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Concourse 2

How to write a discussion text

discussion

A Discussion text gives both sides of an argument and may (or may not) include your opinion at the end.  If you are learning English to study a subject at an English-speaking college or university or are preparing for examinations such as Cambridge FCE and CAE, you will need to know how to write a Discussion.

There are 9 tasks in this lesson.  When you see the word Task, stop for a moment and do the exercise.  You will learn more that way.

smoking

In this lesson, we are going to look at the idea that:

Smoking in public places, even outside, should be illegal

write Task 1: So, before we start, write down 2 things to say for this argument and 2 things against it.

Ordering the text

How you order the text is called 'text staging'.  In English, readers will expect the text to be ordered in a particular way.  This is often different from the way the information is ordered in other languages.  There are really only two ways to order the text:

The first way:

discussion format

In this way, you give all the positive points and explain them before you give the negative points.

The second way:

discussion format 2

In this way, you mix positive and negative points in the middle of the text.

Task 2: what are these sentences doing?  Where do they belong in the diagrams?

  1. This is a difficult issue and there are arguments on both sides.
  2. In general, I believe that .... because ....
  3. Firstly, the research shows that this is a good thing because ...
  4. However, on the other hand, many people argue that ...
  5. Smoking in public places, even outside, is now illegal in many countries.

Click here when you have an answer.

The introduction

For a discussion, you don't need to write much here.  For our example, something like the following is enough:

Whether people should be allowed to smoke in public spaces such as in the street, on beaches and in parks is not a simple problem.  There are arguments on both sides: protecting the health of other people and allowing the individual his or her freedom.

Task 3: We have done three things here.  What are they?  Click here when you have an answer.

The main part of the text

This is where you must set out your arguments carefully.  Remember to have both negative and positive points.  It doesn't matter here what you think personally.  This is a Discussion!

Task 4: in the diagrams above, there were two ways to organise this part.  Without looking back, can you remember what they are?
Click here when you have the answer.

Task 5: Did you do Task 1?  If not, do it now.  It asked you to think of two things in favour of allowing smoking in public places and two things against allowing it.  Here are some possibilities:

Arguments for allowing smoking Arguments against allowing smoking
The individual has rights We should think about the good of all the people
In the open air, nobody can smell the smoke or be hurt by it Smoking is unhealthy and allowing smoking in public places makes people smoke more
It's impossible for the police to control smoking in the street and in parks It's dirty and cigarette ends on the street or on a beach look terrible
Some people will always smoke and forbidding it will not work It's the government's job to help people to stop smoking and this is a good way to do it

When you have your list, you can start to link the ideas together.

Joining the ideas

Task 6: Try putting the ideas on the left with the ideas on the right and using linking words such as but, However, On the other hand and although.
Put each set of two ideas in separate paragraphs.
Click here when you have done that to see an example paragraph.

Adding examples

Now  the ordering of ideas and linking them together is OK, we need to add some examples of what we mean.
Task 7: look at the paragraphs above and add an example to each one.  Then click on the eye open to see an example.

Paragraphs without examples Paragraphs with examples
Although individuals have rights which the society must be careful about, we should always think about the good of society as a whole.  An individual can smoke at home or in private but on the streets or in parks, it is the majority we must think about.  The majority of people don't smoke.
eye open
Although individuals have rights which the society must be careful about, such as the right to do dangerous sports, eat too much or smoke, we should always think about the good of society as a whole.  An individual can smoke at home or in private, at a party in a private house, for example, but on the streets or in parks, it is the majority we must think about.  The majority of people don't smoke.
In the open air, when there is a little wind, nobody can smell the smoke so it can't hurt them but in very busy places, that is not always true.
eye open
In the open air, when there is a little wind, such as in the country or in the mountains, nobody can smell the smoke so it can't hurt them but in very busy places, like beaches, cafes or pavement restaurants that is not always true.
Smoking makes the beach and the streets look bad with cigarette ends all over them.  However, it will be very difficult for the police to control what people do in public places.  The police are very busy people with more important things to think about.
eye open
Smoking makes the beach and the streets look bad with cigarette ends all over them.  However, it will be very difficult for the police to control what people do in public places.  How many police officers would we need, for example, to control a whole beach with hundreds of people or somewhere like a city centre park?  The police are very busy people with more important things to think about.
It is probably true that some people will always want to smoke.  On the other hand, it is clear that smoking is bad for you and costs the hospitals and the government a lot of money.  So it is the government's job to help people to stop smoking.  Making smoking in public spaces illegal will do that.
eye open
It is probably true that some people will always want to smoke.  On the other hand, it is clear that smoking is bad for you because it causes many different sorts of diseases and costs the hospitals and the government a lot of money.  So it is the government's job to help people to stop smoking.  Making smoking in public spaces illegal will do that.

Style

In a Discussion, you need to keep the style appropriate and avoid things like I am sure that, obviously, I know and so on.  Try to use words which make you sound more objective such as we should, it is probably true and so on.

The conclusion

Now we have the text almost finished.  All we need to put in is a final paragraph.  This should say again what the general point was in the introduction and give your own opinion.
Task 8: Write your paragraph for this text and then click here for an example.

Task 9: Finally, try this gap-fill test to see if you can put words and phrases into the right parts of a Discussion text.