beliefs) but I tend to be more effective when the argument is something with personal conviction or impact.”

Whether arguing for or against your personal beliefs, it’s important to understand that “A discussable issue is one that can be debated.” Butte College offered this definition with the additional advice to “Choose a topic about which there can be more than one reasonable opinion” when writing a persuasive essay.

Selecting supportive research

Once a suitable topic has been selected for an argumentative or persuasive essay, it is equally important to find research that supports the claim you choose to defend with your work.

The University of Montana Writing Center offers three ways to support an argument: statistics, examples, and expert opinion. Scribendi echoes these methods in their article, “Helpful tips for writing a successful persuasive essay”, stating, “It is important to be able to back up your argument with data. In order to further strengthen the argument in your persuasive essay, try using one or two direct quotes from experts on the topic.”

Addressing the counter-argument

When writing a persuasive academic paper on a topic with at least two conflicting points of view, there will, of course, be a counter-argument to whichever point of view you choose to support with your efforts. So how do you address the counter-argument in order to overcome objections to your claim?

The Harvard College Writing Center resource on counterargument, says “When you counter-argue, you consider a possible argument against your thesis or some aspect of your reasoning.” According to Walden University, “Addressing counterarguments also gives you an opportunity to clarify and strengthen your argument, helping to show how your argument is stronger than other arguments.”

During the chat event, Schmieder said, “If you’ve carefully selected an argument, you have likely thought of the objections ahead of time and can plan your argument to meet those counter-claims before they are presented.”

Convincing the reader

Now that you have considered the counter-argument, we asked “What elements of your writing can help convince the reader of your argument?” The Quad offers 7 Quick Tips for Writing a Great Persuasive Essay and Schmieder responded saying that the important elements are “consistent tone and message, cohesive easy-to-follow structure, and a clear position/thesis”, but Editex may answer this question best with their “10 Easy Steps to Convincing your Reader with Compelling Academic Writing”, as follows:

  1. Make a valid and supportable claim
  2. Use engaging storytelling
  3. Focus on one side of an argument only
  4. Conduct in-depth audience analysis
  5. Work on persuasive strategy
  6. Keep all ideas clearly organized
  7. Use strong and active language
  8. Select your sources wisely
  9. Smoothly transition between ideas
  10. Use examples to demonstrate your point

Organizing the paper for persuasive effect

Hamilton College claims that “No matter how intelligent the ideas, a paper lacking a strong introduction, well-organized body paragraphs and an insightful conclusion is not an effective paper.” Schmieder agrees stating, “An organized paper allows the reader to follow the argument from start to finish and fully understand the author’s reasoning, supportive research, and natural conclusion drawn from the presented information.”

A Washington College online resource offers eight patterns of organization: chronological, sequential, spatial, compare-contrast, advantages-disadvantages, cause-effect, problem-solution, and topical.

In closing for the TweetChat event, we asked, “How do you assess the organization of the article during the revision process?” Schmieder suggested the use of reverse outlines, stating, “Reverse outlining is a good way to review the organization of the article and determine if the intended argument is being made clearly. If the sequence of the narrative is off, you will quickly identify where revision or re-organization may be needed.”

Regardless of technique, says, “In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can be.” and suggests keeping the following considerations in mind:

  • Does the essay present a firm position on the issue, supported by relevant facts, statistics, quotes, and examples?
  • Does the essay open with an effective “hook” that intrigues readers and keeps them reading?
  • Does each paragraph offer compelling evidence focused on a single supporting point?
  • Is the opposing point of view presented and convincingly refuted?
  • Is the sentence structure varied? Is the word choice precise? Do the transitions between sentences and paragraphs help the reader’s understanding?
  • Does the concluding paragraph convey the value of the writer’s position and urge the reader to think and act?

The next article in this series will focus on our final academic writing style, critical academic writing.