Writing An Essay On A Controversial Issue
Choosing a good essay topic can be tricky. While the list of topics is potentially endless, not all are suitable. In fact, students are often encouraged to choose topics that generate interest, discussion, and even debate. Controversial topics are ideal when writing a work that takes a side. The war in the Middle East, stem-cell research, politics of abortion, same-sex marriage, and legal issues of marijuana are just a few of the best controversial topics that students can choose. But choosing a contentious topic comes with its own challenges. For one, you want your output to be respectful rather than offensive. For another, you have a lot of convincing to do if your audience disagrees with you. And regardless of where you stand on an issue or the type of essay you are writing, your essay must involve high-quality objective evidence, sound reasoning, and critical analysis. In this post, we provide a quick guide for writing about a controversial issue.
The Prewriting Phase
Crafting your work does not begin with scribbling the actual content. Rather, you need to go through the prewriting stage, which basically involves thinking about how you want to approach the issue. There are also vital considerations you need to look into. Some of these are discussed below.
Choose Your Topic
While it is common for students to be assigned topics, it is also equally common for professors to allow students to choose their own topics. When deciding on an issue to discuss, you need to consider a few factors. First, the issue needs to be current in order for it to be relevant. There is not much point in discussing a topic that has already been settled. For example, abortion is an ideal topic because of the shifts in the influence of public attitude towards abortion, especially in light of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court (Totenberg & McCammon, 2022).
Identify the Type of Your Paper
The first thing to consider is the type of paper you are writing. You need to ask yourself some questions. What exactly am I writing? What is my purpose and intention? Am I writing an argumentative essay or a persuasive essay? Remember that the type of work you will produce dictates the content and approach.
Learn Pathos, Ethos, and Logos
Papers on controversial issues involve a great deal of winning an audience to your side. Hence, you need to know how to use the three modes of persuasion: pathos, ethos, and logos. Pathos refers to emotional appeals; ethos refers to credibility; and logos refers to logical appeals (Harris, 2017). All these three qualities should be present in your essay.
Adopt a Journalistic Viewpoint
If you are writing an argumentative paper, you need to approach this task like a journalist would. Educate yourself about the issue. This means you should be familiar with both sides of the issue. Conduct research and investigate the reliability of your sources. Do not be content with secondhand information. You must verify the accuracy and relevance of the evidence that you will include. Also, check if there have been other previously published works discussing the same issue. That way, you’ll be able to ensure the originality of your essay.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is crucial to getting this project right. Aspects of your paper such as tone, language, and evidence are influenced by your audience. For instance, although part of your audience does not agree with your viewpoint, you need to write for them as well. Hence, it helps to know their views and anticipate their counterarguments. Acknowledging their valid points can also ease them into listening to your arguments. You might even be able to change their stand on the controversial issue by preparing refutations to their counterarguments.
Finally, you also need to conduct research regarding your topic. Avoid assuming that you already know everything there is to know about your issue. Rather, approach your topic with an open mind and be ready to question your own beliefs. Furthermore, make sure you are consulting how to evaluate sources as you need to use only credible ones. Once you have read enough about your topic and feel that you already have an informed position on the issue, you can proceed to the writing phase.
The Writing Phase
Once you know what your paper is, have your topic, and understand your audience, you can start on the writing phase of your project. Completing this task follows the general writing process. But there are some specific changes here since you are making a unique paper. You can follow the steps provided below.
- Formulate a thesis statement. Begin with formulating a thesis statement. The thesis statement presents the main claim, argument, or message of your paper. Having a thesis is not only necessary; it is also helpful because it serves as the core of your paper. This is an example of a good thesis statement: “Possession of medical marijuana shouldn’t be categorized as a grave offense even in jurisdictions where its legalization is still being deliberated but not yet finalized. That is because scientists, in general, have already concluded that it can cure various ailments when used in moderation.” Remember, a good thesis statement is clear, specific, and debatable.
- Create an outline. Follow the formulation of a thesis statement with the creation of an outline. The outline lets you determine the structure of your paper by enumerating and arranging the order of your arguments. Start by listing your main arguments. Each argument should support the thesis. Then add evidence that you will use to each argument. Proceed to anticipate counterarguments that the opposite position will likely include and then come up with rebuttals or refutations. Then arrange the arguments and counterarguments. Usually, the arguments are discussed first before the counterarguments. Overall, the outline lets you view the paper in its entirety and prevents you from going astray.
- Write the body. The outline you prepared comes in handy when you write the body of the paper. This is because, at this stage, you will simply develop the points you listed into full sections and paragraphs. Discuss each argument separately. For instance, if you have six arguments and counterarguments, you must write them separately in paragraphs, with each argument and counterargument fully supported by evidence from reputable sources. Follow the TEER format for each body paragraph: topic sentence, expand, elaborate, and restate. Add transitions in between paragraphs.
- Write the conclusion. A conclusion wraps up your entire paper. Note that it is not merely a summary of the discussion; rather, it is the “clincher.” Your conclusion should restate your thesis and communicate why the topic is important. More importantly, it should give your audience a satisfying ending. You may end your conclusion by leaving your now-informed audience with final thoughts or a call to action.
- Write the introduction. While the introduction comes first, it is best to write this last. This is because you will find it easier to come up with an introduction if you already know what it is you are introducing (Inoshita et al., 2019). Contrary to how other essay forms start, your introduction does not necessarily need to be catchy or attention-grabbing. The introduction should reflect the issue’s importance. It should be straightforward and must reflect your intent to discuss and analyze. Most importantly, it needs to present your thesis statement.
- Revise and proofread. Remember that a first draft is rarely ever good enough to meet your standards. It usually has room for improvement and often has errors. Hence, you need to devote enough time to revise the content to enhance the flow, clarity, and quality of the discussion. Revise your paper a couple of times and make sure you give it a final thorough proofread before submitting.
Indeed, writing an essay on a controversial issue is trickier than you first anticipated. But it really is not so hard once you get a good grasp of the process. With these helpful tips, you will surely equip yourself with the skills and know-how.
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