Structure and organization are integral components of an effective persuasive essay. 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.
Simply enough, the introductory paragraph introduces the argument of your paper. A well-constructed introductory paragraph immediately captures a reader’s interest and gives appropriate background information about the paper’s topic. Such a paragraph might include a brief summary of the ideas to be discussed in body of the paper as well as other information relevant to your paper’s argument. The most important function of the introductory paragraph, however, is to present a clear statement of the paper’s argument. This sentence is your paper’s thesis. Without a thesis, it is impossible for you to present an effective argument. The thesis sentence should reflect both the position that you will argue and the organizational pattern with which you will present and support your argument. A useful way to think about the construction of a thesis sentence is to view it in terms of stating both the “what” and the “how” of the paper’s argument. The “what” is simply the basic argument in your paper: what exactly are you arguing? The “how” is the strategy you will use to present this argument. The following are helpful questions for you to consider when formulating a thesis sentence:
- What is the argument that I am trying to convince the reader to accept?
- How exactly do I expect to convince the reader that this argument is sound?
Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to synthesize these answers into a single thesis sentence, or, if necessary, two thesis sentences.
For example: You want to convince your reader that the forces of industry did not shape American foreign policy from the late 19th century through 1914, and you plan to do this by showing that there were other factors which were much more influential in shaping American foreign policy. Both of these elements can be synthesized into a thesis sentence:
Fear of foreign influence in the Western hemisphere, national pride, and contemporary popular ideas concerning both expansion and foreign peoples had significantly more influence on American foreign policy than did the voices of industrialists.
This sentence shows the position you will argue and also sets up the organizational pattern of your paper's body.
The body of your paper contains the actual development of your paper’s argument. Each body paragraph presents a single idea or set of related ideas that provides support for your paper’s argument. Each body paragraph addresses one key aspect of your paper’s thesis and brings the reader closer to accepting the validity of your paper’s argument. Because each body paragraph should be a step in your argument, you should be mindful of the overall organization of your body paragraphs.
The first step in writing an effective body paragraph is the construction of the first sentence of this paragraph, the topic sentence. Just as the thesis sentence holds together your essay, the topic sentence is the glue binding each individual body paragraph. A body paragraph’s topic sentence serves two main purposes: introducing the content of the paragraph and introducing the next step of your argument. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of the topic sentence is to advance your paper's argument, not just to describe the content of the paragraph.
The first part in your thesis on page two states that fear of foreign influence in the Western Hemisphere had more influence on American foreign policy than did industry. Thus, you need to elaborate on this point in your body paragraphs.
An effective topic sentence for one of these paragraphs could be:
American fear of foreign influence was a key factor in the United States’ actions in the Spanish-American War. Subsequent body paragraphs might offer further evidence for the idea presented in this body paragraph.
A good way to test the strength of both your topic sentences and your argument as a whole is to construct an outline of your paper using only your paper's thesis statement and topic sentences. This outline should be a logical overview of your paper's argument; all of your paper’s topic sentences should work together to support your thesis statement.
A basic purpose of your paper’s concluding paragraph is both to restate the paper’s argument and to restate how you have supported this argument in the body of the paper. However, your conclusion should not simply be a copy of your introduction. The conclusion draws together the threads of the paper’s argument and shows where the argument of your paper has gone. An effective conclusion gives the reader reasons for bothering to read your paper. One of the most important functions of this paragraph is to bring in fresh insight. Some possible questions to consider when writing your conclusion are:
- What are some real world applications of this paper’s argument?
- Why is what I am writing about important?
- What are some of the questions that this paper’s argument raises?
- What are the implications of this paper’s argument?
While the organization and structure described in this handout are necessary components of an effective persuasive essay, keep in mind that writing itself is a fluid process. There are no steadfast rules that you need to adhere to as you write. Simply because the introduction is the first paragraph in your essay does not mean that you must write this paragraph before any other. Think of the act of writing as an exploration of ideas, and let this sense of exploration guide you as you write your essay.
by Adam Polak ’98 and Jen Collins ’96
The text for this course is The St Martin's Guide to Writing, 9th edition by Axelrod and Cooper
Rubric - 2014
English 151 Syllabus
Core Essay Overview
Academic Inquiry--Core Essay Series
Sample Assignment Explain a Concept Essay
Sample Assignment Presenting Opposing Positions Essay
Tweaked Sample Assignment Presenting Opposing Positions Essay
(this version assignment makes absolutely explicit the expository nature of the essay and is designed to prevent students from lapsing into argumentation. Use it if students are conflating explanation with persuasion.)
Sample Researched Argument Essay with Works Cited Page
Sample Assignment Researched Argument Essay
Syllabus: 151 Assignment Descriptions
Sample Assignment Profile
Sample Assignment Explain a Concept
Sample Assignment Researched Essay
8 Rules for Simple Outlining
Library Research Guide Points of View Reference Center Debatable Issues Topics
SMSU Library Citation Style Guides
Sample Assignment Rubric Presenting Opposing Positions Essay
Sample Assignment Rubric Researched Argument Essay
Text and Readings Supporting Presenting Opposing Positions Essay Instruction Part 1
Text and Readings Supporting Presenting Opposing Positions Essay Instruction Part 2
Text and Readings Supporting Presenting Opposing Positions Essay Instruction Part 3
Sample Student Essays, Expository and Persuasive--From Axelrod and Cooper's Sticks and Stones and Other Student Essays
Sample Student Essays
These essays run the gamut in grades from A to C+
Example Student Essay Explain a Concept
Example Student Essay Argumentative Research Paper
Example Student Essay Opposing Viewpoints Paper
Differences between College Writing and High School Writing
Revising Strategies for College Writers-Deep Revision
Modes of Development for Expository and Persuasive Essays
Library Research Strategies for Essays 3, 4, and 6 (Points of View Reference Center)
Library Research Handout: EBSCO Products
MLA Format and Source Documentation
MLA Sample Pattern Document First Page
MLA Sample Pattern Document Lesson and Process
MLA Page Format
MLA Sample Works Cited Page
MLA Formatting Quotations
MLA In-text Citation Style
Sample Annotated Bibliography Entry, Print Book
Sample MLA Annotated Bibliography
Textbook/Instructor Guide Resources
Assessing Student Writing
Targeted Grading Sets Up the Writing Conference
Targeted Grading Sample Essay
Handling the Grading Load More Efficiently
Literature 120 Resources
Sample Syllabus LIT 120
Sample LIT 120 Assignments
LIT 120 Textual Database
English Department Rubric
Sample Assignments: Fiction, Poetry, Drama
Sample Assignments Improved: Fiction, Poetry Drama (includes standards, MTC competencies)
Sample Syllabus 1
Sample Syllabus 2 Inventing the University Bartholomae
Critical Approaches to Literature Slideshow
Applying Feminist Critical Approaches to Maxine Hong Kingston's 'No Name Woman' Slideshow
Handout Applying Feminist Critical Approaches to Kingston's 'No Name Woman'
Write Literary Analysis Essays Poetry/Imagery
Hamlet Lecture Notes
Administrative and Professional Development Resources
College Now Handbook: Handbook
Instructor/Mentor Guidelines: Guidelines
Assessing Student Writing Gellis
Assessing Student Writing Haynes
Linda Flower and John Hayes on the Writing Process Model (cognitive approach)
English Resources Page for Students
Welcome Students! This page is designed to give you course syllabi and resources for English 151 and Literature 120. English 151 is an academic writing course. You will choose a debatable issues topic, will conduct inquiry driven academic research to write a series of essays that explain the topic, explain two opposing points of view on the topic, and argue one side of the debatable issue. You will also create an annotated bibliography and a problem statement essay.
Here is the course syllabus: English 151 Syllabus
This quick overview explains the major essay assignments for the course: Core Essays
An Introduction to Academic Inquiry and Academic Research: Overview/Core Essays
Academic Inquiry and Introduction to Essay 1: Essay 1
The College Essay: Essay
Revising Like a College Writer: Revision
You will use the Points of View Reference Center Database to choose a topic and begin your research. Use this presentation to learn how to access and use the Reference Center:
Points of View Reference Center How To
And you will want to evaluate the university credible sources that you use to develop your essays. Here's how: Tips for Evaluating Sources
You will also want to do database searches and ebook searches. These tutorials will help you to widen your academic research skills. Ebooks Basic Database Search Advanced Database Search
You will document your sources. This resource will help: Library Citation/Documentation Guides MLA and APA Style
Links to Online Resources:
Purdue Online Writing Lab MLA Guide: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
Diana Hacker Online Handbook:http://www.dianahacker.com/pdf/Hacker-MLAupdates.pdf