Discursive essays look into and examine an issue by presenting two or more opposing viewpoints. Argumentative essays study and evaluate a topic from a single point of view. Writers of both essays should conduct extensive study on the topic or problem and select substantial facts to support their points of view. However, writers of discursive essays may want to allow themselves flexibility when drafting their papers.
Furthermore, both types of essays require clarity in thinking and expression. While discursive essays may include some rhetorical devices such as paraphrasing, summary, or analogy, argumentative essays usually use only the most effective ones such as comparison and contrast, cause-effect analysis, and application/example sentences. Also, because discursive essays are open-ended, they do not require a formal structure such as chapters or sections. However, writers should be aware of any limitations placed on them by their instructors.
Finally, discursive and argumentative essays are similar but different enough that they cannot be used interchangeably. Both types of essays involve taking a position on an issue and supporting it with evidence, but discursive essays also allow for more freedom of thought and expression. Thus, they provide students with the opportunity to explore various topics within their limits. Writing instruction books often distinguish between these two types of essays but do not provide any additional information about how they differ.
Discursive texts are not discussion essays, though they share some characteristics, such as considering various perspectives on a topic, writing strong paragraphs on each perspective with supporting evidence, selecting a preferred position, and articulating reasons for that choice, but not forcefully. A discursive text is a collection of ideas or opinions expressed in sentences describing their relationships to one another.
Discussion essays are different from discursive essays because they focus on one specific topic and include only a limited number of ideas or opinions written in support of a position on that topic. The term "discussion" implies that participants take opposing positions on the subject and explore their arguments against those of others. In contrast, a document that uses many topics without arguing for or against any of them is an omnibus essay.
Omnibuses were common in early modern literature: collections of poems or stories by the same author often including material published years apart. The term "omnibus" comes from the Latin word meaning "everything," and these works covered almost every possible topic, including love, courtly behavior, heroism, religion, politics, and history. They were usually printed in multi-volume sets because writing materials were expensive and there was no way to know which parts of the work would be most popular so publishers produced many copies of each volume.
A discursive essay is a kind of writing that examines several diverse points of view. The following is NESA's definition of discursive texts: These writings feature the discussion of a concept or perspective without the explicit purpose of convincing the reader, listener, or spectator to embrace a particular point of view. Rather, the author aims to demonstrate the validity of different perspectives on the same topic through extensive use of argumentation and reasoning.
Examples of discursive essays include analytical papers, opinion pieces, and newspaper columns. Literary works that deal with multiple characters or events but which lack a clear resolution or conclusion are also considered discursive essays if they employ many different methods of presentation.
Writings that fail to meet this definition of discursive essays have been called "argumentative essays." These tracts focus on one central idea or viewpoint and use evidence to support it rather than multiple viewpoints as in discursive essays. They may discuss various issues related to the topic but always come down on one side of the argument, be it for or against some position.
Argumentative essays are found in academic journals and books as well as in newspapers and magazines. Although they appear in many forms, all argumentative essays follow a similar structure. They usually begin with a brief introduction that states the main idea or perspective being discussed and explains why it is important.