The goal of your persuasive essay is to make the reader think the way you do. If the reader already agrees with you then it should be a very short skim read for them. If the reader doesn’t already agree with you, then you have to take that person on a journey (a thought process or exercise) and allow them to change their mind with bullying or manipulating them.
Brainstorm, research and plan before you start
The research is done to be sure you have picked the right side. It is horrible having to change your entire essay because you find a counter argument later on that undoes all your hard work. Brainstorming helps you come up with ideas and your plan helps you turn them into a framework for your essay.
Were you given a topic or do you have to pick one?
If you were given a topic then your professor has something very clear in his or her mind as to what is required. You need to pander to that requirement, and there is a good chance that the requirement has something to do with a subject your class has just covered or one that you are all about to cover. This assumption is based on the fact that the chosen topic will probably work in the favor of the professor’s workload. Think hard about your topic and how it relates to coming lessons (textbook chapters?) or lessons and subjects you have covered.
If you have to pick a topic, then you have guessed it, pick one that is related to the subject matter you have studied already. Your professor may have to give you this assignment in order to grade you appropriately, but you should always assume your professor is giving you your assignment to test your knowledge and learning thus far. Your essay should be a demonstration of this.
Justify your research method
Your research method is going to come under scrutiny. The reader is going to look at your points, arguments and your reasoning with a critical eye, but that will all come undone if your research methods and your sources are tainted. It is one of the reasons why your professor will not allow you to use Wikipedia as a reference. Research a good research method and consider adding in a section that explains it and justifies it. You may also like to justify your sources as you write about them. For example, referencing the Fortean times is going to need some serious justification.
Think up all the counter arguments that your readers will think up
It is true that you are going to come up with some counter arguments that the reader will not think up. Some people think this is a bad thing because it spoon feeds the reader reasons not to be convinced by the essay, but the reader coming up with a counter argument you do not mention is far worse. At least if you come up with counter arguments you may then argue them down so that your reader is railroaded into being convinced by your persuasive essay.
Successfully argue down your counter arguments
You may fear adding in counter arguments for the fact it may convince your reader in the opposite direction. You cannot give in to this fear and you must add in your counter arguments. However, you must then argue them down so that your essay is still persuasive. If you cannot argue them down successfully then ask yourself if you have picked the right side.
Reference all the information that your include
Every single percentage or piece of data you include must be referenced. The source must be reliable in academic terms, which is difficult because a lot of what you read on the Internet is incorrect. To include a piece of data that is not referenced will result in a bad grade every time.
Show what is referenced fact, what is reasoned, and what is opinion
You may need to define what is fact, what is logic and what is opinion some times. This is especially true when you are discussing a fact in the same paragraph/section that has reasoning or opinion. You have to spell out your definitions as each because if you try to pass off your reasoning or opinion as fact then you will get lower grade for not referencing your “fact.”