Discussion Essay Outline & Step by Step Discussion Essay Guide

Is the lack of a discussion essay outline stumping your writing process? Learn how to perfect your discussion essay writing skills in this piece. In academia, excellent discussion essays revolve around a specific debatable topic. Even so, you should know what a discussion essay is, its format, and structure if you want to succeed. Besides, having a definitive discussion essay writing guide is useful. So, read on through to discover how to ace your discussion essay assignments. But what is a discussion essay?

Discussion Essay Outline

What is a Discussion Essay?

A discussion essay is a type of academic paper that provokes discussion on a topic of interest. Tactful and productive discussion essays evaluate the merits of both sides of an argument in a balanced manner. As such, always include a thorough analysis of each viewpoint about the topic.

Ensure your analysis provides an excellent exposition of the issues at hand. Next, reveal your personal opinions and conclusions. Like persuasive essays, the quality of a discussion essay depends on your argument. So, present relevant evidence in support of your thesis. Also, research the implications of the discussion topic.

When writing a discussion essay, always outline its structure and content. Then, use the outline to present the different sides of the argument. Remember that discussion essays are not just theoretical; they are also practical.

As such, typical discussion essays take one of the following three forms:

  • Essays for or against an argument.
  • Essays presenting an opinion about a specific topic, issue, problem, or subject.
  • Essays that propose potential solutions to a problem.

Although they differ in several ways, they all have one goal; facilitate the sharing of opinions through arguments. Even so, writing a discussion essay entails following a set of steps, using the right structure, and sticking to the requirements of the prompt. Besides, it would be best if you respected conventional writing norms.

So, how does one write an excellent discussion essay?

How to Write a Discussion Essay

Before writing a discussion essay, follow the steps discussed. Why? Because a block of haphazardly written text won’t cut it. However, writing a discussion essay is not a simple task. Having a plan will help you excel in your assignments. Now, let’s dive in. Splash!

Discussion Essay Outline

Step # 1: First, Understand the Discussion Essay Prompt

Carefully read the provided discussion essay prompt. Watch out for words or phrases you don’t understand. This way, you understand the requirements of the assignment better. After that, determine the theme of the discussion. If it is difficult grasping the prompt, talk to your instructor, tutor, or lecturer. They can help you understand what you are to do.

Step # 2: Organize Your Thoughts

Organizing your thoughts is an essential element in all types of academic writing. In turn, you create a logical flow of ideas and actions. Here are the typical steps for composing impressive discussion essays: brainstorm for ideas, in-depth research, outlining, structuring the initial draft, proofreading, and finally, writing!

Step # 3: Brainstorm for Ideas on the Topic

As earlier said, discussion essays revolve around a debatable topic. Unless provided, select an issue that captivates your readers and professor too. Only choose a controversial topic. Ideally, it should lack definitive answers. Avoid selecting an overly complicated subject as it will be challenging to research. Use either of the following approaches to brainstorm:

On your computer or with a pen and paper, jot down ideas, sentences, or words that occur to you about the topic. Although this approach is messy, it is an effective way of gathering your thoughts without needing an initial draft.

Or you can use diagrams to gather your thoughts quickly. With this option, you organize your thoughts at the same time. Example brainstorming tools include Venn and Spider diagrams.

Step # 4: Collect Your Sources

After you have identified potential ideas for a discussion essay, it is time to collect relevant sources. Typically, you will give a reference or bibliography section of your sources. Avoid citing a resource that does not appear in the reference or bibliography. Be sure you cite each resource appearing in the list. Why? Because if you don’t, you will present a slanted viewpoint. Instead, produce a piece that covers the different sides. So, identify appropriate resources, read them, and note compelling arguments, viewpoints, or claims. Next, integrate these elements to advance your main argument.

Step # 5: Outline Your Essay

Always outline your essay before writing. Assess issues and problems related to the discussion topic and note them down. Then, use the most convincing ideas. This way, you include problem-relevant material in your essay’s body and structure. Consider using heading letters, numbers, and subheadings to indicate essay sections.

Step # 6: Always Write an Initial Draft

Whenever you are writing an academic essay or paper, always create a first draft. Doing so makes it easier to track and fix mistakes. Use the outline developed in Step 5 to write your essay. Next, research your data and follow the essay structure in the section below. Make sure you have an introduction, a thesis statement, a supporting paragraph (body) section, a counter-argument, and a conclusion.

While at it, ensure your content addresses both sides of the issue. Plus, it should provide audiences with accurate contextual information. Discuss both the pros and cons of the subject and present your viewpoint. Ask a close friend to review your initial draft for spelling, grammar, or logic errors. In this way, you will know firsthand how it sounds to your readers. Proofread the first draft and then get on with the writing.

Now that you know how to write a discussion essay, you might ask how do I structure my essays? Read on to learn more!

Discussion Essay Structure

Most students struggle with the challenge of structuring discussion essays. But you don’t have to anymore! Here we present the most commonly used essay outline in academia. Always include the sections below in your discussion essays.

  • An introduction
  • Supporting paragraphs
  • A counter-argument paragraph
  • A conclusion
  • Reference list/Bibliography

Now let’s look at each section of the outline in depth.

Section A: The Introduction

An essay’s introduction section states the topic and sets up its claims. It should have the following elements.

  • A captivating hook to grab the reader’s attention.
  • A summary of the discussion topic, theory, or concept.
  • An author’s name and title if discussing a literary work.
  • Include a director’s name, title, and year if discussing a film.
  • Sufficient contextual information to help readers grasp the claim.
  • A thesis statement. Usually, the last statement of the introduction paragraph.

Section B: Background Paragraphs

Follow the introduction with a background paragraph. Make it one or two paragraphs long. Background paragraphs typically establish the foundation of an essay’s argument. Include the following pieces of information in it:

  • A summary of the theory, work, or topic being discussed.
  • Definition of key terms.
  • An explanation of critical theories, if any.

Section 3: Supporting Paragraph

Discussion essays include three or four paragraphs proving your main argument. Supporting paragraphs have the following elements:

  • A topic sentence. Enough facts or details to help readers understand the topic.
  • An explanation of the significance of the topic sentence.
  • An introduction of the evidence used to support a claim.
  • An interpretation of the evidence and how it proves your thesis.
  • A conclusion sentence that terminates each paragraph. In some cases, you can use it to introduce readers to the next idea.

Discussion Essay Outline

Section 4: Counter Argument Paragraph

Include a counter-argument paragraph to give your discussion essay objectivity and reasonableness. It also offers readers an overview of the possible objections. So, use it to preempt potential objections from your audience. This way, you address both sides of the discussion topic. Don’t forget to present your argument against them. Finally, end your essay with a concluding sentence in which you restate its central claim.

Section 5: Conclusion

Use this section to restate your essay’s main argument and evidence. A conclusion should:

  • Restate an essay’s thesis statement.
  • Recap the introduction differently.
  • Act as an essay’s climax.
  • Explain the implications of your view.
  • Leave readers with a profound understanding of the topic.
  • Use concrete language to overcome uncertainty and vagueness.

Pro Tip: Effective conclusions summarize the content in an essay’s body paragraphs. Even so, never introduce new ideas in the conclusion. Ideally, it should compel your audience to think deeper about the issues you raised. It should also invite them to research further about the discussion topic. To create memorable impressions on your readers, include a personal anecdote.

Section 6: Reference/Bibliography

Include a list of sources used to develop an essay here. But use an appropriate formatting style to cite and list your sources.

Bonus Tip

Never leave the writing of your discussion essay until the last minutes before the appointed deadline. Remember, you should think critically and deliver a concise analysis of a topic using a logical argument. Not even accomplished writers can compose high-quality discussion essays in a rush. Besides, writing an essay at the last minute deprives one access to vital research resources as others would have already borrowed them. For this reason, plan your schedule accordingly. Doing so ensures you have sufficient time to research, organize, compose, proofread, and edit your essay to perfection. So, manage your time wisely to avoid submitting substandard discussion essays. Just because a deadline is a long way off, you should not relax in your efforts.

Structuring a Discussion Essay

After you have understood the prompt, researched, decided on a position, and the argument to use, use the discussion essay outline below to structure your essays. Note that the structure of a discussion essay may vary based on the length and topic. What is more, most essays comprise several components. Apart from an introduction, thesis statement, and general paragraph, the discussion essay often states the writer’s stand or position. Usually, a discussion essay supporting paragraphs presents arguments in favor of or against a position in several paragraphs. Lastly, the conclusion section summarizes an essay’s main point and sometimes offers recommendations.

Structural Component Purpose Essay Section
General statements Introduce leaders to the theme of the discussion essay Introduction
Stand Reveals the writer’s opinion
Thesis statement Informs raiders of what the essay will cover
Arguments for Explains the positive side of the topic in several paragraphs. Main ideas typically paper first. Main body
Arguments against Remind readers of the main ideas and restate the Thesis. Sometimes used to highlight the most persuasive evidence or arguments.
Opinion & recommendation Give the writer opinion and inform readers of the best course of action based on the evidence presented.

Structural components of a discussion essay

Discussion Essay Language

When presenting arguments or summarizing an essay’s sections, arrange your ideas in a degree of importance. Here are a few phrases you can use to do just that:

  • First…, Firstly…, Initially…, The most important…, or To begin with…
  • Second…, Secondly…, In the second place…
  • Lastly,…, Finally…

Use the following parasite introduce your opinion:

  • I believe that…
  • In my opinion…
  • One argument that favors/against X is …

While developing an essay, we recommend using synonyms instead of repeating the same word. To illustrate here are examples using the words advantage and disadvantage:

  • Advantage = positive, feature, preference, dominance, convenience, gain and leverage
  • Disadvantage = adverse, injury, harm, drawback, detriment, prejudice, and disservice.

Pitfalls to Avoid

A structural flaw prevalent in college essays is the walkthrough ( summary/description). This flaw occurs whenever essays take on the structure of their sources. What is more, walkthrough essays have a descriptive thesis instead of an argumentative one. So, avoid opening essay paragraphs with time words (First, next, them after) or listing words (in addition, also, another). By using these words, you are initially replicating the chronology of your sources or listing examples.

Below is an example of a discussion essay that integrates the suggestion and recommendation of this piece. Review the section highlighting the structural elements of an essay.

Discussion Essay Example

Essay Prompt: A growing number of students are seeking tertiary education abroad. What are the benefits of overseas studies?

Most adults spend about fifteen years in the education system. In the past, students could only access learning opportunities in their native countries. However, today, it is easy to secure study opportunities in a foreign country, especially at the tertiary level. [General statements]

As the final part of an individual’s learning process, it prepares students for professional life responsibilities. [Definition]

Despite lingering doubts concerning the benefits of the trend [Position], its high cost makes it disadvantageous. [Thesis]

THE most significant advantage of studying overseas is the language of the learning environment. Students in foreign exchange programs often have to use the local language in daily interactions. It is an opportunity to improve one’s language abilities. A second benefit of the trend in it increases an individual unemployability appeal. Globalization has resulted in the expansion of multinational corporations overseas, creating a demand for integrated and diverse workforces. As a result, these organizations are looking for individuals with a variety of skills, including language and multicultural diversity. For these reasons students who have studied abroad find it’s much easier integration in foreign countries than their local counterparts. [Advantages]

However, studying overseas has several disadvantages to it. For one, the high cost associated with overseas study leaves most students deep in debt. Besides the high cost of travel, overseas learners pay higher tuition fees than local students. Also, the cost of living is much higher in foreign countries than in one native country. Although scholarships are a viable option for overseas studies, they only cover a fraction of one’s expenses and are fewer than the demand. [Disadvantages]

In conclusion, studying overseas has several advantages, including increased employability and multiculturalism. The massive financial burden placed on international students is the main drawback of studying abroad. [Summary]

Even so, I think it is a valuable learning experience for those who can afford it. Students with limited financial means should evaluate whether the associated costs outweigh the potential benefits. [Opinion and recommendations]

review the example above for more on developing the different sections of your discussion essay.

NB: the content appearing in the square bracket denotes the structural components of the discussion essay outline in the table above.

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