Differences Between Argumentative and Discursive Essay Writing

Differences Between Argumentative and Discursive Essay Writing

When it comes to essay writing, there are several formats and styles to choose from. Two of the most common types are argumentative essays and discursive essays. While they may seem similar at first, there are key differences that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the differences between argumentative and discursive essay writing.

Argumentative essays are focused on presenting a strong argument or point of view on a specific topic. The writer takes a stand on a particular issue and uses evidence and logical reasoning to support their opinions. The goal is to persuade the reader to agree with the writer’s viewpoint. These essays often require the writer to be persuasive and to use a tone that is confident and assertive. However, it is important to remain unbiased and to acknowledge opposing viewpoints.

On the other hand, discursive essays are more open-ended and explore a topic from multiple perspectives. The writer presents different arguments and analyses the pros and cons of each. The goal is to provide a balanced view and to encourage critical thinking. Unlike argumentative essays, discursive essays do not require the writer to take a firm position. Instead, they should provide a thorough examination of the topic without being overly biased.

So, what does this mean for you as a writer? If you’re looking to write an argumentative essay, you’ll need to establish a strong thesis statement and provide evidence to support your claims. You should also anticipate and address counterarguments to show that you have thoroughly considered different viewpoints. On the other hand, if you’re writing a discursive essay, your focus should be on exploring different perspectives and presenting a well-rounded view of the topic.

It’s also worth noting that the ratio of research to personal opinion can differ between argumentative and discursive essays. Argumentative essays tend to be more research-heavy, with a greater emphasis on using evidence and studies to support arguments. Discursive essays, on the other hand, may rely more on personal opinions and experiences, although it is still important to include research to strengthen your points.

Structure and Format

It is worth noting that the structure and format of an essay can vary depending on the guidelines provided by a particular institution or the requirements of a professional writing task. Therefore, it is important for writers to thoroughly analyze the prompt and establish the most appropriate structure for their essay.

As with any type of writing, the content and organization of an essay are crucial for its success. Whether you are writing an argumentative or a discursive essay, it is important to define the scope, establish a strong thesis statement, and choose relevant and well-supported arguments. Providing examples and supporting evidence is essential to strengthen the writer’s stance and make the essay more persuasive or comprehensive.

Overall, understanding the difference in structure and format between argumentative and discursive essays is essential for any writer. While the two types may share some similarities in terms of basic structure, their approach to content and organization is different. Thorough prewriting and outlining are must-know guidelines for writers to ensure their essay is well-structured and effectively communicates their ideas.

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Purpose and Audience

In contrast, discursive essays have a more balanced and unbiased tone. Their purpose is to explore and discuss a topic from different perspectives, rather than trying to convince the reader of a single viewpoint. Discursive essays often provide a thorough analysis of the topic, considering both positive and negative aspects, and may suggest alternate solutions or approaches. The audience for discursive essays can be anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the topic.

When it comes to choosing between argumentative and discursive essays, it’s important to think about the particular topic and your intended audience. If the topic is controversial and you want to present a strong case for your opinion, argumentative writing may be the better choice. On the other hand, if you want to explore a topic in a more open-minded and comprehensive way, discursive writing may be more suitable.

It’s worth noting that while argumentative essays often follow a specified structure, with well-defined paragraphs and a clear thesis statement, discursive essays provide more flexibility in their structure. They may include multiple viewpoints and discussions within the same essay, allowing for a more in-depth analysis of the topic.

Regardless of which type of essay you choose to write, it’s crucial to thoroughly research your topic and gather supporting evidence. Both argumentative and discursive essays require prewriting work, such as brainstorming and outlining, to ensure that your arguments or discussions are well-organized and coherent.

Tone and Language


In an argumentative essay, the writer takes a strong stance on a particular topic and tries to persuade the reader to agree with their point of view. This often involves using a more passionate and emotional tone, as the writer aims to evoke strong emotions in the reader. The goal here is to make the reader feel strongly about the topic and take action.

On the other hand, a discursive essay aims to present a balanced and unbiased view of a topic. The tone here is more professional and objective, as the writer is not trying to convince the reader to take a specific stance. Instead, they are presenting different perspectives on the topic and letting the reader make up their own mind.


In terms of language, argumentative essays often use more persuasive techniques and rhetoric. The writer may use strong and emotive words, rhetorical questions, and appeals to emotion to make their argument more compelling. The language is often more direct and forceful, as the writer wants to make a strong impression on the reader.

On the other hand, discursive essays use a more measured and balanced language. The language is typically more neutral and less emotive, as the writer aims to provide a fair and objective analysis of the topic. The focus is on presenting different viewpoints and facilitating a discussion, rather than on persuading the reader to take a specific stance.

To further illustrate the difference in tone and language, let’s consider the following example:

Argumentative essay topic: “Should texting while driving be banned?”

An argumentative essay on this topic might use language like: “Texting while driving is a dangerous and irresponsible behavior that puts not only the driver’s life at risk, but also the lives of others on the road. It is imperative that laws are put in place to prohibit this reckless behavior and enforce strict penalties on offenders.”

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A discursive essay on the same topic might use language like: “Texting while driving is a contentious issue that has divided opinion. While some argue that it should be banned due to the potential risks it poses, others believe that education and awareness campaigns can be more effective in addressing the issue. It is important to discuss these different perspectives and consider the potential consequences of a ban.”

How to Write a Discursive Essay

1. Choose a Relevant Topic: Select a topic that is current, controversial, and has multiple viewpoints. This will allow you to have a more meaningful discussion.

2. Research the Topic: Conduct thorough research on both sides of the argument. This will help you gather evidence and supporting examples for each viewpoint.

3. Establish a Neutral Tone: Unlike in argumentative essays, discursive essays require a more neutral and objective tone. Avoid taking a stand on the topic and strive for neutrality throughout your essay.

5. Present Arguments from Both Sides: Dedicate separate paragraphs to presenting arguments from both sides of the topic. Use evidence, statistics, and examples to support each argument.

6. Show Balance: Demonstrate that you have considered both viewpoints equally by giving them equal space in your essay. Avoid favoring one side over the other.

7. Use Clear and Logical Transitions: Ensure that your essay flows smoothly by using appropriate transition words and phrases. This will make it easier for the reader to understand your arguments.

8. Conclude with a Summarizing Paragraph: At the end of your essay, summarize the main points discussed and restate the importance of considering multiple perspectives when discussing a topic.

9. Edit and Revise: Before submitting your essay, thoroughly edit and revise it. Make sure your arguments are logical, your paragraphs are well-structured, and your language is clear and concise.

10. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If you are unsure about writing a discursive essay, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. There are writing services and professionals who can guide you through the process and help you improve your essay.


What is the main difference between argumentative and discursive essay writing?

The main difference between argumentative and discursive essay writing lies in their purpose and structure. Argumentative essays aim to persuade the reader to adopt a particular point of view, while discursive essays present multiple viewpoints on a topic without taking a stance.

In what ways do argumentative and discursive essays differ in terms of structure?

Argumentative essays typically have a clear and organized structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs presenting arguments with evidence, and a conclusion. On the other hand, discursive essays often have a more free-flowing structure, with sections that explore different viewpoints and present evidence before reaching a conclusion.

How do argumentative essays and discursive essays differ in their use of language?

Argumentative essays tend to use more forceful and persuasive language to convince the reader of a particular viewpoint. Discursive essays, on the other hand, usually adopt a more balanced and neutral tone, as they aim to present different perspectives without advocating for a specific position.

Are there any similarities between argumentative and discursive essay writing?

While there are differences between argumentative and discursive essays, there are also some similarities. Both types of essays require research and analysis of a topic, and they both involve presenting evidence to support claims. Additionally, both argumentative and discursive essays typically include a conclusion that summarizes the main points discussed in the essay.

Which type of essay is more effective in influencing the reader?

The effectiveness of an essay in influencing the reader depends on the specific context and audience. Argumentative essays can be more effective in persuading readers to adopt a particular viewpoint, as they present a clear and strong argument. However, discursive essays can also be persuasive by providing a comprehensive and well-rounded exploration of a topic, allowing readers to form their own opinions.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.