Good Discussion Essays

Introduction

This lesson will help you answer IELTS writing task 2 discussion (or discuss both views and give your opinion) questions.

These particular questions require a different approach to opinion essays because you have to discuss both sides rather than just argue in favour of one side.

This post will look at:

  • Identifying the question
  • Example Questions
  • Structure
  • Sample Answer
  • Task Achievement
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource


Many students fail to do well in these kinds of questions because they do not do what the question asks them to do and they do not use an appropriate structure. This post will help you overcome these problems and give you a sample answer.

We will also look at ‘lexical resource’ and ‘coherence and cohesion’; two of the marking criteria IELTS examiners use when marking your essays. Understand the marking scheme will help you to get inside the head of an IELTS examiner and give then exactly what they want.

Identifying the Question

Look at the three questions below and choose one you think is a discussion question.

  1. Computers are being used more and more in education and so there will soon be no role for the teacher in education.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

  1. Computers are being used more and more in education.

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages and give your own opinion.

  1. Computers are being used more and more in education. Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it is leading to negative consequences.

Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your own opinion.

The first question is an opinion question and we can tell this from the instructions ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree?’.

The second question is obviously an advantages and disadvantages question.

The third question is the discussion question. We can tell this from the typical instructions in the question ‘Discuss both sides of the argument and then give your opinion’.

You may also be asked to ‘Discuss both views and give you opinion’ or ‘Discuss both sides of the argument and give your opinion’.

Each of these questions is asking us to do different things and we therefore need a different structure for each question.

Example Questions

Here are a few other typical discussion questions:

  1. A growing number of people feel that animals should not be exploited by people and that they should have the same rights as humans, while others argue that humans must employ animals to satisfy their various needs, including uses for food and research.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

  1. Blood sports have become a hot topic for debate in recent years. As society develops it is increasingly seen as an uncivilized activity and cruel to the helpless animals that are killed. All blood sports should be banned.

Discuss the main arguments for this statement and give your own opinion.

  1. Some people think that the best way to reduce crime is to give longer prison sentences. Others, however, believe there are better alternative ways of reducing crime.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

As you can see, they typically state two opinions and then ask you to discuss both and give your opinion. Make sure you do these things in the essay. If you only discuss both views and fail to give your opinion you will lose marks.

Structure

For discussion questions, I suggest you use the following four paragraph structure.

Introduction 

Sentence 1- Paraphrase Question

Sentence 2- State Both Points of View

Sentence 2- Thesis Statement

Sentence 3- Outline Sentence

Main Body Paragraph 1

Sentence 1- State first viewpoint

Sentence 2- Discuss first viewpoint

Sentence 3- Reason why you agree or disagree with viewpoint

Sentence 4- Example to support your view

Main Body Paragraph 2

Sentence 1- State second viewpoint

Sentence 2- Discuss second viewpoint

Sentence 3- Reason why you agree or disagree with viewpoint

Sentence 4- Example to support your view

Conclusion

Sentence 1- Summary

Sentence 2- State which one is better or more important

Practice  

Here is a sample answer but I have mixed up the sentences. Can you match the sentences below to the structure above?

This exercise will help you understand the structure.

  1. In conclusion, while the benefits of technology, particularly the internet, allow students to tap into limitless sources of information, some still feel that people should be wary of this new phenomenon and not allow it to curb face to face interaction.
  2. There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and laptops, in the classroom.
  3. It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to more information than ever before.
  4. Moreover, learners have the ability to research and learn about any subject at the touch of a button. It is therefore agreed that technology is a very worthwhile tool for education.
  5. However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people of real human interaction.
  6. Human interaction teaches people valuable skills such as discourse, debate and empathy.
  7. Despite this, human interaction is still possible through the internet and this essay disagrees technology should be dismissed for this reason.
  8. This essay agrees that an increase in technology is beneficial to students and teachers. This essay will discuss both points of view.
  9. For instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to interact in ways that were never before possible.
  10. Wikipedia is a prime example, where students can simply type in any keyword and gain access to in-depth knowledge quickly and easily.
  11. However, as long as we are careful to keep in mind the importance of human interaction in education, the educational benefits are clearly positive.
  12. It is often argued that this is a positive development, whilst others disagree and think it will lead to adverse ramifications.

Example Answer

Computers are being used more and more in education. Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it is leading to negative consequences.

Discuss both sides of this argument and then give your own opinion.

There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and laptops, in the classroom. It is often argued that this is a positive development, whilst others disagree and think it will lead to adverse ramifications. This essay agrees that an increase in technology is beneficial to students and teachers. This essay will discuss both points of view.

It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to more information than ever before. Moreover, learners have the ability to research and learn about any subject at the touch of a button. It is therefore agreed that technology is a very worthwhile tool for education. Wikipedia is a prime example, where students can simply type in any keyword and gain access to in-depth knowledge quickly and easily.

However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people of real human interaction. Human interaction teaches people valuable skills such as discourse, debate and empathy. Despite this, human interaction is still possible through the internet and this essay disagrees technology should be dismissed for this reason. For instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to interact in ways that were never before possible.

In conclusion, while the benefits of technology, particularly the internet, allow students to tap in to limitless sources of information, some still feel that people should be wary of this new phenomenon and not allow it to curb face to face interaction. However, as long as we are careful to keep in mind the importance of human interaction in education, the educational benefits are clearly positive.

(266 words)

Task Achievement

This is one of the four areas you will be assessed on in the IELTS writing test.

Task achievement refers to your ability to address all parts of the question and present a fully developed answer. By following the structure above, we have fully discussed both sides of the argument and given our opinion. This is exactly what the question asked us to do, no more, no less.

Coherence and Cohesion

Discourse markers (words like ‘however’, ‘despite this’ and ‘In conclusion’) are also referred to as ‘linking words’ and ‘linking phrases’, or ‘sentence connectors’. They are quite formal and are used more in academic writing than informal speech.

You gain marks for using these under the ‘coherence and cohesion’ section of the marking scheme. These words ‘stick’ the other words together and lend continuity to sentences and paragraphs.

If you do not include discourse markers in your IELTS writing, your answer will appear illogical and it is more difficult to understand.

However, this does not mean that you should try to insert as many of these words in to your writing as possible. This is a common mistake in IELTS writing.  Using too many of them, or using them inappropriately, can make your writing sound too heavy and unnatural. They are important, but must only be used at the appropriate time.

Practice

Try to identify any discourse markers in the essay above? Don’t look at the essay below yet. How many can you find?

Sample Answer with Discourse Markers

Here is the sample answer again with the discourse markers in bold.

There is an ever increasing use of technology, such as tablets and laptops, in the classroom. It is often argued that this is a positive development, whilst others disagree and think it will lead to adverse ramifications. This essay agrees that an increase in technology is beneficial to students and teachers. This essay will discuss both points of view.

It is clear that the internet has provided students with access to more information than ever before. Moreover, learners have the ability to research and learn about any subject at the touch of a button. It is therefore agreed that technology is a very worthwhile tool for education. Wikipedia is a prime example, where students can simply type in any keyword and gain access to in-depth knowledge quickly and easily.

However, many disagree and feel that technology deprives people of real human interaction. Human interaction teaches people valuable skills such as discourse, debate and empathy. Despite this, human interaction is still possible through the internet and this essay disagrees technology should be dismissed for this reason. For instance, Skype and Facebook make it possible for people to interact in ways that were never before possible.

In conclusion, while the benefits of technology, particularly the internet, allow students to tap in to limitless sources of information, some still feel that people should be wary of this new phenomenon and not allow it to curb face to face interaction. However, as long as we are careful to keep in mind the importance of human interaction in education, the educational benefits are clearly positive.

Lexical Resource

This is also one of the four criteria you will be marked on and it refers to your ability to use a wide range of accurate vocabulary.

A common mistake is to repeat the same words over and over again. You will lose marks if you do this. A solution to this problem is to use synonyms. You can either think of synonyms as you are writing or leave time at the end to add them in.

Practice

Can you identify any synonyms in the essay above?

Here are some examples:

Computers- technology

Computers- the internet

Education- in the classroom

Education- students and teachers

Positive trend- positive development

Negative Consequences- adverse ramifications

By varying your vocabulary in this way you are demonstrating that you have a wide vocabulary and this will boost your band score. However, like discourse markers be careful not to use inappropriate/inaccurate words. Only use words you are confident about. Mistakes will lead to fewer marks.

Next Steps

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Tips 

Discussion Essay, how to write it

Discussion Essay

Discussions are competent deliberations, which are embedded within knowledge. A productive and a tactful discussion must consider both the opposing viewpoints thus resulting in a balanced view in the whole paper. Discussion essays present issues that surround a particular topic mostly found being open and debatable to the argument. As such, a discussion essay needs to include the thorough discussion of the different sides of a given topic. The essay should offer a well-rounded understanding of all issues before the writer shows his personal conclusions and opinions. Similar to many persuasive formats of essays, a quality discussion essay is dependent on the ability of the author to offer a substantial research and evidences that show the various views of the topic.

 

 When you discuss an idea in the essay, you are expected to maintain some concrete structure. Select a single opinion and come up with negative and the positive arguments for the viewpoint. Your opinion should then be summed up in some elegant conclusion. Discussion type essays have some discussion questions. These issues might ask for a summary of arguments towards some particular point of view or the opinion towards the subject. Always read through the questions carefully. If it is a test, you might lose marks if you answer the wrong question. 

 

Developing a discussion essay

Step 1

Select the appropriate topic for the essay. The topic needs to be one that interests you. You are expected to discuss all the sides of the issues that surround the essay. Intense research with appropriate evidence will help a great deal by providing pertinent information for the essay.

Step 2

The outline of the discussion essay should be made using a pen and paper. The primary goal at this point involves getting the thoughts on the topic organized in writing. A detailed outline could be written for the discussion essay using the formal traditional outline and numbers, which separates the main points. Another way, of coming up with the outline, involves jotting down the main points of discussion which you want to cover in the body.

Step 3
Focus to write the essay in the following way. The objectives in the introduction of the assignment are to have all issues relating to the topic introduced. The introduction also offers the reader with vital background information. You are expected to explain the relevant terms or words that are used in the essay. Providing the reader with the basic overview of the organization of the discussion ensures that the flow of thought is understood in the whole essay body.
Step 4

Body of the essay can be written with the help of the research sources collected. Each issue needs to be presented impartially and individually. You should start by discussing a single side then the other side of the argument, which is related to the given topic. The arguments in the body should be progressive beginning with weak arguments or issue and progressing to the stronger argument. A well-structured discussion essay helps the reader to follow the flow of thought in an easy way without any distraction.

Step 5

The last section of the discussion essay is the essay conclusion. The role of the conclusion involves summarizing the information from the body of the essay. The conclusion makes the reader review the merits and demerits of the argument topic. In most cases, you are not expected to choose any side of the argument. If you decided to select a particular side of the argument, you would need to show your conclusion on the argument.

Phrases in discussion essay

 

In preparing for an argument essay the first thing, that should be done, involves memorizing some ready-made phrases. In this case, learning a number of sentences has a number of advantages. These include:


 

Disadvantages of using phrases in an essay.

 

 This time we advise that you follow a view that is balanced. The phrases can be used in the essay, but these phrases should never be overused. Critical for you is to present your real personality in the essay by expressing yourself using your words.

 

There are a number of qualities of an acceptable discussion essay. The basic competence level is characterized by:

Using the first person pronoun (“I”)

 

 A decent number of scientists have been exploring how to use first person pronoun in academic writing. These scholars have agreed on the fact that using the first person pronoun has had minimum effect on the nature of the academic writing. In this case, using the first person pronoun “I” may not necessarily make the essay less formal. In addition, doing away with the “I” may not automatically make the essay more academic. This means that the overall use of language and vocabulary instead of the selection of personal pronoun has a significant effect on the tone of the university writing. However, the general rules on using the first person include:

 

The figure above shows that using “I” in the introduction and conclusion could shows whatever would be done before it is done. It can also be used in highlighting whatever is done afterward.

“I” may be used instead of referring to the writer as “the research”  or “the writer,” which may appear being more artificial.

Some fields like the social studies use “I”, when emphasizing the practical research. In language tests, the distinction may not be helpful hence not important in considering it.

In using the first person pronoun “I,”, it is vital to vary the verb that follows. For example, words like “I feel”, “I tend to regard..” “I would consider.,” could be used in the place of, “I think”. You should always find a way through which you can soften your language making it categorical or less direct.

The “I” can also be used in relating the personal experience to a given example thus distinguishing the personal experience from the reading aspects and research. In all cases, you avoid being too anecdotal.

Use of mnemonic device

 

In the preparation of a test, it is extremely vital to apply the mnemonic devices. The mnemonic devices are systems of words that are useful in recalling the main points. A mnemonic device can be remembered by just remembering the initial letters of the words in the phrase.

Example: 


 

Where the first letter G is for Grammar, the second letter S is for Students, the third letter R is for Relevance, the fourth letter E is for Examples, and the last letter C is for Cohesion.

Grammar-Your grammar must be accurate and correct

Structure- Your essay should be well-organized

Relevance-All the asked questions must be answered

Examples- Illustrations should be included in the essay to ensure that all points are reinforced 

Cohesion- Phrases and linking words should be used appropriately in the discussion essay.

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