What is a discursive essay? Discursive comes from the word ‘discussion’ – where people give different points of view. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • It is an essay that gives two points of view about a topic.
  • It does not try to persuade the reader to agree with one point of view. Instead it gives both sides of a topic, so that the reader can decide for themselves.
  • You are given a topic, and you need to think information that represents both sides.
  • It is similar to an expository essay, which gives information about a topic.
  • Some discursive essay topics are:

  • Discuss the pros and cons of reintroducing corporal punishment into schools.
  • Some people feel that driver education should be a part of the school curriculum, while others feel that this is not the responsibility of the education department. Discuss this topic, giving the arguments both for and against it.
  • Should there be rules at schools about hair? Discuss the reasons why and why not in a discursive essay.
  • Is the child support grant to unemployed mothers encouraging young girls to have children? Or is the grant achieving its aim of giving basic support to children who would otherwise be hungry?
  • What are some of the features of a discursive essay?

    A discursive essay needs to present points from more than one point of view. You can say what your own opinion is, if you have a strong point of view. You can see this in the ‘sample discursive essay’ to note how the writer does this in the conclusion. But before you give your opinion, make sure to present both points of view fairly.

    Most of the essay will be written without referring to yourself, although you can use examples from your life to illustrate points. Present your ideas in factual and formal sentences with correct grammar.

    Check on the length of essays for your grade. Most essay lengths are about 250 words.

    How to plan a discursive essay

    You could plan a discursive essay like this:

    Introductory paragraph: Introduce the topic and state clearly that you will be presenting more than one point of view.

    Paragraphs 2 and 3: Give two separate reasons that support the topic. Present each opinion in a different paragraph.

    Paragraphs 4 and 5: Use these two paragraphs to present two different reasons that give the opposite point of view.

    Concluding paragraph: End by bringing the different parts of your essay together. Do not simply repeat your points. Look at the sample essay to see how the writer waits until the conclusion to give his personal response.

    Should you choose a discursive essay in an exam?

    Yes, if the topic is something you have thought about. Test whether you can think of two different ideas in favour of the topic, and two different ideas against it. If you can then you have the four paragraphs of the body of your essay, and you only need to think about the introduction and the conclusion.

    Do not choose a discursive topic if you have never thought about the topic before. So if the topic is about whether all nature reserves should be scrapped to make land available for housing, do not choose it if you have never thought about this! The examiner will soon see that you do not have reasonable knowledge, and therefore you do not have clear opinions.

    Examiners say that one of the most common errors made in discursive essays is that learners muddle their ideas. So they will start a paragraph giving one point, but then they will switch to another, often contradictory point. So make sure that you do not make the same mistake. Plan your essay carefully.