Login

How to Write a Persuasive Essay and Use Several Sources

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Informative Essay: Definition, Examples & Structure

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 Persuasive Essay…
  • 0:46 Researching and…
  • 3:08 Outlining Your Points
  • 4:36 Incorporating Your Sources
  • 8:35 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

Amy has taught college and law school writing courses and has a master's degree in English and a law degree.

In a persuasive essay in which you cite multiple sources, it's important to strike the right balance and use your sources to support your points without depending on them too much. In this lesson, we'll cover how to use multiple sources effectively to support your argument while still fully developing your own ideas in a persuasive essay.

Persuasive Essay Writing with Multiple Sources

'Because I said so!' We've probably all heard that phrase at some point before. Maybe we heard it when we were kids, or perhaps we've used it on our own kids when we're tired of giving reasons for why something should be done. An exasperated mom might have some success using it on her little kids through sheer exercise of parental authority rather than actual explanations of why the kids should, for example, clean up their rooms.

But if you write a persuasive essay without using several reputable, credible sources to back up your assertions, no matter how good your ideas are, you're essentially saying 'Because I said so!' over and over to your readers. In this lesson, we'll review how to put together a persuasive essay by pulling from a number of sources to back up your assertions.

Researching and Reviewing Sources

Once you have your persuasive essay topic, your first job is to determine what sources you'll use for your paper. This process will typically happen in one of two ways. If you've been assigned a persuasive essay for a class, then you'll need to conduct research to find suitable academic sources to support your position. Or, if you're taking a timed essay exam, you'll need to review the source excerpts that have been provided as part of the test so that you can become comfortable and familiar with what they say.

Note that excerpt is a fancy word for a short piece taken from a longer work. With standardized exams, you'll often be given a few short excerpts to read and use as sources for the essays you write.

If you've been assigned a persuasive essay for school for which you'll have to conduct your own research, be sure to use credible academic sources. That means that you'll need to use books and scholarly journals from the library. As you look for good sources, keep the following criteria in mind:

  1. Look for current sources. Some history papers, for example, may not require the most recent sources, but a good rule of thumb is to find sources that have been written in the last few years.
  2. Look for sources written by experts in their field or by reputable organizations.
  3. Avoid Internet sites that are not run by legitimate, credible groups. Sites associated with universities, governments, and major, reputable organizations are typically acceptable. Crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia usually are not.

If you're writing an essay for a timed exam and you've been presented with excerpts from sources that you must use in your essay, take a few minutes to read through those excerpts more than once. On your second pass through the excerpts, you can scribble notes to yourself about the key points in each source. These notes might be quite simple.

For example, if you're writing a timed persuasive essay on the topic of whether the government should place high taxes on unhealthy junk foods and you've been presented with a few short excerpts expressing differing opinions on the issue, you might jot down simple notes about what the author of each source is saying, such as 'PRO: Because people would be less likely to eat unhealthy foods. Better for society;' Or 'ANTI: Because government shouldn't interfere with personal choices about what people eat.'

It's okay to jot down simple ideas and sentence fragments. We don't have to worry about whether our grade school English teachers would approve of these notes. We simply want to make it easier to refer quickly back to our sources and know what we're dealing with.

Outlining Your Points

As much as outlining your ideas before writing an essay might seem like too much additional work, it's well worth your time to do it for two major reasons. First, sketching out an outline will help you identify and organize your best, most convincing points in support of your argument. If your essay ends up being a tangled bunch of ideas, you won't end up persuading your reader or getting a good score even if you've put a few really good points in there. Second, outlining your points of argument ahead of time will help to ensure that your persuasive essay will be structured logically around your ideas. Your persuasive points should be the backbone of your paper and information from your sources should support your points.

In other words, you don't want to write a persuasive essay that's just a bunch of quotes and ideas from your sources that you've strung together. When you're writing a persuasive paper - or any paper, really - your good ideas should be the stars of the show. The information from your sources should play supporting roles to help build your credibility by providing data, facts, and credible opinions that bolster your ideas.

Remember, though, that while your ideas are the stars of your essay, you do need to back your essays up with good, credible research. Keep in mind that nagging mom from earlier. Without supporting your key points with information from your sources, you would just be trying to persuade your readers by telling them that your ideas are the right ones just because you said so. Just remember to strike the right balance between using your sources to support your points without depending on them too much and just pasting them all over the place instead of presenting your own ideas.

Incorporating Your Sources

So how do you accomplish that balance? How do you use your sources enough but not too much? Let's think now about how to avoid relying too much on your sources and not putting enough of yourself and your ideas in your paper.

The next time you write a first draft of a persuasive paper for class or a practice essay in preparation for a standardized essay exam, take a look at each body paragraph and do a quick estimate of how much space in that paragraph is devoted to you explaining your argumentative points and how much space is taken up by quotations, paraphrases, or summaries of your sources. If you find any paragraphs that consist entirely or almost entirely of material from your sources, consider that a red flag for revision.

The start and end of each body paragraph should always consist of your words and ideas. And your words and ideas should also run throughout each body paragraph, where you'll be making your major persuasive points, with ideas (and occasionally words) from your sources used as support. For example, if you're writing a persuasive essay arguing that the government should institute higher taxes on unhealthy junk food, you should have a few major points that make that case, and hopefully you should have those points organized in an outline.

If you're devoting two paragraphs to the point that such taxes would deter people from consuming junk food, which would in turn lead to a healthier community, you should have a clear topic sentence that introduces that subsection of your essay in your own words. Then look to your sources. Do you have sources that provide data showing that heavily taxed items are purchased less often? Do you have sources that provide data that show that communities that consume less junk food are healthier overall than communities whose residents do eat a lot of unhealthy foods? Use the credible facts that you find in your sources to support your major points. But be sure that you make your actual points yourself, in your own words, and just use your sources as back up.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support