A discursive essay is a scholarly composition in which a given subject is submitted to balanced examination in the form of the discussion. A key attribute of discursive writing is objectivity: which equates to a more formal and methodical writing style than in other kinds of essay.
You will want to present both sides of the argument, to approach the topic in a critical and impartial manner. In this respect, discursive writing is distinct from purely argumentative writing (which will not necessarily present more than one viewpoint).
Research is Paramount
Research is paramount to scoring top marks. If you are required to present multiple viewpoints, you had better find some. The best way of doing this is to conduct extensive research, gaining a broad overview of the topic at hand, and identifying crucial sources. Ideally you will want to look at primary sources from both sides of the debate. This way, you will be able to build equally weighted positions into your essay.
Writing objectively is a matter of locating a balance of viewpoints. You need to ensure you are not devoting more time to one perspective than another, for this might unduly sway the reader. You do not want to persuade on the basis of rhetorical tricks. Instead, you want to present a case which stands on its own merits.
What you need to do, then, is present the various positions in such a way that the reader has enough information to compare and contrast them fairly. Present the evidence and then let the reader decide. Indeed, a discursive essay may end somewhat openly, without hammering home a specific conclusion. Rather, it may end by eliminating the various strengths and weaknesses of the perspectives given. In one sense then you were trying to show and not tell the reader about the subject matter, enabling them to derive their own conclusions.
While there are many different ways which you can construct a discursive essay, certain requirements are constant across the board. First of all, your essay needs clearly to explain the topic of discussion in the introductory paragraph. This must be made quite clear, so that the reader understands the purpose and direction the essay pursues.
By necessity, discursive writing is formal. It presents its discussion in a sober and systematic fashion, usually alternating between a paragraph which expresses one side of the argument and a following paragraph which expresses another. Hence discursive writing may follow a dialectical structure; but this is not a prescribed requirement.
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