Unit 04: Seeing Both Sides – The Discussion Essay

black and white beads in two loops

“There are two sides to every story.”

That’s another familiar idiom in English, and it’s an easy way to describe your work in this unit. A discussion essay examines equally the pros and cons of a particular issue before giving an opinion. This assures the reader that you have considered both sides of an argument. It also allows your reader to consider your opinion but, in the end, make their own decision based on the evidence that you presented. A discussion essay resembles an argument, or persuasive, essay in many ways except that it is less biased. It tries to offer a more balanced representation of both sides and then, based on the evidence, formulate an opinion or come to a conclusion.

With so much biased opinion in news and on social media, this style of writing is important in order to promote healthy and constructive debate around questionable issues. However, it does not serve a topic well if the conclusion of that topic is obvious. For example, slavery is not a topic for debate. Free college education, however, is something that some people may argue about. The UDHR states that education is a right and it should be free for elementary and secondary education, but it is silent on post-secondary education (colleges and universities). Should that be free too? An examination of the pros and cons can help a reader come to a decision.

In order to provide the best evidence for both sides of an issue, you may need to start to include information from outside sources. This unit will introduce the basic guidelines for using outside information responsibly. To get started, first watch this video for a general view of writing a discussion essay.


Key academic vocabulary in this unit

  • academic /ˌækəˈdemɪk/ adjective – relating to college or university
  • appropriate /əˈproʊpriət/ adjective – suitable, a good choice
  • benefit /ˈbenəfɪt/ noun – an advantage or something extra or useful
  • challenge /ˈtʃælɪndʒ/ noun – something difficult to do that requires skill or knowledge
  • cite /saɪt/ verb – to say where you found information; to name a source
  • evidence /ˈevɪdənsnoun – proof
  • issue /ˈɪʃu/ adjective – a topic that people discuss or argue 
  • objective /əbˈdʒektɪv/ noun – a goal
  • option /ˈɑpʃ(ə)nnoun – a choice
  • statistic /stəˈtɪstɪknoun – information in number form




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