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The Convincing Essay

For Portfolio Two

Once you have an established position on a topic that is somehow related to human relationships with the environment, your goal will be to write an essay that will convince your audience to agree with your position. You will work at winning agreement from your readers through logical appeals to their reason. You will make a claim based on relevant reasons that are supported with sufficient evidence.

Purpose of the Assignment

You must take a position, defend, and support it in a convincing essay. This assignment calls for convincing, not simply explaining the possible positions within a controversy. The purpose of convincing is getting your audience to agree with your point of view about a controversial issue, primarily contact the MINDS of your audience and get them to agree with you on an intellectual level. (There is quite a gap between intellectual agreement and truly moving people to act, which is the purpose of the persuading essay.) It is important to note that you must have a solid case based on reasons and evidence in order to convince your audience. This essay will consist mostly of what appeals to the mind: logic and researched evidence.


Clearly defining your audience is a key to success with your convincing essay. Who do you want to convince? It's easiest to convince an audience slightly antagonistic to your view or neutral on the topic. It's harder to convince readers who adamantly oppose your position, but you're welcome to take on that challenge. "Preaching to the choir" or writing to convince readers who already agree with you often seems pointless to writers, and these audiences don't tend to inspire particularly effective essays. Several considerations with regard to audience include:


A narrowly focused, clearly stated claim is both easier for readers to grasp and easier for you to defend and support. Your focus should be your stand, and why it is the right one. Be sure, too, that it isn't offensive as it states your position. You gain no advantage by offending your readers at the beginning of your argument. 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. This structure should be outlined within the first two paragraphs of your essay, and the connections continually explained throughout the entire paper so your reader knows how everything fits together.


The more hostile your audience, the more development (at least in terms of evidence) you will need. Details stick in readers' minds and convince more effectively than do general statements. Check each reason in your argument and make sure you back it up with adequate support. It's a good idea to do a Toulmin analysis of your own essay to check that each reason is clearly stated and fully supported with convincing evidence. A thoroughly developed piece will raise counter-arguments of the intended audience and effectively refute them.

Sources for a Convincing Essay

Sources you use should be specific, relevant, and also be sources that your audience would find credible. As a general guideline, consider 5 sources as a minimum for this essay. Potential sources for information include:

Don't ignore experts at CSU, or contacts through the CSU/county extension service. City officials might also be helpful in providing information. Look also at City Council (and school board initiatives). If you are working on topics related to forestry, fish and wildlife services, or state/national part management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has a library you can use at their office on Prospect. We also have a U.S. Division of Wildlife here in town, as well as the local management office for the Roosevelt National Forest. Don't hesitate to do personal, telephone, and/or email interviews if you need experts you can't find around town.


The essay needs to be a 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. (So, you will need a very clear understanding of your own point of view.) Avoid confusing structure, tangents, abstract evidence, logical errors, lack of evidence to demonstrate your reasons, writing over (or under) the heads of your audience in terms of vocabulary, and stylistic or editing errors.