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Important Research For Writing Persuasive Essays


When having students write persuasive essays, I’ve always found the most difficult issue is teaching the idea and importance of including opposing views and counter-arguments. In fact, on occasion I’ll admit to having decided that it is more trouble than it’s worth, and skipped that step entirely.

No more, however.

A survey of over one hundred studies in the last fifty years now concludes that arguments that include opposing views with counter-arguments are more persuasive. Here are some excerpts on a report about the study:

…if we bring up opposing arguments, then shoot them down, not only is the audience more likely to be swayed, we also see a boost in our credibility.

Overall this is a nice conclusion, in that not only is a balanced argument more appealing morally, it is also more persuasive. And it doesn’t matter whether counter-arguments are introduced at the start, the end, or mixed in; as long as they are refuted, we are more likely to persuade the audience.

So, no matter how hard-line you are on a particular issue, remember that people aren’t idiots, they know there are two sides to every story and they’ll discount your message unless you acknowledge and counter the other side.

Since I want students to be able to develop skills that will help them in real-life, remembering this study will give me a little more energy to include this element in my teaching. And sharing the results of this study might provide a little more impetus to my students, too, to deal with the challenge and difficulty they might have in incorporating opposing views and a counter-argument into their essays.

I’m adding this post to The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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