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How to Write a Discussion Essay

Last Updated: June 27, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 442,721 times.

Jake Adams

Discussion Essay Outline and Example

how do you discuss in an essay

Planning Your Essay

Step 1 Work through the...

  • For instance, maybe the question is, "Immigration has been a heated topic on the national level for many years. With issues like the DREAM Act and President Trump's stances on policy, it's likely to remain a central issue. Using authoritative resources to back up your argument, take a stance on immigration policy, establishing whether you think it should be more or less strict and why."
  • You can establish that the main topic is immigration policy from the sentence, "Take a stance on immigration policy."
  • If you're having trouble understanding the question, don't be afraid to talk to the professor. They can help you better understand what they're asking for.

Step 2 Perform initial research to understand the issue.

  • If your essay will be based off a discussion had in class, ask your instructor if you can use class notes as a primary source.
  • Look for respected news sources, as well as websites with ".edu" and ".gov" extensions.
  • You may need to look up information on the DREAM Act or President Trump's policies to help you understand the question, for example. For this part, you don't need to take extensive notes, as you're just trying to get a feel for the subject.

Step 3 Take a side on the issue to begin outlining your essay.

  • If you were given a text to base your essay on, make sure that text has enough evidence to support your chosen position.

Step 4 Add the main points you'd like to cover to your outline.

  • Use Roman numerals on your page to mark your main ideas. Write a main point by each Roman numeral. You should only cover 3 to 4 main points in a relatively short essay, such as one that's 3 to 5 pages.

Step 5 Find research to support your points.

  • Your main sources should be books or ebooks, journal articles from academic journals, and credible websites. You can also use high quality news articles if they're applicable to your topic.

Step 6 Take notes that include citations.

  • For a book, you should include the author's name, the editor's name (if applicable), the title of the book, the publication year, the publication city, the edition, and the title of the book chapter in an anthology by multiple authors.
  • For a journal, include the author's name, the journal title, the article title, the digital object identifier (DOI), the ISSN, the publication date, the volume (if applicable), the issue (if applicable), and the page numbers for the journal article.
  • If you're searching in a database, you can often ask the database to save this information for you, but you should include identifiers on your notes.

Step 7 Fill in your outline to finish planning your essay.

  • For example, if one of your main points is "Immigration increases diversity," some of your points underneath might be "Brings in new cuisines," and "Brings in new art."
  • Find examples from your research, and add notes to each point to fill them in.

Writing the Introduction

Step 1 Begin with a hook such as a quotation or anecdote to engage readers.

  • For an example or anecdote, start by telling a short story about something relevant to your topic. For instance, you might write the following for an essay on immigration, "When I was 4-years-old, my parents told me we were going on a long trip. After a bus ride, we spent nights walking, my dad carrying me most of the way. One day, we crossed a river. That day marked our first day in our new country."

Step 2 Introduce your topic in your transition sentences.

  • For example, you might write, "Immigration is a highly-debated issue. It is controversial because some people fear how it affects the resources of the country the people are immigrating to, while others believe the improved quality of life for immigrants is what’s most important."

Step 3 Work on a thesis statement to establish your argument.

  • For instance, your thesis statement might be, "Immigration is good for the country because it increases diversity, infuses the country with new talent, and broadens the population's perspective, and it should be encouraged with a few basic safeguards in place."

Composing the Body of Your Essay

Step 1 Limit each paragraph to 1 idea.

  • For instance, if you're writing a short research paper, one paragraph might be your main point "Immigration increases diversity," where you cover all your bullet points in that paragraph.
  • If you're digging deeper, you might create a section about diversity, and then use a paragraph to cover "brings in new cuisines," another to cover "brings in new art," and so on.

Step 2 Acknowledge the other side of the issue.

  • Try not to set up a "straw man" argument, where you don't give the other side a fair chance. You should be able to support your position without purposefully creating a weak position on the other side.

Step 3 Keep your whole argument in mind as you write.

  • For instance, maybe you want to transition between a section about increasing diversity to one about bringing in new talent. You might write a sentence like, "Increasing diversity in our country doesn't just bring in new cuisines and art, it also brings in hard workers that have fresh perspectives on old problems in the workforce."

Step 4 Support your ideas with research.

  • You can paraphrase other ideas or use direct quotes, but only use a direct quote if the author said something in a unique way. Otherwise, put it in your own words.
  • You may want to begin body paragraphs with a quote from a relevant source. Then, explain or provide commentary on the quote and show how it supports your position.
  • You can also use statistics to back up your research. For instance, if one of your arguments is that immigration doesn't increase crime, use statistics to back that up.

Concluding Your Essay

Step 1 Synthesize the information from your essay.

  • For instance, you might write, "A truly great country is one that celebrates differences and welcomes new ideas and perspectives. While immigration has some negative effects on a country, overall, allowing people from other countries to come in helps to spark new ideas and make the country a better and more interesting place to live. Rather than being a drain on society, immigrants are motivated to work hard and our citizens can only benefit from listening to their perspectives."

Step 2 Avoid restating your introduction.

  • Once you have the flow down, read it again to check for grammatical mistakes and typos. It can help to read it aloud, as it slows you down and forces you to read every word.

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

  • Remember you can't research forever. Often, the research stage absorbs a student so fully that the upcoming submission date seems unimportant. Make sure to leave yourself at least a few days to write your essay. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://student.unsw.edu.au/answering-assignment-questions
  • ↑ https://student.unsw.edu.au/essay-and-assignment-planning
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-11-developing-a-convincing-argument/
  • ↑ https://student.unsw.edu.au/organising-your-ideas
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
  • ↑ https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/essay-introductions
  • ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/how-to-write-a-thesis-statement.html
  • ↑ https://www.student.unsw.edu.au/writing-your-essay
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/establishing_arguments/organizing_your_argument.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/establishing_arguments/research_and_evidence.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/conclusion
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

About This Article

Jake Adams

To write a discussion essay, start by taking a side on the issue you're writing about, like "Immigration is good for the country." Then, outline the main points that made you decide to take that position and do research to find evidence that backs them up. Look for credible sources that can help you make your argument, and don't forget to cite them. Then, when you're writing your essay, devote 1 paragraph to each main point and include your evidence. For help writing the introduction and conclusion to your essay, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to write a discussion essay

Picture of Duygu Demiröz

  • September 21, 2023

A discussion essay, also called a controversial essay, is where you express your opinion about a topic. When writing one, 

  • Cover both sides of the topic , present the key points that back your viewpoint and the opposing one.
  • Ensure a multi-faceted understanding of the issues before presenting your own personal views and conclusions.

So let’s deeply explore the structure and components of a successful discussion paper.

Quick summary

  • Carefully read and comprehend the essay prompt.
  • Select a topic that leads to multiple viewpoints and debates.
  • Begin with a clear introduction that includes a strong thesis statement.
  • Discuss different viewpoints or/and arguments in separate body paragraphs.
  • Maintain a balanced approach by presenting viewpoints fairly.
  • Summarize the main ideas and restate your thesis statement , then end your essay.

Choose a controversial topic

Choosing a topic is the first step when starting your essay. When choosing a topic , make sure it is something that you are personally interested in as it will be easier for you to write.

Now let’s have a look at discussion essay topic examples. 

  • Should Capital Punishment be Abolished?
  • Is Genetic Engineering Ethical for Humans?
  • Should Schools Implement Mandatory Vaccination Policies?
  • Is Nuclear Energy a Viable Solution to the Energy Crisis?

After choosing the essay topic, you should create your outline to finish planning your essay.

Create an outline

The outline allows you to understand how to combine all the information and thesis statement to support claims of your essay.

Create a basic outline for your discussion essay. Start with a preliminary version of your thesis statement, main argument, opposing argument, and other main points.

Here is an outline example for a discussion essay.

Discussion essay outline example

Title: The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

  • Start with a strong and engaging opening.
  • Introduce the topic and its relevance.
  • Present the thesis statement that highlights the ethical considerations in AI integration in healthcare.
  • Begin with a clear topic sentence about AI's role in diagnosis.
  • Explain AI's superiority in analyzing medical data and images.
  • Provide an example of AI detecting diseases early.
  • Discuss concerns about the potential effects on human expertise.
  • Introduce the focus on personalized treatment.
  • Explain how AI can customize therapies based on individual data.
  • Give an example of optimizing medical outcomes.
  • Raise ethical issues about privacy, consent, and data security.
  • Start with a topic sentence about accountability.
  • Discuss the challenge of assigning blame in AI-related errors.
  • Address the importance of unbiased AI algorithms.
  • Mention the need for regulation and oversight.
  • Restate the significance of the ethical landscape of AI in healthcare.
  • Summarize the core points discussed in the body paragraphs.
  • Reiterate the importance of balancing AI advancements with ethical considerations.
  • End with a call to uphold ethical principles in the integration of AI in healthcare.

So now that you’ve seen an outline example, l et’s start writing your essay with an introduction.

Write your introduction

  • Start with an attention-grabbing opening ( hook sentence ) that piques the reader's curiosity and encourages them to continue reading.
  • Provide a brief background or context for the topic you'll be discussing.
  • Seamlessly transition from the general to the specific focus of your essay. Guide the reader to understand what to expect from the essay.
  • End your introduction with a strong and clear thesis statement.

Discussion essay introduction example

Introduction

Now that we have written our introduction, we can move on to the discussion parts.

Compose the body of your essay

Write down the main points of the body paragraphs of your discussion paper. A well-written body paragraph illustrates, justifies, and/or supports your thesis statement. When writing body paragraphs:

  • Typically, present each issue separately and discuss both sides of the argument in an unbiased manner.
  • Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that transitions from the previous one to introduce the next topic.
  • Start with your least convincing argument and work your way up to your strongest argument. This structure helps readers follow your logic consistently.
  • Make sure your citation usage is consistent for each argument. If you cite three quotes that support your main argument, aim to use three quotes for the opposing view as well.

Discussion essay body paragraphs

Body Paragraph 1: Enhancing Diagnostics and Accuracy

Body Paragraph 2: Personalized Treatment and Privacy

Body Paragraph 3: Ethical Responsibility and Accountability

Now, let’s look at how to end your work.

Conclude your discussion essay

Writing a strong conclusion for a discussion essay is essential to leave a lasting impression on your readers and summarize the main points of your argument effectively. Here are the steps on how to write a good conclusion for your discussion paper:

  • Begin your conclusion by restating your thesis statement in a slightly different way. This helps remind the reader of the main argument you've presented throughout the essay.
  • Provide a brief summary of the key points you discussed in your essay.
  • Emphasize the importance of the topic and the implications of your argument.

Things to avoid in conclusion

Let’s have a look at a conclusion example for a discussion essay..

Discussion essay conclusion example

Remember that a conclusion is your final opportunity to leave a strong impression, so make it memorable and impactful.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a discussion essay different from other types of essays.

Unlike other common essays that might focus on presenting a single argument, a discussion essay presents multiple perspectives on a topic. It strives to remain neutral and balanced while analyzing different viewpoints.

Can I express my personal opinion in a discussion essay?

Yes, you can include your personal opinion, but it should be presented alongside other viewpoints. Your opinion should be supported by evidence and analysis, and you should strive for a balanced presentation.

Do I need to include counterarguments?

Yes, including counterarguments is essential in a discussion essay. Addressing opposing viewpoints demonstrates your understanding of the topic and strengthens your analysis.

How do I ensure a balanced presentation of viewpoints?

Present each viewpoint objectively and support it with evidence. Give equal attention to different perspectives and avoid using biased language.

How can I transition between different viewpoints in my essay?

Use transitional words and phrases like “however,” “on the other hand,” and “in contrast” to smoothly guide readers between paragraphs and viewpoints.

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How to Critically Discuss in An Essay

Published by Carmen Troy at September 19th, 2023 , Revised On January 5, 2024

Writing an essay often involves more than just relaying information or expressing an opinion. For many academic and professional purposes, you are required to critically discuss topics, demonstrate an understanding of various perspectives and showcase your analytical skills. 

So, what does it mean to critically discuss something in an essay? And more importantly, how can you do it effectively?

What is Critical Discussion?

Before diving into the how-to, grasping what critical discussion entails is essential. Essay writing help often emphasises the importance of this step. Critical discussion requires a deeper level of analysis where you explain a topic and evaluate and dissect its various facets.

Imagine an object in the middle of a room, with observers standing at different points around it. Each person sees the object from a unique angle. Similarly, when you critically discuss a topic, you are trying to view it from multiple angles, considering various perspectives and arguments and avoiding biases where certain perspectives might be overlooked.

How to Critically Discuss

Consider the following steps to critically discuss an essay. 

Start with Thorough Research

To critically discuss a topic, you need to understand its nuances. This requires in-depth research:

  • Diverse Sources: Instead of relying on a single type of source, such as books, expand your horizons. Use academic journals, reputable news articles, podcasts, interviews, and more. Essay services can be an invaluable tool in this stage for collating resources.
  • Contrasting Opinions: Deliberately seek out sources that disagree with each other. This will provide a more holistic view of the topic and help you understand the key debates in the field. 

Organise your Thoughts

Begin by brainstorming. Jot down the key points, arguments, counterarguments, and evidence you have gathered. Categorise them and try to identify connections or patterns.

Structure your Essay for Critical Discussion

Critical discussion typically follows this essay structure :

  • Introduction of an Essay : Introduce the topic and highlight its significance. Outline the main points you intend to discuss, backed up by scholarly source references.
  • Main Body: This is where the meat of your critical discussion will lie and where techniques like the rhetorical analysis of an essay can be invaluable.
  • Present Different Angles: Every paragraph should tackle a unique perspective or argument. Discuss its strengths and weaknesses. If you are discussing a controversial topic, you might delve into the argumentative essay.
  • Use Evidence: Always back up your statements with evidence. Quotations, statistics, and examples can bolster your claims.
  • Contrast and Compare: Highlight how different perspectives agree or differ from one another. This comparative approach will enrich your analysis.
  • Conclusion: Summarise the main points discussed and reiterate their significance. You might also want to mention areas for further research or exploration.

Question Everything

When critically discussing, you are essentially playing the devil’s advocate. Some questions to pose include:

  • What are the underlying assumptions here?
  • How might someone oppose this perspective?
  • Are there any weaknesses or limitations?
  • What real-world implications does this have?

Avoid Bias and Stay Objective

While it is challenging to be entirely free from biases, strive for objectivity. Remember, a critical discussion is not about what you believe; it’s about presenting a rounded view of the topic.

Write with Clarity

Complex topics demand clear writing. Avoid jargon unless it is essential, and ensure your sentences are concise and straightforward. Each paragraph should have a clear focus, and the flow from one paragraph to another should be logical.

Incorporate Feedback

Once you have written your essay, share it with peers, mentors, or tutors. Their feedback will provide fresh perspectives and highlight areas requiring more clarity or depth.

Revise and Refine

Like any essay, the first draft might not be perfect. Dedicate time to revising your work, refining your arguments, and ensuring the essay flows smoothly.

Conclude with Forward-Thinking

A hallmark of an excellent critical discussion is leaving the reader with something to ponder. Highlight areas where research is still ongoing, or propose questions that have not been addressed adequately.

What Critical Discussion is Not

Critical discussion is essential for deepening understanding, stimulating creative thought, and promoting a collaborative environment. However, certain behaviors and attitudes are not conducive to critical discussion. Here is what critical discussion is not:

Ad Hominem Attacks

A critical discussion does not involve attacking a person’s character, motives, or other personal attributes. The focus should be on the content of the argument, not on the person making it.

Appeal to Emotion

While emotions can be involved, a critical discussion should not be based solely on emotional appeals, nor should it be used to manipulate participants.

Straw Man Fallacy

Misrepresenting or oversimplifying an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack is not genuine discussion.

Dodging questions, changing the topic abruptly, or not addressing the central issues is not a part of critical discussion.

Closed-mindedness

A true critical discussion requires participants to be open to new ideas and willing to change their minds if presented with compelling evidence.

Talking Over Others

Dominating the conversation, interrupting, or not allowing others to speak does not foster a healthy discussion.

Confirmation Bias

Only seeking out or acknowledging information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs is not the essence of critical discussion.

Appeal to Authority

Simply stating that an authority figure believes something does not make it true or end the discussion.

Overgeneralisations

Making broad statements without sufficient evidence or specifics undermines a constructive dialogue.

False Dichotomies

Presenting issues as if there are only two sides or solutions when there might be a spectrum of possibilities, in reality, is not conducive to critical exploration.

Circular Arguments

Arguing a point by merely restating it in different words does not add depth or clarity to a discussion.

Unwillingness to Listen

Entering a discussion with the intent to lecture rather than also to listen, learn, and potentially adjust your views stifles genuine discourse.

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Critical Discussion Example

let’s set up a scenario for a critical discussion:

Topic: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Participants: Alex and Jamie

Alex: I have read a lot of articles recently that suggest social media has a negative impact on the mental health of users, particularly young people. There’s a correlation between increased social media use and increased rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Jamie: That is a valid point, Alex. There have been studies that suggest that. However, correlation does not imply causation. People who are already feeling lonely or depressed may be simply more likely to spend time on social media. How do we know that social media is the cause and not just a symptom?

Alex: That is a fair point. Some studies have shown that excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy, especially when people compare their lives to others. The constant barrage of highlight reels from other people’s lives can make users feel like they’re not doing enough or not leading fulfilling lives.

Jamie: True, comparison can be detrimental. But social media also has its benefits. It is a way for people to connect, especially those who might feel isolated in their real lives. For some, it offers a community and a sense of belonging. Shouldn’t we consider these positive aspects as well?

Alex: Absolutely, I agree that social media can provide vital connections for many. But there is also the element of screen time. Being constantly connected can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce face-to-face social interactions, which are crucial for emotional and social development.

Jamie: Yes, moderation is key. Users need to be self-aware and ensure that their online interactions enhance their lives rather than detract from them. Healthy social media use education might be more beneficial than demonising the platforms.

This is a simplified example, but it highlights some features of critical discussion, similar to what you would find in a discursive essay :

  • Respectful Exchange: Both participants listened to each other’s viewpoints.
  • Exploration of Ideas: The participants delved into the complexities of the issue.
  • Use of Evidence: Alex and Jamie provided reasons and evidence for their perspectives.
  • Open-Mindedness: Both were open to adjusting their views or considering the other’s viewpoint.

Seeking Understanding: Instead of trying to “win” the argument, they aimed for a clearer understanding of the topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does critically discuss mean.

“Critically discuss” means analysing and evaluating a topic or argument thoroughly, considering its strengths and weaknesses. It involves a detailed assessment rather than a mere description, often requiring one to question assumptions, recognise biases, and provide evidence to support the analysis. It is a deep, balanced examination of a subject.

How to answer a critically discuss question?

To answer a “critically discuss” question:

  • Introduce the topic briefly.
  • Present key arguments or points.
  • Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • Use evidence to support your analysis.
  • Consider alternative viewpoints.
  • Conclude with a balanced assessment.
  • Ensure clarity, coherence, and proper referencing throughout.

How to critically discuss a theory?

To critically discuss a theory:

  • Outline the theory’s main propositions.
  • Examine its historical and academic context.
  • Evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Compare with alternative theories.
  • Highlight empirical evidence supporting or refuting it.
  • Analyse underlying assumptions.
  • Conclude with a balanced perspective, acknowledging its relevance and limitations.

How to critically discuss a topic?

To critically discuss a topic:

  • Introduce the topic succinctly.
  • Present key facts or arguments.
  • Analyse strengths and limitations.
  • Reference relevant evidence or research.
  • Consider opposing views or counterarguments.
  • Assess the implications or significance.
  • Conclude with an informed perspective, reflecting a comprehensive understanding.

How to critically discuss in psychology?

  • Introduce the psychological concept/theory.
  • Detail its historical development and key proponents.
  • Evaluate empirical evidence supporting and opposing it.
  • Examine methodological strengths and limitations.
  • Compare with alternative theories or explanations.
  • Discuss real-world implications or applications.
  • Conclude, reflecting on its overall validity and relevance.

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An expository essay requires the writer to take a balanced approach to the subject matter rather than justifying a particular point of view.

In an argumentative essay, the author takes a clear stand on the topic and justify their position with the help of supporting evidence material.

In this article, we are sharing multiple patterns of template for essays along with some useful tips to make the structure of your essay strong and clear.

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Discussion essays Considering both sides of the argument

Discussion essays are a common form of academic writing. This page gives information on what a discussion essay is and how to structure this type of essay. Some vocabulary for discussion essays is also given, and there is an example discussion essay on the topic of studying overseas.

What are discussion essays?

Many essay titles require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour. These are known as discussion or for and against essays. In this sense, the academic meaning of the word discuss is similar to its everyday meaning, of two people talking about a topic from different sides. For a discussion essay, a balanced view is normally essential. This makes discussion essays distinct from persuasion essays , for which only one side of the argument is given. When writing a discussion essay, it is important to ensure that facts and opinions are clearly separated. Often you will examine what other people have already said on the same subject and include this information using paraphrasing and summarising skills, as well as correct citations .

The following are examples of discussion essay topics.

  • Examine the arguments for and against capital punishment.
  • Schools should teach children not only academic subjects but also important life skills. Discuss.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of technology in the classroom?

Although the structure of a discussion essay may vary according to length and subject, there are several components which most discussion essays have in common. In addition to general statements and thesis statement which all good essay introductions contain, the position of the writer will often be stated, along with relevant definitions . The main body will examine arguments for (in one or more paragraphs) and arguments against (also in one or more paragraphs). The conclusion will contain a summary of the main points, and will often conclude with recommendations , based on what you think are the most important ideas in the essay. The conclusion may also contain your opinion on the topic, also based on the preceding evidence.

An overview of this structure is given in the diagram below.

Discussion vocabulary

When summarising the stages in a discussion or in presenting your arguments, it can be useful to mark the order of the items or degrees of importance. The following words and phrases can be used.

  • First..., First of all..., The most important...
  • Second..., In the second place...
  • Finally..., Lastly...

The following can be used when introducing your opinion.

  • There is no doubt that...
  • I believe that...
  • One of the main arguments in favour of/against X is that...

It is important in English writing, including academic writing, to use synonyms rather than repeating the same word. The following are useful synonyms for 'advantage' and 'disadvantage'.

  • advantage: benefit, a positive aspect/feature, pro (informal)
  • disadvantage: drawback, a negative aspect/feature, con (informal)

Example essay

Below is an example discussion essay. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay.

Title: An increasing number of students are going overseas for tertiary education. To what extent does this overseas study benefit the students?

Most people spend around fifteen years of their life in education, from primary school to university study. In the past, students only had the opportunity to study in their own country. Nowadays, however, it is increasingly easy to study overseas, especially at tertiary level. Tertiary education, also called post-secondary education, is the period of study spent at university. As the final aspect of schooling before a person begins their working life, it is arguably the most important stage of their education. While there are some undoubted benefits of this trend, such as the language environment and improved employment prospects , there is also a significant disadvantage, namely the high cost . The first and most important advantage of overseas study is the language learning environment. Students studying overseas will not only have to cope with the local language for their study, but will also have to use it outside the classroom for their everyday life. These factors should make it relatively easy for such students to advance their language abilities. Another important benefit is employability. Increasing globalisation means that there are more multinational companies setting up offices in all major countries. These companies will need employees who have a variety of skills, including the fluency in more than one language. Students who have studied abroad should find it much easier to obtain a job in this kind of company. There are, however, some disadvantages to overseas study which must be considered, the most notable of which is the expense. In addition to the cost of travel, which in itself is not inconsiderable, overseas students are required to pay tuition fees which are usually much higher than those of local students. Added to this is the cost of living, which is often much higher than in the students' own country. Although scholarships may be available for overseas students, there are usually very few of these, most of which will only cover a fraction of the cost. Overseas study therefore constitutes a considerable expense. In summary, studying abroad has some clear advantages, including the language environment and increased chances of employment , in addition to the main drawback, the heavy financial burden . I believe that this experience is worthwhile for those students whose families can readily afford the expense. Students without such strong financial support should consider carefully whether the high cost outweighs the benefits to be gained.

Academic Writing Genres

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Below is a checklist for discussion essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.

Bailey, S. (2000). Academic Writing. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer

Cox, K. and D. Hill (2004). EAP now! Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia

Jordan, R.R. (1999). Academic Writing Course. Cambridge: CUP

Roberts R., J. Gokanda, & A. Preshous (2004). IELTS Foundation. Oxford: Macmillian

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Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 16 January 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.

How to Critically Discuss

Many students dread writing ‘critical discussion’ essays. This is partly because they don’t understand what is required of them.

So, how do you ‘critically discuss’ in an essay? Well, first and foremost, make sure you’ve truly considered all sides of the argument. You also need to think carefully about whether the source(s) you are discussing are reliable and valid. Finally, you need to develop a ‘thesis statement’ so that you can structure your critical discussion essay effectively.

Critical discussion essays can cause headaches, but they can also be incredibly rewarding if you approach them with the right attitude. Here are some tips to set you off in the right direction!

What does ‘critically discuss’ actually mean?

Before attempting a critical discussion, check you understand what is required of you. Let’s turn to the Oxford English Dictionary for a useful definition.

So, in short, a critical discussion requires you to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of a theory, concept (or work of some sort), and write about this in detail – taking into account various relevant issues and viewpoints.

I would go one step further and say that to ‘critically discuss’, you should also emphasise the significance of your critiques. In other words, why does your critical opinion matter? (more on this later).

What critical discussion is NOT…

Before moving on to show you how to write a critical discussion, let’s take a look at what a ‘critical discussion’ is NOT:

Pure negativity – Some students fall into the trap of thinking that critical discussion requires you to be excessively negative. Whilst you should consider the weaknesses of a theory or argument, you should also consider its strengths and/or new applications.

A repetition of others’ critiques – Whilst you can (and typically should) use other theorists’ critiques to support your essay, you should also try to say something original in your critical discussion. Don’t only repeat other people’s ideas.

Describing – Remember, you are not only being asked to describe a particular work of art/literature/science. Part of your essay will probably include description, as you set the scene, but you must include a critical opinion of the theory, concept or work you are discussing.

Quick and Easy – Unfortunately, writing a critical discussion is not a straightforward task. You should give yourself plenty of time to read the material, digest it, reflect upon it, critique it, and then formulate an argument for your essay.

An example of critical discussion

Learning from examples is often the best way. So, here is an excerpt from an essay which critically discusses whether pay-for-performance schemes motivate employees – written by one of our PhD Experts:

Theory X states that, because employees are primarily motivated by pay, a pay-for-performance system will be motivational (McGregor, 1960). However, this theory was not supported by empirical data, thus its validity is questionable. Moreover, up-to-date research suggests that employees are not primarily motivated by pay, but are instead motivated by intrinsic factors (e.g., flexible working hours, autonomy, and creating impactful work) (Kaleb, 2015). This undermines the suggestion that pay-for-performance would be motivating. Indeed, further research has found that pay-for-performance can actually “crowd out” intrinsic motivators, since it overly monetises the employer-employee relationship, thereby resulting in poorer motivation (David, 2018). There is more empirical research to support the more recent findings than theory X, thus, it seems pay-for-performance schemes are unlikely to motivate employees.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of this critical discussion so that you can try to replicate it for yourself.  

Compare two (or more) theories

Notice how this single paragraph contains three references to three different theories. In order to critically discuss competently, you will need to be able to compare and contrast different theories and perspectives. This is one of the reasons why critical discussion essays are time-consuming, i.e., because you need to spend time researching material to cover both sides of the argument.

Critique the methodologies

Notice how the above paragraph has critiqued the validity/reliability of the research mentioned. Namely, theory X was criticised for having a lack of empirical (experimental) evidence to support it, whereas the later theories were deemed more valid because there is quite a lot of empirical research to support them.

Depending on what subject you are studying at university, you might need to critique the methods in more depth (e.g., consider sample size, procedure, method of data analysis, etc.).

Keep your thesis statement (or argument) in mind at all times

Remember we said that you need to emphasise why your critiques matter? This is key because it will help you to achieve first-class grades. Let’s dive a little deeper into what I mean by this…

Before writing your essay, think of a thesis statement . In the above case, it would be ‘pay-for-performance does not boost employee motivation’. Now, when you are critically discussing your evidence (and comparing and contrasting theories), be sure to finish each paragraph by returning to the thesis statement.

In other words, be sure to emphasise why each point of critique is significant for your argument. You will notice, for example, that the above paragraph finishes by stating that ‘thus, it seems pay-for-performance schemes are unlikely to motivate employees’.

So, sticking to your thesis statement will allow you to consistently emphasise why your critical points are relevant and significant. If you can do this then, say hello to first-class grades!

Tips for writing a critical discussion

Critical discussions aren’t easy, but if you approach them in the right way, you can make things simpler for yourself.

In fact, our writers say that critical discussion essays are the most enjoyable to write because they are stimulating and challenging.

That said, try out these tips when preparing for your next critical discussion essay (and hopefully you won’t find it such a painful process!).

Start reading ASAP

When preparing for a critical discussion essay, it’s easy to fall into the trap of procrastination. There’s so much to read, yet so little time (or energy) to do the reading, right?

Well, try not to fall into this trap. Choose the texts/theories that interest you the most and try your best to really engross yourself in them. If you can become truly engaged in the research you’re reading, your energy and enthusiasm will ‘flow’ naturally.

Play devil’s advocate

One hurdle often faced by students is that they agree with everything a particular theorist is saying, and thus they don’t feel confident in critiquing the theory. In this case, it’s time to play devil’s advocate.

What does this mean? Well, to play devil’s advocate means to adopt the opposing side of the argument, even if you don’t agree with it, in order to make the discussion more interesting.

So, let’s say you are completely against animal testing, and you agree with Peter Singer’s theories (which are also against animal testing). However, for the purposes of writing a good critical discussion, you should be willing to engage with the opposing side of the argument.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are ‘for’ animal testing. What reasoning would you use? And how could this reasoning be used to discredit Peter Singer’s theory?

Plan, Plan, Plan

It’s best to make at least a rough plan of your critical discussion essay before you begin. As mentioned, your critique should be tied to a broader ‘thesis statement’ so consider this thesis statement when planning your essay.

Each paragraph should make a broad point that relates back to your thesis statement. Remember to use signposting to link back to the thesis statement and help keep your reader on track.

The final tip is the most important tip of all – be bold. To earn first-class grades, you need to demonstrate an ability to think independently and critically about a specific topic.

This means you must be willing to say what you really think and not just parrot another person’s argument. Indeed, the opportunity to ‘be bold’ demonstrates why critical discussion essays are so enjoyable to write.

So, next time you are tasked with writing a critical discussion essay, see it as an opportunity to be bold, confident, and creative! Though it might be quite a time-consuming task, you’ll certainly feel satisfied once you’ve got your argument down on paper.

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IELTS Discussion Essays [Discuss Both Views/Sides]

Posted by David S. Wills | Jun 14, 2021 | IELTS Tips , Writing | 3

IELTS Discussion Essays [Discuss Both Views/Sides]

In this lesson, I’m going to explain what an IELTS discussion essay is and how you can write a good one. I will talk about structure and content, as well as looking briefly at discussion essay thesis statements, which many people find tricky. I’ve also written a sample essay, which you can find at the bottom of this page.

What is a Discussion Essay?

As the name suggests, a discussion essay is an essay that discusses things! More specifically, it is a type of IELTS writing task 2 essay that requires you to look at two different points of view . You can easily recognise these essays by the following phrase:

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Sometimes it is phrased a little differently. It might say:

Discuss both sides and give your opinion
Discuss both points view and give your opinion

The important thing is that these all mean the same. When you see any of these, you know that you need to write a discussion essay. Importantly, this instruction tells you that you need to do two things:

  • Discuss both views (there will have been 2 views mentioned in the previous sentence(s))
  • Give your opinion (i.e. state which view you agree with)

If you failed to do either of these things, you would not have satisfied the basic criteria for Task Achievement .

Example Discussion Essay Questions

Here is a list of 5 discussion essay questions either from the IELTS exam, reportedly from the IELTS exam, or from reputable publications that have copied the IELTS question style. (Not that you absolutely should avoid fake IELTS questions when practising.)

Some people say that parents should encourage their children to take part in organised group activities in their free time. Others say that is important for children to learn how to occupy themselves on their own. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
Some people prefer to spend their lives doing the same things and avoiding change. Others, however, think that change is always a good thing. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Some people feel that manufacturers and supermarkets have the responsibility to reduce the amount of packaging of goods. Others argue that customers should avoid buying goods with a lot of packaging. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Some people believe that higher education should be funded by the government. Others, however, argue that it is the responsibility of individuals to fund their higher education. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Some people believe that it is important for children to attend extra classes outside school, while others believe that they should be allowed to play after school. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

You can see in these questions that there is a similar pattern. In each case, the question phrase (“Discuss both views and give your own opinion”) is the same and in the previous sentence or sentences, there are two opposing views. This, then, makes “discuss both views” questions a sort of opinion essay .

How to Answer IELTS Discussion Questions

First of all, it is important when answering any IELTS task 2 question that you read the question carefully so that you understand it, then provide an answer that directly responds to the question, following its instructions carefully.

As discussed above, you are required to do two things: 1) Discuss both views, and 2) Give your own opinion. You absolutely must do both of those. It doesn’t really matter what your opinion is or whether you give equal weighting to both sides of the argument. Instead, you must cover both sides and also give some sort of opinion. (It is important, though, according to the marking rubric , that you are consistent in your opinion.)

Your answer of course should be structured carefully so as to present your ideas in a thoroughly logical way that is easy for your reader to interpret. I almost always use a four-paragraph structure in my essays, but some people prefer to use five paragraphs in this sort of essay. The difference would look like this:

You might be wondering why I have given my opinion in the body of the five-paragraph essay but not in the four-paragraph essay. Well, actually I would give my opinion in the body of both. However, my opinion would be more subtly woven into the text of the four-paragraph essay. I personally find this to be a better method, but it is equally possible that you could write an amazing five-paragraph essay. That issue is discussed further in this video:

Discussion Essay Thesis Statement

In academic writing, a thesis statement (sometimes called an essay outline ) is the part of the essay where you insert your opinion. It typically comes at the end of the introduction and guides the reader by explaining your opinion on the issues that have been introduced.

But do you really need to provide one in such a short essay? Well, a 2018 study into successful IELTS essays concluded that thesis statements were “obligatory” – i.e. you absolutely do need one. In fact, that study found that thesis statements appeared in 100% of successful IELTS discussion essays! Therefore, we can conclude they are very important.

Because a discussion essay will tell you to “Discuss both views and give your opinion,” you must introduce the two views and then give your opinion in the introduction. Here is an example:

Introductory paragraph:

In some parts of the world, children are forced to go to cram schools and other facilities of extracurricular learning, but many people believe that this is unfair and that they should be allowed to enjoy their free time instead. This essay will look at both perspectives and then conclude that it is indeed unfair.

My first sentence clearly introduces two different ideas:

  • Children should do extra classes
  • Children should not do extra classes

Note how I have successfully used synonyms to avoid repeating anything from the question. I have also framed the issue in a new way so that I am not just paraphrasing. (You can learn why paraphrasing is not always helpful here .)

My second sentence is the thesis statement. In this sentence, I outline what the essay will do (“look at both perspectives”) and then give my opinion (“it is unfair”). This is a simple but effective thesis statement.

Thesis Statement Advice

Your IELTS discussion essay thesis statement should do two things:

  • Tell the reader what the essay will do
  • Present your opinion

Because this is a formal essay, it is best not to be too personal. Instead of saying “I will…” or “I think…” it is better to say “This essay will…” Here are some simple templates that you can follow most of the time:

  • This essay will look at both sides and then argue that…
  • This essay will discuss both views but ultimately side with…

Just make sure to avoid being overly vague. You are required to give your opinion consistently throughout the essay, so don’t say “This essay will look at both sides and then give my opinion .” It is not really the best approach because the examiner wants to see that you can be consistent in presenting an opinion. That is clearly stated in the marking rubric. For band 7, it says:

  • presents a clear position throughout the response

It could be concluded, then, that your opinion is not clear from the start and so you have not done enough to warrant a band 7 for Task Achievement.

Body Paragraphs

As I mentioned above, there are really two main approaches you could take to the body paragraphs:

  • Discuss one view per paragraph and incorporate your opinion into each.
  • Discuss one view per paragraph and then have another for your opinion.

I suppose there is also a third option:

  • Compare and contrast the two viewpoints in each paragraph.

This last one may be a little harder to do successfully without jeopardising your score for Task Achievement or Coherence and Cohesion , but advanced candidates may find it useful.

Remember that there is no single perfect formula for an IELTS essay. That’s not how languages work and that’s not how IELTS works. Different people could come up with different ways to present a successful essay. The most common essay structures are mere guidelines for particularly useful methods of approaching an essay.

how do you discuss in an essay

Does a Discussion Essay Have to be Balanced?

Because the question says “Discuss both views,” it is quite logical to think that you must provide some degree of balance, but you certainly don’t need to give equal weighting to both sides. Remember that you are also going to give your opinion, so if you come down strongly on one side of the issue, it might be odd to give equal attention to both.

If you do feel very strongly about one side, you might want to present your discussion of the other side as quite negative. However, IELTS is a thinking exam as well as an English exam and an intelligent person can always look at both sides of an issue and explain – at the very least – why someone might believe a thing that is different to his own view. This seems quite important, but there is nothing explicitly mentioned in the marking rubric.

I would suggest that if you think a two-sided issue is basically one-sided (i.e. you strongly disagree with the other view), you should still write one or two sentences about why people believe that and then devote the rest of your essay to disputing their view.

Another approach is to write BP1 as a very short paragraph that explains why people might think one thing, but then have BP2 as a very long paragraph that debunks the opposing view and then explains why the other is correct.

(You can read more about IELTS essays and balance here .)

Sample Answer

Here is my full sample answer to the above question about whether or not children should be made to do extracurricular activities:

In some parts of the world, children are forced to go to cram schools and other facilities of extracurricular learning, but many people believe that this is unfair and that they should be allowed to enjoy their free time instead. This essay will look at both perspectives and then conclude that it is indeed unfair. In countries like South Korea, most children are made to go to an array of cram schools outside of regular school hours. Their parents do this in order to give their child a better future because it helps the child to learn more and thus gives them the academic advantages needed to apply to the best universities or jobs in future. These schools often provide children with an advantage over their peers because they improve their foreign language or math skills more quickly, and thus the children who do not attend these schools might have comparatively poor grades. However, whilst this attitude may result in better academic performance, it is certainly not good for the mental health of these children. It is no coincidence that places like South Korea have the highest rates of suicide among their young populations. The fact is that children are not equipped to spend fourteen or sixteen hours per day in classrooms, memorising facts and figures. In a sense, it is a form of child abuse. Children should be allowed to go home and spend time with friends and family to build social skills. They should be allowed to occupy themselves in order to become more creative and learn how to understand their own mind instead of being trained to repeat what they are told. In conclusion, it is understandable that some parents want their children to go to extra classes, but this is damaging to children and they should be given the freedom to play and socialise outside of regular school hours.

In BP1, I have looked at the topic of cram schools (ie the side of the argument in favour of extra lessons). I explored why parents might want their kids to do this and show the supposed benefits. Note that I never embraced any of these benefits. I was careful to use language that distanced these ideas from my own opinion, which was the opposite, so I said “Their parents do this in order to…”

In BP2, I looked at the opposite side. I was careful to make sure that my first sentence linked to the previous paragraph, highlighting that the benefits are quite minor compared to the drawbacks. All of my sentences here justify my position, which is that it is cruel to force these extra lessons on children.

My conclusion ties all of this together. The first clause references BP1 and the second summarises the main argument in BP2.

You can find two more sample essays here:

  • A discussion essay about sports facilities
  • A discussion essay about sports abilities

About The Author

David S. Wills

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural Cambodia and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. David has worked in many different countries, and for several years designed a writing course for the University of Worcester. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing and he has since written two other books about IELTS. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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DIRWAN

It is sometimes debatable whether asking children to get extra education after school or letting them play that is actually beneficial for them. Even though both viewpoints have benefits and drawbacks but I believe ,in the childhood age, children have to take rough and discipline education after school to be succeed in the future.

To begin with, many educational experts believe that playing is one of the essential aspects that have to be gotten by children to grow and happy. By using the playing approach, children can have a good mental and psychic health. Besides, letting children play after school can also support them to increase their emotional stimuli and get a positive social interaction. With this way, experts believe children can grow as a better adult in the future and have a freedom to get a better life in the upcoming times.

However, I completely contra with the first idea because I believe childhood is a better time to train children about academic or other skills that benefits them in the future. Based on scientific journal that I read, the ability of children in learning new things are more spectacular compared to adults. A lot of artists, scientist, and even football player who currently becoming a superstar in this era is a string of process that is began since their in the childhood. For instance, nowadays, I am working in the field of election supervision, it because since in my childhood my father love to force me learning about social and political issues by getting additional class. Thus, making children to get extra class after school is an appropriate preference if parents desire to see their son getting a good future.

To conclude, based on experts children have to get a freedom to play after schools but in my viewpoint it will be more advantages if they utilize the playing time with joining additional class after school.

tufail khan

VERY GOOD MR DIRWAN But actually you mixed both of the ideas , you need to take one side for this sort of essay writting, as it is mentioned in the above instruction. By the way WELL DONE . love from Pakistan to my sweet brother.

Daisey Lachut

I have not checked in here for some time because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are really great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend. ??

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  • Focus and Precision: How to Write Essays that Answer the Question

how do you discuss in an essay

About the Author Stephanie Allen read Classics and English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and is currently researching a PhD in Early Modern Academic Drama at the University of Fribourg.

We’ve all been there. You’ve handed in an essay and you think it’s pretty great: it shows off all your best ideas, and contains points you’re sure no one else will have thought of.

You’re not totally convinced that what you’ve written is relevant to the title you were given – but it’s inventive, original and good. In fact, it might be better than anything that would have responded to the question. But your essay isn’t met with the lavish praise you expected. When it’s tossed back onto your desk, there are huge chunks scored through with red pen, crawling with annotations like little red fire ants: ‘IRRELEVANT’; ‘A bit of a tangent!’; ‘???’; and, right next to your best, most impressive killer point: ‘Right… so?’. The grade your teacher has scrawled at the end is nowhere near what your essay deserves. In fact, it’s pretty average. And the comment at the bottom reads something like, ‘Some good ideas, but you didn’t answer the question!’.

how do you discuss in an essay

If this has ever happened to you (and it has happened to me, a lot), you’ll know how deeply frustrating it is – and how unfair it can seem. This might just be me, but the exhausting process of researching, having ideas, planning, writing and re-reading makes me steadily more attached to the ideas I have, and the things I’ve managed to put on the page. Each time I scroll back through what I’ve written, or planned, so far, I become steadily more convinced of its brilliance. What started off as a scribbled note in the margin, something extra to think about or to pop in if it could be made to fit the argument, sometimes comes to be backbone of a whole essay – so, when a tutor tells me my inspired paragraph about Ted Hughes’s interpretation of mythology isn’t relevant to my essay on Keats, I fail to see why. Or even if I can see why, the thought of taking it out is wrenching. Who cares if it’s a bit off-topic? It should make my essay stand out, if anything! And an examiner would probably be happy not to read yet another answer that makes exactly the same points. If you recognise yourself in the above, there are two crucial things to realise. The first is that something has to change: because doing well in high school exam or coursework essays is almost totally dependent on being able to pin down and organise lots of ideas so that an examiner can see that they convincingly answer a question. And it’s a real shame to work hard on something, have good ideas, and not get the marks you deserve. Writing a top essay is a very particular and actually quite simple challenge. It’s not actually that important how original you are, how compelling your writing is, how many ideas you get down, or how beautifully you can express yourself (though of course, all these things do have their rightful place). What you’re doing, essentially, is using a limited amount of time and knowledge to really answer a question. It sounds obvious, but a good essay should have the title or question as its focus the whole way through . It should answer it ten times over – in every single paragraph, with every fact or figure. Treat your reader (whether it’s your class teacher or an external examiner) like a child who can’t do any interpretive work of their own; imagine yourself leading them through your essay by the hand, pointing out that you’ve answered the question here , and here , and here. Now, this is all very well, I imagine you objecting, and much easier said than done. But never fear! Structuring an essay that knocks a question on the head is something you can learn to do in a couple of easy steps. In the next few hundred words, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned through endless, mindless crossings-out, rewordings, rewritings and rethinkings.

Top tips and golden rules

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to ‘write the question at the top of every new page’- but for some reason, that trick simply doesn’t work for me. If it doesn’t work for you either, use this three-part process to allow the question to structure your essay:

1)     Work out exactly what you’re being asked

It sounds really obvious, but lots of students have trouble answering questions because they don’t take time to figure out exactly what they’re expected to do – instead, they skim-read and then write the essay they want to write. Sussing out a question is a two-part process, and the first part is easy. It means looking at the directions the question provides as to what sort of essay you’re going to write. I call these ‘command phrases’ and will go into more detail about what they mean below. The second part involves identifying key words and phrases.

2)     Be as explicit as possible

Use forceful, persuasive language to show how the points you’ve made do answer the question. My main focus so far has been on tangential or irrelevant material – but many students lose marks even though they make great points, because they don’t quite impress how relevant those points are. Again, I’ll talk about how you can do this below.

3)     Be brutally honest with yourself about whether a point is relevant before you write it.

It doesn’t matter how impressive, original or interesting it is. It doesn’t matter if you’re panicking, and you can’t think of any points that do answer the question. If a point isn’t relevant, don’t bother with it. It’s a waste of time, and might actually work against you- if you put tangential material in an essay, your reader will struggle to follow the thread of your argument, and lose focus on your really good points.

Put it into action: Step One

how do you discuss in an essay

Let’s imagine you’re writing an English essay about the role and importance of the three witches in Macbeth . You’re thinking about the different ways in which Shakespeare imagines and presents the witches, how they influence the action of the tragedy, and perhaps the extent to which we’re supposed to believe in them (stay with me – you don’t have to know a single thing about Shakespeare or Macbeth to understand this bit!). Now, you’ll probably have a few good ideas on this topic – and whatever essay you write, you’ll most likely use much of the same material. However, the detail of the phrasing of the question will significantly affect the way you write your essay. You would draw on similar material to address the following questions: Discuss Shakespeare’s representation of the three witches in Macbeth . How does Shakespeare figure the supernatural in Macbeth ?   To what extent are the three witches responsible for Macbeth’s tragic downfall? Evaluate the importance of the three witches in bringing about Macbeth’s ruin. Are we supposed to believe in the three witches in Macbeth ? “Within Macbeth ’s representation of the witches, there is profound ambiguity about the actual significance and power of their malevolent intervention” (Stephen Greenblatt). Discuss.   I’ve organised the examples into three groups, exemplifying the different types of questions you might have to answer in an exam. The first group are pretty open-ended: ‘discuss’- and ‘how’-questions leave you room to set the scope of the essay. You can decide what the focus should be. Beware, though – this doesn’t mean you don’t need a sturdy structure, or a clear argument, both of which should always be present in an essay. The second group are asking you to evaluate, constructing an argument that decides whether, and how far something is true. Good examples of hypotheses (which your essay would set out to prove) for these questions are:

  • The witches are the most important cause of tragic action in Macbeth.
  • The witches are partially, but not entirely responsible for Macbeth’s downfall, alongside Macbeth’s unbridled ambition, and that of his wife.
  • We are not supposed to believe the witches: they are a product of Macbeth’s psyche, and his downfall is his own doing.
  • The witches’ role in Macbeth’s downfall is deliberately unclear. Their claim to reality is shaky – finally, their ambiguity is part of an uncertain tragic universe and the great illusion of the theatre. (N.B. It’s fine to conclude that a question can’t be answered in black and white, certain terms – as long as you have a firm structure, and keep referring back to it throughout the essay).

The final question asks you to respond to a quotation. Students tend to find these sorts of questions the most difficult to answer, but once you’ve got the hang of them I think the title does most of the work for you – often implicitly providing you with a structure for your essay. The first step is breaking down the quotation into its constituent parts- the different things it says. I use brackets: ( Within Macbeth ’s representation of the witches, ) ( there is profound ambiguity ) about the ( actual significance ) ( and power ) of ( their malevolent intervention ) Examiners have a nasty habit of picking the most bewildering and terrifying-sounding quotations: but once you break them down, they’re often asking for something very simple. This quotation, for example, is asking exactly the same thing as the other questions. The trick here is making sure you respond to all the different parts. You want to make sure you discuss the following:

  • Do you agree that the status of the witches’ ‘malevolent intervention’ is ambiguous?
  • What is its significance?
  • How powerful is it?

Step Two: Plan

how do you discuss in an essay

Having worked out exactly what the question is asking, write out a plan (which should be very detailed in a coursework essay, but doesn’t have to be more than a few lines long in an exam context) of the material you’ll use in each paragraph. Make sure your plan contains a sentence at the end of each point about how that point will answer the question. A point from my plan for one of the topics above might look something like this:

To what extent are we supposed to believe in the three witches in Macbeth ?  Hypothesis: The witches’ role in Macbeth’s downfall is deliberately unclear. Their claim to reality is uncertain – finally, they’re part of an uncertain tragic universe and the great illusion of the theatre. Para.1: Context At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth , there were many examples of people being burned or drowned as witches There were also people who claimed to be able to exorcise evil demons from people who were ‘possessed’. Catholic Christianity leaves much room for the supernatural to exist This suggests that Shakespeare’s contemporary audience might, more readily than a modern one, have believed that witches were a real phenomenon and did exist.

My final sentence (highlighted in red) shows how the material discussed in the paragraph answers the question. Writing this out at the planning stage, in addition to clarifying your ideas, is a great test of whether a point is relevant: if you struggle to write the sentence, and make the connection to the question and larger argument, you might have gone off-topic.

Step Three: Paragraph beginnings and endings

how do you discuss in an essay

The final step to making sure you pick up all the possible marks for ‘answering the question’ in an essay is ensuring that you make it explicit how your material does so. This bit relies upon getting the beginnings and endings of paragraphs just right. To reiterate what I said above, treat your reader like a child: tell them what you’re going to say; tell them how it answers the question; say it, and then tell them how you’ve answered the question. This need not feel clumsy, awkward or repetitive. The first sentence of each new paragraph or point should, without giving too much of your conclusion away, establish what you’re going to discuss, and how it answers the question. The opening sentence from the paragraph I planned above might go something like this:

Early modern political and religious contexts suggest that Shakespeare’s contemporary audience might more readily have believed in witches than his modern readers.

The sentence establishes that I’m going to discuss Jacobean religion and witch-burnings, and also what I’m going to use those contexts to show. I’d then slot in all my facts and examples in the middle of the paragraph. The final sentence (or few sentences) should be strong and decisive, making a clear connection to the question you’ve been asked:

  Contemporary suspicion that witches did exist, testified to by witch-hunts and exorcisms, is crucial to our understanding of the witches in Macbeth.  To the early modern consciousness, witches were a distinctly real and dangerous possibility – and the witches in the play would have seemed all-the-more potent and terrifying as a result.

Step Four: Practice makes perfect

The best way to get really good at making sure you always ‘answer the question’ is to write essay plans rather than whole pieces. Set aside a few hours, choose a couple of essay questions from past papers, and for each:

  • Write a hypothesis
  • Write a rough plan of what each paragraph will contain
  • Write out the first and last sentence of each paragraph

You can get your teacher, or a friend, to look through your plans and give you feedback . If you follow this advice, fingers crossed, next time you hand in an essay, it’ll be free from red-inked comments about irrelevance, and instead showered with praise for the precision with which you handled the topic, and how intently you focused on answering the question. It can seem depressing when your perfect question is just a minor tangent from the question you were actually asked, but trust me – high praise and good marks are all found in answering the question in front of you, not the one you would have liked to see. Teachers do choose the questions they set you with some care, after all; chances are the question you were set is the more illuminating and rewarding one as well.

Image credits: banner ; Keats ; Macbeth ; James I ; witches .

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  • Ebooks & Courses
  • Practice Tests

How To Plan & Write IELTS Discussion Essays

Students can find it difficult to identify IELTS discussion essays and often confuse them with either opinion essays or advantage and disadvantage essays.

This is one of the issues I’ll be covering in this lesson. I’m also going to show you how to plan and write discussion essays step-by-step.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • Identifying IELTS discussion essays 
  • 3 Common mistakes
  • Essay structure
  • How to plan
  • How to write an introduction
  • How to write main body paragraphs
  • How to write a conclusion

Want to watch and listen to this lesson?

Click on this video.

Click the links to see lessons on each of these Task 2 essay writing topics. 

Once you understand the process, practice on past questions. Take your time at first and gradually speed up until you can plan and write an essay of at least 250 words in the 40 minutes allowed in the exam.

The Question

The first part of the question for an IELTS discussion essay will be a statement containing two opposing views.

You will then be asked to discuss both sides of the argument and give your own opinion. Here is some typical wording that might be used:

  • Discuss both views and give your opinion. 
  • Discuss both these views and then give your own opinion. 
  • Discuss both sides of this argument and give your own opinion.

Here's a question from a past test paper.

Some people think that zoos are cruel and should be closed down. Others, however, believe that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

I’ll be using this question to guide you through the process of planning and writing an IELTS discussion essay.

The key to identifying this type of question is the fact that you are required to discuss BOTH views. This is different to opinion questions where you must decide between two opposing views and make an argument to support your own opinion.

Opinion essays , also known as ‘agree or disagree’ essays, a generally worded in one of these ways:

What is your opinion? / Do you agree or disagree? / To what extent do you agree or disagree?

The other essay type that students mistake for discussion essays is advantages and disadvantages essays . With these, the statement will contain just one view and the question will typically be written as shown in this sample question.

School children are using computers in school more than ever.

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this and give your own opinion.

The consequence of incorrectly identifying the question type is that you will use the wrong structure for your essay. This is a major reason why people make the mistakes we’ll now look at.

3 Common Mistakes

These three errors are common in IELTS discussion essays.

  • Not stating your opinion.
  • Not giving arguments for both views.
  • Not developing both sides of the argument equally.

The most common mistake that students make is not giving their opinion. The question will clearly state that you must choose one side of the argument to agree with. If you fail to do this, you will get a low score for task achievement.

It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you take or even, that you actually agree with it.

However, you must give equal attention to both sides. A common error is to provide a stronger argument for the view you favour. This leads to an unbalanced essay and a low score for task achievement. 

Essay Structure

Now let’s look at a simple structure you can use to write IELTS discussion essays. It’s not the only possible structure but it’s the one I recommend because it’s easy to learn and will enable you to quickly plan and write a high-level essay.

1)  Introduction

  • Paraphrase the question
  • State two supporting reasons
  • Give your opinion

  2)  Main body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence – outline the view you don’t agree with
  • Explanation – explain why this view is held by some people
  • Example – give an example

 3 )  Main body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence – outline the view you do agree with

  4)  Conclusion

  • Summarise the key points and state your opinion

This structure will give us a well-balanced essay with 4 paragraphs.

We now need some ideas to add into the structure and we’ll have everything we need for our essay.

How To Plan IELTS Discussion Essays

# 1  analyse the question.

This is an essential step in the planning process and will ensure that you answer the question fully. It’s quick and easy to do. You just need to identify 3 different types of words:

1. Topic words

2.  Other keywords

3.  Instruction words

We’ve already considered the instruction words (the actual question) so we’ll focus on the first two.

Topics words are the ones that identify the general subject of the question.

Some people think that zoos  are cruel and should be closed down. Others, however, believe that  zoos  can be useful in protecting wild animals.

So, this question is about ‘ zoos ’.

Many people do this first step of the process and then write about the topic in general. This is a serious mistake and leads to low marks for task achievement.

What we need to do now that we know the general topic, is to understand exactly what aspect of zoos we're being asked to write about.

The other keywords in the question tell you the specific topic you must write about. They define the opinions stated in the statement.

Some people think tha t zoos are cruel and should be closed down . Others, however, believe that zoos c an be useful in protecting wild animals .

By highlighting these words, it’s easy to see that you are being asked to write about the opposing views that zoos are cruel and should be closed down and that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals. Your essay must only include ideas relevant to these ideas.

# 2  Decide on your opinion

As already mentioned, it doesn’t matter if you genuinely agree with the view you take in your essay or not. IELTS discussion essays are about your ability to write a well-structured essay in the English language and you will not be assessed on any opinion you might hold.

So, choose one view and make sure that your opinion is clear throughout the essay.

For this model essay, I’m going to agree with the statement that zoos are cruel and should be closed down.

# 3  Generate ideas

The next task is to generate some ideas to write about.

There are several different ways to think up ideas. I cover them fully on the  IELTS Essay Planning  page.

We’re going to use the ‘friends technique’. This is my preferred method as it allows you to take a step back from the stress of the exam situation and think more calmly.

Here’s how it works. Imagine you are chatting with a friend and they ask you the question in a casual conversation. What answers would you give them off the top of your head? Plan your essay around these ideas.

Doing this will help you to come up with simple answers in everyday language rather than straining your brain to think of amazing ideas using high level-language, which isn’t necessary.

You might want to try this yourself before reading on for my ideas.

Here are my ideas:

Cruel  – closed down:

  • Cramped cages – animals distressed
  • Unnatural environments
  • Most animals not endangered
  • Animals become a public spectacle for entertainment

Useful – protect wild animals:

  • Research work to learn more about wild animals
  • Breeding programmes for endangered species
  • Some species saved from extinction
  • Seeing wild animals close up inspires people to want to help protect them

I’ve got more ideas here than I need so I’m going to pick two to develop in the essay – one for each of the main body paragraphs.

Idea 1  –  Cramped cages & unnatural environments, animals distressed.

Idea 2  –  Breeding programmes for endangered species, some species saved from extinction.

We’re almost ready to start writing our IELTS discussion essay but first, we have one other small task to do.

# 4  Vocabulary

In an IELTS essay, it’s important to be able to say the same things in different ways, either by paraphrasing and/or using synonyms. During the planning stage, quickly jot down a few synonyms of key words you could use to save you having to stop and think of the right language while you’re writing.

For example:

zoos  – animals in captivity, collections of wild animals, menagerie, wildlife park

cruel  – to cause suffering, inhumane

protect  – safeguard, preserve

animals  – creatures, species

With that done, we can focus on the first paragraph of the essay – the introduction.

How To Write an Introduction

Good introductions to IELTS discussion essays have a simple 3 part structure:

1)  Paraphrase the question

2)  State two supporting reasons (outline statement)

3)  Give your opinion (thesis statement)

  • Have 2-3 sentences
  • Be 40-60 words long
  • Take 5 minutes to write

Start your introduction by paraphrasing the question.

Question:   Some people think that zoos are cruel and should be closed down. Others, however, believe that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals.

There are various phrases you can use to do this. Here are three examples. They all say the same thing using different language.

  • Some people argue that… while others say that…
  • It is considered by some…. while there are others who think….
  • It is often argued that... whilst others disagree and think...

Choose one and add the details in the question statement in a paraphrased form. I recommend putting the view you don’t agree with first.

Paraphrased question:  

Some people argue that zoos help to preserve wild creatures, while others say that they are inhumane and should be abolished.

Note my use of synonyms. You don’t have to replace every key word but do so where possible whilst ensuring that your language sounds natural. There aren’t any suitable synonyms of ‘zoo’ that I can think of, so I've repeated this word from the statement.

2)  Thesis and outline statements

Now we need to add an  outline statement  where you outline the two main points that you’ll cover in the rest of the essay (ideas 1 and 2 above) and a  thesis statement  where you state your opinion.

Outline & thesis statements:

While the development of breeding programmes contributes to the preservation of endangered species, I believe that the poor conditions that many animals held in captivity are kept in make the existence of zoos unacceptable. 

So, let’s bring the three elements of our introduction together.

     Introduction

how do you discuss in an essay

This introduction achieves three important functions:

  • It shows the examiner that you understand the question.
  • It acts as a guide to the examiner as to what your essay is about.
  • It also helps to keep you focused and on track as you write.

The two ideas in your introduction will become your two main body paragraphs.

Main body paragraph 1  – Breeding programmes for endangered species, some species saved from extinction.

Main body paragraph 2  – Cramped cages & unnatural environments, animals distressed.

How To Write Main Body Paragraphs

Main body paragraphs in IELTS discussion essays should contain 3 things:

It is easier to begin by discussing the opinion you don’t agree with and then present the reasons for the opposing view that you support. So, we’ll start with idea 1.

Main Body Paragraph 1

The  topic sentence  summarises the main idea of the paragraph. That’s all it needs to do so it doesn’t have to be complicated.

It plays an important role in ensuring that your ideas flow logically from one to another. It does this by acting as a signpost for what is to come next, that is, what the paragraph will be about.

If you maintain a clear development of ideas throughout your essay, you will get high marks for task achievement and cohesion and coherence.

We’ll now take the idea for our first main body paragraph and create our topic sentence.

Topic sentence:  

On the one hand, there are many projects in existence in zoological parks around the world where species facing extinction have been successfully bred in captivity and their numbers increased substantially.

Next, we must write an  explanation sentence that expands on the idea. This explains to the examiner what we mean or why this is the case.

Explanation sentence: 

This is important for ensuring the survival of animals under threat from poaching and the destruction of their natural environments.

Finally, we add an  example  to support our main point. If you can’t think of a real example, it’s fine to make one up, as long as it’s believable. The examiner isn’t going to check your facts.

Example sentence:

A good example of this is the golden lion tamarin from Brazil which nearly died out because of logging and mining activities which are destroying its habitat. Today, a third of wild golden lion tamarins were raised in captivity.

That’s the 3 parts of our first main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

how do you discuss in an essay

We now follow the same process for our second main body paragraph.

Main Body Paragraph 2

Main idea 2  – Cramped cages & unnatural environments, animals distressed.

First, we write the  topic sentence  to summarise the main idea. I started main body paragraph 1 with the phrase ‘On the one hand...’, so main body paragraph 2 will naturally begin, ‘On the other hand... .

These are great cohesive devices to use when making a direct contrast between two opposing views and they link the ideas together well. They can be used in most IELTS discussion essays and will help to earn you a good score for cohesion and coherence.

Topic sentence:

On the other hand, a significant percentage of zoos house their animals in cramped cages with very little space to move around or behave naturally.

Now for the  explanation sentence  where we expand on this idea.

Explanation sentence:

This can lead to them becoming distressed and depressed as well as suffering physically through lack of exercise.

Finally, an  example  to support this point.

A friend of mine recently visited a wildlife park while on holiday abroad and was very upset to see the lions pacing up and down in a narrow, bare pen and eagles in enclosures so small that they were unable to fly.

That’s the 3 parts of our second main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

how do you discuss in an essay

Now we need a conclusion and our IELTS discussion essay is done.

How To Write a Conclusion

Conclusions to IELTS discussion essays should do two things:

  • Summarise the main points
  • State your opinion

This can generally be done in a single sentence.

If you're below the minimum 250 words after you’ve written your conclusion, you can add a prediction or recommendation statement.

Our essay currently has 231 words so we’re on target and don’t need this extra sentence but you can learn more about how to write a prediction or recommendation statement for IELTS discussion essays on the Task 2 Conclusions page.

The conclusion is the easiest sentence in the essay to write but one of the most important.

A good conclusion will:

  • Neatly end the essay
  • Link all your ideas together
  • Sum up your argument or opinion
  • Answer the question

If you achieve this, you’ll improve your score for both task achievement and cohesion and coherence which together make up 50% of the overall marks. Without a conclusion, you’ll score below band 6 for task achievement.

You can start almost any final paragraph of an IELTS discussion essay with the words:

  • In conclusion

        or

  • To conclude

Now all you need to do is briefly summarise the main ideas into one sentence.

Here’s a top tip . Go back and read the introduction to the essay because this is also a summary of the essay. It outlines what you are going to write about.

To create a great conclusion, you simply have to paraphrase the introduction. Let’s give it a go.

Introduction:

Here is the same information formed into a conclusion:

how do you discuss in an essay

That’s it. We’ve completed our essay. Here it is with the 4 paragraphs put together.

Finished IELTS discussion essay.

how do you discuss in an essay

Go through this lesson as many times as you need to in order to fully understand it and put in lots of practice writing IELTS discussion essays from past exam questions. Practice is the only way to improve your skills.

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More help with ielts discussion essays & other task 2 essays.

IELTS Writing Task 2  – T he format, the 5 question types, the 5 step essay writing strategy & sample questions. All the key information you need to know.

The 5 Types of Task 2 Essay   – How to recognise the 5 different types of Task 2 essays. 15 sample questions to study and a simple planning structure for each essay type.

Understanding Task 2 Questions  – How to quickly and easily analyse and understand IELTS Writing Task 2 questions.

How To Plan a Task 2 Essay  – Discover why essay planning is essential & learn a simple 4 step strategy, the 4 part essay structure & 4 methods of generating ideas.

How To Write a Task 2 Introduction  – Find out why a good introduction is essential. Learn how to write one using a simple 3 part strategy & discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

How To Write Task 2 Main Body Paragraphs  – Learn the simple 3 part structure for writing great main body paragraphs and also, 3 common mistakes to avoid. 

How To Write Task 2 Conclusions  – Learn the easy way to write the perfect conclusion for a Task 2 essay. Also discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

Task 2 Marking Criteria  – Find out how to meet the marking criteria in Task 2. See examples of good and poor answers & learn some common mistakes to avoid.

The 5 Task 2 Essay Types:

Step-by-step instructions on how to plan & write high-level essays. Model answers & common mistakes to avoid.

   Opinion Essays

   Discussion Essays

  Problem Solution Essays

  Advantages & Disadvantages Essays

  Double Question Essays

Other Related Pages

IELTS Writing Test  – Understand the format & marking criteria, know what skills are assessed & learn the difference between the Academic & General writing tests.

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Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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Understanding instruction words in academic essay titles

Posted in: essay-writing

how do you discuss in an essay

Instruction or command words indicate what your tutor wants you to do in your written assignment. It's vital that you understand exactly what these instruction words mean so you can answer all parts of the essay question and provide a complete response.

Here's a list of some of the most common instruction/command words you'll see in essay questions (and examination questions as well), together with an explanation of what they mean.

Describe: Give a detailed account of…

Outline: Give the main features/general principles; don't include minor details.

Explain, account for, interpret: Describe the facts but also give causes and reasons for them. Depending on the context, these words may also suggest that you need to make the possible implications clear as well. For example: 'Explain X and its importance for Y'.

Comment on, criticise, evaluate, critically evaluate, assess: Judge the value of something. But first, analyse, describe and explain. Then go through the arguments for and against, laying out the arguments neutrally until the section where you make your judgement clear. Judgements should be backed by reasons and evidence.

Discuss, consider: The least specific of the instruction words. Decide, first of all, what the main issues are. Then follow the same procedures for Comment on, Criticise, Evaluate, Critically Evaluate and Assess.

Analyse: Break down into component parts. Examine critically or closely.

How far, how true, to what extent: These suggest there are various views on and various aspects to the subject. Outline some of them, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, explore alternatives and then give your judgement.

Justify: Explain, with evidence, why something is the case, answering the main objections to your view as you go along.

Refute: Give evidence to prove why something is not the case.

Compare, contrast, distinguish, differentiate, relate: All require that you discuss how things are related to each other.  Compare suggests you concentrate on similarities, which may lead to a stated preference, the justification of which should be made clear. These words suggest that two situations or ideas can be compared in a number of different ways, or from a variety of viewpoints. Contrast suggests you concentrate on differences.

Define: Write down the precise meaning of a word or phrase. Sometimes several co-existing definitions may be used and, possibly, evaluated.

Illustrate: Make clear and explicit; usually requires the use of carefully chosen examples.

State: Give a concise, clear explanation or account of…

Summarise: Give a concise, clear explanation or account of… presenting the main factors and excluding minor detail or examples (see also Outline).

Trace: Outline or follow the development of something from its initiation or point of origin.

Devise: Think up, work out a plan, solve a problem etc.

Apply (to): Put something to use, show how something can be used in a particular situation.

Identify: Put a name to, list something.

Indicate: Point out. This does not usually involve giving too much detail.

List: Make a list of a number of things. This usually involves simply remembering or finding out a number of things and putting them down one after the other.

Plan: Think about how something is to be done, made, organised, etc.

Report on: Describe what you have seen or done.

Review: Write a report on something.

Specify: Give the details of something.

Work out: Find a solution to a problem.

Adapted from: Coles, M. (1995), A Student’s Guide to Coursework Writing,   University of Stirling, Stirling 

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Write a response

So wonderful can anyone get the information

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Thanks Josphat!

This is a life saver, do you have a youtube channel where you talk about all this stuff? If so I would love to know about it 🙂 Rachelle

Thanks for your comment. We don't have a YouTube channel but stay tuned for more posts. You will also find additional self-directed learning resources in MySkills .

Quite helpful. I would definitely check this before my next essay.

Thank you, Dan.

Very helpful now I understand how construct my assignments and how to answer exam questions

I have understood it clearly;)

it is very useful for us to understand many instruction word and what we need to write down

There are some define of some words,and I find that there do have many common things for some words,but not all the same.Such as compare, contrast, distinguish, differentiate, relate,they all need people to compare but foucs on different ways.

Very helpful. Listed most of the words that might be misunderstood by foreign students. Now I know why my score of writing IELTS test is always 6, I even didn't get the point of what I was supposed to write!

I have already read all of this. And it gave me a brief instruction.

There are varied instruction words in essay questions. It's a good chance for me to have a overview of these main command words because I could response to requirements of questions precisely and without the risk of wandering off the topic.

When i encounter with an essay title with these instruction words above,I should understand exactly what these words mean so that i could know what my tutor would like me to do in the assignments.Also,these words may help me make an outline and read academic articles with percific purposes.

These words are accurate and appropriate. It is really helpful for me to response some assignment questions and I can know the orientation of my answers . I can also use these words to make an outline of my essay. However, in my view, for some instruction words which are confusing and hard to understand, it is better to give an example to help us understand.

It's the first time for me to recognise these instruction words , some of them are really similar with each other.

it is very helpful to my future study. it will be better to have some examples with it.

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Bias-proof your GenAI: Strategies to mitigate algorithmic and human biases

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8 ways to beat procrastination

Whether you’re writing an assignment or revising for exams, getting started can be hard. Fortunately, there’s lots you can do to turn procrastination into action.

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TikTok challenges U.S. ban in court, calling it unconstitutional

Bobby Allyn

Bobby Allyn

how do you discuss in an essay

TikTok's suit is in response to a law passed by Congress giving ByteDance up to a year to divest from TikTok and find a new buyer, or face a nationwide ban. Kiichiro Sato/AP hide caption

TikTok's suit is in response to a law passed by Congress giving ByteDance up to a year to divest from TikTok and find a new buyer, or face a nationwide ban.

TikTok and its parent company on Tuesday filed a legal challenge against the United States over a law that President Biden signed last month outlawing the app nationwide unless it finds a buyer within a year.

In the petition filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the company said the legislation exceeds the bounds of the constitution and suppresses the speech of millions of Americans.

"Banning TikTok is so obviously unconstitutional, in fact, that even the Act's sponsors recognized that reality, and therefore have tried mightily to depict the law not as a ban at all, but merely a regulation of TikTok's ownership," according to the filing.

The law, passed through Congress at lightning speed, which caught many inside TikTok off guard, is intended to force TikTok to be sold to a non-Chinese company in nine months, with the possibility of a three month extension if a possible sale is in play.

Yet lawyers for TikTok say the law offers the company a false choice, since fully divesting from its parent company, ByteDance, is "simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally," the challenge states. "And certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act."

Anupam Chander, a law professor at Georgetown University who specializes in technology regulations, said if TikTok loses this legal fight, it will likely shut down in the U.S.

"The problem for TikTok is that they have a parent company that has these obligation in China, but they're trying to live by free speech rules by the United States," Chander said in an interview. "The question is whether American courts will believe that that's even possible."

TikTok says law based on "speculative and analytically flawed concerns"

Lawmakers in Washington have long been suspicious of TikTok, fearing its Chinese owner could use the popular app to spy on Americans or spread dangerous disinformation.

But in the company's legal petition, lawyers for TikTok say invoking "national security" does not give the government a free pass to violate the First Amendment, especially, TikTok, argues, when no public evidence has been presented of the Chinese government using the app as a weapon against Americans.

Possible TikTok ban could be 'an extinction-level event' for the creator economy

Possible TikTok ban could be 'an extinction-level event' for the creator economy

According to the filing, the law is based on "speculative and analytically flawed concerns about data security and content manipulation — concerns that, even if grounded in fact, could be addressed through far less restrictive and more narrowly tailored means."

New DOJ Filing: TikTok's Owner Is 'A Mouthpiece' Of Chinese Communist Party

New DOJ Filing: TikTok's Owner Is 'A Mouthpiece' Of Chinese Communist Party

Constitutional scholars say there are few ways for the government to restrict speech in a way that would survive a legal challenge. One of those ways is if the government can demonstrate a national security risk. Also key, legal experts say, is the government showing the speech suppression was the least restrictive option on the table.

TikTok said Congress ignored less restrictive ways of addressing the government's national security concerns.

"If Congress can do this, it can circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down," the filing states. "And for TikTok, any such divestiture would disconnect Americans from the rest of the global community."

Since more than 90% of TikTok's users are outside of America, Georgetown's Chander said selling the U.S.-based app to a different owner would cannibalize its own business.

"You can't really create a TikTok U.S., while having a different company manage TikTok Canada," Chander said in an interview. "What you're doing essentially is creating a rival between two TikToks," he said. " It may be better to take your marbles out of the United States and hope to make money outside of the U.S., rather than sell it at a fire-sale price."

TikTok critics call app a 'spy balloon on your phone'

The filing sets off what could be the most important battle for TikTok. It has been fending off legal challenges to its existence since former President Trump first sought to ban the app through an executive order in the summer of 2020. That effort was blocked by federal courts.

Since then, Democrats and Republicans have shown a rare moment of unity around calls to pressure TikTok to sever its ties with ByteDance, the Beijing-based tech giant that owns the video-streaming app.

Trump's Ban On TikTok Suffers Another Legal Setback

Congress has never before passed legislation that could outright ban a wildly popular social media app, a gesture the U.S. government has criticized authoritarian nations for doing.

In the case of TikTok, however, lawmakers have called the app a "spy balloon on your phone," emphasizing how the Chinese government could gain access to the personal data of U.S. citizens.

Worries also persist in Washington that Beijing could influence the views of Americans by dictating what videos are boosted on the platform. That concern has only become heightened seven months before a presidential election.

Yet the fears so far indeed remain hypothetical.

There is no publicly available example of the Chinese government attempting to use TikTok as an espionage or data collection tool. And no proof that the Chinese government has ever had a hand over what TikTok's 170 million American users see every day on the app.

TikTok says it offers U.S. a plan that would shut app down if it violated agreement

TikTok, for its part, says it has invested $2 billion on a plan, dubbed Project Texas, to separate its U.S. operation from its Chinese parent company. It deleted all of Americans' data from foreign servers and relocated all of the data to servers on U.S. soil overseen by the Austin-based tech company Oracle.

While the plan was intended to build trust with U.S. lawmakers and users, reports surfaced showing that data was still moving between staff in California and Beijing.

In the filing on Tuesday, TikTok said it submitted an agreement to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which has been probing the app for five years, that would allow the U.S. to suspend TikTok if it violated terms set forth in a national security plan.

But, lawyers for TikTok say, the deal was swept aside, "in favor of the politically expedient and punitive approach," the petition states.

Mnuchin claims he will place a bid to buy TikTok, even though app is not for sale

Despite the new law giving TikTok the ultimatum of selling or being shut down, there are many questions around how the app could even be bought by another company or group of investors.

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told NPR on Monday, he is planning to assemble a group of investors to try to purchase TikTok without the app's algorithm.

Mnuchin, who declined to answer additional questions, said in between sessions at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles that the proposal to buy the app is still in the works, but he would not say when it would be formally submitted.

One major obstacle in any possible sale of TikTok is a glaring problem: The app is not for sale.

TikTok Ban Averted: Trump Gives Oracle-Walmart Deal His 'Blessing'

TikTok Ban Averted: Trump Gives Oracle-Walmart Deal His 'Blessing'

Despite the new law in the U.S., ByteDance says it does not intend to let go of the service. Furthermore, winning the support of China would be necessary, and officials in Beijing are adamantly against any forced sale.

In 2020, amid the Trump administration's clamp down on the app, China added "content-recommendation algorithms" to its export-control list, effectively adding new regulations over how TikTok's all-powerful algorithm could ever be sold.

ByteDance, not TikTok, developed and controls the algorithm that determines what millions see on the app every day. The technology has become the envy of Silicon Valley, and no U.S. tech company has been able dislodge TikTok's firm hold on the short-form video market. Experts say key to its success is its highly engaging and hyper-personalized video-ranking algorithm.

The algorithm, which involves millions of lines of software code developed by thousands of engineers over many years, cannot be easily transferred to the U.S., even if China did allow it, TikTok's challenge states.

Lawyers for TikTok argue that "any severance [of the algorithm] would leave TikTok without access to the recommendation engine that has created a unique style and community that cannot be replicated on any other platform today."

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How to Present to an Audience That Knows More Than You

  • Deborah Grayson Riegel

how do you discuss in an essay

Lean into being a facilitator — not an expert.

What happens when you have to give a presentation to an audience that might have some professionals who have more expertise on the topic than you do? While it can be intimidating, it can also be an opportunity to leverage their deep and diverse expertise in service of the group’s learning. And it’s an opportunity to exercise some intellectual humility, which includes having respect for other viewpoints, not being intellectually overconfident, separating your ego from your intellect, and being willing to revise your own viewpoint — especially in the face of new information. This article offers several tips for how you might approach a roomful of experts, including how to invite them into the discussion without allowing them to completely take over, as well as how to pivot on the proposed topic when necessary.

I was five years into my executive coaching practice when I was invited to lead a workshop on “Coaching Skills for Human Resource Leaders” at a global conference. As the room filled up with participants, I identified a few colleagues who had already been coaching professionally for more than a decade. I felt self-doubt start to kick in: Why were they even here? What did they come to learn? Why do they want to hear from me?

how do you discuss in an essay

  • Deborah Grayson Riegel is a professional speaker and facilitator, as well as a communication and presentation skills coach. She teaches leadership communication at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and has taught for Wharton Business School, Columbia Business School’s Women in Leadership Program, and Peking University’s International MBA Program. She is the author of Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School, and Life and the best-selling Go To Help: 31 Strategies to Offer, Ask for, and Accept Help .

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  1. Discuss Essay format|Discuss essay template|How to write Discuss essays|IELTS writing discuss essay

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  1. How to Write a Discussion Essay (with Pictures)

    After reading about both sides carefully, decide what position you want to take. Write your position at the top of a sheet of paper or at the top of a word processing document to start your outline. If you were given a text to base your essay on, make sure that text has enough evidence to support your chosen position. 4.

  2. Writing a Great Discussion Essay: Steps & Examples

    Compose the body of your essay. Write down the main points of the body paragraphs of your discussion paper. A well-written body paragraph illustrates, justifies, and/or supports your thesis statement. When writing body paragraphs: Typically, present each issue separately and discuss both sides of the argument in an unbiased manner.

  3. How to Write a Discussion Section

    Table of contents. What not to include in your discussion section. Step 1: Summarize your key findings. Step 2: Give your interpretations. Step 3: Discuss the implications. Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations. Step 5: Share your recommendations. Discussion section example. Other interesting articles.

  4. How to Critically Discuss in An Essay

    Critical discussion typically follows this essay structure: Introduction of an Essay: Introduce the topic and highlight its significance. Outline the main points you intend to discuss, backed up by scholarly source references. Main Body: This is where the meat of your critical discussion will lie and where techniques like the rhetorical ...

  5. Discussion essays

    When writing a discussion essay, it is important to ensure that facts and opinions are clearly separated. Often you will examine what other people have already said on the same subject and include this information using paraphrasing and summarising skills, as well as correct citations. The following are examples of discussion essay topics.

  6. How to Answer a Discuss Essay

    A discuss essay conclusion should contain two elements. Firstly, a summary of the core ideas, returning to the evidence presented and the points made, along with an indication of which you believe delivered the strongest arguments for or against the statement in the title. Secondly, a discuss essay should give your opinion, which should be ...

  7. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    When you read the assignment prompt, you should do the following: • Look for action verbs. Verbs like analyze, compare, discuss, explain, make an argument, propose a solution, trace, or research can help you understand what you're being asked to do with an assignment. Unless the instructor has specified otherwise, most of your paper ...

  8. How to Write a Discussion Essay

    A discussion essay is where you take a position on an issue. To compose it, start by agreeing with a particular position, investigating your point, and illustrate your exposition prior to launching into the introduction and your thesis statement. Create a strong argument in the body of your article, and utilize your decision to make it all ...

  9. How to Write a Discussion Essay

    Let's dive into the essay structure and components of a successful discussion essay. 1. Choose Your Topic. Choose your discussion essay topic. When choosing this topic, make sure it is one that you're interested in personally since this will be easier for you to write. You'll need to discuss both sides of the argument surrounding the ...

  10. How to Structure an Essay

    The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body. This article provides useful templates and tips to help you outline your essay, make decisions about your structure, and ...

  11. Example of a Great Essay

    This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people's social and cultural lives.

  12. How to Critically Discuss

    Discuss. talk or write about (a topic) in detail, taking into account different issues or ideas. So, in short, a critical discussion requires you to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of a theory, concept (or work of some sort), and write about this in detail - taking into account various relevant issues and viewpoints.

  13. IELTS Discussion Essays [Discuss Both Views/Sides]

    As the name suggests, a discussion essay is an essay that discusses things! More specifically, it is a type of IELTS writing task 2 essay that requires you to look at two different points of view. You can easily recognise these essays by the following phrase: Discuss both views and give your opinion. Sometimes it is phrased a little differently.

  14. Focus and Precision: How to Write Essays that Answer the Question

    2) Be as explicit as possible. Use forceful, persuasive language to show how the points you've made do answer the question. My main focus so far has been on tangential or irrelevant material - but many students lose marks even though they make great points, because they don't quite impress how relevant those points are.

  15. IELTS Discussion Essays

    The first part of the question for an IELTS discussion essay will be a statement containing two opposing views. You will then be asked to discuss both sides of the argument and give your own opinion. Here is some typical wording that might be used: Discuss both views and give your opinion. Discuss both these views and then give your own opinion ...

  16. Essay and dissertation writing skills

    A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.. Short videos to support your essay writing skills. There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing ...

  17. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    Come up with a thesis. Create an essay outline. Write the introduction. Write the main body, organized into paragraphs. Write the conclusion. Evaluate the overall organization. Revise the content of each paragraph. Proofread your essay or use a Grammar Checker for language errors. Use a plagiarism checker.

  18. Understanding instruction words in academic essay titles

    Here's a list of some of the most common instruction/command words you'll see in essay questions (and examination questions as well), together with an explanation of what they mean. Describe: Give a detailed account of…. Outline: Give the main features/general principles; don't include minor details. Explain, account for, interpret: Describe ...

  19. Analyse, Explain, Identify… 22 essay question words

    And to understand the requirements of the question, you need to have a good hold on all the different question words. For example, 'justify', 'examine', and 'discuss', to name a few. Lacking this understanding is a pitfall many students tumble into. But our guide on essay question words below should keep you firmly above on safe, essay-acing ...

  20. TikTok challenges U.S. ban in court, calling it unconstitutional

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  22. How to Present to an Audience That Knows More Than You

    Summary. What happens when you have to give a presentation to an audience that might have some professionals who have more expertise on the topic than you do? While it can be intimidating, it can ...

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  24. How to Write an Essay Introduction

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