Persuasive vs. Argumentative Writing: What's the Difference?

Hi! It's Erin from Lovin' Lit, here to discuss the differences between persuasive and argumentative writing.

Argumentative vs. Persuasive: What’s the difference between argumentative writing versus persuasive writing? The answer is simple. Research.

Persuasive writing is opinion based.

Argumentative writing is research based.

You might have your students write a persuasive essay, and it probably would require little or no research. Example: Should uniforms be mandatory in schools? Students can easily come up with valid arguments without doing any research. That is persuasive writing.

One shift with the Common Core is that students should be doing more argumentative writing. That is, writing that persuades the reader one way or the other with research.

Does this mean that your students have to go out in search of their own information? Not necessarily.

The best way to ensure that the writing activities you are doing with your students are argumentative and not simply persuasive is to find writing activities that cannot be done without the specific reading passage or passages you give them. In other words, for argumentative writing, you want your students to be writing about something they didn’t know anything (or at least not much) about before your lesson started. Having students take a stand based on evidence in a reading passage and write an organized paragraph or essay about it is the ultimate goal in writing.

It’s combining:
Reading comprehension
Citing text evidence
Persuasive writing

All rolled into one activity!

It’s the ultimate Common Core writing experience. Master this, show your principal, and you’re golden! Because argumentative writing is such a hard and complex skill, you must keep student interest at the center of any activity you do. Don't attempt to practice such a hard skill with a topic or subject that your students care little about. If your students care about the subject and actually have an opinion about what you are asking them to write about, their writing is going to be SO MUCH BETTER!

I’m constantly thinking of and looking for topics that my students would care to write about.  A prison escape with an open ending is something that is interesting to just about everyone. This activity on the Escape from Alcatraz is my favorite argumentative writing activity. It’s definitely introductory level as I do it with my 6th graders early in the year. I have made changes and added options in this packet so that it can be done with students as low as 3rd grade or as high as 8th. I've done it with my own son (3rd grader with exceptionalities – autism) and he was riveted and interested from the start.

Grab this lesson for free (only through February 28th!) from Google Docs.


  1. Thank you for this very informative post! Love the freebie- thanks for being so generous!

    Tales of a Teacher

  2. Erin, I love all your Interactive Notebooks!! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Melanie for telling me that. You're very welcome!
      :) Erin

  3. Thank you for this informative blog. Your explanation was clear to understand. Also, thank you for the lesson about Alcatraz.

    1. You are welcome Karen. I hope your students enjoy it! :) Erin

  4. Erin,
    This was a great explanation!! This post is very helpful, clear, and simple! Thanks so much for writing it and for the free lesson!! You're the best!

  5. This will be great information for my students as we move on during the coming months. I love making them think more deeply (with comprehension), pushing them to dig for information (research), and voicing their thoughts through their writing. Will be good for them.

  6. Thanks for sharing this, I teach first grade but I'm definitely sharing this with 3-6. I'm thinking that I could model and do this with my firsties. We are writing our first persuasive paper currently.

  7. Thanks so much for your clear, concise explanation and exciting freebie! I will be using it very soon with my Learning Strategies class at least. I do love your interactive notebook activities!

  8. I hadn't really thought about the difference between persuasive vs. argumentative, but I really like your explanation. And you're right; it's PERFECT for working on a lot of great higher level skills. Thanks for the freebie!

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late
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  9. This is great! Thanks for sharing the info and the freebie. :D
    Come Visit Readbox!

  10. Thanks for linking up!! And now I have a new blog to follow! :) I love all of Erin's ideas!! :)