Persuasive Essays & Help Writing Persuasion Research Papers

(Updated on December 3, 2017 by Michelle Williams)

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A persuasive essay is one completed with the primary aim of persuading readers to support the position of the writer.  Persuasive essays are similar to argument essays because they argue for the superiority of a particular stance.  The subtle difference between a persuasive essay and an argument essay is in the ultimate objective: an argument essay isn't necessarily attempting to persuade readers to the writer's opinion, but perhaps only to present the reasons why the writer holds the position he/she does and deems it superior.  A persuasive essay, on the other hand, always seeks to reach out to the other side in order to persuade readers to join the writer's stance.

Frequently, students are taught how to be persuasive writers through the use of the strategies of Greek rhetoric.  There are three elements of persuasion under this Greek model: ethos, pathos, and logos.  

Persuasive Essays & Help Writing Persuasion Research PapersEthos refers to the authority of the writer.  The report reader must believe that the writer of the persuasive essay is a credible source.  Ethos is developed through several ways, but primary among them is the demonstration of intelligent thoughtfulness.  Intelligent thoughtfulness is displayed when the writer acknowledges the opinions of his/her opposition and then demonstrates that he/she is familiar with those opinions (and the reasoning behind them).  Doing this shows the report reader that the writer has decided upon his/her own opinion after becoming informed about both sides.  

Pathos refers to the reader's emotions.  In order to be persuasive, most persuasive essays rely at least somewhat on engaging the emotional side of the reader.  This is done by pointing out the ways in which the subject of the report relates to and affects individuals and communities.  An effective way to include pathos can often be through the inclusion of a hypothetical scenario.

Logos refers to the reader's logic.  Logos includes the writer's display of reasoning and evidence that support the writer's position.  Thus, logos consists not only of pointing out the rational or practical reasons for the writer's opinion, but also of including testimony and facts from authoritative sources.  Any use of secondary source material is an appeal to logos.  

To be effective, persuasive reports should appeal to all three elements of the Greek rhetorical strategy.  However, the writer shouldn't feel as though he/she must appeal to all three elements equally, as it's likely that the element that dominates the report will change depending on the subject and intended audience.

Persuasive Research Paper Topics

Students will write research papers on a wide variety of topics.  These topics are usually directly related to a particular subject that they're studying in school.  However, even if students are studying a very specific topic, they will often have some leeway when it comes to selecting a topic for a reference project.  One of the most effective ways to complete a project that will have an impact is to choose a persuasive research paper topic.

Many students enjoy writing about persuasive research paper topics because it allows them to pick a side on any subject and defend their points-of-view.  However, it's important that even when students choose a persuasive subject, they're careful to consider the opposing point-of-view.  Only once a student can see both sides of an issue can he/she create a truly persuasive paper.  After all, a persuasive paper not only explains one point-of-view, but it also helps to devaluate an opposing point-of-view.  

Regardless of the subject of study, learners can find a persuasive research paper topic.  Sometimes students will have a persuasive research paper topic assigned to them by a professor and they will need to choose a side.  Sometimes students will have a persuasive research paper topic assigned and they will not agree with the side that they're required to write about for the document.  Other times, learners will have complete liberty to select their own persuasive research paper topics.  No matter how a student comes about a topic, he/she should begin by researching it.  

Researching a persuasive research paper topic requires that students not only research from their perspective, but that they develop an opposing argument.  All persuasive research papers will contain background information about the topic and mention the similarities and differences between both sides.  Once a student establishes that there's a disagreement about a topic, he/she can then effectively describe his/her point-of-view about the disagreement, while pointing out reasons why the opposing point-of-view is filled with errors.  

When a student has to find a persuasive subject, he/she should be aware that research that goes into persuasive research paper topics should always be analytical.  When a student completes a straight research paper, he/she may or may not have to be critical about the subject.  Instead, the student may simply have to summarize and regurgitate information.  However, a persuasive research paper requires that students are critical and emotive in their documents.  To be persuasive, students need to know about both sides of an issue in great detail so that they can effectively prove a point and persuade their readers.

Persuasive Essay Writing

A persuasive essay is a document that attempts to convince the reader of the perspective of the author.  There are several methods of persuasion, but all can be generally defined under three distinct types: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Based on a model of persuasion advanced by the ancient Greeks, ethos, pathos, and logos are ways of engaging or persuading different aspects of the reader.  A persuasive essay based on ethos appeals to a reader by convincing his/her of the author's expertise on the topic; pathos appeals to his/her emotional reasoning; and logos appeals to his/her rational or logical side.  When completing persuasive essays, most accomplished writers will use a combination of these approaches.

To appeal to ethos, the writer must establish himself/herself as a voice of wisdom regarding the topic at hand.  This can be achieved through many techniques encompassing both the content of the report and the style of writing.  For instance, if the writer were completing a persuasive essay about why schools should have uniforms, he/she might appeal to ethos by pointing to his/her individual experience attending a school that adopted a uniform.  This places the writer in a position of experiential knowledge and makes the reader more likely to listen to his/her perspective.  In terms of style, a writer develops his/her ethos by writing well-developed, coherent, and sophisticated sentences that make valid and well-defended points.  Writers who present polished writing and correct grammar and spelling convey themselves as individuals who are thoughtful, which in turn suggests to the reader the validity of that writer's stance.  A great report with fifty grammatical errors will not be considered to be as credible as an error-free paper.

One of the most popular methods of persuasion in persuasive essay writing is appealing to pathos, or the emotional side of the reader.  This is done by presenting a situation or claim that makes the reader identify with the writer and his/her stance.  For instance, in the above report about schools adopting uniforms, a successful appeal to pathos may involve explaining why uniforms are a good idea by discussing how lower-income students are ridiculed for their second hand clothes.  By describing the injured feelings of a lower-income child whose family can't afford to by him a well-fitting coat, the writer is working on the reader's emotions.  Beware when writing persuasive essays by appealing to pathos, however, not to exaggerate the emotional appeal being made.  An overdose of sentimentality can render the appeal pathetic or unconvincing.  

Writing persuasive essays almost always includes some appeal to logos, or logic.  This is the reasoning part of the reader.  While appeal to ethos and pathos can be personal, appeals to logic must be based on rational and convincing arguments and should be supported with evidence.  To appeal to logos for the document on school uniforms, an author would point to studies revealing that schools that adopted uniforms saw an increase in test scores and a reduction in violence.  This way, the reader is presented with facts so that he/she can make a logical and informed decision.

Effective persuasive essay writing typically employs multiple persuasive modes in order to work on the reader in varying ways.  No matter what type of persuasive essay writing an author chooses, however, he/she should always be aware of who his/her audience is in order to complete an essay that best persuades it.

Persuasive Research Papers

A persuasive research paper is one in which students need to research a particular subject from multiple perspectives and then form their own opinions about the subject.  Once the student has formed his/her own opinion through research, he/she should formulate a persuasive argument that he/she then expresses in a persuasive reference project.

In order to understand how to write persuasive research papers, students need to first understand what a research paper is, in general.  A research paper is a common academic writing and research assignment for al levels of study and all courses of study.  Basically, a student will need to research a particular topic in-depth and then write about the topic in a lengthy formal document.  

Persuasive research papers not only allow students to study a particular subject, but they also let students formulate their own ideas as to what to research and communicate their findings.  A persuasive research paper goes one more step by requiring students to be critical of the documents that they research so that they can have a point-of-view and persuasive argument.  

Many persuasive research papers require learners to use facts and figures to support an idea.  For example, if a student is given the assignment to determine whether or not President Obama's first inaugural oath of office was legitimate or not, students may need to analyze the Constitution as well as precedent cases.  The student would use these documents and facts to then create a persuasive research paper stating that the original oath was legitimate or illegitimate.  

Whenever students create persuasive research papers, they need to follow the basic research paper format, which requires that students use a cover page, introductory sentence with a thesis statement, body with paragraphs that support the thesis statement with new information, and a conclusion.  Depending on the level of study, some students may also need to create a reference section and an abstract for the document.  

The difference between a persuasive research paper and a basic research paper is that students may need to perform more research on a persuasive paper.  Students who work on persuasive research papers need to keep in mind that they need to research the topic from many different perspectives.  The mark of a good persuasive research paper is that it not only shares information supporting one opinion, but that it also shows that the author has explore other points-of-view and been able to debunk them.  

Therefore, a persuasive research paper requires not only that students research one set of ideas, but they also research all other ideas so that they can determine that the other ideas are legitimate or not (or somewhere in between).

How to Write a Persuasive Essay

When learning how to write a persuasive essay, it's important for the student to not only make the reader understand the student's position, but—more importantly—to agree with the student's point-of-view.  Therefore, every part of your persuasive essay must be finely crafted in order to help convince the person of the point that you're trying to make.

Before writing your persuasive essay, you must first determine the main idea of the report as well as your point-of-view.  You must also determine who your audience will be.  Understanding your audience is key to completing a persuasive paper because you need to develop arguments that will appeal to their senses and that won't cause them to tune out immediately.  For example, if you're writing to an audience of people who are still on the fence with an issue, you might write in a bit different style than you would when writing to a group of people who are strongly against your point-of-view.

Another important element that's required to complete a persuasive essay is to identify the opposing viewpoints.  By identifying the opposing viewpoints and then making arguments against them, you can strengthen your own point-of-view while adding credibility to the document.

As with any report, the first paragraph of persuasive essays is the introduction.  In your introduction, you should utilize some sort of "hook" to help grab the reader's attention.  Two simple ways to accomplish this are to ask a question or to present an alarming statistic.  A persuasive report should also provide the reader with some background information about the topic or the controversy you'll be addressing.  Finally, the introductory paragraph should end with a clear statement about your point-of-view.

The body of your persuasive report should be used to provide information that supports your main idea.  Each of the paragraphs in the body should focus on only one point and should provide plenty of examples or evidence to prove the point being made with the paragraph.  After presenting several paragraphs supporting your point-of-view, you should then complete a paragraph that explains the most significant opposing viewpoint and then provides evidence to the contrary that can be used to refute that point-of-view.

The final paragraph of your report should be the conclusion.  In the conclusion, you should restate your supporting points and main ideas, though these points should be worded differently from how they were previously worded.  Finally, your conclusion should leave your audience feeling more connected with the topic and you should make one last attempt to persuade the audience to your perspective.

One of the most important factors you should keep in mind when engaged in persuasive essay writing is that you should never be "wishy-washy."  In other words, you shouldn't concede that the opposing viewpoint has a valid argument.  If there's a good counterpoint to your argument and you don't have evidence to refute that argument, it's best to not include that information in your document.

Persuasive Essay Topics

If a student needs to complete a persuasive essay, he/she needs to decide on a persuasive essay topic that he/she is comfortable writing about for the document.  When it comes to persuasive essay topics, there are a wide variety of topics that students may select.  In many cases, a particular topic may directly relate to a course that a student is studying.  For example, a student taking a course in biology may choose a persuasive essay topic that focuses on a topic directly related to biology.  

In order to find an appropriate persuasive assignment topic, learners should think about the areas of a particular subject that interest them.  Students tend to write better essays when they're actually interested in a topic.  Therefore, learners should take the liberty to select a persuasive essay topic that they're comfortable with or would like to learn more about when they're able to choose their topics.  

After a student has decided on a persuasive assignment topic, he/she needs to research as much as he/she can about that topic.  Students may use a variety of different research methods.  However, all persuasive essay topics may require different specific research methods in order to be properly researched.  

Students can begin their document drafts after they have completed an outline.  With an outline in place, learners should make sure that their documents actually follow the correct persuasive essay topics.  Most students will have to write several drafts of a report before they write the final draft that they submit for a grade.  

It is important for students to be aware that there's a difference between a persuasive essay topic and an informative essay topic.  While the subject matter may be similar, a persuasive report should be written on a topic in which a student is trying to convince readers of a particular point-of-view.  Students should write informative essays on topics in which they're trying to convey information to their readers.

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