Here's the consensus we came to the other day on the basics for the convincing essay. As we discussed, these are only guidelines. Remember that most of what you do will be determined by your audience.
We determined that the purpose of this essay is to convince your audience to agree with your point of view on an issue. We also discussed the difference between this and the persuading essay. We basically determined that the purpose of this essay is to primarily contact the minds of your audience, to get them to agree with you on an intellectual level. There's quite a gap between intellectual agreement and truly moving people to act, which will be the purpose of the persuading essay. So, this essay will consist mostly of what appeals to the mind--logic and researched evidence.
As we discussed, your audience is your choice--but it must be an audience that does need to be convinced of whatever stand you take. If they all already agree with you, there's not much point in making an argument in the first place. We discussed several things that you may need to know about your audience:
how much they already know about your subject
if they already have preconceptions about your subject
they should have some stake in the issue (or you should be able to convince them of this)
their general beliefs and values
demographic information, such as income, age, education, race/gender (if applicable), political leanings, etc.
their potential reactions to your claim (á là the rhetorical prospectus)
We said that the focus of the essay should be your stand and why it's the right one. The essay should be focused on a clear thesis, several clear reasons, and evidence for each reason--all determined by the needs of your audience. All of this, too, we said, should be clearly set up within the first few paragraphs of your essay, and the connections continually explained throughout so your reader knows how everything fits together.
We spent a lot of time on this one and basically determined that the more hostile your audience, the more development (at least in terms of evidence) you'll need. Sources you use should be specific and relevant and ones that your audience would find credible. As a general guideline, think about six outside sources as a minimum number for this essay (assuming an essay with three major reasons, it'd need at least two outside sources for each). The main guideline was that the essay be adequately developed--which could mean more or less than six sources depending on your audience. We also discussed several potential sources for information:
quotes/paraphrases from other print sources
personal experience (but not in isolation, as we discussed) to bolster other evidence or to establish your own stake in the issue
other forms of media
personal observation and analysis
These are by no means all the possibilities, but they should get you started.
We talked about several guidelines here. Based on what we said should be avoided, the essay needs a very clear logical progression between reasons with no serious gaps. The essay should flow smoothly as it moves from your basic statement of point-of-view to your audience. We also determined that doing this will mean that you need an excellent understanding of your own point of view. We discussed avoiding things like confusing structure, tangents, abstract evidence, logical errors, lack of evidence to demonstrate your points, writing over (or under) the heads of your audience in terms of vocabulary, and stylistic or editing errors.