Hints and Tips for Discursive Writing

Hints and Tips for Discursive Writing

Discursive Writing

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Discursive writing is a fickle thing and students tend to have love/hate relationships with them. If you’re stuck on a discursive, whether it’s a simple homework task or last-minute HSC preparation, these steps should help you pull your writing up a few marks.

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Open strong

The opening of your discursive is crucial! Think of it with the same weight as a thesis in an essay and try to include the same amount of information. Working through it in this order should help out:

Hook your reader

The way discursive openings differ from an essay thesis is that they need to make you WANT to read the following writing. Essays struggle with this because thesis statements are relatively dry, so do what you can to add some emotion into the first few sentences of your discursive. An open-ended anecdote or relatable story is a great starting point, and if you need an example, have a look at this example by Leigh Sales: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/any-ordinary-day-9781760893637/extracts/1950-any-ordinary-day

Turn that hook into your idea

After you grab your audience, you need to keep them by using provocative language to introduce your concept. Rather than simply stating a ‘theme’ like essay writing encourages you to do, lead from your hook to your idea as seamlessly as possible, keeping a conversational tone while still maintaining exciting vocabulary. Do not spend too long on this, you need to take time for the next step.

Lead from your idea into your texts

This is tricky, and if you’re stuck trying to put academic texts into a conversational style don’t worry, you’re not the only one! After being taught to refer to texts in an essay style through your high school career, the best advice is to forget everything you know. Rather than introducing a Module C text through facts (focusing on the date, literary movement, contextual details, etc.) highlight the broad ramifications that your text has on an audience. And don’t forget to include its form!

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Focus on flow

Rather than focusing on rigid paragraph structures (PEEL/SEE, PESTEL, etc.), strong discursive writers let their ideas flow from one to another organically, in the same way a conversation would. Your quotes should be integrated into your analysis and shouldn’t start or end sentences. If you’re struggling with this, try just starting a sentence with a quote and finishing it off with a comma, not a full stop, and continue the analysis in the SAME sentence. Whatever you do, NEVER finish a sentence with a quote OR write a quote as its own sentence, then start a new one with its analysis – this is a quote dump and it can spell the end of a great discursive. Don’t forget to use inter-textual references and personal anecdotes (you can make them up if you get stuck) to accompany your quotes and show that you have a variety of skills.

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Keep it chilled

Making sure your discursive doesn’t sound like an essay is of the utmost importance. Keep a keen eye out for essay-like tone as your get nearer to the end of your response, because this is where we slip into the style that we’re used to. Contractions are your best friend if your trying to chill down your style – throw in a can’t, don’t or it’s every now and then, and use plenty of pronouns as well. Keeping the entirety of your language contemporary is super helpful if your working towards a relaxed tone, so don’t shy away from using a colloquialism or two. Keeping your anecdotes ‘low drama’ is also crucial for a chill discursive. Instead of writing about the time you broke your arm while playing a high impact sport, had an angry argument with someone or experienced the loss of a pet or family member, try writing about more everyday experiences that you can relate to your argument. Your anecdote has to be relatable enough for your audience to understand it, but specific enough to add your own perspective to your writing, so take time to brainstorm experiences that fit within these limits, and if you can’t think of anything, make something up!


By following these three steps you should see some real improvement in your writing, and might even start to love discursives! If you still need help, get in touch with one of our English tutors by emailing [email protected] or calling 9416 4222. Good luck!

Alex – Future Lawyer and Advanced English Tutor at Smart Moves Coaching