Feb 15, 2023

6 Example Essays on Social Media | Advantages, Effects, and Outlines

Got an essay assignment about the effects of social media we got you covered check out our examples and outlines below.

Social media has become one of our society's most prominent ways of communication and information sharing in a very short time. It has changed how we communicate and has given us a platform to express our views and opinions and connect with others. It keeps us informed about the world around us. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have brought individuals from all over the world together, breaking down geographical borders and fostering a genuinely global community.

However, social media comes with its difficulties. With the rise of misinformation, cyberbullying, and privacy problems, it's critical to utilize these platforms properly and be aware of the risks. Students in the academic world are frequently assigned essays about the impact of social media on numerous elements of our lives, such as relationships, politics, and culture. These essays necessitate a thorough comprehension of the subject matter, critical thinking, and the ability to synthesize and convey information clearly and succinctly.

But where do you begin? It can be challenging to know where to start with so much information available. Jenni.ai comes in handy here. Jenni.ai is an AI application built exclusively for students to help them write essays more quickly and easily. Jenni.ai provides students with inspiration and assistance on how to approach their essays with its enormous database of sample essays on a variety of themes, including social media. Jenni.ai is the solution you've been looking for if you're experiencing writer's block or need assistance getting started.

So, whether you're a student looking to better your essay writing skills or want to remain up to date on the latest social media advancements, Jenni.ai is here to help. Jenni.ai is the ideal tool for helping you write your finest essay ever, thanks to its simple design, an extensive database of example essays, and cutting-edge AI technology. So, why delay? Sign up for a free trial of Jenni.ai today and begin exploring the worlds of social networking and essay writing!

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We will provide various examples of social media essays so you may get a feel for the genre.

6 Examples of Social Media Essays

Here are 6 examples of Social Media Essays:

The Impact of Social Media on Relationships and Communication


The way we share information and build relationships has evolved as a direct result of the prevalence of social media in our daily lives. The influence of social media on interpersonal connections and conversation is a hot topic. Although social media has many positive effects, such as bringing people together regardless of physical proximity and making communication quicker and more accessible, it also has a dark side that can affect interpersonal connections and dialogue.

Positive Effects:

Connecting People Across Distances

One of social media's most significant benefits is its ability to connect individuals across long distances. People can use social media platforms to interact and stay in touch with friends and family far away. People can now maintain intimate relationships with those they care about, even when physically separated.

Improved Communication Speed and Efficiency

Additionally, the proliferation of social media sites has accelerated and simplified communication. Thanks to instant messaging, users can have short, timely conversations rather than lengthy ones via email. Furthermore, social media facilitates group communication, such as with classmates or employees, by providing a unified forum for such activities.

Negative Effects:

Decreased Face-to-Face Communication

The decline in in-person interaction is one of social media's most pernicious consequences on interpersonal connections and dialogue. People's reliance on digital communication over in-person contact has increased along with the popularity of social media. Face-to-face interaction has suffered as a result, which has adverse effects on interpersonal relationships and the development of social skills.

Decreased Emotional Intimacy

Another adverse effect of social media on relationships and communication is decreased emotional intimacy. Digital communication lacks the nonverbal cues and facial expressions critical in building emotional connections with others. This can make it more difficult for people to develop close and meaningful relationships, leading to increased loneliness and isolation.

Increased Conflict and Miscommunication

Finally, social media can also lead to increased conflict and miscommunication. The anonymity and distance provided by digital communication can lead to misunderstandings and hurtful comments that might not have been made face-to-face. Additionally, social media can provide a platform for cyberbullying , which can have severe consequences for the victim's mental health and well-being.


In conclusion, the impact of social media on relationships and communication is a complex issue with both positive and negative effects. While social media platforms offer many benefits, such as connecting people across distances and enabling faster and more accessible communication, they also have a dark side that can negatively affect relationships and communication. It is up to individuals to use social media responsibly and to prioritize in-person communication in their relationships and interactions with others.

The Role of Social Media in the Spread of Misinformation and Fake News

Social media has revolutionized the way information is shared and disseminated. However, the ease and speed at which data can be spread on social media also make it a powerful tool for spreading misinformation and fake news. Misinformation and fake news can seriously affect public opinion, influence political decisions, and even cause harm to individuals and communities.

The Pervasiveness of Misinformation and Fake News on Social Media

Misinformation and fake news are prevalent on social media platforms, where they can spread quickly and reach a large audience. This is partly due to the way social media algorithms work, which prioritizes content likely to generate engagement, such as sensational or controversial stories. As a result, false information can spread rapidly and be widely shared before it is fact-checked or debunked.

The Influence of Social Media on Public Opinion

Social media can significantly impact public opinion, as people are likelier to believe the information they see shared by their friends and followers. This can lead to a self-reinforcing cycle, where misinformation and fake news are spread and reinforced, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

The Challenge of Correcting Misinformation and Fake News

Correcting misinformation and fake news on social media can be a challenging task. This is partly due to the speed at which false information can spread and the difficulty of reaching the same audience exposed to the wrong information in the first place. Additionally, some individuals may be resistant to accepting correction, primarily if the incorrect information supports their beliefs or biases.

In conclusion, the function of social media in disseminating misinformation and fake news is complex and urgent. While social media has revolutionized the sharing of information, it has also made it simpler for false information to propagate and be widely believed. Individuals must be accountable for the information they share and consume, and social media firms must take measures to prevent the spread of disinformation and fake news on their platforms.

The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health and Well-Being

Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of people around the world using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay connected with others and access information. However, while social media has many benefits, it can also negatively affect mental health and well-being.

Comparison and Low Self-Esteem

One of the key ways that social media can affect mental health is by promoting feelings of comparison and low self-esteem. People often present a curated version of their lives on social media, highlighting their successes and hiding their struggles. This can lead others to compare themselves unfavorably, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Another way that social media can negatively impact mental health is through cyberbullying and online harassment. Social media provides a platform for anonymous individuals to harass and abuse others, leading to feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.

Social Isolation

Despite its name, social media can also contribute to feelings of isolation. At the same time, people may have many online friends but need more meaningful in-person connections and support. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.

Addiction and Overuse

Finally, social media can be addictive, leading to overuse and negatively impacting mental health and well-being. People may spend hours each day scrolling through their feeds, neglecting other important areas of their lives, such as work, family, and self-care.

In sum, social media has positive and negative consequences on one's psychological and emotional well-being. Realizing this, and taking measures like reducing one's social media use, reaching out to loved ones for help, and prioritizing one's well-being, are crucial. In addition, it's vital that social media giants take ownership of their platforms and actively encourage excellent mental health and well-being.

The Use of Social Media in Political Activism and Social Movements

Social media has recently become increasingly crucial in political action and social movements. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have given people new ways to express themselves, organize protests, and raise awareness about social and political issues.

Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Action

One of the most important uses of social media in political activity and social movements has been to raise awareness about important issues and mobilize action. Hashtags such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, for example, have brought attention to sexual harassment and racial injustice, respectively. Similarly, social media has been used to organize protests and other political actions, allowing people to band together and express themselves on a bigger scale.

Connecting with like-minded individuals

A second method in that social media has been utilized in political activity and social movements is to unite like-minded individuals. Through social media, individuals can join online groups, share knowledge and resources, and work with others to accomplish shared objectives. This has been especially significant for geographically scattered individuals or those without access to traditional means of political organizing.

Challenges and Limitations

As a vehicle for political action and social movements, social media has faced many obstacles and restrictions despite its many advantages. For instance, the propagation of misinformation and fake news on social media can impede attempts to disseminate accurate and reliable information. In addition, social media corporations have been condemned for censorship and insufficient protection of user rights.

In conclusion, social media has emerged as a potent instrument for political activism and social movements, giving voice to previously unheard communities and galvanizing support for change. Social media presents many opportunities for communication and collaboration. Still, users and institutions must be conscious of the risks and limitations of these tools to promote their responsible and productive usage.

The Potential Privacy Concerns Raised by Social Media Use and Data Collection Practices

With billions of users each day on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, social media has ingrained itself into every aspect of our lives. While these platforms offer a straightforward method to communicate with others and exchange information, they also raise significant concerns over data collecting and privacy. This article will examine the possible privacy issues posed by social media use and data-gathering techniques.

Data Collection and Sharing

The gathering and sharing of personal data are significant privacy issues brought up by social media use. Social networking sites gather user data, including details about their relationships, hobbies, and routines. This information is made available to third-party businesses for various uses, such as marketing and advertising. This can lead to serious concerns about who has access to and uses our personal information.

Lack of Control Over Personal Information

The absence of user control over personal information is a significant privacy issue brought up by social media usage. Social media makes it challenging to limit who has access to and how data is utilized once it has been posted. Sensitive information may end up being extensively disseminated and may be used maliciously as a result.

Personalized Marketing

Social media companies utilize the information they gather about users to target them with adverts relevant to their interests and usage patterns. Although this could be useful, it might also cause consumers to worry about their privacy since they might feel that their personal information is being used without their permission. Furthermore, there are issues with the integrity of the data being used to target users and the possibility of prejudice based on individual traits.

Government Surveillance

Using social media might spark worries about government surveillance. There are significant concerns regarding privacy and free expression when governments in some nations utilize social media platforms to follow and monitor residents.

In conclusion, social media use raises significant concerns regarding data collecting and privacy. While these platforms make it easy to interact with people and exchange information, they also gather a lot of personal information, which raises questions about who may access it and how it will be used. Users should be aware of these privacy issues and take precautions to safeguard their personal information, such as exercising caution when choosing what details to disclose on social media and keeping their information sharing with other firms to a minimum.

The Ethical and Privacy Concerns Surrounding Social Media Use And Data Collection

Our use of social media to communicate with loved ones, acquire information, and even conduct business has become a crucial part of our everyday lives. The extensive use of social media does, however, raise some ethical and privacy issues that must be resolved. The influence of social media use and data collecting on user rights, the accountability of social media businesses, and the need for improved regulation are all topics that will be covered in this article.

Effect on Individual Privacy:

Social networking sites gather tons of personal data from their users, including delicate information like search history, location data, and even health data. Each user's detailed profile may be created with this data and sold to advertising or used for other reasons. Concerns regarding the privacy of personal information might arise because social media businesses can use this data to target users with customized adverts.

Additionally, individuals might need to know how much their personal information is being gathered and exploited. Data breaches or the unauthorized sharing of personal information with other parties may result in instances where sensitive information is exposed. Users should be aware of the privacy rules of social media firms and take precautions to secure their data.

Responsibility of Social Media Companies:

Social media firms should ensure that they responsibly and ethically gather and use user information. This entails establishing strong security measures to safeguard sensitive information and ensuring users are informed of what information is being collected and how it is used.

Many social media businesses, nevertheless, have come under fire for not upholding these obligations. For instance, the Cambridge Analytica incident highlighted how Facebook users' personal information was exploited for political objectives without their knowledge. This demonstrates the necessity of social media corporations being held responsible for their deeds and ensuring that they are safeguarding the security and privacy of their users.

Better Regulation Is Needed

There is a need for tighter regulation in this field, given the effect, social media has on individual privacy as well as the obligations of social media firms. The creation of laws and regulations that ensure social media companies are gathering and using user information ethically and responsibly, as well as making sure users are aware of their rights and have the ability to control the information that is being collected about them, are all part of this.

Additionally, legislation should ensure that social media businesses are held responsible for their behavior, for example, by levying fines for data breaches or the unauthorized use of personal data. This will provide social media businesses with a significant incentive to prioritize their users' privacy and security and ensure they are upholding their obligations.

In conclusion, social media has fundamentally changed how we engage and communicate with one another, but this increased convenience also raises several ethical and privacy issues. Essential concerns that need to be addressed include the effect of social media on individual privacy, the accountability of social media businesses, and the requirement for greater regulation to safeguard user rights. We can make everyone's online experience safer and more secure by looking more closely at these issues.

In conclusion, social media is a complex and multifaceted topic that has recently captured the world's attention. With its ever-growing influence on our lives, it's no surprise that it has become a popular subject for students to explore in their writing. Whether you are writing an argumentative essay on the impact of social media on privacy, a persuasive essay on the role of social media in politics, or a descriptive essay on the changes social media has brought to the way we communicate, there are countless angles to approach this subject.

However, writing a comprehensive and well-researched essay on social media can be daunting. It requires a thorough understanding of the topic and the ability to articulate your ideas clearly and concisely. This is where Jenni.ai comes in. Our AI-powered tool is designed to help students like you save time and energy and focus on what truly matters - your education. With Jenni.ai , you'll have access to a wealth of examples and receive personalized writing suggestions and feedback.

Whether you're a student who's just starting your writing journey or looking to perfect your craft, Jenni.ai has everything you need to succeed. Our tool provides you with the necessary resources to write with confidence and clarity, no matter your experience level. You'll be able to experiment with different styles, explore new ideas , and refine your writing skills.

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Essay on Social Media for School Students and Children

500+ words essay on social media.

Social media is a tool that is becoming quite popular these days because of its user-friendly features. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more are giving people a chance to connect with each other across distances. In other words, the whole world is at our fingertips all thanks to social media. The youth is especially one of the most dominant users of social media. All this makes you wonder that something so powerful and with such a massive reach cannot be all good. Like how there are always two sides to a coin, the same goes for social media. Subsequently, different people have different opinions on this debatable topic. So, in this essay on Social Media, we will see the advantages and disadvantages of social media.

Essay on Social Media

Advantages of Social Media

When we look at the positive aspect of social media, we find numerous advantages. The most important being a great device for education . All the information one requires is just a click away. Students can educate themselves on various topics using social media.

Moreover, live lectures are now possible because of social media. You can attend a lecture happening in America while sitting in India.

Furthermore, as more and more people are distancing themselves from newspapers, they are depending on social media for news. You are always updated on the latest happenings of the world through it. A person becomes more socially aware of the issues of the world.

In addition, it strengthens bonds with your loved ones. Distance is not a barrier anymore because of social media. For instance, you can easily communicate with your friends and relatives overseas.

Most importantly, it also provides a great platform for young budding artists to showcase their talent for free. You can get great opportunities for employment through social media too.

Another advantage definitely benefits companies who wish to promote their brands. Social media has become a hub for advertising and offers you great opportunities for connecting with the customer.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Disadvantages of Social Media

Despite having such unique advantages, social media is considered to be one of the most harmful elements of society. If the use of social media is not monitored, it can lead to grave consequences.

a discursive essay about social media

Thus, the sharing on social media especially by children must be monitored at all times. Next up is the addition of social media which is quite common amongst the youth.

This addiction hampers with the academic performance of a student as they waste their time on social media instead of studying. Social media also creates communal rifts. Fake news is spread with the use of it, which poisons the mind of peace-loving citizens.

In short, surely social media has both advantages and disadvantages. But, it all depends on the user at the end. The youth must particularly create a balance between their academic performances, physical activities, and social media. Excess use of anything is harmful and the same thing applies to social media. Therefore, we must strive to live a satisfying life with the right balance.

a discursive essay about social media

FAQs on Social Media

Q.1 Is social media beneficial? If yes, then how?

A.1 Social media is quite beneficial. Social Media offers information, news, educational material, a platform for talented youth and brands.

Q.2 What is a disadvantage of Social Media?

A.2 Social media invades your privacy. It makes you addicted and causes health problems. It also results in cyberbullying and scams as well as communal hatred.

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Social Media Essay: Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Networking Sites

The advent of various social media channels has revolutionized the internet landscape by introducing us to global networking. Today, an individual can connect with another in a completely different part of this world just in a matter of seconds. We will take you through various notions and opinions associated with social media and how they impact our everyday lives. Also, there are some incredible tips to give you a better insight into how to write a social media essay.

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Sep 03 2020 ● 8 min read

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Table of Contents

What is social media essay, how do you write a social media essay, structure of social media essay, various tones of a social media essay, incorporate an attractive topic.

As you know, an social media essay is a piece of writing that is used to introduce an essential topic to the world with its underlying advantages and disadvantages. These aspects are driven solely by facts and should not contain the opinions of the writers. It is drafted to give others a better understanding of the subject in hand.

No matter which subject it pertains to, an essay ends with a conclusion where the writers are permitted to give their opinion after weighing the advantages and disadvantages.

Similarly, a social media essay is written to appreciate the positive aspects and highlight the negative impacts of social media in this time and day. The conclusions include the analysis of the two elements by the writers in their own lives and give an open-ended point of view. Depending upon the essay writer or paper writing service , the decision can be decisive, too, but that is not encouraged.

Today, the use of social networks, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or LinkedIn, has increased exponentially. An average millennial spends 2 hours and 58 minutes per day on social media platforms like Facebook. While some say that the platform is super-informative, others argue that all the information gathered on this platform is trivial and doesn't justify long hours invested in the use of social media.

The above arguments make using social media by individuals with a debatable issue, and this is why a lot of students are required to write an essay on social media. So, here are some incredible tips to help you out in writing an essay on social media even if you don't have marketing skills .

A classic essay consists of 3 parts – the introduction, main body, and the conclusion.

  • The Introduction

As you introduce the main topic, always begin with how it is relevant to the current scenario. You can do this by providing some background information. The information can be made richer by adding some reliable stats and data . Once you have established the topic, you need to give a strong thesis statement of the hypothesis on which your essay is based.

The thesis statement in your essay should be precise and debatable. If not, the arguments that you are going to put forward in the essay would make no sense.

The main body of your text should consist of logical arguments in relevance to your hypothesis. Make sure you put forward one statement in one paragraph and start a new one with another section. This will make your essay look more organized.

Also, when developing ideas, only include the ones you can write clearly about. If not, avoid them. Make sure that the essay develops coherently.

To conclude the essay about social media, bring back your hypothesis, and state how the aspects you discussed earlier support or nullify it. Make it a point to summarize all ideas, but do not start adding more ideas when you are about to conclude. You can now give an, ideally, open end to your essay.

A great conclusion is the one that provokes thought and will make your readers question the use of social media in their everyday lives.

Also, remember that essays do not have to include pros and cons always. They can either be full of pros or cons or both, depending upon your hypothesis. Just ensure they are relevant.

You might believe that an essay is an essay, and two of them would be similar, but that's a misconception. Different essays have varying tones depending on how the author is treating the thesis statement through the main body of the text. Here are a few examples of essays on social media in different tones.

  • Sample of a Persuasive Essay

If you are asked to write an academic paper about the effects of social media on the mental health of teenagers and young adults, you should make it persuasive. For this, just writing about the topic is not enough. It would help if you had an impactful thesis, followed by powerful arguments to support or question your theory.

The perils associated with social media addiction are forcing parents and "grown-ups" to throw their benefits in bad light today. In the race to become best in academics and non-academic activities, people are losing their grip on how social networks bring people together. They empower individuals with knowledge about various cultures and languages, which might not have been possible otherwise.

Social media sites can be addictive, and students might waste their formative years scrolling through the trivial feed and gain nothing but superficial knowledge. But that is just because neither parents nor the school is encouraging positive social media behavior. If these institutions start offering tips to students to limit and utilize their time on social media , one would be amazed to see their achievements.

Is social media a catalyst for the downfall of student life? Well, social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and more are teeming with inspirational achievers and content creators who go the extra mile to share their stories and inspire students. If the children are taught to see their access to social media as an opportunity to grow rather than a competition for likes and followers, they are bound to work harder and achieve goals that seemed insurmountable earlier.

  • Sample of Negative Essay about social media

If you have been asked to highlight the negative aspects of social media, your teacher does not mean that you have to cross all limits to present the use of social media in a bad light. Instead, what they are asking for is some logical and believable arguments that tell us why social media is harmful to society.

Social media is destroying family links by creating a virtual shell for each individual, which dissociates them with their own parents and siblings. The kids are adversely affected by increased access to social media if parents are always indulged in their devices and ignore them. Eventually, even kids start using tools to connect to other people, ignoring their family members.

Since kids and teenagers are the most impressionable age groups, they start believing that everything that glitters on social media platforms is gold, and they become materialistic. Their lives start revolving around likes, comments, and followers/subscribers. No matter whether their minds are prepared for such exposure or not, social media exposes them to the best and the worst about this world, which might turn them into rebels. They start valuing their online friends more than their offline lives and go to unimaginable extents to keep them entertained.

So, parents and elders need to pay attention to their children and limit their social media use so that they can learn to form real relationships and values.

  • Weighing the pros and cons

Another way in which you can present your social media essay is by comparing the positive and negative aspects associated with it. In such essays, the conclusion is better left open for the readers to decide their own take on social media.

One cannot argue that social media has taken the world by storm by allowing like-minded individuals to connect and share their experiences with the world. You can use these platforms to make new friends and discover the ones who have lost touch. You can talk to everyone on your friend list and share your content on these channels to become a part of the creators' community. There is no dearth for talent on social media and its admirers.

On the other hand, if you use social media sites for long stretches of time in one go, you run the risk of addiction. Gradually, a social media addict starts to build a cocoon for themselves, which they find hard to step out of. This leads to a disconnect between you and the family you already have and love. One might feel too confined yet comfortable in their space that they have no urge left to step out, pushing them towards social seclusion, or worse – depression.

When you flip the coin again, you will discover that social media has become an incredible platform for small businesses to grow and earn good profits . The grass-root companies do not have to invest much for advertising and promotion or even own an establishment. All they have to do is to create a grassroots marketing strategy for themselves, and their brand will start selling in no time!

In the end, social media is a game-changer on the World Wide Web. It allows people to connect with the virtual world with the risk of disconnecting with the real world. Then again, businesses are doing well on these platforms. There are indeed two sides to social media, one positive and another negative, and it is up to you which one you lean towards more.

  • Argumentative social media essay

A challenging but equally exciting type of essay on social media you should know about is an argumentative essay. It is often written when you are tasked with altering the point of view of the reader, which is of a completely opposite belief. Here is a sample for your better understanding.

Social networks have an uncertain future with the string impression they leave on users, especially the younger generations. Parents panic with the first mention of social media sites by their children and learning about their presence on these platforms because they are afraid of cyberbullying. They do not want their children to get cat-fished by some stranger on Reddit when they are not around.

Moreover, social media platforms are the reason why several individuals are losing their confidential data every day to corporate houses. These businesses are using the information to bug users with ads about stuff they do not want to buy.

If such instances carry on, the day is not far when the government will start to keep checks on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels. Massive surveillance will be imposed on these sites to prevent malicious minds from harming innocent teenagers physically or by hacking into their systems. So, before you get a chance to ask " have I been hacked ", know that someone is taking care of it.

Having an attractive topic for your social media essay does not mean using poetic words in it. You should have an issue relevant to the current scenario. In the process of selecting a fascinating topic, do not forget to keep it within the extents of your knowledge. If it becomes too complicated for you to write about, you will be stuck when coming up with arguments and ideas.

The perfect topic would be the one which offers good potential for research and is interesting for the readers too. Even if you present profound arguments about such topics, they should be in a logical, comprehensible, and readable format for people to understand easily.

Writing a social media essay is no cakewalk, whether you are a high-school student or university student. All you need to do is, structuralize it properly, be clear with the ideas and arguments you are planning to present, pick the tone of your essay, and began writing. Do not forget to top your essay up with a catchy topic so that your entire hard work doesn't fall flat.

Published on Sep 03 2020

Gintaras is an experienced marketing professional who is always eager to explore the most up-to-date issues in data marketing. Having worked as an SEO manager at several companies, he's a valuable addition to the Whatagraph writers' pool.

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How to Write a Discursive Essay

November 17, 2023

A discursive essay is a type of academic writing that presents both sides of an argument or issue. Unlike an argumentative essay where you take a clear stance and defend it, a discursive essay allows you to explore different perspectives and provide an objective analysis. It requires careful research, critical thinking, and the ability to present logical arguments in a structured manner.

In a discursive essay, you are expected to examine the topic thoroughly, present evidence and examples to support your points, and address counterarguments to demonstrate a balanced understanding of the issue. The purpose is not to persuade the reader to take a particular side, but rather to present a comprehensive view of the topic. By mastering the art of writing a discursive essay, you can effectively convey complex ideas and contribute to meaningful discussions on various subjects.

What’s different about writing a discursive essay

Writing a discursive essay differs from other types of essays in several ways. Here are some key differences to consider when approaching this particular form of academic writing:

  • Explores multiple perspectives: Unlike an argumentative essay, a discursive essay examines different viewpoints on a given topic. It requires you to gather information, analyze various arguments, and present a balanced view.
  • Structured presentation: A discursive essay follows a clear structure that helps organize your thoughts and arguments. It typically consists of an introduction, several body paragraphs discussing different arguments, and a conclusion.
  • Impartiality and objectivity: While other essays may require you to take a stance or defend a particular position, a discursive essay aims for objectivity. You should present arguments and evidence without bias and demonstrate a fair understanding of each viewpoint.
  • Importance of research: Good research is essential for a discursive essay. You should gather information from reliable sources, consider various perspectives, and present evidence to support your ideas.
  • Addressing counterarguments: In a discursive essay, it is crucial to acknowledge and address counterarguments. By doing so, you show a comprehensive understanding of the topic and strengthen your own argument.
  • Use of transitions: To maintain coherence and provide a smooth flow of ideas, appropriate transitions should be used to link paragraphs and signal shifts between arguments.

By recognizing these key differences and adapting your writing style accordingly, you can effectively write a discursive essay that engages the reader and presents a well-rounded discussion of the topic.

Step-by-Step Discursive Essay Writing Guide

Selecting a topic.

Selecting a topic for a discursive essay is a crucial first step in the writing process. Here are some considerations to help you choose an appropriate and engaging topic:

  • Relevance: Select a topic that is relevant and holds significance in the current context. It should be something that sparks interest and discussion among readers.
  • Controversy: Look for topics that have multiple perspectives and controversial viewpoints. This will allow you to explore different arguments and present a balanced analysis.
  • Research opportunities: Choose a topic that offers ample research opportunities. This ensures that you have access to reliable sources and enough material to support your arguments.
  • Personal interest: It is easier to write about a topic that you are genuinely interested in. Consider your own passion and areas of expertise when selecting a subject for your essay.
  • Scope and depth: Ensure that the chosen topic is neither too broad nor too narrow. It should provide enough scope for thorough analysis and discussion within the word limit of your essay.

Remember, the topic sets the foundation for your discursive essay. Take time to consider these factors and select a topic that aligns with your interests, research capabilities, and the potential to present a well-rounded discussion.

Possible Discursive Essay Topics:

  • The impact of social media on society.
  • Should euthanasia be legalized?
  • Pros and cons of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • The influence of technology on human interactions.
  • Is homeschooling more beneficial than traditional schooling?
  • The effects of climate change on the environment.
  • Should animal testing be banned?
  • The advantages and disadvantages of globalization.
  • The ethics of capital punishment.
  • The legalization of marijuana: pros and cons.

Write the Thesis Statement

The thesis statement in a discursive essay serves as the central argument or main claim that sets the tone for the entire essay. It typically appears in the introductory paragraph and guides the reader’s understanding of the essay’s purpose and direction. Here are some key points to consider when crafting an effective thesis statement for a discursive essay:

  • Clear stance: The thesis statement should clearly express your position or viewpoint on the topic. It should present a concise statement that reflects your overall argument or analysis.
  • Controversy: The thesis statement should highlight the controversy or debate surrounding the topic. It should indicate that there are multiple perspectives to be explored and that you will discuss them in a balanced manner.
  • Specificity: The thesis statement should not be too vague or general. It should address a specific aspect of the topic that you will focus on in your essay.
  • Clarity: The thesis statement should be clear and easy to understand. It should provide a clear sense of direction for the reader, indicating the main points that will be discussed in the essay.
  • Strong and compelling: The thesis statement should be strong and compelling, capturing the attention of the reader. It should be a statement that provokes thoughtful analysis and discussion.

By considering these factors, you can develop a thesis statement that effectively sets the tone for your discursive essay and captures the essence of your argument or analysis.

Conducting Research

Conducting thorough research is a critical step in writing a discursive essay. Here are some essential tips to help you effectively gather information and sources:

  • Define your research question: Clearly define the question or issue you want to explore in your essay. This will guide your research and help you stay focused.
  • Use a variety of sources: Gather information from a diverse range of sources, such as books, scholarly articles, reputable websites, and academic journals. This will ensure a well-rounded and comprehensive understanding of the topic.
  • Evaluate the credibility of sources: Assess the reliability and credibility of each source before including it in your essay. Consider factors such as author credentials, publication date, peer-reviewed status, and the reputation of the source.
  • Take organized notes: As you read and review your sources, take organized notes to keep track of key points, quotes, and references. This will make it easier to cite sources accurately later.
  • Analyze and synthesize information: Analyze the information you have gathered and synthesize it into coherent arguments. Identify common themes, patterns, and conflicting viewpoints that will form the basis of your essay.
  • Address counterarguments: Remember to consider and address counterarguments in your research. Engaging with opposing viewpoints will strengthen your arguments and demonstrate a well-rounded understanding of the topic.

By following these research strategies, you can gather reliable and varied sources to support your discursive essay, ensuring a balanced and well-informed discussion of the topic.

Writing the Introduction

The introduction sets the tone and direction for a discursive essay, providing context and background information on the topic. Here are some key elements to include when writing the introduction to a discursive essay:

  • Grab the reader’s attention: Use a hook or attention-grabbing statement to draw the reader in and generate interest in the topic.
  • Introduce the topic: Clearly state the topic and provide some background information to contextualize the issue.
  • Define key terms: Define any key terms related to the topic that may be unfamiliar to the reader.
  • Present the thesis statement: Clearly state your main argument or claim, which sets the tone for the rest of the essay.
  • Outline the structure: Briefly outline the main points or arguments that will be addressed in the essay.
  • Write in a discursive style: Use a discursive style of writing in the introduction that presents multiple viewpoints on the topic.

By including these elements, you can craft an effective introduction to your discursive essay that engages the reader, establishes the context for the topic, and clearly presents your thesis statement. Remember to present a balanced analysis of multiple viewpoints, maintaining the discursive style of the essay.

Presenting Arguments and Counterarguments

Presenting arguments and counterarguments is a crucial aspect of writing a discursive essay. Here are some strategies to effectively structure and present your arguments and counterarguments:

  • Identify key arguments: Begin by identifying the main arguments or perspectives related to the topic. These arguments will form the basis of your essay and provide a framework for your analysis.
  • Develop supporting evidence: Gather relevant evidence, examples, statistics, or expert opinions to support each argument. This evidence should be well-researched and credible to strengthen your claims.
  • Present arguments in a logical order: Organize your arguments in a logical and coherent manner. You can choose to present each argument separately, dedicating individual paragraphs to each one or use a point-counterpoint approach where you counter each argument with a counterargument.
  • Address counterarguments: Acknowledge and include counterarguments in your essay to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Refute counterarguments by presenting contrasting evidence or providing a persuasive rebuttal.
  • Provide balanced analysis: While presenting arguments and counterarguments, ensure a balanced analysis that gives due weight to each viewpoint. Avoid bias and strive for objectivity by presenting evidence from various perspectives.
  • Use transition words and phrases: Utilize appropriate transition words and phrases to guide the reader through the presentation of arguments and counterarguments. Examples include “on the one hand,” “however,” “in contrast,” “nevertheless,” etc.

By following these strategies, you can effectively present arguments and counterarguments in your discursive essay, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the topic and engaging the reader in a thoughtful analysis.

Writing the Body Paragraphs

When writing the body paragraphs of a discursive essay, it’s important to present a balanced and well-structured analysis of the topic. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Organize your paragraphs: Each body paragraph should focus on a single argument or idea. Start with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main point of the paragraph.
  • Provide evidence and examples: Support your arguments with evidence, facts, statistics, or examples from credible sources. This will enhance the validity and persuasiveness of your arguments.
  • Use logical reasoning: Present clear and coherent reasoning to connect your evidence with your main argument. Use logic and critical thinking to explain the relevance and significance of your evidence.
  • Consider opposing viewpoints: Acknowledge potential counterarguments and address them within your body paragraphs. Refute counterarguments using logical and evidence-based reasoning.
  • Use paragraphs for different viewpoints: If you’re discussing multiple perspectives or arguments within the same essay, dedicate separate paragraphs to each viewpoint. Clearly indicate transitions between paragraphs to maintain a coherent flow.
  • Include topic sentences and transitions: Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that clearly states the main idea. Use transitional words and phrases to guide the reader smoothly from one paragraph to the next.

Remember, in a discursive essay, the body paragraphs should explore various arguments and perspectives related to the topic, providing a balanced analysis and supporting evidence. By following these strategies, you can construct well-organized and compelling body paragraphs for your discursive essay.

Incorporating Evidence and Examples

Effectively incorporating evidence and examples is crucial in a discursive essay to support your arguments and strengthen your analysis. Here are some strategies to consider when integrating evidence:

  • Choose credible sources: Gather evidence from reputable and reliable sources such as scholarly articles, books, authoritative websites, or academic journals. This ensures the validity and credibility of the evidence.
  • Use a variety of evidence: Draw from a range of sources to provide a well-rounded perspective on the topic. This can include facts, statistics, expert opinions, case studies, or historical examples.
  • Provide context: When presenting evidence, provide context to help the reader understand its significance. Explain the relevance of the evidence to your argument and how it supports your main points.
  • Analyze and interpret evidence: Avoid simply regurgitating evidence. Instead, analyze and interpret it, explaining how it supports your argument and contributes to your overall analysis.
  • Quote and paraphrase effectively: When using direct quotes, ensure they are relevant and support your argument. Use accurate paraphrasing to summarize and restate ideas from your sources.
  • Cite your sources correctly: Properly cite your sources using a citation style appropriate for your academic field, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago. This gives credit to the original authors and avoids plagiarism.

By incorporating evidence and examples effectively, you can provide a solid foundation for your arguments in a discursive essay, enhancing your credibility and persuasiveness.

Addressing Counterarguments

Addressing counterarguments is an essential component of a discursive essay as it demonstrates critical thinking and strengthens your overall argument. Here are some strategies to effectively address counterarguments:

  • Identify counterarguments: Identify the main counterarguments or opposing viewpoints related to your topic. This shows that you have considered different perspectives on the issue.
  • Understand the counterarguments: Thoroughly analyze and understand the counterarguments before addressing them. This will help you develop a strong response based on evidence and reasoning.
  • Refute the counterarguments: Present a persuasive rebuttal to counterarguments by providing evidence or logical reasoning that challenges or disproves them.
  • Anticipate objections: Address potential objections or criticisms that readers might have. Proactively refute these objections by providing additional evidence or presenting alternative perspectives.
  • Acknowledge validity: Recognize the validity of certain counterarguments or aspects of opposing viewpoints. This demonstrates fairness and strengthens your overall argument by showing that you have carefully considered all sides.
  • Use transitional phrases: Use transitional phrases such as “however,” “although,” or “on the other hand,” to seamlessly introduce counterarguments and your responses.

By effectively addressing counterarguments, you can strengthen your own argument and demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Engaging with opposing viewpoints in a fair and persuasive manner enhances the overall credibility and impact of your discursive essay.

Concluding the Discursive Essay

Concluding your discursive essay is an opportunity to summarize your main points and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Here are some strategies to effectively conclude your essay:

  • Restate your thesis statement: Begin your conclusion by restating your thesis statement in a concise and clear manner. This reminds the reader of your main argument and reinforces its significance.
  • Summarize your main points: Provide a brief summary of the main points you discussed in the body paragraphs. This helps to reinforce the key arguments and evidence presented throughout the essay.
  • Emphasize the significance of your argument: Highlight the importance and relevance of your argument in relation to the broader context or real-world implications. This helps to leave a lasting impact on the reader.
  • Address counterarguments: Briefly acknowledge the counterarguments you addressed in the essay and reiterate why your main argument is stronger or more compelling.
  • Offer a final thought or call to action: Conclude your essay by offering a final thought, reflection, or call to action that encourages the reader to further consider the topic or take action.
  • Provide closure: End your conclusion by providing a sense of closure to the essay. This can be achieved by offering a conclusive statement or returning to an anecdote or example mentioned earlier in the essay.

By following these strategies, you can effectively conclude your discursive essay, leaving a strong and memorable impression on the reader while summarizing the key points and reinforcing the significance of your argument.

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  • Published: 28 October 2021

Discursive structures and power relations in Covid-19 knowledge production

  • Mario Bisiada   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3145-1512 1  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  8 , Article number:  248 ( 2021 ) Cite this article

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  • Cultural and media studies
  • Language and linguistics

This article critically examines the discourse around the Covid-19 pandemic to investigate the widespread polarisation evident in social media debates. The model of epidemic psychology holds that initial adverse reactions to a new disease spread through linguistic interaction. The main argument is that the mediation of the pandemic through social media has fomented the effects of epidemic psychology in the reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic by providing continued access to commentary and linguistic interaction. This social interaction in the absence of any knowledge on the new disease can be seen as a discourse of knowledge production, conducted largely on social media. This view, coupled with a critical approach to the power relations inherent in all processes of knowledge production, provides an approach to understanding the dynamics of polarisation, which is, arguably, issue-related and not along common ideological lines of left and right. The paper critiques two discursive structures of exclusion, the terms science and conspiracy theory , which have characterised the knowledge production discourse of the Covid-19 pandemic on social media. As strategies of dialogic contraction, they are based on a hegemonic view of knowledge production and on the simplistic assumption of an emancipated position outside ideology. Such an approach, though well-intentioned, may ultimately undermine social movements of knowledge production and thus threaten the very values it aims to protect. Instead, the paper proposes a Foucauldian approach that problematises truth claims and scientificity as always ideological and that is aware of power as inherent to all knowledge production.

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The first truly global, digitally mediated event.

The Covid-19 pandemic is the first truly global event:

Not the Black Plague, not the transatlantic slave trade nor the two World Wars, not the 9/11 terrorist attacks have affected everyone, on every continent, as instantly and intimately and acutely as the spread of coronavirus, uniting us as we fear and think and hope about the same thing. (Badhken, 2020 )

While other events of historical magnitude had a global impact, they “were not experienced by the entire world at the same time” (Milanović, 2020 )—though this experience takes a different form for each of us, in terms of both our personal reaction and that of the country we live in. What unites these personal experiences is that they have been largely digital because, apart from being the first truly global event, it is also “the first epidemic in history in which people around the world have been collectively expressing their thoughts and concerns on social media” (Aiello et al., 2021 , p. 1). So our first global event is also the one “where we never met face-to-face in real-time with other people who lived through it” (Milanović, 2020 ).

Social media turned into the prime channel of the public sphere in quarantined societies, and a rigid and noxious polarisation evidently dominates the discourse (European Court of Human Rights, 2021 ; Yang, 2021 ). The question of why a crisis that should unite us in our communal struggle against a virus has produced such a divided society has put the spotlight on social media, which are still commonly assumed to be geared to create polarisation. The banning of @realdonaldtrump from Twitter may be read by future media scholars as to the beginning of an era of control of social media, as the end of Silicon Valley companies’ innocence as mediators of discourse. Since the global communities’ engagement in a fight against information disorder may produce other bans and regulations of free speech on public networks, the discussion of the role of social media as a public sphere will take important turns in the coming years.

In Rosenberg’s ( 1989 , p. 2) terms, as particular societies construct their characteristic responses following dramaturgic forms, epidemics are extraordinary opportunities to gain an “understanding of the relationship among ideology, social structure, and the construction of particular selves”. To understand “our contemporary reaction to a traditional stimulus”, we must distinguish between what is unique and what seems to be universal to pandemic responses (Rosenberg, 1989 , p. 2). This article tries to take the first step towards this goal through a critical approach to the discourse on the Covid-19 pandemic. An aspect unique to this pandemic is that it has been mediated primarily by social media. How this has shaped the response will be subject to extensive study in years to come, and the large amount of language data this has produced will be of great interest to social media discourse analysts. I propose that the mediating role of social media has provided the opportunity to approach the pandemic through the mode of knowledge production practice that is already exhibited by social movements. Contests over this knowledge production, however, led to a polarisation that cannot be explained comprehensively by common partisan affiliations but that should be understood to be interpretative, that is, predominantly issue-related. I argue that this polarisation has caused, and is caused by, among other things, discursive structures of exclusion, specifically through the hegemonic use of terms such as conspiracy theories and science . The following section will begin this argument by introducing the model of epidemic psychology that I adopt to understand our reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Epidemic psychology and the virtual public sphere

Strong ( 1990 ) proposes the “epidemic psychology” model to describe the early reaction to new fatal diseases. He comments on the “striking problems that large, fatal epidemics seem to present to social order; on the waves of fear, panic, stigma, moralising, and calls to action that seem to characterise the immediate reaction” and the “extraordinary emotional maelstrom which seems, at least for a time, to be beyond anyone’s immediate control” (Strong, 1990 , p. 249), descriptions that fit our experience in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic quite well. Strong sees the capacity of language to enable coordinated action among large groups of people, our “shared intentionality” (Tomasello, 2008 , p. 343), as the key factor in epidemic psychology, making human societies “complex and, though elaborately organised, still potentially subject to fundamental change, simultaneously massively ordered and extraordinarily fragile” (Strong, 1990 , p. 256).

Most social action is based on routine: Strong ( 1990 , p. 257) cites Alfred Schütz’s idea that everyday life is “a matter neither of rationality nor irrationality, but of routine”. Similarly, Berger and Luckmann ( 1966 , p. 172) have argued that “the most important vehicle of reality-maintenance is casual conversation”, which “can afford to be casual precisely because it refers to the routines of a taken-for-granted world. The loss of casualness signals a break in the routines and, at least potentially, a threat to the taken-for-granted reality” (Berger and Luckmann, 1966 , p. 172). Such a threat to routine can lead to “epidemic psychology in which contagious waves of panic rip unpredictably through both individuals and the body politic, disrupting all manner of everyday practices, undermining faith in conventional authority” (Strong, 1990 , p. 257). In sum,

the human origin of epidemic psychology lies not so much in our unruly passions as in the threat of epidemic disease to our everyday assumptions, in the potential fragility of human social structure and interaction, and in the huge diversity and elaboration of human thought, morality and technology; based as all of these are upon words rather than genes. (Strong, 1990 , p. 258).

With language at the heart of epidemic psychology, the threshold at which epidemic psychology sets in may be lower in the digital age due to greater connectedness and thus exposure to language and conversation. The study of language use on social media is thus fundamental to understanding the social processes and transformations that will result from the Covid-19 pandemic. The Internet and social media are by now fundamentally important for all types of linguistic acts including casual conversation and coordinated social action. We produce and receive more language on a daily basis than ever (McCullock, 2019 , p. 2). In Foucauldian terms, social media provides the environment of commentary that keep alive a large amount of discourses which would otherwise disappear (Foucault, 1981 , pp. 56–57), thus creating the impression that particular knowledges are established. If we consider social media “important engines of context collapse, rather than enablers of ideological segregation” (Bruns, 2019 , p. 99), it should come as no surprise that the symptoms of epidemic psychology described by Strong ( 1990 ) set in so quickly and transversally in our societies (see, e.g. Esses and Hamilton, 2021 ; Aiello et al., 2021 ).

Social media use has increased vastly during the Covid-19 pandemic (Nguyen et al., 2020 ), and it is the connectedness through social media that makes this pandemic unlike any other (Aiello et al., 2021 ; Madrigal, 2020 ; Tsao et al., 2021 ). The possibility to experience it in a socially distanced way is afforded to us only by our digitalised world. As Harari ( 2021 ) observes, “[i]n 1918, […] if you ordered the entire population of a country to stay at home for several weeks, it would have resulted in economic ruin, social breakdown and mass starvation. In contrast, in 2020, […] automation and the Internet made extended lockdowns viable, at least in developed countries”. How viable they are in terms of long-term effects remains to be seen, and, as Harari ( 2021 ) rightfully notes, even this digital world could not function without “the crucial role that many low-paid professions play in maintaining human civilisation: nurses, sanitation workers, truck drivers, cashiers, delivery people”. Given this fundamental importance of digital access, the #StayHome narratives of lockdown life have been particularly developed-world, digitalised, middle class, childless narratives. But the key point is that “after 2020, we know that life can go on even when an entire country is in physical lockdown” (Harari, 2021 ).

How will this new importance of social media affect society? Whether virtual public spaces also constitute a virtual public sphere has long been discussed (for an overview, see Bruns and Highfield, 2016 ). While using social media empowers users by broadcasting their opinions more widely, “the same anonymity and absence of face-to-face interaction that expands our freedom of expression online keeps us from assessing the impact and social value of our words” (Papacharissi, 2002 , p. 16). In fact, this sense of empowerment may misrepresent the true impact of our opinions (Papacharissi, 2002 , p. 17) and also of those held by others: Because a few vocal users can create a lot of activity, browsing social media may give us a distorted view of society, making it appear more polarised than it actually is.

A case in point is the (now deleted) Twitter thread that made Eric Feigl-Ding famous: He summarised a paper about the new coronavirus with the words “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD—the new coronavirus is a 3.8!!!” and called this infectiousness “thermonuclear pandemic level bad” (24 January 2020). In a response thread on Twitter, science writer Ferris Jabr shows that Feigl-Ding’s thread “missed essential context and contains numerous errors” and argues that his “claim that ‘we are now faced with the most virulent virus epidemic the world has ever seen’ and that the new coronavirus is 8x as infectious as SARS is completely untrue” ( https://twitter.com/ferrisjabr/status/1220963553911271424 ). Feigl-Ding’s viral thread thus

exemplified a deep problem on Twitter: The most extreme statements can be far more amplified than more measured messages. In the information sphere, while public-health researchers are doing their best to distribute scientific evidence, viral Twitter threads, context-free videos, and even conspiracy theories are reaching far more people. (Madrigal, 2020 )

Some argue, however, that it’s exactly this recognition of constant evolution that should inform modern science, that Feigl-Ding has just understood how social media work and “committed the unpardonable sin of failing to act on Twitter like enough of a scientist—you know, terrified of getting something wrong, because science never does ” (Science+Story, 2020 ). As social media come under increasing pressure through debates over misinformation, one task the pandemic sets us is to work towards a virtual public sphere that goes beyond the imagined communities (Anderson, 1983 ) or virtual spheres “consist[ing] of several spheres of counterpublics that have been excluded from mainstream political discourse, yet employ virtual communication to restructure the mainstream that ousted them” (Papacharissi, 2002 , p. 21).

Most theorisations on the virtual public sphere consider it in conjunction with the non-virtual sphere. The new situation we face now is the temporary quasi-disappearance of physical interactions. As I have argued in this section, while epidemic psychology had been constrained in previous pandemics by the sheer absence of contact, it is now able to continue unchecked, simply because a lockdown no longer keeps us from conversing with the world. The public sphere has been forcibly moved into the virtual space, for a short yet decisive amount of time: Public shaming of “irresponsible” people, insults (“Covidiot”), dubious model predictions and all the other effects of epidemic psychology could be observed. This, as I argue in the following section, has made the Covid-19 pandemic a phenomenon of communal knowledge production practice.

The Covid-19 pandemic as process of knowledge production

The Covid-19 pandemic is a unique phenomenon of knowledge production practice in the history of humanity because the phenomena of epidemic psychology described by Strong ( 1990 ) are for the first time mediated by a global network, that is, social media. The knowledge production in the Covid-19 pandemic resembles, in an accelerated form, that of climate change. Our first global event also gave us the opportunity to learn together, in real time, across the globe. Social media turn not only politics from a closed space into “a conversation that can be joined by outsiders” (Ausserhofer and Maireder, 2013 , p. 306), but also science, by way of knowledge production practices. There has long been a discussion in the philosophy of science on how knowledge gets subsumed into “scientism”, defined as “the conviction that we can no longer understand science as one form of possible knowledge, but rather must identify knowledge with science” (Habermas, 1972 , p. 4). The Covid-19 pandemic has placed science along with its hegemonies in the spotlight of society, and it is thus informative to reflect on the relation between science and knowledge.

As a response to public fear, the Covid-19 pandemic has followed the model of epidemic psychology in generating an “exceptionally volatile intellectual state” (Strong, 1990 , p. 254), as little is known about the new disease (Davey Smith et al., 2020 ) and there was uncertainty about whether “a new disease or a new outbreak is trivial or whether it is really something enormously important”, leading to “collective disorientation” (Strong, 1990 , p. 254). This volatile intellectual state and disorientation have created discourses of knowledge production (Casas-Cortés et al., 2008 ; Della Porta and Pavan, 2017 ; Pavan and Felicetti, 2019 ), defined as “practices through which local and highly personal experiences, rationalities, and competences get connected and coordinated within shared cognitive systems which, in turn, provide movements and their supporters with a common orientation for making claims and acting collectively” (Pavan and Felicetti, 2019 , p. 3).

Such practices create what Foucault ( 1980 ) calls local, subjugated knowledges, defined as an “autonomous, non-centralised kind of theoretical production, one that is to say whose validity is not dependent on the approval of the established regimes of thought” (Foucault, 1980 , p. 81). While such theoretical production consists of “local, discontinuous, disqualified, illegitimate knowledges”, it does not constitute a right to ignorance or non-knowledge: it is opposed “not to the contents, methods or concepts of a science, but to the effects of the centralising powers which are linked to the institution and functioning of an organised scientific discourse” (Foucault, 1980 , p. 84). More recently, Fischer ( 2000 ) has shown how local contextual knowledge by citizens can help solve complex social and environmental problems. One example of these from the current pandemic are mutual aid groups (Engler, 2020 ; Mahanty and Phillipps, 2020 ; Sitrin and Colectiva Sembrar, 2020 ). However, the often centralising, heavy-handed or even authoritarian responses of governments, coupled with blanket policies that reflected little trust in the intelligence or autonomy of its citizens, hindered such knowledge production movements. Citizens were delegated to a passive role while a selected group of experts led the response, which mirrors the dynamics experienced by environmental movements (Fischer, 2000 , pp. 92–93).

A ready response to this volatile intellectual state tends to be that educated citizens should trust in science and condemn those who believe conspiracy theories, who spread fake news, who usher in an era of post-truth. Such a response, however, is often undergirded by a simplistic understanding of ideology, by the idea that we can and must somehow combat ideology and promote scientific truth through critical scrutiny of language and discourse in the media. Foucault criticised the usefulness of the notion of ideology for the fact that it “always stands in virtual opposition to something else which is supposed to count as truth” (Foucault, 1980 , p. 180). Rather than exploring a knowable reality, scientific enquiry has been described as constructive practice, that is, “oriented toward ‘making things work’ successfully and embedded in a reality which is highly artificial and essentially self-created” (Knorr-Cetina, 1977 , p. 670). In other words, assuming some kind of “false consciousness” within ideology presupposes the existence of a “consciousness which is not false (the position of critique)” (Mills, 2004 , p. 29), but such a position does not exist: “All knowledge is determined by a combination of social, institutional and discursive pressures” (Mills, 2004 , p. 30).

The dominating theoretical approaches to critical discourse studies hold that, through an awareness of linguistic/ideological oppression based on neo-Marxist or rationalist analysis, people are empowered to bring about social change and thus achieve emancipation (Hart and Cap, 2014 , p. 2). While this is a useful approach to studying language and social change, Pennycook ( 2001 , pp. 36–41) criticises such “emancipatory modernist” approaches as potentially patronising and argues that they lack the means to respond to the awareness of ideological oppression. Emancipatory modernist approaches to discourse are often grounded in a simplistic view of ideology juxtaposed with some “knowable reality” and hold the problematic notion that “scientific knowledge of reality can help us escape from the falsity of ideology” (Pennycook, 2001 , p. 41), a rationale that is itself often used by populist agitators (Bruns, 2019 , p. 114). Messianic attempts to help people see the light often fail, overlooking that many discourse practices aim to “explore others’ reaction to one’s identity and have it confirmed in interactions, including hostile reactions that confirm one’s status as a critical outsider” (Krämer, 2017 , p. 1302), thus cementing the very status one seeks to challenge into an emancipated position of its own. When studying epidemic psychology and the uncertain intellectual state it produces, it is thus more important than ever to remember that all language is political (Gee, 2011 , p. 10), all knowledge production is ideological and there is no truth or knowledge outside ideology (Pennycook, 2001 , p. 89).

As is the case with climate action, science’s indeterminacy, its raising more questions than it could answer, has led to its politicisation (Fischer, 2000 , p. 95). My argument in this section has been that, in the volatile intellectual state the Covid-19 pandemic has caused, the hegemonies of knowledge production, while always existing below the surface, have been made exceptionally visible. The restlessness of hypermediativity, fuelled by a constant generation and availability of data, allowed everyone to conduct “fact-based” statistical analyses and share them, around the clock. The fast exchange through social media and the way it empowers users to broadcast opinions and knowledge to wide audiences have caused a politicisation and polarisation of scientific debates (Clarke, 2020 ; Bhopal and Munro, 2021 ). In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic as a process of knowledge production, it is necessary to differentiate the concept of polarisation a bit further, as I will do in the next section.

Interpretative polarisation

In this paper, I understand polarisation as a dynamic phenomenon, driven by “interpretative” polarisation, “the process wherein different groups in a society contextualise a common topic in starkly different ways” so that “frames used by one camp are deemed unfounded, inappropriate, or illegitimate by other camps” (Kligler-Vilenchik et al., 2020 , p. 2). Social media are so rooted in our daily lives that they receive attention from a range of disciplines, and many commentators still purport that social media “foster extreme viewpoints by design” (Bhopal and Munro, 2021 ) and are thus inherently geared to produce polarisation.

A range of evidence argues against this deterministic view, however. In a review of a range of studies, Tucker et al. ( 2018 , pp. 15–16) argue that “[t]he consumption of political information through social media increases cross-cutting exposure, which has a range of positive effects on civic engagement, political moderation, and the quality of democratic politics, but also facilitates the spread of misinformation”. Bruns ( 2019 ) has cast doubt on Pariser’s ( 2011 ) concept of the “filter bubble”, and the popular idea that social bots on Twitter “pretend to be a human user and [are] operated by some sinister actor to manipulate public opinion” seems unfounded according to recent research (Gallwitz and Kreil, 2021 ). Frequent use of ever more available social media diversifies individuals’ networks, which may alleviate concerns about echo chambers on social media (Lee et al., 2014 ), though may not necessarily “create more informed citizens” (Papacharissi, 2002 , p. 15), or a public sphere as such: While social media use “may reduce ideological polarisation as a result of leading to higher cross-cutting exposure, it may simultaneously increase affective polarisation because of the negative nature of these interactions” (Tucker et al., 2018 , p. 21), of which the Covid-19 pandemic has provided many.

In the absence of knowledge on the disease, the reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic subverted the established ideological standpoints. The range of ideological persuasions observed at anti-lockdown protests and the fact that liberal thinkers argue for closed borders while conservative thinkers question night-time curfews and police presence shows that the conflict cannot be thought along the usual partisan lines. Research on polarisation has argued for the recognition of various dimensions of opinion polarisation: Where new issues arise, people are prepared to deviate from their regular partisan or ideological direction (Wojcieszak and Rojas, 2011 ). Studies suggest that partisan/ideological affiliation is not as directly influenced by knowledge as issue-related opinions:

[K]nowledge is found to predict the variance of two issue-related measures of polarisation, whereas there is no such association between knowledge and partisan/ideological polarisation. This is consistent with previous research that the more knowledgeable are likely to move to more extreme issue positions by counter arguing claims incompatible with their political predisposition. (Lee et al., 2014 , pp. 716–717)

People evaluate objects that they encounter frequently along different lines to rare but impactful objects: differing findings for party/ideology and issue-related polarisation suggest that the underlying mechanism of partisan and ideological polarisation is distinct from that of issue-related processes (Tucker et al., 2018 , pp. 40–48). This recognition shows that studies or surveys linking attitudes towards the Covid-19 pandemic to partisan affiliations are not entirely informative.

In a study of how citizens evaluate arguments about contested issues, Taber and Lodge ( 2006 ) find that prior attitudes decisively guide how new information is processed:

Far from the rational calculator portrayed in enlightenment prose and spatial equations, homo politicus would seem to be a creature of simple likes and prejudices that are quite resistant to change. […] Skepticism is valuable and attitudes should have inertia. But skepticism becomes bias when it becomes unreasonably resistant to change and especially when it leads one to avoid information as with the confirmation bias. (Taber and Lodge, 2006 , pp. 767–768)

The “boundary line between rational skepticism and irrational bias” (Taber and Lodge, 2006 , p. 768) is a key issue in discussions about the Covid-19 pandemic, and one that can perhaps not be established in a normative way.

To address the question of why a newly arisen issue that could not be addressed by existing political schemes has polarised society so quickly, we may argue, then, that different contextualisations of the same issue have produced different evaluations in people (Kligler-Vilenchik et al., 2020 ). While people can generally process multiple frames and evaluate different angles, this ability may be hampered where “competing groups rely exclusively on contrasting frames and reject (or are unaware of) those frames underlying divergent preferences”, which may lead to “contrasting interpretations that sustain irreconcilable positions”. It is this configuration that, I argue, leads to interpretative polarisation, which may make “meaningful conversation between groups almost impossible” (Kligler-Vilenchik et al., 2020 , p. 2) and reinforce political polarisation.

Examples of such contrasting interpretations abound. The term lockdown has had differing definitions in each country, which led to shadings such as hard/soft lockdown . The term new normal was perhaps meant to anchor hygiene measures in people’s thoughts, but is seen by many as an attempt to normalise draconian restrictions and situations that are clearly anything but normal. The dichotomy of health vs economy is another example of how the same issue can be presented in different lights, depending on the angle one takes.

Interpretative polarisation can explain why partisan analysis does not apply to the Covid-19 pandemic as an extraordinary phenomenon whose epidemic psychology, as I have argued so far, made necessary new reflections, a process of knowledge production. The Covid-19 pandemic challenges existing ideological boundaries, so an analysis of its discourse requires an approach that goes beyond seeing ideology as a given structural object and instead analyses hegemonies and power struggles inherent in all discourses of knowledge production.

Discursive structures of exclusion

Exclusion through dialogic contraction.

An oft-repeated charge in debates on the Covid-19 pandemic is that particular voices or opinions have been ignored or excluded from the debate, that particular things cannot be said. This is then countered by the reminder that there is free speech, that anyone can publish anything after all. Both positions forget that discourses are generally considered to be “principally organised around practices of exclusion” (Mills, 2004 , p. 11): Any notion of what seems natural to say or what seems unsayable is the result of such exclusion practices, of “battles ‘for truth’” where, in the words of Foucault, “by truth I do not mean ‘the ensemble of truths which are to be discovered and accepted’, but rather ‘the ensemble of rules according to which the true and the false are separated and specific effects of power attached to the true’” (Foucault, 1980 , p. 132).

Foucault ( 1981 , pp. 52–54) proposes three procedures of exclusion: prohibition, the division of reason/madness and the opposition between true/false (the “will to truth”). The argument that nobody is excluded because everyone is free to publish anything misunderstands practices of discursive exclusion by reducing them to the first of those principles (prohibition) while ignoring the existence of the other two. Based on Bakhtin’s concept of “centripetal-centrifugal struggle”, Baxter ( 2011 ) argues that, as it is “difficult to presume that all discourses are equal in the play for meaning, […] competing discourses are not equally legitimated. Some are centred (the centripetal) and others are marginalised (centrifugal). In the instance of monologue, all but a single totalising discourse is erased” (Baxter, 2011 , p. 14). Thus, the struggles of exclusion are regular phenomena of hegemony in discourse, made visible through the extraordinary process of knowledge generation. The fact that free speech is constrained and certain things become dominant in discourses while others become unsayable is a product of competing power relations in a discourse (see Mills, 2004 , p. 64). These power relations, as usual in Foucauldian thought, are not inherently negative or positive, but potentially dangerous if not questioned, which is the aim of this section.

In what follows, I investigate two discursive structures of exclusion via dialogic contraction that originate in the emancipatory modernist approach to ideology in discourse identified above: First, the reference to an abstract authority ( the science ) and second, accusations of conspiracy theories . I understand dialogic contraction with reference to Bakhtinian dialogism (for an introduction, see Robinson, 2011 ) as used in various theories of discourse analysis such as Appraisal Theory (Martin and White, 2005 ) and Relational Dialectics Theory. In the latter, discourses (defined roughly as systems of meaning or “voices”) compete in discursive struggle, on a cline between monologic and idealised dialogic (Baxter, 2011 ). While in idealised dialogism all discourses are given equal weight, monologism consists of “a discursive playing field so unequal that all but one monologic, authoritative discourse is silenced” (Baxter, 2011 , p. 9). This model is useful for analysing the discourse on the Covid-19 pandemic because it reflects the accusation that the public debate has increasingly become monologic, with the authoritative discourse of the respective political leaders and their close circles of experts in the dominant position.

One of the first demands on social media at the beginning of the pandemic was that people should be quiet and “let experts talk”. These calls were meant to reduce noise in the discourse, a defence mechanism to the heated reactions in the networks, in line with early reactions of epidemic psychology. They were initial reactionary attempts to exclude voices from commenting on what was from the beginning a complex social crisis that concerns everyone. Attempts to restrict the discourse to “experts” only later crystallised into the two frequent formulas that we should follow the science and that we must combat conspiracy theories .

This simplistic binary choice juxtaposing the science/experts/evidence with conspiracy theories/fake news is at the heart of the dialogic contraction in the Covid-19 pandemic. It makes it seem as though the only available positions are either to believe Covid-19 to be a global threat that eclipses all other threats or to deny its existence altogether, thus mirroring labellings used in the climate debate, which “isolate, exclude, ignore, and dismiss claim-makers of all types from constructive dialogue” (Howarth and Sharman, 2015 , p. 239).

These strategies of dialogic contraction work by appealing to taken-for-granted truths (science is good, populism is bad) and to an imagined neutral position outside ideology, power and discourse. This position is workable in routine debates, where challenges are either confined to academic circles or addressed by societies’ “general politics of truth” (Foucault, 1980 , p. 131). In an epistemologically disruptive event such as the Covid-19 pandemic, however, as I argue in this article, the role of science in the public enters the spotlight, epistemic psychology challenges our established routines, and discursive structures of dialogic contraction towards a monologic extreme rapidly translate into social polarisation.

Critical approaches to discourse that are conscious of and able to consider power relations as they emerge from discursive practice thus seem better suited to study our present situation. To study language with the aim of explaining power rather than just reveal it, we must show how power operates in discourses rather than how it is held by particular, pre-categorised actors or institutions (Pennycook, 2001 , p. 93). As Katsambekis and Stavrakakis ( 2020 ) argue:

In many cases, understanding the policies of certain actors through the lens of ‘populism’ […] and the vague notion of a ‘populist threat to democracy’, often adopted in typical anti-populist discourses, seems to be diverting attention from other imminent dangers to democracy, most importantly: nativism, nationalism, authoritarianism, racism. (Katsambekis and Stavrakakis, 2020 , p. 7)

Having established discursive structures of exclusion as inherent to all discourse, I now discuss two strategies of dialogic contraction that I consider to be fundamental to the polarisation that we have seen in this pandemic and that let us answer why a global health crisis and the knowledge production that ensued, where we are all on the same side, has become such a polarising topic.

The science as legitimating authority

A central claim made by most leaders throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been that they “follow the science” (Pérez-González, 2020b ; Stevens, 2020 ; Pierce, 2021 ). In his first prime-time address to the nation on 11 March, Joe Biden said, “we know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science”. What is unclear about such statements is what exactly “the science” refers to. Sweden, under Anders Tegnell’s advice, also “follows the science”, and the rate of agreement of the Swedish scientific community, when asked whether scientific advice had been taken into account, does not differ from that reported for other countries (Rijs and Fenter, 2020 ). Yet the Swedish approach, generally described as at best “unorthodox”, differs radically to that of many other countries, and mentioning “Sweden” in a current social network discussion is a safe way of being delegitimised as a reasonable discourse actor (Torjesen, 2021 ).

This suggests that the reductive notion of the science , like the similar formula the evidence (see Furedi, 2020 ), is defined based on particular principles of authority, established, though not overtly specified, by dominant discourse actors. It disclaims the multivoicedness, interdisciplinarity and plurality of processes of knowledge production (Knorr-Cetina, 1999 ) and serves as a discursive strategy of dialogic contraction, an expression of discursive hegemony: “The debate becomes polarised and binary: if the science says yes to face coverings, then challenging the orthodoxy or even questioning its universality becomes heretical” (Martin et al., 2020 , p. 506).

Taylor ( 2010 ) conducts a corpus-assisted study of the use of the term the science in UK press articles between 1993 and 2008. Referring to Aristotle’s model of rhetoric and argumentation, she argues that science , instead of being used as part of logos, providing logical proof, “is increasingly used as a part of ethos, that is, persuasion at the interpersonal level”, projecting a particular stance towards the audience and appealing to an unspecified or unexplained authority, “making the writer’s personal character appear more credible by enroling ‘science’ on their side of an argument” (Taylor, 2010 , p. 222). This is especially the case where authors “refer to some unspecified, autonomous, authoritative entity” such as the science (Taylor, 2010 , p. 236). These findings are echoed by Pérez-González’s ( 2020a , p. 13) study of a corpus of a wide range of climate change blogs, where bloggers attempt to construct authoritative voices of consensus by using the the science formula.

While scientific discourse in general is rarely characterised by consensus, it is much less so in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. A review of studies shows that a lot of research on the issue has been biased or of low quality (Raynaud et al., 2021 ). Critiques of bias in the acceptation and rejection of evidence have long existed (Stevens, 2007 ) and are echoed in a cross-country report on populism in the Covid-19 pandemic:

“Experts” are not neutral actors that will save liberal democracy from “bad populists”. […] [T]he pandemic has rather revealed the deeply political character of scientific input in critical junctures as well as the very political agency of experts themselves. […] It becomes apparent then that exactly as populists do not form a coherent bloc in the pandemic, experts too cannot be treated as a unified front, thus the dichotomy “ experts vs populists” is exposed as fundamentally flawed once more in the context of the ongoing crisis. (Katsambekis and Stavrakakis, 2020 , pp. 7–8)

Many righteous approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to the climate emergency, succeed in identifying ideologically motivated harmful practices, but succumb to the emancipatory modernist lack of self-reflexivity on whether its messages, which are meant to convince the targeted audience, do not just patronise it, as discussed above. Populists will respond to this not by accepting that they are wrong, but by rejecting the entire frame of knowledge: “We’ll probably also start to hear calls for climate lockdowns. I know, right now that sounds completely preposterous, but don’t these kooky ideas always find a way to bleed into the mainstream? […] Don’t worry though, they’re just following the science ” (Miller, 2021 ).

It is understandable to want to reinforce a society that bases its actions on informed opinion, especially in the age of Trumpism. However, it is the very reductionism of an approach that makes an unspecified truth-claim to the science and disqualifies everything else as unreasonable that allows populist actors like Trump to gain power by turning the same simple strategy on its head. The postmodernist challenges of a simplified, messianic notion of the science remain valid. The formula represents a simplistic and hegemonic view of what “science” is and threatens to turn it into a buzzword of discursive exclusion and disciplining, undermining equal engagement in knowledge production.

Conspiracy theory as a sanctioning device

The second structure of exclusion I discuss is the term conspiracy theory . Husting and Orr ( 2007 ) critique this term as a metadiscursive “vocabulary of motive in struggles over the meaning of social and political worlds, events, and ideas” ( 2007 , p. 132). In simple terms, its use signifies a discursive move of “going meta”, that is, “elect[ing] to step back from the immediacy of a question to question the questioner’s motives, or tone, or premises, or right to ask certain questions, or right to ask any questions at all” (Simons, 1994 , p. 470). Invoking the label conspiracy theory thus has the function of “shifting the focus of discourse to reframe another’s claims as unwarranted or unworthy of full consideration” (Husting and Orr, 2007 , p. 129). While research has put into question whether applying the label has any negative effect on the targeted actor’s beliefs (Wood, 2016 ), the accusation of conspiracy theory seeks to discursively expel actors from the community of reasonable interlocutors, thus “protecting certain decisions and people from question in arenas of political, cultural, and scholarly knowledge construction” (Husting and Orr, 2007 , p. 130) by reverting the focus of attention onto the questioner.

This discursive structure is often used in “cultures of fear” that “generate new mechanisms of social control” (Husting and Orr, 2007 , p. 128). Considering that many European countries are still in constant alert mode from terrorism, the description of such a culture fits the past year quite well:

fear and threat become the means for media, politicians, and corporations to sell commodities, buy votes, and justify policies reducing civil rights and promoting war (Altheide, 2000 ). As a mythos of consensus has turned into a mythos of fear, we would expect to find new interactional mechanisms to shield authority and legitimacy from challenge or accountability. (Husting and Orr, 2007 , p. 130)

More recently, Husting ( 2018 ) identifies two problems with current academic and journalist discourse around conspiracy. First, a cognitive approach, which “attempts to diagnose traits like character and intelligence, intent on identifying hidden, usually individualised causes of constructing, believing in, and circulating conspiracy theories” (Husting, 2018 , p. 111). By psychologising the subjects of its analysis in this way, “it misses the political work done by the labels themselves” and overstates their coherence to argue for their danger to society (Husting, 2018 , p. 112). Husting argues that this cognitive analysis expresses a neoliberal responsibilisation of the individual in various ways to “follow expert advice to optimise well-being and health of body, mind, and polis” (Husting, 2018 , p. 113). As citizens, we “regulate ourselves by regulating, judging, and contemning others, and keeping our own thoughts and styles of reason and emotion clear” (Husting, 2018 , p. 123). The disputes over truth, falsity and conspiracy theories thus “serve to construct, circulate, and enact a ‘well-tempered’ citizen in liberal politics” (Husting, 2018 , p. 113).

The second problem Husting ( 2018 ) identifies with current conspiracy theory discourse is its affective register. According to dominant analyses, conspiracy theorists “step out of the sphere of reason and logic, and enter the terrain of the emotional and the psychotic” (Husting, 2018 , p. 117). Yet conspiracy discourse is itself “a form of emotional and political engagement driven by contempt and laced with anger and fear” by policing the boundaries of reasonable political doubt and theorising an “uncorrupted democratic sphere” (Husting, 2018 , p. 117) outside ideology. By constructing conspiracy theories as threats to the order of the state and to the uncorrupted citizen, conspiracy theory discourse falls victim to the same pseudo-messianic discursive approach it seeks to unravel.

In a study of Wikipedia edits of the article on the German word for conspiracy theory, Verschwörungstheorie , Vogel ( 2018 ) argues that the term is not used with a descriptive, analytical function, but is part of an established metadiscursive accusatory, stigmatising and disciplinary pattern to sanction views from a position or epistemology outside the collectivism and the “sayable” in the ingroup, whose validity is assumed to be taken for granted (Vogel, 2018 , p. 281). As Husting ( 2018 , p. 120) says, “[o]nce the label ‘conspiracy theory’ sticks to someone, it impugns their intellectual and moral competence and relieves hearers of the need to consider the validity of her or his claims”. The use of the term, thus, lacks a problematisation of one’s own supposed neutrality. Its use is hegemonic, not analytical.

Vogel ( 2018 ) studies Wikipedia discourse specifically, but his observations are transferable to general social media discourse. And in the pandemic knowledge production, the epistemological conditions and power relations among participants within such knowledge production movements (Esteves, 2008 ) are comparable. Due to the shift of the public sphere into the digital as discussed above, most people will have experienced debates in online worlds along with everything this entails.

In a comprehensive survey of the usage of conspiracy theory , Butter ( 2018 ) writes that, while the Internet and social media have made conspiracy theories more visible and fast-moving, they are no more frequent or influential than they used to be because they are still regarded as “stigmatised knowledge”. In the wake of the current surge of populism combined with the fragmentation of society through the Internet, Butter ( 2018 , p. 18) argues, the fragmented public sphere and the different notions of truth condition the current debate in which some are afraid again of conspiracies while others are still worried about the fatal effects of conspiracy theories. The dialogic contraction we are arguably seeing can thus be traced to a particular constellation of fears for the public sphere combined with the fear of the pandemic.

In sum, value-laden terms such as conspiracy theory are attempts to exercise discursive power over others by excluding them from being reasonable participants in the debate, both in everyday interactions by users and in official government acts. Mechanisms that define limits of the sayable “weaken public spaces that are central for interaction, contest, and deliberation: the spaces where we define our world” (Husting and Orr, 2007 , p. 147).

In this section, I have discussed two structures of exclusion by dialogic contraction: the science and conspiracy theory . These are common terms in everyday discourse, but, as I have shown, their appropriateness for academic study and debate is questionable due to their hegemonic nature and unreflected reference to accepted and sanctioned knowledge. This is not to say, of course, that we should endorse conspiracy theories or reject science. The aim is rather to become aware of how all types of knowledge are related to power. I am not interested here in evaluating the veracity of particular discourses on the Covid-19 pandemic (cf. Husting and Orr, 2007 , p. 131), or even in whether conspiracy theories are dangerous or not, but in the mechanisms whereby one discourse becomes considered dominant and thus supported by financial and social capital whereas the other becomes confined to the margins of society (Mills, 2004 , p. 17).

In this paper, I have adopted the model of epidemic psychology, which functions fundamentally through linguistic interaction, and argued that social media use has fomented its effects in the reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic by providing sustained access to commentary and linguistic interaction. I have suggested that this social interaction in a context of a volatile intellectual state can be seen as a discourse of knowledge production, conducted largely on social media. This view, along with the power relations it implies, provides an approach to understanding the dynamics of polarisation as interpretative, outside established partisan lines. To understand the polarisation better, I have discussed two discursive structures of exclusion, the terms the science and conspiracy theory , which have characterised the knowledge production discourse of the Covid-19 pandemic on social media. I have argued that these are strategies of dialogic contraction which are based on a hegemonic view of knowledge and a simplistic view of ideology based in the emancipatory modernist view of language that represents the currently dominant form of discourse analysis.

With this line of argument, I have intended to make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic discourse and take a step towards understanding the polarisation in our societies. As I have argued, this polarisation is due to discourse practices and not attributable to social media technology. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to reflect on many things, not just ourselves, but also the way we study society and (means of) communication. A great amount of data is being collected (see, e.g. Chen et al., 2020 ) and many studies will investigate the role of language and social media in the social transformation we are going to see in the coming years. I hope that the literature review conducted in this article has contributed some reflections on pertinent concepts and possible methodologies, or at least heuristics, for these future studies to consider.

From the perspective of discourse studies, I have endorsed the practice of Critical Applied Linguistics (Pennycook, 2001 ), which identifies both strengths and weaknesses of current approaches to discourse and seeks to improve on them by a greater foundation in critical theory and by a series of paradigmatic characteristics to problematise practice. Arguments are to be sought in texts, not in author profiles, so constructing corpora of texts harvested in “conspiracy theory” or “anti-vaxxer” forums or that consist of “fake news” means starting from a value position, a truth claim that can only confirm ideologies we already look for, but hardly explain their working in society. As Butter and Knight ( 2016 , p. 23) argue, “the aim of producing empirical, value-neutral research on the phenomenon of ‘conspiracy theory’ is misguided, because the term itself is not value-neutral”.

Categories such as “class”, “gender”, but also “identity” are often assumed to “exist prior to language”, to be reflected in language use, when really they need to be explained themselves, with language being a part of this explanation (Cameron, 1995 , p. 15). Like other conflicts, the polarisation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has unveiled “the processes of norm-making and norm-breaking, bringing into the open the arguments that surround rules […] and how unquestioned (‘conventional’) ways of behaving are implicitly understood by social actors” (Cameron, 1995 , p. 17). It is this kind of processes that should be studied from a self-reflexive position that is aware of its own subjection to ideology and power relations.

A promising approach might be found in the Critical Disinformation Studies syllabus (Marwick et al., 2021 ), which argues, among other things, that fake news do not originate in extremism, but that “strategic disinformation and its cousin ‘propaganda’ are state and media industry practices with very long histories”, so instead of “plac[ing] the responsibility on individuals to become better consumers of media”, this approach seeks to “foreground questions of power, institutions, and economic, social, cultural, and technological structures as they shape disinformation”. Research shows that greater public awareness of how science communication works increases the acceptance of scientific findings regardless of partisan ideologies (Weisberg et al., 2021 ).

The process of knowledge production on social media I envision in this paper in many ways resembles what is taking place in climate action and environmentalism (Pérez-González, 2020a ). One might counter that the pandemic response cannot be called a social movement, but has been more of an emergency response to a problem that was always short-lived, and much more fast-paced than climate change, so is not perfectly comparable. But the knowledge production conducted on social media, and some of the movements born from this (see Sitrin and Colectiva Sembrar, 2020 ), provides a blueprint for environmentalism, a social movement that could benefit from the same kind of knowledge-practice. Some see the Covid-19 pandemic as a “test run” for the climate emergency, as there is hope “that the great mobilisations of state resources currently being unspooled to address Covid-19 prove the possibility of a comparable or greater mobilisation against ecological catastrophe” (Clover, 2021 , p. S28). Nevertheless, the climate emergency has only recently been labelled thus and its perceived and mediatised urgency does not match that of Covid-19, though of course its destructive potential is far greater. The debate on science and knowledge in our societies and the ways in which these discourses are structured and mediated in social networks are thus of prime importance.

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How to Write a Discursive Essay: Tips, Examples, and Structure

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How to Write a Discursive Essay: Tips, Examples, and Structure

Mastering the Art of Writing a Discursive Essay

Table of contents.


Understanding Discursive Essays

Discursive essay writing tips, discursive essay structure, examples of discursive essays, picking the right discursive essay topics, discursive essay format, crafting a strong discursive essay outline, writing an effective discursive essay introduction, nailing the discursive essay conclusion.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to write a discursive essay effectively. If you’re unfamiliar with this type of essay or want to improve your skills, you’ve come to the right place! This guide will cover How to Write a Discursive Essay , examples, and strategies to help you craft a compelling discursive essay.

Are you ready to master this art of writing ? This article will explain a discursive essay and explore various aspects such as writing tips, structure, examples, and format. So, let’s dive right in and unveil the key elements of an impressive discursive essay.

a discursive essay about social media

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of writing a discursive essay , let’s take a moment to understand its nature and purpose. A discursive essay presents a balanced argument on a particular topic by exploring different perspectives. It requires the writer to consider different viewpoints, present evidence, and critically analyze the subject matter.

Writing a discursive essay can be challenging, but you can excel in this art form with the right approach. Here are some valuable tips that will help you write a discursive essay effectively:

  • Choose an Engaging Topic: Select a topic that is interesting and relevant to your audience. This will make the essay more engaging and enjoyable to read.
  • Thorough Research: Gather extensive information from reliable sources to support your arguments and counterarguments.
  • Plan and Outline: Take the time to plan and create an outline before diving into the writing process. This will help you organize your thoughts and arguments effectively.
  • Clear Introduction: Start with a concise introduction that provides context and grabs the reader’s attention. Clearly state your thesis or main argument.
  • Well-structured Paragraphs: Divide your essay into paragraphs that focus on specific points. Each paragraph should present a new idea or support a previous one.
  • Logical Flow: Maintain a logical flow using transitional words and phrases that connect your ideas and paragraphs smoothly.
  • Balance Your Arguments: Ensure a balance in presenting the pros and cons of each perspective. This will demonstrate your fairness and critical thinking skills.
  • Support with Evidence: Provide evidence, facts, and examples to support your claims and make your arguments more persuasive.
  • Use Clear Language: Avoid jargon and overly complex language. Opt for clear, concise, and precise language that is easy for readers to comprehend.
  • Proofread and Edit: Always revise, proofread, and edit your essay to ensure clarity, coherence, and proper grammar usage.

Following these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to write an impressive discursive essay that effectively presents your arguments and engages your readers.

A well-structured discursive essay enhances readability and ensures that your arguments are coherent. Here’s a suggested structure that you can follow:

  • Hook the reader with an attention-grabbing statement or anecdote.
  • Introduce the topic and provide background information.
  • Present your thesis statement or main argument.
  • Start each paragraph with a topic sentence introducing a new argument or perspective.
  • Provide evidence, examples, and supporting details to justify your claims.
  • Address counterarguments and present rebuttals, showing your ability to consider different viewpoints.
  • Use transitional words to maintain a smooth flow between paragraphs.
  • Summarize the main points discussed in the essay.
  • Restate your thesis statement while considering the arguments presented.
  • End with a thought-provoking statement or call to action.

By adhering to this structure, your discursive essay will be well-organized and easy for readers to follow.

To gain a better understanding of how discursive essays are written, let’s explore a couple of examples:

Example 1: The Impact of Social Media

Introduction: The growing influence of social media in society.

Main Body: Discussing the positive and negative aspects of social media on communication, mental health, privacy, and relationships.

Conclusion: Weighing the overall impact of social media and proposing ways to harness its strengths and mitigate its drawbacks.

Example 2: The Pros and Cons of School Uniforms

Introduction: Introducing the debate on school uniforms.

Main Body: Exploring the arguments supporting school uniforms (such as fostering discipline and equality) and arguments against them (such as limiting self-expression).

Conclusion: Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of school uniforms and suggesting potential compromises.

These examples illustrate how discursive essays analyze various perspectives on a topic while maintaining a balanced approach.

Choosing an engaging and relevant topic is crucial to capturing your readers’ attention. Here are some popular discursive essay topics to consider:

  • Is social media beneficial or detrimental to society?
  • Should the death penalty be abolished worldwide?
  • Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) safe for consumption?
  • Should recreational marijuana use be legalized?
  • Are video games responsible for the rise in violence among youth?

When selecting a topic, ensure it is captivating, allows for multiple viewpoints, and is backed by sufficient research material.

While there is flexibility in formatting a discursive essay, adhering to a standard format enhances clarity and readability. Consider following this general format:

  • Font type and size: Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri with a 12-point font size.
  • Line spacing: Double-spaced throughout the essay.
  • Page margins: 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Title page: Include the essay title, your name, course name, instructor’s name, and submission date (if applicable).
  • Header: Insert a header with your last name and page number (top-right corner).

A consistent format will make your essay more professional and easier to navigate.

a discursive essay about social media

Before writing your discursive essay, creating an outline that organizes your thoughts and arguments effectively is essential. Here’s a sample outline to help you get started:

I. Introduction

B. Background information

C. Thesis statement

II. Main Body

A. Argument 1

1. Supporting evidence

2. Examples

B. Argument 2

C. Argument 3

1 . Supporting evidence

2 . Examples

III. Counterarguments and Rebuttals

A. Counterargument 1

1 . Rebuttal evidence

B. Counterargument 2

C . Counterargument 3

IV. Conclusion

A. Summary of main points

B . Restating the thesis statement

C. Call to action or thought-provoking statement

By structuring your ideas in an outline, you’ll have a clear roadmap for your essay, ensuring that your arguments flow logically.

The introduction of your discursive essay plays a vital role in capturing your reader’s attention and setting the tone for the essay. Here’s how you can make your introduction compelling:

Start With an Engaging Hook: Begin with a captivating opening sentence, such as a surprising statistic, an intriguing question, or a compelling anecdote related to your topic.

Provide Necessary Background Information: Briefly explain the topic and its relevance to the reader.

Present Your Thesis Statement: Clearly state your main argument or thesis, which will guide your essay’s direction and focus.

You’ll establish a strong foundation for your discursive essay by crafting an engaging and informative introduction.

The conclusion of your discursive essay should effectively summarize your main points and leave a lasting impression on your readers. Here’s how you can achieve this:

Summarize the Main Points: Briefly recap the key arguments and perspectives discussed in the essay.

Restate Your Thesis Statement: Reiterate your main argument while considering the various perspectives.

Call to Action or Thought-Provoking Statement: End your essay with a compelling statement or encourage readers to explore the topic further, sparking discussion and reflection.

By crafting a powerful conclusion, you’ll leave a lasting impact on your readers, ensuring they walk away with a clear understanding of your essay’s message.

Congratulations! You’ve now comprehensively understood how to write a discursive essay effectively. Remember to choose an engaging topic, conduct thorough research, create a clear structure, and present balanced arguments while considering different perspectives. Following these guidelines and incorporating our tips, you’ll be well-equipped to craft a compelling discursive essay.

So, start writing your discursive essay following our comprehensive guide. Unlock your writing potential and captivate your readers with an impressive discursive essay that showcases your analytical skills and ability to present compelling arguments. Happy writing!

a discursive essay about social media

Frequently Asked Questions About “How to Write a Discursive Essay Effectively”

What is a discursive essay, and how does it differ from other types of essays.

A discursive essay explores a particular topic by presenting different perspectives and arguments. It differs from other essays, emphasizing balanced, unbiased discussion rather than a single, strong stance.

How should I choose a topic for my discursive essay?

Select a topic that allows for multiple viewpoints and has room for discussion. Controversial issues or topics with various opinions work well, providing ample material for exploration.

What is the typical structure of a discursive essay?

A discursive essay typically has an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction sets the stage, the body paragraphs present different viewpoints, and the conclusion summarizes the key points and your stance.

Is it necessary to choose a side in a discursive essay?

While you don’t have to take a definite side, you should present a balanced view. However, some essay prompts may ask you to argue for or against a particular position.

How do I start the introduction of a discursive essay?

Begin with a hook to capture the reader’s attention, provide background information, and clearly state the issue you will discuss. End the introduction with a thesis statement that outlines your approach.

Should I use formal language in a discursive essay?

Yes, maintain a formal and objective tone. Avoid using first-person pronouns and aim for clarity and precision in your language.

How many viewpoints should I include in the body paragraphs?

Include at least two or three well-developed viewpoints. Ensure that each paragraph focuses on a specific aspect or argument related to the topic.

How do I transition between paragraphs in a discursive essay?

Use transitional phrases to move smoothly from one idea to the next. This helps maintain a logical flow and coherence in your essay.

Can I include personal opinions in a discursive essay?

While you can present your opinions, remaining objective and supporting your views with evidence is crucial. The emphasis should be on presenting a well-rounded discussion rather than expressing personal bias.

How do I conclude a discursive essay effectively?

Summarize the main points discussed in the body paragraphs, restate your thesis nuancedly, and offer a closing thought or call to action. Avoid introducing new information in the conclusion.

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26 Planning a Discursive Essay

Discursive essay – description.

A discursive essay is a form of critical essay that attempts to provide the reader with a balanced argument on a topic, supported by evidence. It requires critical thinking, as well as sound and valid arguments (see Chapter 25) that acknowledge and analyse arguments both for and against any given topic, plus discursive essay writing appeals to reason, not emotions or opinions. While it may draw some tentative conclusions, based on evidence, the main aim of a discursive essay is to inform the reader of the key arguments and allow them to arrive at their own conclusion.

The writer needs to research the topic thoroughly to present more than one perspective and should check their own biases and assumptions through critical reflection (see Chapter 30).

Unlike persuasive writing, the writer does not need to have knowledge of the audience, though should write using academic tone and language (see Chapter 20).

Choose Your Topic Carefully

A basic guide to choosing an assignment topic is available in Chapter 23, however choosing a topic for a discursive essay means considering more than one perspective. Not only do you need to find information about the topic via academic sources, you need to be able to construct a worthwhile discussion, moving from idea to idea. Therefore, more forward planning is required. The following are decisions that need to be considered when choosing a discursive essay topic:

  • These will become the controlling ideas for your three body paragraphs (some essays may require more). Each controlling idea will need arguments both for and against.
  • For example, if my topic is “renewable energy” and my three main (controlling) ideas are “cost”, “storage”, “environmental impact”, then I will need to consider arguments both for and against each of these three concepts. I will also need to have good academic sources with examples or evidence to support my claim and counter claim for each controlling idea (More about this in Chapter 27).
  • Am I able to write a thesis statement about this topic based on the available research? In other words, do my own ideas align with the available research, or am I going to be struggling to support my own ideas due to a lack of academic sources or research? You need to be smart about your topic choice. Do not make it harder than it has to be. Writing a discursive essay is challenging enough without struggling to find appropriate sources.
  • For example, perhaps I find a great academic journal article about the uptake of solar panel installation in suburban Australia and how this household decision is cost-effective long-term, locally stored, and has minimal, even beneficial environmental impact due to the lowering of carbon emissions. Seems too good to be true, yet it is perfect for my assignment. I would have to then find arguments AGAINST everything in the article that supports transitioning suburbs to solar power. I would have to challenge the cost-effectiveness, the storage, and the environmental impact study. Now, all of a sudden my task just became much more challenging.
  • There may be vast numbers of journal articles written about your topic, but consider how relevant they may be to your tentative thesis statement. It takes a great deal of time to search for appropriate academic sources. Do you have a good internet connection at home or will you need to spend some quality time at the library? Setting time aside to complete your essay research is crucial for success.

It is only through complete forward planning about the shape and content of your essay that you may be able to choose the topic that best suits your interests, academic ability and time management. Consider how you will approach the overall project, not only the next step.

Research Your Topic

When completing a library search for online peer reviewed journal articles, do not forget to use Boolean Operators to refine or narrow your search field. Standard Boolean Operators are (capitalized) AND, OR and NOT. While using OR will expand your search, AND and NOT will reduce the scope of your search. For example, if I want information on ageism and care giving, but I only want it to relate to the elderly, I might use the following to search a database: ageism AND care NOT children. Remember to keep track of your search strings (like the one just used) and then you’ll know what worked and what didn’t as you come and go from your academic research.

The UQ Library provides an excellent step-by-step guide to searching databases:

Searching in databases – Library – University of Queensland (uq.edu.au)

Did you know that you can also link the UQ Library to Google Scholar? This link tells you how:

Google Scholar – Library – University of Queensland (uq.edu.au)

Write the Thesis Statement

The concept of a thesis statement was introduced in Chapter 21. The information below relates specifically to a discursive essay thesis statement.

As noted in the introduction to this chapter, the discursive essay should not take a stance and therefore the thesis statement must also impartially indicate more than one perspective. The goal is to present both sides of an argument equally and allow the reader to make an informed and well-reasoned choice after providing supporting evidence for each side of the argument.

Sample thesis statements: Solar energy is a cost -effective solution to burning fossil fuels for electricity , however lower income families cannot afford the installation costs .

Some studies indicate that teacher comments written in red may have no effect on students’ emotions , however other studies suggest that seeing red ink on papers could cause some students unnecessary stress. [1]

According to social justice principles, education should be available to all , yet historically, the intellectually and physically impaired may have been exempt from participation due to their supposed inability to learn. [2]

This is where your pros and cons list comes into play. For each pro, or positive statement you make, about your topic, create an equivalent con, or negative statement and this will enable you to arrive at two opposing assertions – the claim and counter claim.

While there may be multiple arguments or perspectives related to your essay topic, it is important that you match each claim with a counter-claim. This applies to the thesis statement and each supporting argument within the body paragraphs of the essay.

It is not just a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. A neutral tone is crucial. Do not include positive or negative leading statements, such as “It is undeniable that…” or “One should not accept the view that…”. You are NOT attempting to persuade the reader to choose one viewpoint over another.

Leading statements / language will be discussed further, in class, within term three of the Academic English course.

Thesis Structure:

  • Note the two sides (indicated in green and orange)
  • Note the use of tentative language: “Some studies”, “may have”, “could cause”, “some students”
  • As the thesis is yet to be discussed in-depth, and you are not an expert in the field, do not use definitive language
  • The statement is also one sentence, with a “pivot point” in the middle, with a comma and signposting to indicate a contradictory perspective (in black). Other examples include, nevertheless, though, although, regardless, yet, albeit. DO NOT use the word “but” as it lacks academic tone. Some signposts (e.g., although, though, while) may be placed at the start of the two clauses rather than in the middle – just remember the comma, for example, “While some studies suggest solar energy is cost-effective, other critical research questions its affordability.”
  • Also note that it is based on preliminary research and not opinion: “some studies”, “other studies”, “according to social justice principles”, “critical research”.

Claims and Counter Claims

NOTE: Please do not confuse the words ‘claim’ and ‘counter-claim’ with moral or value judgements about right/wrong, good/bad, successful/unsuccessful, or the like. The term ‘claim’ simply refers to the first position or argument you put forward (whether for or against), and ‘counter-claim’ is the alternate position or argument.

In a discursive essay the goal is to present both sides equally and then draw some tentative conclusions based on the evidence presented.

  • To formulate your claims and counter claims, write a list of pros and cons.
  • For each pro there should be a corresponding con.
  • Three sets of pros and cons will be required for your discursive essay. One set for each body paragraph. These become your claims and counter claims.
  • For a longer essay, you would need further claims and counter claims.
  • Some instructors prefer students to keep the pros and cons in the same order across the body paragraphs. Each paragraph would then have a pro followed by a con or else a con followed by a pro. The order should align with your thesis; if the thesis gives a pro view of the topic followed by a negative view (con) then the paragraphs should also start with the pro and follow with the con, or else vice versa. If not aligned and consistent, the reader may easily become confused as the argument proceeds. Ask your teacher if this is a requirement for your assessment.

a discursive essay about social media

Use previous chapters to explore your chosen topic through concept mapping (Chapter 18) and essay outlining (Chapter 19), with one variance; you must include your proposed claims and counter claims in your proposed paragraph structures. What follows is a generic model for a discursive essay. The following Chapter 27 will examine this in further details.

Sample Discursive Essay Outline 

The paragraphs are continuous; the dot-points are only meant to indicate content.


  • Thesis statement
  • Essay outline (including 3 controlling ideas)

Body Paragraphs X 3 (Elaboration and evidence will be more than one sentence, though the topic, claim and counter claim should be succinct)

  • T opic sentence, including 1/3 controlling ideas (the topic remains the same throughout the entire essay; it is the controlling idea that changes)
  • A claim/assertion about the controlling idea
  • E laboration – more information about the claim
  • E vidence -academic research (Don’t forget to tell the reader how / why the evidence supports the claim. Be explicit in your E valuation rather than assuming the connection is obvious to the reader)
  • A counter claim (remember it must be COUNTER to the claim you made, not about something different)
  • E laboration – more information about the counter claim
  • E vidence – academic research (Don’t forget to tell the reader how / why the evidence supports the claim. Be explicit in your E valuation rather than assuming the connection is obvious to the reader)
  • Concluding sentence – L inks back to the topic and/or the next controlling idea in the following paragraph

Mirror the introduction. The essay outline should have stated the plan for the essay – “This essay will discuss…”, therefore the conclusion should identify that this has been fulfilled, “This essay has discussed…”, plus summarise the controlling ideas and key arguments. ONLY draw tentative conclusions BOTH for and against, allowing the reader to make up their own mind about the topic. Also remember to re-state the thesis in the conclusion. If it is part of the marking criteria, you should also include a recommendation or prediction about the future use or cost/benefit of the chosen topic/concept.

A word of warning, many students fall into the generic realm of stating that there should be further research on their topic or in the field of study. This is a gross statement of the obvious as all academia is ongoing. Try to be more practical with your recommendations and also think about who would instigate them and where the funding might come from.

This chapter gives an overview of what a discursive essay is and a few things to consider when choosing your topic. It also provides a generic outline for a discursive essay structure. The following chapter examines the structure in further detail.

  • Inez, S. M. (2018, September 10). What is a discursive essay, and how do you write a good one? Kibin. ↵
  • Hale, A., & Basides, H. (2013). The keys to academic English. Palgrave ↵

researched, reliable, written by academics and published by reputable publishers; often, but not always peer reviewed

assertion, maintain as fact

The term ‘claim’ simply refers to the first position or argument you put forward (whether for or against), and ‘counter-claim’ is the alternate position or argument.

Academic Writing Skills Copyright © 2021 by Patricia Williamson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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a discursive essay about social media

How to Write a Discursive Essay: Awesome Guide and Template

a discursive essay about social media

Interesting fact: Did you know that the term "discursive" is derived from the Latin word "discursus," which means to run about or to traverse? This reflects the nature of a discursive essay, as it involves exploring various perspectives, moving through different points of view, and presenting a comprehensive discussion on a given topic.

In this article, you will find out about a discursive essay definition, learn the difference between a discourse and an argumentative essay, gain practical how-to tips, and check out a discursive essay example.  

What Is a Discursive Essay

A discursive essay definition is a type of formal writing that presents a balanced analysis of a particular topic. Unlike an argumentative essay, which takes a firm stance on a single perspective and seeks to persuade the reader to adopt that viewpoint, a discursive essay explores multiple sides of an issue. 

The goal of a discursive essay is to provide a comprehensive overview of the subject, presenting different arguments, counterarguments, and perspectives in a structured and organized manner.

This type of essay encourages critical thinking and reasoned discourse. It typically includes an introduction that outlines the topic and sets the stage for the discussion, followed by a series of body paragraphs that delve into various aspects of the issue. The essay may also address counterarguments and opposing viewpoints. 

Finally, a discursive essay concludes by summarizing the key points and often leaves room for the reader to form their own informed opinion on the matter. This form of writing is commonly assigned in academic settings, allowing students to demonstrate their ability to analyze complex topics and present a well-reasoned exploration of diverse viewpoints. In case you find this type of composition too difficult, just say, ‘ write my paper ,’ and professional writers will take care of it. 

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Difference Between a Discursive Essay and an Argumentative

The main difference between discursive essays and argumentative lies in their overall purpose and approach to presenting information.

  • Discursive: The primary purpose of a discursive essay is to explore and discuss various perspectives on a given topic. How to write a discursive essay is about providing a comprehensive overview of the subject matter by presenting different arguments, opinions, and viewpoints without necessarily advocating for a specific stance.
  • Argumentative: In contrast, an argumentative essay is designed to persuade the reader to adopt a particular viewpoint or take a specific action. It presents a clear and focused argument in favor of the writer's position, often addressing and refuting opposing views.

Tone and Language:

  • Discursive: The tone of a discursive essay is generally more balanced and objective. It allows for a more open exploration of ideas, and the language used is often neutral and formal.
  • Argumentative: An argumentative essay tends to have a more assertive tone. The language is focused on presenting a compelling case from the writer's perspective, and there may be a sense of conviction in the presentation of evidence and reasoning.
  • Discursive Essay: A discursive essay typically follows a more flexible structure. It may present multiple points of view in separate sections, allowing for a free-flowing exploration of the topic.
  • Argumentative Essay: When learning how to write an argumentative essay, students usually follow a more rigid structure, with a clear introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs that present evidence and arguments, and a conclusion that reinforces the writer's stance.


  • Discursive Essay: The conclusion of a discursive essay often summarizes the main points discussed and may leave room for the reader to form their own opinion on the matter.
  • Argumentative Essay: The conclusion of an argumentative essay reinforces the writer's position and may include a call to action or a clear statement of the desired outcome.

While both types of essays involve critical thinking and analysis, the key distinction lies in their ultimate goals and how they approach the presentation of information. 

Types of Discursive Essay

Before writing a discursive essay, keep in mind that they can be categorized into different types based on their specific purposes and structures. Here are some common types of discursive essays:

purpose of discursive essay

Opinion Essays:

  • Purpose: Expressing and supporting personal opinions on a given topic.
  • Structure: The essay presents the writer's viewpoint and provides supporting evidence, examples, and arguments. It may also address counterarguments to strengthen the overall discussion.

Problem-Solution Essays:

  • Purpose: Identifying a specific problem and proposing effective solutions.
  • Structure: The essay introduces the problem, discusses its causes and effects, and presents possible solutions. It often concludes with a recommendation or call to action.

Compare and Contrast Essays:

  • Purpose: Analyzing similarities and differences between two or more perspectives, ideas, or approaches.
  • Structure: The essay outlines the key points of each perspective, highlighting similarities and differences. A balanced analysis is provided to give the reader a comprehensive understanding.

Cause and Effect Essays:

  • Purpose: Exploring the causes and effects of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Structure: The essay identifies the primary causes and examines their effects or vice versa. It may delve into the chain of events and their implications.

Argumentative Essays:

  • Purpose: Presenting a strong argument in favor of a specific viewpoint.
  • Structure: The essay establishes a clear thesis statement, provides evidence and reasoning to support the argument, and addresses opposing views. It aims to persuade the reader to adopt the writer's perspective.

Pro-Con Essays:

  • Purpose: Evaluating the pros and cons of a given issue.
  • Structure: The essay presents the positive aspects (pros) and negative aspects (cons) of the topic. It aims to provide a balanced assessment and may conclude with a recommendation or a summary of the most compelling points.

Exploratory Essays:

  • Purpose: Investigating and discussing a topic without necessarily advocating for a specific position.
  • Structure: The essay explores various aspects of the topic, presenting different perspectives and allowing the reader to form their own conclusions. It often reflects a process of inquiry and discovery.

These types of discursive essays offer different approaches to presenting information, and the choice of type depends on the specific goals of the essay and the preferences of the writer.

How to Write a Discursive Essay

Unlike other forms of essay writing, a discursive essay demands a unique set of skills, inviting writers to navigate through diverse perspectives, present contrasting viewpoints, and weave a tapestry of balanced arguments. 

You can order custom essay right now to save time to get ready to delve into the art of crafting a compelling discursive essay, unraveling the intricacies of structure, language, and critical analysis. Whether you're a seasoned essayist or a novice in the realm of formal writing, this exploration promises to equip you with the tools needed to articulate your thoughts effectively and engage your audience in thoughtful discourse. 

discursive essay aspects

Discursive Essay Format

The format of a discursive essay plays a crucial role in ensuring a clear, well-organized, and persuasive presentation of multiple perspectives on a given topic. Here is a typical discursive essay structure:

1. Introduction:

  • Hook: Begin with a captivating hook or attention-grabbing statement to engage the reader's interest.
  • Contextualization: Provide a brief overview of the topic and its relevance, setting the stage for the discussion.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the main argument or the purpose of the essay. In a discursive essay, the thesis often reflects the idea that the essay will explore multiple viewpoints without necessarily taking a firm stance.

2. Body Paragraphs:

  • Topic Sentences: Start each body paragraph with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main point or argument.
  • Presentation of Arguments: Devote individual paragraphs to different aspects of the topic, presenting various arguments, perspectives, or evidence. Ensure a logical flow between paragraphs.
  • Address Counterarguments: Acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints to strengthen the overall credibility of your essay.
  • Supporting Evidence: Provide examples, statistics, quotations, or other forms of evidence to bolster each argument.

3. Transitions:

  • Logical Transitions: Use transitional phrases and words to ensure a smooth and logical flow between paragraphs and ideas. This helps readers follow your line of reasoning.

4. Conclusion:

  • Restate Thesis: Summarize the main argument or purpose of the essay without introducing new information.
  • Brief Recap: Provide a concise recap of the key points discussed in the body paragraphs.
  • Closing Thoughts: Offer some closing thoughts or reflections on the significance of the topic. You may also leave room for the reader to consider their own stance.

5. Language and Style:

  • Formal Tone: Maintain a formal and objective tone throughout the essay.
  • Clarity and Coherence: Ensure that your ideas are presented clearly and that there is coherence in your argumentation.
  • Varied Sentence Structure: Use a variety of sentence structures to enhance readability and engagement.

6. References (if applicable):

  • Citations: If you use external sources, cite them appropriately according to the citation style required (e.g., APA, MLA).

Remember, flexibility exists within this format, and the specifics may vary based on the assignment requirements or personal writing preferences. Tailor the structure to suit the demands of your discourse and the expectations of your audience.


A discursive essay introduction serves as the gateway to a thought-provoking exploration of diverse perspectives on a given topic. Here's how to structure an effective discursive essay introduction:

  • Begin with a compelling hook that captures the reader's attention. This could be a striking statistic, a thought-provoking quote, a relevant anecdote, or a rhetorical question. 
  • Offer a brief context or background information about the topic. This helps orient the reader and sets the stage for the discussion to follow. 
  • Clearly state the purpose of the essay. This often involves indicating that the essay will explore various perspectives on the topic without necessarily advocating for a specific stance. 
  • Provide a brief overview of the different aspects or arguments that will be explored in the essay. 
  • Conclude the introduction with a clear and concise thesis statement. 

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Writing a discursive essay involves crafting the body of your discursive essay. The number of paragraphs in the body should correspond to the arguments presented, with an additional paragraph dedicated to the opposing viewpoint if you choose to disclose both sides of the argument. If you opt for this approach, alternate the order of the body paragraphs—supporting arguments followed by counterarguments.

Each body paragraph in your discursive essay should focus on a distinct idea. Begin the paragraph with the main idea, provide a concise summary of the argument, and incorporate supporting evidence from reputable sources.

In the concluding paragraph of the body, present potential opposing arguments and counter them. Approach this section as if engaging in a debate, strategically dismantling opposing viewpoints.

While composing the body of a discursive essay, maintain a cohesive narrative. Although individual paragraphs address different arguments, refrain from titling each paragraph—aim for a seamless flow throughout the essay. Express your personal opinions exclusively in the conclusion.

Key guidelines for writing the body of a discursive essay:

  • Remain Unbiased: Prioritize objectivity. Evaluate all facets of the issue, leaving personal sentiments aside.
  • Build Your Argumentation: If you have multiple arguments supporting your viewpoint, present them in separate, well-structured paragraphs. Provide supporting evidence to enhance clarity and credibility.
  • Use an Alternate Writing Style: Present opposing viewpoints in an alternating manner. This means that if the first paragraph supports the main argument, the second should present an opposing perspective. This method enhances clarity and research depth and ensures neutrality.
  • Include Topic Sentences and Evidence: Commence each paragraph with a topic sentence summarizing the argument. This aids reader comprehension. Substantiate your claims with evidence, reinforcing the credibility of your discourse.

By adhering to these principles, you can construct a coherent and well-supported body for your discursive essay.


Writing an effective conclusion is crucial to leaving a lasting impression on your reader. Here are some tips to guide you in crafting a compelling and impactful conclusion:

  • Begin your conclusion by summarizing the key points discussed in the body of the essay. 
  • Remind the reader of your thesis statement, emphasizing the primary purpose of your discursive essay. 
  • Address the broader significance or implications of the topic. 
  • Explain why the issue is relevant and underscore the importance of considering multiple perspectives in understanding its complexity.
  • Reiterate the balanced nature of your essay. Emphasize that you have explored various viewpoints and arguments without necessarily taking a firm stance.
  • Reinforce the idea that your goal was to present a comprehensive analysis.
  • If applicable, suggest possible recommendations or solutions based on the insights gained from the essay.
  • Encourage the reader to reflect on the topic independently. 
  • Pose open-ended questions or invite them to consider the implications of the arguments presented. 
  • Resist the temptation to introduce new information or arguments in the conclusion.
  • Keep the tone of your conclusion professional and thoughtful. 
  • Conclude your essay with a strong, memorable closing statement.
  • Carefully review your conclusion to ensure clarity and coherence. Edit for grammar, punctuation, and overall writing quality to present a polished final product.

By incorporating these tips into your discursive essay conclusion, you can effectively summarize your arguments, leave a lasting impression, and prompt thoughtful reflection from your readers. Consider using our term paper writing service if you have to deal with a larger assignment that requires more time and effort.

Yays and Nays of Writing Discourse Essays

In learning how to write a discursive essay, certain do's and don'ts serve as guiding principles throughout the writing process. By adhering to these guidelines, writers can navigate the complexities of presenting arguments, counterarguments, and nuanced analyses, ensuring the essay resonates with clarity and persuasiveness.

  • Conduct thorough research on the topic to ensure a well-informed discussion.
  • Present multiple perspectives on the issue, exploring various arguments and viewpoints.
  • Maintain a balanced and neutral tone. Present arguments objectively without expressing personal bias.
  • Structure your essay logically with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Use paragraphs to organize your ideas effectively.
  • Topic Sentences:
  • Include clear topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph to guide the reader through your arguments.
  • Support your arguments with credible evidence from reputable sources to enhance the credibility of your essay.
  • Use transitional words and phrases to ensure a smooth flow between paragraphs and ideas.
  • Engage in critical analysis. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments and viewpoints.
  • Recap key points in the conclusion, summarizing the main arguments and perspectives discussed in the essay.
  • Carefully proofread your essay to correct any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.
  • Don't express personal opinions in the body of the essay. Save personal commentary for the conclusion.
  • Don't introduce new information or arguments in the conclusion. This section should summarize and reflect on existing content.
  • Don't use overly emotional or subjective language. Maintain a professional and objective tone throughout.
  • Don't rely on personal opinions without sufficient research. Ensure that your arguments are supported by credible evidence.
  • Don't have an ambiguous or unclear thesis statement. Clearly state the purpose of your essay in the introduction.
  • Don't ignore counterarguments. Acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints to strengthen your overall argument.
  • Don't use overly complex language if it doesn't add to the clarity of your arguments. Strive for clarity and simplicity in your writing.
  • Don't present ideas in a disorganized manner. Ensure that there is a logical flow between paragraphs and ideas.
  • Don't excessively repeat the same points. Present a variety of arguments and perspectives to keep the essay engaging.
  • Don't ignore the guidelines provided for the essay assignment. Follow any specific instructions or requirements given by your instructor or institution.

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Discursive Essay Examples

Discursive essay topics.

Writing a discursive essay on a compelling topic holds immense importance as it allows individuals to engage in a nuanced exploration of diverse perspectives. A well-chosen subject encourages critical thinking and deepens one's understanding of complex issues, fostering intellectual growth. 

The process of exploring a good topic enhances research skills as writers delve into varied viewpoints and gather evidence to support their arguments. Moreover, such essays contribute to the broader academic discourse, encouraging readers to contemplate different facets of a subject and form informed opinions.

  • The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Employment.
  • Should Social Media Platforms Regulate Content for Misinformation?
  • Exploring the Ethics of Cloning in Contemporary Science.
  • Universal Basic Income: A Solution for Economic Inequality?
  • The Role of Technology in Shaping Modern Education.
  • Nuclear Energy: Sustainable Solution or Environmental Risk?
  • The Effects of Video Games on Adolescent Behavior.
  • Cybersecurity Threats in the Digital Age: Balancing Privacy and Security.
  • Debunking Common Myths Surrounding Climate Change.
  • The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
  • Online Education vs. Traditional Classroom Learning.
  • The Impact of Social Media Influencers on Consumer Behavior.
  • The Ethics of Animal Testing in Medical Research.
  • Universal Healthcare: Addressing Gaps in Healthcare Systems.
  • The Role of Government in Regulating Cryptocurrencies.
  • The Influence of Advertising on Body Image and Self-Esteem.
  • Renewable Energy Sources: A Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels?
  • The Implications of Space Exploration on Earth's Resources.
  • Is Censorship Justified in the Arts and Entertainment Industry?
  • Examining the Impact of Globalization on Cultural Identity.
  • The Morality of Capital Punishment in the 21st Century.
  • Should Genetic Engineering be Used for Human Enhancement?
  • Social Media and Its Influence on Political Discourse.
  • Balancing Environmental Conservation with Economic Development.
  • The Role of Gender in the Workplace: Achieving Equality.
  • Exploring the Impact of Fast Fashion on the Environment.
  • The Benefits and Risks of Autonomous Vehicles.
  • The Influence of Media on Perceptions of Beauty.
  • Legalization of Marijuana: Addressing Medical and Social Implications.
  • The Impact of Antibiotic Resistance on Global Health.
  • The Pros and Cons of a Cashless Society.
  • Exploring the Relationship Between Technology and Mental Health.
  • The Role of Government Surveillance in Ensuring National Security.
  • Addressing the Digital Divide: Ensuring Access to Technology for All.
  • The Impact of Social Media on Political Activism.
  • The Ethics of Animal Rights and Welfare.
  • Nuclear Disarmament: Necessity or Utopian Ideal?
  • The Effects of Income Inequality on Societal Well-being.
  • The Role of Education in Combating Systemic Racism.
  • The Influence of Pop Culture on Society's Values and Norms.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on Creative Industries.
  • The Pros and Cons of Mandatory Vaccination Policies.
  • The Role of Women in Leadership Positions: Breaking the Glass Ceiling.
  • Internet Privacy: Balancing Personal Security and Data Collection.
  • The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health.
  • The Morality of Animal Agriculture and Factory Farming.
  • The Rise of Online Learning Platforms: Transforming Education.
  • Addressing the Digital Gender Gap in STEM Fields.
  • The Impact of Global Tourism on Local Cultures and Environments.
  • Exploring the Implications of 3D Printing Technology in Various Industries.

By the way, we have another great collection of narrative essay topics to get your creative juices flowing.

Wrapping Up

Throughout this guide, you have acquired valuable insights into the art of crafting compelling arguments and presenting diverse perspectives. By delving into the nuances of topic selection, structuring, and incorporating evidence, you could hone your critical thinking skills and sharpen your ability to engage in informed discourse. 

This guide serves as a roadmap, offering not just a set of rules but a toolkit to empower students in their academic journey. As you embark on future writing endeavors, armed with the knowledge gained here, you can confidently navigate the challenges of constructing well-reasoned, balanced discursive essays that contribute meaningfully to academic discourse and foster a deeper understanding of complex issues. If you want to continue your academic learning journey right now, we suggest that you read about the IEEE format next.

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How To Write Discursive Essays

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How To Write Discursive Essays

1. What is a Discursive Essay?

A discursive essay is an essay which involves a discussion. You’re encouraged to examine different perspectives on the issue so that the discussion you provide is a balanced one! You are on the right track if your essay sheds light on the issue by looking at it from different viewpoints.

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a discursive essay about social media

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2. How do I Identify a Discursive Essay Topic?

Let’s take a look at some of the discursive essay topics from past year papers:

2021 O-Level: “Young people are changing the world for the better.” What is your opinion?

  • 2019 O-Level: “Most young people today are obsessed with fame and imitating celebrities.” What are your views?

In recent years, “What is your opinion?” and “What are your views?” are common signposts used to indicate a discursive essay topic. However, there are also instances where such questions are not used. Consider:

  • 2012 O-Level: People all over the world are living longer. What are the advantages and disadvantages of their increased life expectancy?
  • 2010 O-Level: What important lessons in life are learned away from school?

So note that the question can still indicate discursive writing even when it does not contain “What is your opinion?” or “What are your views?”

3. What is the Difference Between a Discursive Essay, an Argumentative Essay and an Expository Essay?

shrub vector

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at the differences in requirements for a discursive and an argumentative essay.

Argumentative: you are required to take an explicit stand on the issue. Your essay is structured in a manner that argues towards this stand. When writing an argumentative essay, your goal is to persuade, to convince the reader to be in support of your stand.

Discursive: you are not required to take an explicit stand on the issue. In other words, you do not need to pick a side. You may choose to pick a side; that’s perfectly fine! Just note that the goal here is not to persuade or to convince; it is to provide the reader with a balanced discussion by examining the issue from various viewpoints.

Now that you’ve learnt how to identify a discursive question and gotten a better idea of what it requires, let’s look at how to plan a discursive essay.

4. How do I Approach or Structure a Discursive Essay?

vector image of thinking

Some essays require  a binary approach , meaning to say you tackle the issue by addressing the positive and the negative aspects of the question at hand. 

Here is how you can plan your body paragraphs for such topics:

Now, it’s your turn! Try planning an outline for the following topics:

  • 2017 O-Level: It is often said that people
  • are too concerned with getting things and spending money. What is your opinion? 

On the other hand, there are topics which are not suited for such a binary approach. Consider questions such as:

  • Give 3 x features (1 per body paragraph)
  • Give 3 x important lessons (1 per body paragraph)

vector image of balance

5. How do I Brainstorm Ideas for a Discursive Essay to Achieve a Balanced Discussion?

Give yourself 10 minutes to do a proper planning. It’s useful to approach the issue at hand by exploring its significance and relevance in different spheres and domains : Education, Ethics or Morals, Technology, Law etc.

Instead of giving 3 different points from an education perspective, why not broaden your scope and look at the issue from not just an educational perspective, but also a technological perspective and an ethical perspective?

This is what makes for a matured, holistic response. 

Let’s use the following topic as an example:

vector image of man working

If you run out of ideas, you can also examine two sides of a coin in a single domain. For example, you’ll see that in the example, that for the technological sphere, there are instances of youths making and  not changing the world for the better.  

Now that the brainstorming is done, let’s put pen to paper and start writing!

6. How do I Write an Introduction for a Discursive Essay?

  • Share an insight or observation regarding the issue. Why is this issue worth discussing? What are the implications of the issue? You can also use 5W1H questions to help you generate ideas.
  • Define your scope of discussion and if needed, define the keywords in the topic by setting out what is meant by, for instance, “young people” and “for the better”.

You can ask yourself these questions to help you with your intro:

  • Who are “young people”?
  • In which domains are youths making significant impact?
  • Why do some people believe that they are making the world a better place?
  • Why do other people not trust youth to positively impact the world?
  • What is my thesis?

Simply answer these questions + include your thesis. Voila, you have a solid introduction!

7. How do I Write the Body Paragraphs for a Discursive Essay?

Students, you must have heard of the PEEL method by now. We introduce the POINT in the first sentence, ELABORATE on the point, then substantiate with EVIDENCE or EXAMPLES , and finally, we round it all off by LINKING back to the point.

It sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

vector image of good job

Each body paragraph should only discuss one main idea , and only one! Introduce the main idea in your topic sentence (the first sentence of your body paragraph), not after you’ve given your example or when you’re wrapping up the paragraph.

A good topic sentence is straightforward and clear .

Here is an example of a coherent and concise topic sentence:  

  • In the sphere of education, youth activists are making positive changes by advocating to make education available to girls in less developed societies.

After you have crafted your topic sentence, it’s time to elaborate on your main point. A well-developed body paragraph elaborates by delving deeper into the main point and substantiating with relevant examples or evidence.

For our point on “education”, consider asking and answering the following questions:

  • Education imparts knowledge and skills to girls, which then grants more employment opportunities. In turn, they break free from the poverty cycle.
  • Don’t stop here! Make sure to link back to the idea of “making the world a better place”.
  • This means lower poverty rates in the world and society also benefits from the contributions that the girls go on to make in the workforce.

Important Reminders:

vector image of warning sign

a. Your essay  must not be example-driven ! It must always be point-driven. 

b. Remember to make the link from your examples/ evidence back to your topic sentence. This illustrates the relevance and strength of your evidence and reinforces your main point. 

For our example, a coherent body paragraph could look like this: 

8. How to Write a Conclusion for a Discursive Essay?

vector image of man lifting a star

Many students just reiterate the points in conclusion. But that is… you guessed it, boring. Last impression lasts!   You want to provide an insight to this issue to demonstrate your maturity of thought. Apart from summarising your points, link your conclusion back to the introduction so that your essay comes a full circle. You can also use a quote or thought-provoking question for readers to make their own conclusion.

Students, this is how you tackle a discursive essay. Try applying these tips to one of the topics above!

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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Social Media — Social Media Pros and Cons


Social Media Pros and Cons

  • Categories: Effects of Social Media Internet Social Media

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Words: 889 |

Updated: 7 November, 2023

Words: 889 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read

Table of contents

Advantages of social media, disadvantages of social media, video version.

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Hook Examples for Argumentative Essay on Social Media

  • A Startling Statistic: Did you know that over 3.6 billion people worldwide use social media? Join me as we explore the impact of this global phenomenon on our lives and society as a whole.
  • An Intriguing Quote: As Oscar Wilde once remarked, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” These words prompt us to examine the balance between the benefits and drawbacks of social media in our lives.
  • A Personal Revelation: My own journey with social media led me to question its role in my life. Join me as I share my experiences and insights into the pros and cons of this omnipresent digital landscape.
  • A Societal Mirror: Social media reflects the best and worst of our society, from fostering connections to perpetuating misinformation. Explore with me how it both mirrors and shapes our cultural landscape.
  • An Evolving Debate: As technology advances and society changes, so does our understanding of social media’s impact. Join me in examining the ever-evolving debate surrounding the pros and cons of this powerful communication tool.
  • Van der Bank, C. M., & van der Bank, M. (2014). The impact of social media: advantages or disadvantages. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 4(2), 1-9. (http://www.ajhtl.com/uploads/7/1/6/3/7163688/article_17_vol4(2)july-nov_2015.pdf)
  • Abudabbous, N. (2021). Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media and Its Effects on Young Learners. Available at SSRN 4002626. (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4002626)
  • Holmes, W. S. (2011). Crisis communications and social media: Advantages, disadvantages and best practices. (https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=ccisymposium)
  • Roebuck, D., Siha, S., & Bell, R. L. (2013). Faculty usage of social media and mobile devices: Analysis of advantages and concerns. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 9, 171. (https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/facpubs/3171/)
  • Farrugia, R. C. (2013). Facebook and relationships: A study of how social media use is affecting long-term relationships. Rochester Institute of Technology. (https://www.proquest.com/openview/04bf6121089bb04b74dcaba7486bd814/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750)

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a discursive essay about social media

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Profile image of Delia Oprea

2019, MCDSARE: 2019 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conference on the Dialogue between Sciences & Arts, Religion & Education DISCOURSE ANALYSIS IN SOCIAL MEDIA

Texts, language, communication should always be considered in their social context. Texts do not merely passively report upon the world, but they imbue it with meaning, shape perspectives and call the world into being. The relationship between text and ideology, and between the author and reader, appears to have changed because of the opportunities of public communication that have been extended by social media applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Is also clear that new methods are required for data collection, as content takes new forms, and forms of design, images, and data has to be integrated with language much more in online than in offline. We use the term social media to refer to "Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0", where Web 2.0 means that "content and applications are no longer created and published by individuals, but instead are continuously modified by all users in a participatory and collaborative fashion" (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). The aim of our research is to take into discussion different ways of approaching discourse analysis in this new online environment. Despite the large variety of platforms, some characteristics are common to many of them. Even if processes and structures of the public are subjects to change, the forms of discourse may be one of common points. Whilst the perspective on the system is one important aspect, another aspect is the perspective on the users who create the content. So, the three steps of the discourse have to be considered: production, form and reception. We try to seek out new models that are required to address how the technologies themselves come to shape the nature of content and discourse.

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Gwen Bouvier

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a particular strand of discourse analysis that focuses on the role of language in society and in political processes, traditionally targeting texts produced by elites and powerful institutions, such as news and political speeches. The aim is to reveal discourses buried in language used to maintain power and sustain existing social relations. However, since the internet and social media have come to define much of the way that we communicate, this brings numerous challenges and also opportunities for CDA. The relationship between text and ideology, and between the author and reader, appears to have changed. It is also clear that new methods are required for data collection, as content takes new forms and also moves away from running texts to language that is much more integrated with forms of design, images, and data. Also, new models are required to address how the technologies themselves come to shape the nature of content and discourse.

a discursive essay about social media

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In this volume Michele Zappavigna lays the foundation for a forthcoming generation of work in internet linguistics, drawing on her training in social semiotics, linguistics and information technology. This necessarily involves discussion of how to gather data from Web 2.0, how to use corpus linguistics to process it, how to use functional linguistics to interpret it and how to use social semiotics to make sense of what is going on. The most dramatic turn here, as far as linguistics is concerned, is her interpersonal focus on ambient sociality. This she explores in terms of the way in which tweeters affi liate through searchable talk, demonstrating for the fi rst time in a large scale study how communities constitute themselves through shared values – where it’s not just interaction that matters but shared meaning and where what is being shared is feelings about ideas (not just the ideas themselves). This axiological orientation, based as it is on appraisal theory and quantitative analysis, goes a long way to balancing the ideational bias which has for so long delimited linguistics as a theory of writing and holds great promise for the evolution of a more social sensitive and socially responsible discipline in the years to come. This turn is not of course without its challenges. The sheer scale of the enterprise makes it hard to see the forest for the trees, making the development of novel two- and three-dimensional animated visualisations PREFACE xi a priority. Alongside this are the trials of streaming data, as a microblog unfolds, as a blogger develops and as Web 2.0 evolves; the contingencies of time matter and cannot be theorized away. Finally, and perhaps most challengingly, Web. 2.0 is more than words, and ever more so; this demands not just a linguistics of words but a semiotics of multimodality, with all the implications for data gathering, analysis, interpretation and theorizing such entails. To her credit, Zappavigna dodges none of these issues and, with respect to the fi rst two, shows us the way forward. We’ll be hearing a lot more from her along these lines.

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With the advent of Web 2.0 and the emergence of digital media, the way in which people communicate has changed considerably. The creation of new technological tools and the introduction of new communicative practices that digital media brought along with them, like “tagging”, “blogging”, “hyperlinking”, “filtering” and many others, increased people’s opportunity to create and channelling information. The development of new forms of media, which facilitate the mixing of different communicative modes in new ways over time and space, has changed the whole idea of what is meant by a text or a conversation. Indeed, digital media has enhanced the number of communicative modes available to us at any given time. Considering the globalized and digitally networked scenario people are living in today, the aim of this work is to study the influence of digital media, in particular social media and social networking sites like Twitter, in the process of meaning-making and the creation of civic engagement and political participation. The first chapter of this thesis focuses on the study of digital media in the field of discourse analysis, highlighting the new affordances of the ‘read-write web’ and the birth of new literacy practices along with the rise of social networking sites (SNSs) and social media platforms, with particular regard to Twitter and its main characteristics. This research draws upon the principles of social semiotics theorized by the linguist Michael Halliday and the further studies on multimodality developed by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen. It also takes into examination the study on social networking sites carried out by dana boyd and Nicole Ellison in order to focus the attention on the process of collaboration and ‘peer production’ facilitated by social media. The second chapter focuses on civic engagement and political participation on SNSs and opens with a 2009 Facebook’s study that shows the contribution of the Web in the empowerment of citizenship and activism. The study goes then on by presenting the case of the 2013 hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which represents an example of the power of social media in gathering people. However, the main focus of this second chapter is on the rise of the #MeToo Movement, which although it was first created in 2006, gained attention only in October 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet. In this specific case, social media, especially Twitter’s services and its social practices such as the “hashtag”, the “@replies” and the practice of “retweeting”, have shown their effectiveness in gathering activists with similar goals and create awareness about the movement. The third and last chapter is dedicated to analysis of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, from a digital, discursive and multimodal point of view. The first part of the chapter introduces the Hallidayan social semiotic approach to language studies and the three metafunctions he theorized. The chapter focuses then on Lemke’s concept of hypermodality, that features the integration of Hallidayan approach to language with multimodality and computer mediated communication. The chapter ends with a detailed analysis of the above-mentioned tweet.

The wider field of discourse studies is still only beginning to turn its attention to social media despite a number of notable scholarly works. But as yet there has been little that has dealt specifically with issues of multicultural discourse – how language, identity, cross-cultural social relations and power play out in the rapidly evolving landscape of social media. In this paper, I show why discourse studies must engage with theories and empirical work on social media across academic fields beyond discourse studies and linguistics, at how these can help best frame the kinds of research that needs to be done, how to best formulate some of the basic questions of critical discourse analysis for this new communicative environment. I use this as a platform to point to the areas where multicultural discourse studies can work – where all the ambiguities of former studies of ‘identity’ and ‘culture’ are present, but realised in new ways. Yet these new forms of communication are fused into wider patterns of changing cultural values about forms of social structure, knowledge itself and the kinds of issues that tend to form our individually civic spheres.

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