10 The Thesis Statement in a Persuasive Text

The Thesis Statement in a Persuasive Text

Alys Avalos-Rivera

In another chapter, we discussed the features of an informational essay. In this chapter, we will guide you to understand the essential elements of a similar type of academic text: the persuasive essay. Although informational and persuasive writing follow similar principles such as an orderly presentation of ideas that should be supported with evidence (e.g. facts, arguments, or examples), their purposes differ. The objective is written to take a stance (specific point of view) with respect to a controversial topic and persuade the audience to adopt the writer’s position. Because of this difference, the thesis statement of the persuasive essay needs to introduce the writer’s position in the controversy featured in the essay. Also, the preview of the essay’s structure should outline the arguments that the author will use to support his/her stance.

Should the US drinking age be lowered?

In the US, drinking alcoholic beverages is illegal for people under 21 years of age (minimum legal drinking age or MLDA). This law has long caused a great deal of disagreement and debates. While some people think it is paradoxical that young people of 18 cannot enter a bar but still go to war, others believe that the law is the best way to keep youth away from irresponsible and heavy drinking episodes (also called binge drinking). The following texts were written by readers of the New York Times” Room for Debate page to express their opinions about the subject.[1]

  • Read the comments and underline the readers’ main arguments (reasons to support one position or the other).
  • Identify which readers are against lowering the minimum drinking age (CON) and which are in favor (PRO)?
  • Which arguments seem the least convincing? Which are the most persuasive? Why?
Mason: Ever since the minimum drinking age was raised to 21 in 1986 the United States saw just as many if not more issues with irresponsible drinking as they did when the drinking age was 18. One of the major reasons for this is because kids are not learning how to drink responsibly before they can finally drink alone at age 21. If you look at areas that do not have a drinking age as high as the United States you will find that the amount of people that die due to alcoholic accidents in much lower than that of the US. For example, in China there is no drinking age and the rate per 100,000 people due to alcohol is .3% compared to the United States’  2.91%. I believe the main reason for this is because the Chinese can legally grow up drinking with their families and are able to learn how to drink responsibly due to the actions and teachings of their parents.
Erick Ban: What makes me think people under 21 won’t be responsible? I could drink legally when I was 18, that’s what. I experienced and saw what happens when you give immature brains the right to pollute those brains. We shouldn’t be talking about lowering the drinking age because “If they can buy a gun, join the military and vote they should be able to drink,” we should be thinking about raising the age of those other things. After all, the brain doesn’t fully mature until around 25, right? All lowering the drinking age will do is raise the number of drunk drivers with the least experienced and most accident-prone demographic.
Jonah S.: Turning 18 in the United States is the gateway to adulthood. When individuals turn 18, they can legally vote, get married and fight in our country’s military. However, one thing these “adults” still cannot do is purchase or drink alcohol. The age at which a person can legally purchase and consume alcohol has been an active discussion since 1984 when the MLDA was raised from 18 to 21. The original reason the United States Legislation Act raised the MLDA was because there had been a rise in alcohol involved fatal motor vehicle accidents. The belief was that by raising the drinking age, there would be fewer accidents on the roads. However, research has shown that raising the drinking age did not solve the problem it was intended to solve. The number of fatal motor vehicle accidents has not gone down since the drinking age was changed from 18 to 21. In fact, this change in law just drove drinking underground and into unsafe environments. Nowadays, 3.2% of deaths in America are alcohol related which is higher than any other country.
Robert Araujo: Have you ever heard about age of onset? Thombs and Osborn (2013) advocate that preventing or delaying the age of the first use of alcohol is the optimal way to reduce alcohol abuse and dependence in the future. Nobody is saying that alcohol must be forbidden, this is not the case. If they return the law to 18, adolescents may drink at 16 years old. Now, they may drink at 18. Research has documented that the early you drink, the higher the risk you have to become addict: 14 years or younger you have 15.1% of chance to become addict, 15-17 you have 9.1% of chance, 18-20 you have 4.4% of chance, 21 or older you have 2.7%, In other words, we are preserving the future, the integrity of our youth, keep them away from addiction, as best as we can, Say NO to drinking at 18!!!
Kevin Blake: All of the facts and figures in the world don’t matter to underage high school and college students that want to be cool and get wasted with their friends at the hottest party of the year. If you really want to lower the rates of underage consumption of alcohol and binge drinking, you need to make alcohol a mundane thing. A high drinking age is just prohibition at a targeted group, and everyone knows how well prohibition turned out. You’re not deterring anyone from drinking, you’re just making it a rebellious, fashionable thing to do.
Evan Altenburg: I believe that the drinking age should remain at 21. I’m not naive, I know that kids under 21 drink and find ways to get alcohol. Lowering the legal age to 18 will simply make the process even easier for them to get it. Changing the drinking age to 18 isn’t going to affect kids 18-21. Those kids are in college, alcohol is everywhere and they have no trouble getting it. Changing the legal drinking age is going to affect 14-18 year old high school students. This model is clearly shown in colleges all around the country. Any freshman can walk onto a college campus and find alcohol almost instantaneously, because every junior and senior can buy it. If high school seniors can go buy alcohol than any underclassman can simply get alcohol from them. That’s how it works now. . .But instead of buying liquor from the 4-5 college dropouts who live around your area, now all you have to do is ask one of the 800 seniors at your school. Seems a little too easy doesn’t it? If anything, change the age to 19 so that high school students can’t buy it.

Content focus: Rating thesis statements

Considering these features, in the following task you will analyze how six college students drafted their thesis statements for a persuasive essay on the MLDA controversy. In the prompt used by the instructor for this assignment, students were required to address the following purposes:

  • Present the PROs and CONs of the MLDA to a group of college students’ parents.
  • Persuade the parents to vote in favor of lowering the MLDA to 18 years of age.

In other words, the writers need to take a stance on the issue. Read the Thesis Statement and assess how well each one fulfills the purposes given above and to what extent. Rate the Thesis Statement using a scale from 1 to 6, where 6 will stand for the best Thesis Statement and 1 will be given to the poorest. Be prepared to explain the reasons you have to support your rating.

a. The United States has more accidents caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol than other countries where there is no MLDA (        )

b. Young people should be allowed to drink without legal restrictions based on their age, which is ridiculous (        )

c. Parents should teach their children how to drink alcohol in moderation.  (        )

d. Lowering the MLDA will allow parents to introduce their children to alcohol use under the supervision and reduce the rate of accidents caused by drunken drivers (        )

e. A reduction in the MLDA will help neutralize teenagers’ obsession with drinking, allow parents to monitor their children first encounters with alcohol, and reduce the rate of accidents caused by irresponsible drinking.   (        )

f. Having the MLDA fixed at 21 is only increasing young people’s fascination with drinking in unsafe environments and using false IDs.     (        )

Guidelines for a thesis statement

What should be considered when drafting a thesis statement for an essay that aims to persuade the audience to take a stand in a controversial issue? Think of some possible guidelines to write an effective persuasive TS taking into account the following:

  • How should you address your audience?
  • Where in your text should you introduce your stance?
  • What language features (words, phrases) could be useful?
  • How can you connect your TS with the main arguments you will use in your essay?

Write your guidelines below and discuss them with your colleagues and your instructor:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some of the thesis statements listed above, the writers use modal verbs such as will and should. The first one (will) is used to predict the results that could be achieved if the authorities follow a specific course of action regarding the MLDA. The second one (should) is used to recommend what should be done with respect to the MLDA. These and other modal verbs that express advice, convey an obligation, or predict an outcome are often used to introduce the writer’s stance because they are useful to express the speaker’s desires, or his/her ideas of how the world should be. Other modal verbs that are also used with these purposes are: must, can, could, ought to, and also the semi-modal have to.

When using modal verbs to compose your thesis statement, however, you should be careful to select the one that best represents your purpose. The meaning of your thesis statement can change a great deal if you use one or the other. Read the following examples and explain how the meaning has changed with each modal (in bold):

 

Statement Meaning
a. Authorities should lower the MLDA to avoid binge drinking.
b. Authorities must lower the MLDA to avoid binge drinking.
c. Authorities could lower the MLDA to avoid binge drinking.
d. Authorities ought to* lower the MLDA to avoid binge drinking.

 

*Although ought to and must are accepted as standard forms, they are not used in Academic English very often because they imply a strong and categorical position. Scientists usually abstain from categorical statements because these expressions do not convey that the writer remains open to new possibilities. Scientist prefer to maintain a more open attitude in their writing in case new evidence is discovered in the future that can change their points of view about the world.

Although the participants in the Room for Debate’s and Star Wars pages hold different points of view regarding very different topics, they all engaged in their online discussions with a common purpose: persuading their audience of their point of view. They do so in a succinct fashion because their audience does not usually invest much time in reading blog posts that are too long and complex. Therefore, effective blog/forum posters try to be direct and present one single point per post. On the contrary, academic persuasive writing needs to be more detailed and provide the audience with more than just the author’s point of view.


  1. https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/02/10/you-must-be-21-to-drink

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The Thesis Statement in a Persuasive Text by Alys Avalos-Rivera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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