So, You Have a Point to Prove

The key factor to creating an effective persuasive paper is the evidence. What your evidence is, where you get it from, and how you present it are essentially what make your paper successful or not. You can believe in an idea as strongly as you want to, but if you can’t find and utilize appropriate sources to support your idea, your argument will ultimately convince no one, and may even force the skeptics to the other side! Remember to keep in mind who you are writing this paper for (a more general audience or a specific group), the context this paper is written in, and the purpose of the paper (to persuade whom of what?).


Evidence for environmental writing should be as “scientific” as possible. Statistics, graphs, and other quantitative measures are usually used to create a solid background for an argument.

For a more general, emotionally driven audience, balance the facts with some opinions or projections from professionals. Does a researcher believe the animal you’re fighting for will go extinct in the next ten years, based on her model projections? Great! Include both the quantitative evidence that she provides and the emotional urgency of this problem in your paper.


Use a database to find scholarly journal articles! Articles in a database are usually peer reviewed, published journal articles that hold merit in the scientific community. Databases make it easier to search through hundreds of journals at once and learn a bit about the source before reading it.

Become familiar with the resources available to you as a UVM student at the Howe Library’s website (new tab). There you can find and search databases, schedule an appointment with a research librarian, and browse research guides by class or subject. For ENSC specific databases, check out the “research guides by subject” option. You can select a more specific topic within the field of the environment, including natural resources or biology, or keep it broad and use some more general databases.


This is the artful part of a persuasive paper – the incorporation of sources. You don’t want to simply regurgitate your sources, and you don’t want to overwhelm the audience with quotes. Paraphrasing is usually best for scientific writing; only use quotations if you’re really sure the passage is more powerful when left intact, or when writing for a more general audience. Think about writing the introduction to a lab report, and how it is rarely (if ever) acceptable to use quotations there.

You want to make statements and claims in your own voice, and then use your sources to back up your argument, not the other way around! A persuasive paper is not the time to dump a bunch of article summaries — you should be telling a logical story of cause and effect through the help of some prior research.