Persuasive Writing for College Students

How to Write a Persuasive Argument for a College Assignment

College students write many papers, and many of those papers are persuasive in nature, which is why all students need to know how to write a persuasive paper.

Writing an effective persuasive argument is an art, but like any art form, it can be learned and perfected through practice. The important thing to remember when writing persuasively as an essay writer is that you are usually dealing with three types of questions:

  1. Questions of fact, which ask about the truth or falsity of an assertion;
  2. Questions of value, which ask about the value or morality of an idea or action;
  3. Questions of policy, which ask whether or not a specific course of action should be taken. 

Developing A Persuasive Writing Argument for College

Perhaps because of the inherent complexity of such questions as those above, persuasion is oftentimes considered the most difficult of all writing forms; and while this may very well be true, persuasive writing can also be extremely rewarding, especially when a writer knows that he or she has presented a solid argument that, at the very least, provides readers with ample reason to reexamine their beliefs.

The Goal of Persuasive Writing in College

When writing persuasively, a writer’s ultimate goal is to challenge the readers’ beliefs and, ultimately, move those readers to accept another belief as being more valid than their own.

Of course, therein lies the problem, for whenever you write to persuade, you are typically dealing with controversial and often highly emotional topics about which your readers have already formulated strong opinions, opinions they probably embrace tenaciously, and since they possess such deeply ingrained opinions, readers are highly resistant to change and, subsequently, to any argument you might present that challenges those opinions.

Think about it. If you write an informative article on the topic of abortion, for example, you’re simply acting as a teacher and, therefore, merely presenting information; you are not attempting to get your readers either to accept abortion or to reject it.

On the other hand, in a persuasive article on the same topic, you must take a side–either for or against abortion–and not only defend your viewpoint but also attempt to persuade your readers of two things:

  • Their viewpoint is wrong.
  • They should accept another viewpoint, meaning yours, which might be in complete opposition to their own, as the more legitimate, or at least admit that this opposing viewpoint is a satisfactory alternative to what they themselves have always believed.

How to Prepare for Writing a Persuasive Paper in College

Since the ultimate goal of persuasive writing is the rather daunting task of changing long-held beliefs, it is imperative that you prepare and prepare well before even beginning to compose your actual paper. For starters, you should conduct extensive research, for only by being knowledgeable about the selected topic from all sides can you establish your credibility in the eyes of the readers.

Secondly, you must anticipate any questions readers might ask and then address those questions within the paper, just as you must also anticipate and address any opposing arguments. You cannot convert skeptical listeners unless you deal directly with the reasons for their skepticism;” and his advice applies to writing just as much as it does to public peaking.

How to Develop a Persuasive Paper for College

Research has found that people accept an argument for one of four reasons:

  1. They perceive the writer or speaker as having credibility;
  2. They are won over by evidence;
  3. They are convinced by sound reasoning;
  4. They are moved by emotional appeals.

In summary, if you can manage to incorporate all four elements listed above–credibility, evidence, reasoning, and emotion–into your argument, chances are extremely high that readers of that argument will be persuaded to accept your viewpoint, or at least have ample reason to reexamine their own.


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