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ALVA ACADEMY ENGLISH DEPARTMENT

Discursive Essay Writing

Support Booklet

The Importance of Discursive Writing It helps us to · · · · · · · research and learn more about issues or subjects learn more about the different views that other people have on these issues and subjects learn why people hold the views and opinions they do discover our own view on these issues and subjects learn to distinguish between valid and false arguments learn to express our own views in a reasoned and reasonable way learn how to construct an argument that is well argued and which draws on appropriate and relevant evidence.

The Purpose of this Booklet · · is to help you recognise a good discursive essay is to help you write a good discursive essay

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Stages in writing a discursive essay 1 2 3 4 5 Find out all you can about the issue Organise your findings into 3 categories: For, Against, Undecided Decide on your own view of the issue Think about how you can best express your view Prepare a plan. Find out all you can about the issue

Stage 1

a) Sources Sources you may wish to consult: · · · · · · a variety of newspapers television news and factual programmes reference library internet family and friends literature ­ books, plays, poems and films

All of these sources will provide you with some insight into the various aspects of an issue. Whatever sources you do consult you must acknowledge at the end of your essay.

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Quoting your sources means that you are confident your research is thorough and that you have used these sources simply for information; you have not just copied down the information but have re-worked it in support of your own views. This establishes good practice for future work you may undertake at college, or university, or in work. Stage 2 Taking notes During the course of your research, you will · · · Take general notes on the issue Organise these into various aspects of the issue Begin to think of the issue in terms of views that are in favour of it, opposed to it, neutral towards it. Organise your findings

You may wish to use columns to help, for example: Favourable Opposed Neutral

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The more information you have, the more robust your essay will be. However, beware repeating the same information. Stage 3 Decide on your own view of the issue

You must make sure that you have as many facts and viewpoints as possible to help you come to an understanding of the issue. You may not use all of the material you have gathered from your research, but the more research you have undertaken, the deeper your understanding of the issue will be. You may find some aspects of the issue favourable, other aspects you may be opposed to. Some aspects will simply inform your understanding of the issue. You must consider all information and make up your mind about what you think of the issue overall. Stage 4 Think about how you can best express your view First of all, from your research, decide on the information you feel · is necessary to give your readers background information on the issue · is in favour of, or gives, one view of the issue · is opposed to, or gives, another view of the issue Next, think about the one point you wish to make about the issue Then, think about how you can best make your point:

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· · ·

how will you attract the reader's attention ? how will you maintain the reader's interest ? how will your conclusion make the essay memorable for the reader ?

Attracting the reader's attention Will you begin with · a rhetorical question · an anecdote or (briefly), a personal experience · a fact or set of statistics · an analogy · a quotation ? Will your opening paragraph inform your reader (in an interesting way) of the subject of the essay ? How will the opening paragraph lead into the next paragraph ? Maintaining the reader's interest · · · · · · will you give interesting supporting details ? will you build up the level of detail so that your readers feel they are reading something worthwhile ? will you focus on only the favourable aspects of the issue to begin with and then consider the opposing aspects ? or, will you consider one aspect of the issue and look at the positive and negative points of this aspect ? or, what ? how will you link all the aspects of your argument together ?

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Making the essay end memorably for the reader · · · will your essay seem to lead naturally to the conclusion? will it sum up, briefly, the main points of your essay ? will the conclusion link to the start of the essay ?

Linkage An absolute must for any essay is that readers should find it easy to follow. The following paragraphs are linked. Read the paragraphs carefully to see how the writer led from one paragraph to the next. Saturday morning is the best morning of the week. When I wake up I go downstairs to take out bacon and eggs from the fridge to make the breakfast. Then I go through to watch TV and eat my breakfast. When I finish, I go upstairs, get dressed, and later go to relax in the swimming pool where I meet my friend, Jenny. My favourite form of relaxation is swimming. I walk to the swimming pool but Jenny is already there when I reach it. We buy two tickets, go in, get changed and then relax by the side of the pool. We swim slowly round the pool five or six times. After that, we go to the hot pool and lie back and relax there for about twenty minutes. After the swimming, we go to the CD shop on the way to the park where Jenny buys dance music.

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Jenny is my best friend. Even though she listens to rotten music, she is my best buddy. We like to go to a lot of places but we only see one another on Saturdays. That is probably why, for me, Saturday morning is the best morning of the week Linkage Another means of linking paragraphs is by discourse markers. Discourse Markers are words that help you to structure your thoughts: Words that develop an argument:as a result, in view of this, because of this, obviously, as a consequence, consequently, this being so ... Words that reinforce an argument:moreover, furthermore, and, further, in addition, also, not only... but also, indeed, Words that change the direction of an argument:however, yet, but, nevertheless, although, in spite of, on the other hand, whilst, on the contrary, alternatively, despite .... Words that conclude an argument:therefore, in conclusion, so, thus, hence

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Now that you know how you will structure your essay, think about how you will express your thoughts, ideas and opinions. Style The style you adopt should be formal since this adds authority to your argument, as does the use of the passive voice. For example, it is thought that sounds more weighty than we think that. Sophisticated and Specific Vocabulary Which of the following sound better? Why? Some ................. a quantity of A lot of people ... a considerable number of people Dotted all over .............. placed randomly Housing scheme ... a housing estate

Informal Expression Contractions, abbreviations, colloquialisms ­ do not use. Presentation and Accuracy Handwriting must be easy to read, all spelling must be accurate, and word choice must be appropriate.

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Stage 5

The Plan

Now that you have thought about how best to structure your thoughts, and about the formality required , you need to think about the exact information you wish to give your readers, paragraph by paragraph. And, you will need to know how each paragraph will link to the next. The Criteria Before we write our essay, we should really be aware of what makes a good piece of discursive writing. A good essay · · · · · · states the writer's view of the issue gives ideas/evidence to support that view has depth and supporting evidence of some complexity shows the writer's ability to be objective is understood at the first reading is technically accurate; formal errors in sentence structure and spelling will be few · is of a length appropriate to its purpose Practice in interpreting the criteria. · Read the following essay written by a boy called Kevin and then decide which grade it merits. · Justify the grade you would award the essay.

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·

Suggest what could be done to improve the essay.

Television In millions of homes throughout Britain the Television must be one of the most common appliances to be found, with most families owning at least one. What then, makes television so popular? The answer must be that it holds something for everyone. In television today, the diversity of programmes is immense: news, sport, soaps, quiz shows, wildlife, films and comedy to name but a few headings. Obviously, in this wealth of entertainment there is much to tempt us, but do we go too far? Are we becoming slaves of television? In my personal view, television is not the Pandora's Box ready to ensnare us. Although some people take television to extremes, very often this is their only escape from reality. For example; an old lady in a high-rise flat may mentally "adopt" a family from a soap opera to replace the one she has lost or never had. This escapism is not only pitiable, but, to me, incomprehensible. In my view, soap operas are a real blight on television. What do we want to know about other people's hardships and misery for, when we have enough of our own? I never watch them, but they top the ratings list of television viewing, so somebody must see something in them. I watch television normally only when there is something I specifically want to see, which I find perfectly adequate. I get great enjoyment from television, but I don't intend to let it take over my life. Ask yourself the following questions: · · Is Kevin's view of the issue made clear ? Does he give ideas/evidence to support that view?

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· · · · · ·

Do these ideas and supporting evidence have depth and some complexity ? Does Kevin show an ability to be objective? Did you understand the essay at the first reading? Does Kevin have a good command of language? Did you feel that he led you clearly through the points that he raised ? Is the length appropriate to the purpose ?

In short, how well does Kevin structure his argument and express his views ? Task 1 Make suggestions as to how Kevin could improve his essay. Task 2 Now, look at the next example which was also written by a former pupil, Denise. Our School's Prefect System Most schools have a prefect system. Our system, in my school is considered good as our prefects are given responsibility, some power and trust. They are trusted by everyone in authority, such as teachers,

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parents and the rectors. They are also trusted by younger pupils. However, the system is not perfect, having disadvantages as well as advantages. The first positive aspect is the responsibility prefects are given. This can be a good or bad thing. In a good sense, it is the chance to gain experience for the future in dealing with other people in differing situations. In another sense, though, they have to give up their free time to go to meetings, oversee the supervision of younger pupils and do various duties. Furthermore, in addition to duties like the lunch queues and stair duty, there could be trouble if a difficult pupil becomes aggressive or refuses to conform to the rules that prefects help the school to enforce. With the responsibility that prefects have, however, is power. In a sense, prefects can get to boss all the other pupils around and, if they are not carefully chosen, this could lead to "official" bullying. The power they have can be not only visible but also unseen. When other, younger pupils look up to prefects, they take them for role-models and are influenced by the way prefects behave and think. My own view is that, in relation to the power they are given, prefects are treated like slaves. They get very little reward for the time and the service they give to the school. Although being a prefect is seen as a good thing by prospective employers, who believe that prefects will be punctual, good with people and attentive to detail, it is nevertheless, quite hard to turn out for the school at weekends and on Parents' Evenings, all for nothing. I believe the school should investigate suitable rewards that will show prefects they are valued. Yet, there are those who disagree with the whole idea of the prefect system. They believe that we should all work together and should not need to have "supervisors". Whilst I think this is true, I also know that younger pupils need help in school and prefects are people

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they know they can trust to furnish that help. This is one of the most important duties a prefect can have and so prefects must be chosen with care, chosen on their behaviour and how they interact with others. It must be said, though, that being human, we will make mistakes and there are some people who are prefects who should not be. The prefect system, therefore, has its strengths and weaknesses. In relation to the way the system prepares for responsibility in the future and in the way it guides towards developing people skills, I feel that I would like to be a prefect one day. · How would you grade this one ? · Justify the grade you have given Denise's essay. · What suggestions do you have to improve it ? Preparation The essays you have just assessed are the culmination of a whole process. For, before an essay can be written, the preparation stages must be worked through thoroughly. Consider the following preparation on an essay about the use of animals in experiments. Look at not only the research that has gone into this essay, but the revision of notes that the writer has now put into order as preparation for gathering all the evidence to support the essay's argument. Areas to be considered: · Background to the task · Experiments which use animals · Benefits of using animals in experiments · Harm done using animals in experiments

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· · · ·

Ethics of using animals in experiments Developments in animal experiments Importance of investigating this topic *Acknowledging our sources

Background to the task An explanation of how the subject came to the writer's attention ­ in this case, a text studied in class which dealt with the subject and the coincidence of the Animal Welfare Act being updated which reminds us that · It is not just animals used in scientific experiments which are at risk. · All animals are at risk. · People have a moral responsibility to care for animals. · Unfortunately, some people can be cruel to animals. · This Act now makes people legally responsible for the welfare of the animals in their care. Experiments which use animals · · Some behavioural psychologists studied animals such as rats, dogs and rhesus monkeys in order to learn about the way people behave. Some scientists use animals to test only chemicals or cosmetics.

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· ·

Other scientists use animals in medical research trying to find cures for life-threatening diseases which affect both people and animals. Some experiments cause animals pain. These usually involve substances that are poisonous or which are corrosive; that is, they burn.

Benefits of using animals in tests · · · Cures for diseases which affect both humans and animals have been found. People's lives have not been put at risk. Our knowledge about the way the human body works has increased.

Harm done in using animals in tests · · · Animals suffer. What works on animals may not work on humans so no-one benefits. People think of themselves as superior and do not care about the rights of animals; this results in a narrow way of looking at our world and we do not see how we could make it a better place for us and animals.

Ethics of testing on animals

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The ethics of using animals means thinking about whether it is right to test on animals or not. There are rarely right or wrong answers as the following will show: · · · Is it wrong to subject animals to experiments even if these experiments will result in helping people or other animals ? In the 1970s, Peter Singer wrote a book called Animal Liberation. In this book, he wrote that animals have a right to life just as humans do. However, he felt that animals could possibly be used in experiments if they did not suffer a lot or for long, and if the need for the experiment was vitally important and that there was a very strong chance that the experiment would be successful In the 1980s, Tom Regan wrote about the quality of life for animals. He believes that all animals have their own value and that they must be respected, therefore, no animal should be used in experiments. If you had a loved one suffering from a disease, would you not wish a cure to be found ? If the only way of finding that cure was reasonable testing on animals, would you support it ? Or, would you refuse to have any tests carried out on animals because you are against this on principle ? Developments in scientific experiments using animals · · · RSPCA policies and practices Research itself Business companies' policies and practices

·

· ·

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· ·

Fashion designers and models' policies practices The Law

and

RSPCA policies and practices · · · · The RSPCA monitors the welfare of all animals. It works with scientists to Try to reduce the suffering of animals used in experiments Try to find other ways to carry out research without using animals Try to make life and conditions better for the animals used in experiments

Scientific Research · · · Scientists themselves try to find ways of learning without harming animals Practices are changing. For example, biology students in schools used to cut up rats as part of their course work !

Business and Industry · Estee Lauder makes cosmetics which have not been tested on animals

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·

M&S ensure that their products come from sources where cruelty-free farming methods are used

Fashion World · Top fashion designers and models have refused to wear real fur because they did not want animals to suffer unnecessarily

The Law The law was made necessary because some people allowed their animals to suffer through · · · · · Cruelty Neglect Inhumane transport Inhumane farming methods Using animals cruelly for sport and entertainment

By law, people now must make sure that their animals · Have a proper diet · Have a suitable place to live · Have protection from pain, suffering or injury

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The law covers all animals but the use of animals in experiments is allowed. However, the benefits of using animals in experiments and the harm done by using the animals are carefully monitored. Importance of investigating this topic · · · · If we find that something irresponsible is happening, we may be able to do something to stop it. If we know about a company's policies, we can make informed choices about what products to buy or not to buy. If we treat our animals with respect, we shall build a better environment for us all. What other reasons could be given ?

Sources · · · · · www.rspca.org.uk "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" by Terry Pratchett Newspaper articles from the local Tipton paper Personal experience Any other source that you, yourself, have taken information from.

It is essential that you use your sources only to · add to your stock of knowledge · inform your thinking · support your own views

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Acknowledging sources will credit other people's work on the subject and show how you, yourself, have contributed to the debate. Acknowledging them also ensures against charges of plagiarism. Finally, Here are some topics that have been featured in SQA Standard Grade past papers. · · · · · · · · · Choose one essay to research, plan and write. Think about the topic and how you would go about researching information on its related aspects. Then, read again the advice given in this booklet on how to write a discursive essay. Go over the notes you have taken in class on discursive essay writing. Consider carefully the comments the teacher has made on exemplar essays you have studied in class. Think about the strengths and weaknesses of the discursive essays you have done. Reflect on the advice your teacher has given you. Now, begin practising this kind of writing. Remember, for folio or SQA submission, you must quote your sources although you do not need to do this in an exam situation.

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Discursive Essay Questions SQA 2003 1. Winters get windier; summers get wetter. Write about your views on our changing climate. 2. Violence on the screen encourages violence in real life. Discuss. SQA 2005 3. Playing in a team has much more to offer than competing as an individual. Do you agree or disagree ? Give your views. Enjoy!

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