What do I need to know about ... Discursive Writing?

What's the point?

Discursive wirting discusses the situation at hand. It presents an argument in a more balanced way than argumentative and persuasive writing and can appreciate the arguments both for and against a given position. Discursive writing does not argue for or against a point throughout the essay. After having assessed and evaluated all arguments, the writer generally states his/her opinion at the end.

What are the conventions?

Examples of conventions that could be used in a discursive essays are listed below. However, you have to be careful when using them that you do not become to strongly persuasive:
  • Balanced and calm tone of voice
  • A structure that alternates between the two opposiing positions exploring each one
  • A balanced consideration of the evidence for each point and an analysis of the strengths and flaws of that evidence
  • Techincal and formal language where appropriate
  • Reference to other sources of expertise / quotations from famous thinkers
  • Connectives to link paragraphs together by pointing out similarites (Equally, Similarly, etc) or differences (On the other hand, However, etc)
  • Some persuasive techniques: hyperbole, repetition, oxymoron, triads, emotive language, imagery, similes, metaphors, rhetorical questions (although be careful when using all of these that you do not become too strongly persuasive

Structure

Introdution: This states clearly the problem of the investigation and why it is a significant issue.

Main Body: Consider the various sides of the position in turn, alternative between them. Assess each one and compare their relative strengths - do not include your own opinion at this point. For each point, use a new paragraph. Begin each paragraph with a key sentence which links back to the question.

Conclusion: Summing up the your key points and state your position again and what has made it difficult to come to this decision / whether there are any qualifications or uncertainties involved

Hints and Tips

  • use the TENNIS MATCH ARGUMENT STYLE or an alternating structure to make it interesting
  • Before you start writing your discursive essay any essay you should start with a SPIDER DIAGRAM- this is a really good way to put your ideas down to help you plan your essay. Also, you should know before writing your essay which side of the argument you are on (For or against). This is to avoid mistakes and confusion.
  • Argument phrases: to introduce points and make it clear

Against:
  • “Some people believe/ think/ feel that…”
  • “Some people may argue”
  • "Others are of the opinion that...".
  • “While some people may claim”
  • “Furthermore some people may insist”
  • “Although some people would have us believe”

For:
  • However, In contrast, On the other hand, Nevertheless
  • “While in the case that…”
  • “Further consideration, however, suggests…”
  • “Despite the fact that there is some truth in…”
  • “Although there is some evidence to support…”
  • "It is also argued that...”
  • "However there are also strong arguments against this point of view..."
  • "Another counter argument is that..."

Do's

  • Should choose 4-6 main points (hopefully a balance of for and against)
  • Use connectives- furthermore, moreover, in addition, additionally, similarly etc. On the other hand, conversely, however, in contrast etc.
  • Look at both points of view, and end with your own opinion.
  • The different points, for and against, should be ALWAYS separated, NOT mixed. Present the “For” points in a separate paragraph, and present the “Against” point in another separate paragraph keep alternating between the two.
  • The introduction should be balanced and serve just to introduce the topic.
  • The conclusion can be persuasive
  • Make examples as specific as possible

Dont's

  • Use informal language when you are writing an essay, because you may be penalised in the exam
  • Forget that there are 3 different parts of a discursive essay: Introduction, Main Part and a Conclusion.
  • Forget to consider both sides - this is a persuasive essay, so you don't have to pick just one

Example Questions

  • Should boxing be banned?
  • Should students wear school uniforms?
  • Should kids be banned from watching violent movies?
  • Should animal experimenting be banned?

Example Answer

Animal Experiments
A subject which always arouses strong feelings on both sides of the argument is the use of animals in medical research. I believe that, though this may have been necessary in the past, other ways can be developed to test drugs and, in the future, animals should not be used.

One of my main reasons for saying this is that living tissues can be grown in test tubes and new drugs can be tested on these. Computers can also be programmed to show how medicines will react in the human body.

Moreover, animals are not always like humans. They do not suffer from all human diseases, so scientists have to give them the illnesses artificially. The joints in rabbit legs are inflamed with chemicals to help research in rheumatism. These tests do not always work because animals do not react to drugs in the same way as humans. Aspirin, for example, damages pregnant mice and dogs, but not pregnant women. Arsenic, which is a deadly poison for humans, has no effect on sheep, while penicillin, which is so valuable to humans, kills guinea pigs.


In addition, I believe that animal experiments should not be used because of the unnecessary pain that they cause to animals. The government introduced new rules about the use of animals in experiments in 1986. Scientists claim that these rules safeguard animals because they state that discomfort must be kept to a minimum and that painkillers must be used where necessary and appropriate. Surely this means, however, that scientists can still decide not to use painkillers in the animal experiments because they do not consider them appropriate. The British Union against Vivisection claims that 75% of animals experimented on are given no anaesthetic.


In spite of the claims of some scientists about the effectiveness of animal research, the death rate in this country has stayed the same over the last thirty years. There is also more long-term sickness, even though greater numbers of animals are being used in research.


On the other hand, scientists claim that some experiments are so small, for example giving an injection, that painkillers are not needed. They also argue that experiments on animals have been very useful in the past. For instance, the lives of ten million human diabetics have been saved because of experiments with insulin on dogs. Dogs also benefited, as the same drug can be used on them. In fact, a third of medicines used by vets are the same as those used by doctors.


It is argued by researchers that the use of animals in experiments cannot be replaced by methods using living tissue which has been grown in test tubes. These tests do not show how the drugs work on whole animals and so they only have limited effectiveness.

Although I accept that some drugs can be used on animals and humans, this does not mean that they have to be tested on animals in the first place when alternative methods are available. Alternative methods do work. Various groups have been set up to put money into other ways of researching. For example the Dr. Hadwen Trust has shown how human cartilage can be grown in test tubes to study rheumatism. Similar research is being done into cancer and multiple sclerosis. Tests can be done on bacteria to see whether a chemical will cause cancer. There is even a programme of volunteer human researchers, where people suffering from illnesses offer to help in research.

In conclusion, I accept that animal experiments have brought great benefits in the past, but now money needs to be spent on developing other methods of testing drugs and medical procedures, so that the use of animals can be phased out altogether.


Reference: - http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/education/bitesize/standard/english/writing/discursive_writing_rev3.shtml