Persuasive Essay

Sources to use when persuading:

  • analogy/comparison
  • anecdote (story)
  • example
  • expert opinion
  • expert interviews
  • fact
  • statistic
  • Often, you will be asked to present an argument. Research is important for helping you bring experts into the discussion to educate you about the topic so you can craft your argument. Try the Points of View Database to get started. By reading a few sources early, you can work towards the development of a good thesis.

    A thesis reflects a strong understanding of the content and purpose of your paper, a working thesis will guide you during the research stage and then with the final thesis, guiding your reader through the argument in your paper. We call it a working thesis because your statement could change during the writing process.

    It might help to have a formula crafting the thesis statement.

    Thesis Formula for a persuasive essay
    Informed statement of topic + opinion statement = THESIS


    Overfishing is too common and acceptable; therefore, its impact on declining fish populations will lead to the point of extinction throughout many species in the worlds’ oceans (Ellwanger 1).

    In order to drastically reduce the frequency of tragedies involving abusive gun use, gun control needs to be strengthened by instating background checks on all gun purchases and reducing the current gun circulation (Russell 1).

    The statement requires a lot of input from you, the author. You know your topic best. You know how your paper progresses from point to point. You know how the paper concludes and what final thoughts you want your reader to have. So only you know how to present the thesis in the way that best prepares your reader for the experience of reading your paper.

    Your “informed statement of the topic” should be short and specific. After an introductory paragraph that moves from the general to the specific, or that begins with a related anecdote or statistic, you need to use your thesis to put a very fine point on the exact topic of your research.

    Your “opinion statement” tells the reader the argument you are planning to make. The essay will give the research in a way to persuade the reader. You will take a side here, telling us what you plan to prove. Don't make generalizations or be vague. For example, "cosmetic surgery has pros and cons" is not really giving an opinion. You'll be able to show both sides within your paper, but your thesis needs to be a strong statement of opinion.

    For more tips, see this page from Indiana University.

    Outlining the Persuasive Essay

    The more effort you apply to creating an outline before writing, the more successful your first draft will be. Outlines can take many forms ranging from a scratch outline to a formal outline. A formal outline might even have complete sentences. This means an outline with Roman numerals, lettering and numbering, developing each point into a full sentence.

    Since you have created a working thesis, include it in your outline with your notes for the introductory paragraph. Having your thesis in mind will keep you on track as you plan. In addition, you will be more likely to notice any issues that may require a change in either the organization of your paper or the wording of your thesis.

    Example Persuasive Essay Outline from Ms. Jones:

    I. Presentation of the Issue
    II. Thesis Statement
    III. First reason with supporting evidence from outside source, use quote or paraphrase with parenthetical citation
    IV. Second reason with supporting evidence from outside source, use quote or paraphrase with parenthetical citation
    V. Third reason with supporting evidence from outside source, use quote or paraphrase with parenthetical citation (if there is a 3rd reason you can give it)
    VI. Opposing positions
    VII. Conclusion (include bringing your reader back to your side after telling opposition)

    Composition Paper Examples: Ellwanger and Russell. More details and an example here.


    Tips for a thorough outline

    • A rough idea of the plan for the introduction
    • A topic sentence for each paragraph, which clearly states what that specific paragraph will be about
    • A rough idea of how each paragraph leads into the next, and how each paragraph is related to the one before it
    • A list of evidence for each paragraph, preferably linked to sources with specific page numbers for quotes or paraphrase
    • A rough idea of the plan for the conclusion
    • See this template or an outlining software for help in formatting.

    For more explanation on persuasive essays, see the Purdue OWL site.