Writing discursive compositions (Secondary Level) (Part 3): Introduction of discursive essays (historical development)

By Patrick Tay

(To read part 2, please visit HERE.)

When it comes to writing essays, one of the most important components lies in penning a proper introduction.

Most students often make the mistake of simply stating their views on the issue without further elaboration. This often causes the introduction to be rather brief and as such negatively impacting their final assigned grades.

There are numerous ways to pen the introduction for a discursive essay and in this blog post, we will begin with a technique known as “historical development”. It is important to note that this technique requires some prior general knowledge on the part of students, as well as an in-depth understanding of the issues’ developments.

Not all questions are suited for this technique. Some questions that are suited for this technique include the following:

i. “People are slaves to the Internet”. Discuss.

ii. “Telecommunications are more of a hindrance than an aid to communications”. Write your views on this.

iii. World War II have valuable lessons for all of us. Discuss.

iv. Euthanasia should be legalised. Write your thoughts on this.

v. What are the possible solutions to reducing haze?

Note that for the five discursive questions above, it is about understanding the subject matter at hand in a general sense as a first recourse, thereafter students should focus on both expansion and elaboration of the identified theme(s) accordingly.

Are you able to figure out the key subject matter for each question? The answers are as follows:

i. Internet

ii. Telecommunications

iii. World War II

iv. Euthanasia

v. Gun Violence

“It should be noted that students are able to prepare for discursive essays by reading up on certain contemporary and common issues at hand prior to their essay tests or exams to prepare themselves. This is not the same as memorising and regurgitating all the facts and content. Students have to, instead, organise and prepare these subject matters by understanding and analysing them. Only then can students write good introductions using the “historical development” technique. Nevertheless, certain statistics such as dates and figures (such as the exact start date of World War I and II) should be noted to ensure accuracy in their writings.”

Now, let’s consider two examples:

i. “People are slaves to the Internet”. Discuss.



“Many has argued that the Internet – which started as the military network ARPANET - has expanded its outreach to the world within decades, turning online users into addicts. And now with the internet placed in the hands of mobile individuals globally, addiction among users has increased immensely. In fact, there have been comparisons being made between an user who is addicted to “mobile surfing” and a dog being tied to a pole on a leash – released in the form of satirical sketches on Facebook pages. While the motivation of posting such "cartoons" is by no means derogatory, the message is no less clear - for those who are not attuned to proper online time management, they are in significant danger of becoming cyber space addicts, especially when the problem is compounded by the fact that many of us have the Internet right at our fingertips – 24/7.”

v. What are the possible solutions to reducing haze?



“Anyone who has lived in Singapore for the past decade would have known that apart from the recent flash floods, the haze has posed numerous, recurrent health hazards to residents with weaker constitutions -these include nose blockages, coughs, itchy skin, inflamed eyes, even heart problems. The situation was further exacerbated when Singapore experienced its worst drought (since 1869) in the month of February 2014 amidst an ongoing haze. The causes of haze are both environmental and regional, much of which Singapore has no control over. So, what are the possible solutions for eradicating or reducing the effects of haze in the coming years?”

In my next post, while I will continue my discourse on writing a good introduction, another technique known as "cause and effect" shall be explored.

To continue to part 4, visit HERE.

The above post was published with the permission of English writing specialist Mr Patrick Tay. This first appeared on his BLOG.