How to Write a Persuasive Essay or Paper
It is important to learn to write in a manner that will convince
others of your ideas. What are the basic elements of persuasive
writing, argumentative essays, and persuasive papers? In this article,
I will provide information on two elements of persuasive writing and
provide some persuasive writing examples.
A Convincing Rationale
The first element of persuasive writing is providing the reader with
a convincing rationale. Many ideas are not suffiiciently convincing
because the writer has failed to explain why the ideas are plausible,
or has not expressed the reasons for the ideas in a clear manner.
Thus, a complete and plausible explanation should be provide for an
idea. Also, one or more specific examples of the idea should be
It is not enough to merely present a convincing rationale. Some
ideas may sound very convincing but are not supported by scientific
evidence. Sometimes research findings are surprising and conflict
with conventional wisdom. Thus, we cannot rely on only how
convincing ideas sound. We must also have supporting scientific
evidence. Providing convincing scientific evidence is the best way
to make an idea more cogent or persuasive.
Not all scientific evidence is equally convincing. Case studies are
not very convincing. Providing information on one person does not
allow us to make general conclusions about how other people may
behave. Other people may behave in a different manner in the same
situation. Also, we cannot make causal conclusions from case
studies because we cannot rule out alternative explanations for the
behaviors. Correlational research allows us to make predictions.
Correlational research reflects how variables are associated.
However, two variables can be associated without there being any
causal relationship. If A and B are found to be correlated, it could
mean that A caused B, B caused A, or some third variable caused
both A and B without there being any causal relationship. Thus,
correlational research is not very convincing evidence with respect
to ideas reflecting causal relationships. The best evidence for ideas
reflecting causal relationships is experimental research involving the
random assignment to conditions. This kind of research can allow us
to make casual conclusions.
Persuasive Writing Examples
One of the best ways to provide a convincing rationale is to
provide a specific example that reflects the idea. This is reflected in
the example below on pages 23 and 24 in my book, Finding
Meaning (3rd ed.):
We may desire to express ourselves
in an integrated manner in which all aspects of our
personality are reflected in our behavior. We may
experience considerable distress when we cannot
express certain important aspects of our personality in
Consider the following example. Imagine that
you have a research position in which you perform
statistical analyses on data. The job allows you to
express the analytical, but not artistic, side to your
personality. You are dissatisfied with the job. You
wish you could find a job that allowed you to express
both your analytical and artistic abilities. While having
lunch with a friend, you discuss your dissatisfaction.
Your friend, who works for a book publisher, suggests
that you apply for a job in which you design covers for
technical books. Your friend provides you with the
name of the person to talk to at the publishing
company. The person is very impressed with your
artistic ability, and offers you a job designing covers for
technical books. You greatly enjoy this new job
because it allows you to combine your analytical and
Ideas also can be made more convincing by provide credible
evidence. This is reflected in the example below (concerning an
experiment) on page 39 in my book, Finding Meaning (3rd ed.):
Thinking of things you are grateful for may foster
a sense of connectedness and closeness. In one
study, people who were asked to write down things
they were thankful or grateful for felt more connected
with others than people who were not asked to write
down these things (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
Bell, B. (2007). Finding Meaning (3rd. ed.). Portland, OR:
Blue Fox Communcations.