Are you making the same mistakes in discursive essays for Module C? Don't fear. We will show you the top 6 common student problems and give you tips to fix them!
Is discursive writing giving you a hard time? You’re not alone. Module C discursive writing is relatively new in the syllabus and many students are having difficulty. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ace it. In this article, we will go through the top 6 student struggles with discursive essays and their solutions so you can knock Mod C out of the park!
There’s even a free cheatsheet you can download at the bottom of the page.
Discursive texts are those whose primary focus is to explore an idea or variety of topics. These texts involve the discussion of an idea(s) or opinion(s) without the direct intention of persuading the reader, listener or viewer to adopt any single point of view. Discursive texts can be humorous or serious in tone and can have a formal or informal register. These texts include texts such as feature articles, creative nonfiction, blogs, personal essays, documentaries and speeches.
Think this sounds a little vague? Well, you’re right and you’re not alone!
The definition is very broad… However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It just means that you have lots of creative control!
Discursive texts are quite different from your regular persuasive essays. They don’t have the same purpose, structure, rules or writing style.
Instead, discursive writing aims to explore a variety of different ideas and perspectives in an engaging and informative manner.
You can employ literary and rhetorical devices and also have control over your voice, tone and register in a way persuasive essays don’t allow you.
To read more about what is a discursive essay and how to write them, check out our “How to Write a Band 6 Mod C Discursive essay” article. What we’re going to look at now are the common student troubles with discursive responses and how to overcome them!
Matrix provides students with detailed theory books, insightful lessons with expert instructors, and practical feedback to help students improve their marks! Find out more.
Discursive texts were recently introduced to the NSW Syllabus in 2019. As such, most students haven’t had much practice analysing or writing discursive texts.
So, let’s see the common student problems for Mod C discursive writings and how to fix them!
We know that discursive essays require you to explore different ideas and perspectives. However, the questions aren’t very specific…
Who are we writing for? What is the purpose of the discursive essay? There is no given answer.
As such, many students fall into the trap of listing different ideas to simply illustrate their wide knowledge and research. Students struggle to select specific ideas or structure their discursive essays because it is not specified in the question.
This is a major problem because…
Markers are not examining the number of ideas you can identify.
Instead, they are examining the quality and depth of your exploration of different ideas.
1. Give yourself a purpose and audience
The general purpose of discursive essays is to inform and engage an educational audience. However, you can make it more specific to help you write a concise and targetted discursive essay.
Simply ask yourself:
Remember, don’t try to persuade or convince the audience. Discursive texts are about informing.
2. Select ideas that relate to each other
Don’t simply select different ideas because they sound interesting.
Instead, always figure out how the ideas relate to each other and discuss them.
This will make your discursive writing much more sophisticated and complex
Remember, this doesn’t mean that the ideas have to be harmonising or contrasting. There can be a small point of similarity or opposition that you can use to link the ideas.
A mindmap will help you identify these connections.
3. Use evidence to support the ideas
You should always use evidence like quotations, anecdotes, textual examples, imagery and statistics to support your ideas.
You don’t need to analyse it like a persuasive English essay (although, some questions may give you the opportunity to do so). However, you still need to explain how these examples relate to your idea.
This will illustrate the depth of your research and concepts.
Another common student problem for Mod C discursive writing is that students are simply writing a for and against discussion.
Students do this because it seems like a sure way of discussing a range of different ideas. However, the world is not black or white.
Discursive can explore contrasting, similar and/or concurrent ideas that make up our grey world. It is important that you discuss these.
So, how do I fix this?
1. Research, ask questions and speculate!
The more you research, the more you will be exposed to different ideas and perspectives.
You should always speculate and ask more questions as you research… like, “why?”, or “how? ”
Doing this will guide you to other related topics. So, you will have a wider range of possible ideas that aren’t simply oppositional.
2. Select ideas that relate to each other
As we mentioned before, you need to select ideas that relate to each other.
This doesn’t mean contrasting or harmonising ideas.. but simply ideas that have a point of connection.
So, brainstorm your list of different ideas and draw lines to highlight their connections.
Then, select the ones that interest you and discuss them!
It is easy for students to fall into the trap of writing persuasive essays because it is what most students are used to writing.
However, we need to ensure that we shift our purpose from convincing the audience to “informing” the audience.
“These texts involve the discussion of an idea(s) or opinion(s) without the direct intention of persuading the reader, listener or viewer to adopt any single point of view.”
Remember, your purpose is to make the audience aware of the possible perspectives and ideas, not convince them that one idea is correct.
1. Don’t write an argumentative thesis
Argumentative theses aim to convince and persuade the audience.
Discursive essays require you to inform the audience about different ideas. As such, your thesis should be balanced and objective. Think about what you want the audience to know about the topic.
Remember, the topic should be significant to you. And you can always conclude with your perspective… but remind the reader that is one ofmany.
2. Your ideas should explore different perspectives (not arguments)
When we write persuasive essays, our arguments support our thesis.
However, when we write discursive texts, our ideas are explorations of the thesis. Each idea should be different from one another and display a different perspective.
3. Write a reflective or open-ended conclusion
You don’t need to come to a conclusion for discursive essays.
Instead, you can simply reflect on the different ideas and what you learned from it. Demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of what you have written, and why you chose to write about that particular topic.
You can also leave your discursive essays open-ended. Simply restate the ideas, without coming to a conclusion. However, you still need to demonstrate your understanding of the topic and your purpose.
Sometimes, students write discursive texts in the same formal language that they use to write persuasive essays.
Other times, students write too colloquially because exploratory texts are “informal”
However, exploratory texts have a good balance between formal and informal language.
The language you use in discursive essays is similar to the language you would use in speeches and presentations.
It is conversational but still quite formal and not too colloquial.
Write as though you are attempting to engage and inform an educated crowd. Here are some tips
You should also develop your personal voice to demonstrate your deep knowledge about the ideas and engage the audience. We will go into this further in the next step.
Students tend to forget that discursive essays are supposed to be somewhat personal. They aren’t informative essays or a for-and-against discussion.
You need to have a distinct, personal voice.
The major difference between a Mod C discursive writing and a Common Module or Mod A essay is that you need to use literary and rhetorical devices in your writing!
Literary devices make your writing more engaging, AND it also demonstrates your deep understanding of your topic.
You should incorporate techniques like:
Use these techniques (and any other literary devices) throughout your discursive writing.
This will further develop your personal voice and demonstrate your deep understanding of the topic.
Our Discursive Cheatsheet will show you what techniques to use and how to use them!