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Introduction of Patterns of Development

Just as there is no universal answer to every question, there are many ways to write a persuasive essay. There are specific strategies that you can use to more effectively respond to different types of issue topics. These strategies, or methods, are called patterns of development. The type of pattern you choose to employ in writing your essay is dependent upon the question or prompt to which you are responding. Usually, an essay question will contain certain clues, which enable you to determine which pattern of development to use. After choosing a method to use, you will find it much easier to develop a clear, concise thesis, which, in turn, will affect the way you organize your essay.

There are three main patterns of development. Let’s examine them now so we have a better under­standing of how to apply them. For each, we will discuss clues in an issue question that prompts the use of a particular pattern of development, we will look at an example of such a question, and we will determine what your assignment as a writer will be in applying this method.


An Issue question that commands the use of the Comparison–Contrast pattern of development:
  • will use words that suggest similarity or difference.
  • will seek to persuade the reader that one item is superior to another.​

“American cars are better than foreign cars.”

The author uses the word than to compare the two cars, and he seeks to persuade the reader that an American car is a wiser choice than a foreign one.


Your assignment: By employing the Comparison – Contrast pattern of development, you will portray similarities and differences between two items to prove which one is superior, either in agreement or disagreement with the author’s opinion.


An Issue question that requires the use of the Cause – Effect method of response:
  • may include an “If…then” statement.
  • may lack an effect.
Example (if…then)

If college and university faculty spent time outside the academic world working in professions relevant to the courses they teach, then the overall quality of higher education would greatly increase.”

The author argues that if a certain action is taken, a desirable effect is achieved.


Your job: In your essay, you must prove that a particular cause results in a particular effect, either in agreement or disagreement with the author.

Example  (lack of effect)

“More restrictions should be set on teenage drivers.”

In this “call for action” statement, the author offers no effects that will result if the action is taken, but surely it is implied that, if the author feels the action should be taken, he assumes something positive will result.


Your assignment: In your responsive essay, it would be your responsibility to support your position in agreement with this statement or against it, thus proving or disproving the implied effect.


An Issue question that dictates the use of the Definition pattern of development:
  • will attempt to show that, by definition, a particular idea or concept is of great value.
  • may portray a very limited definition of an idea or concept.
Example (great value)

“Patriotism breaks down the walls of division.”

The author believes that a concept can do a great thing.


Your assignment: Define the idea or concept and show that, because of its attributes and qualities, it has value or it lacks value.

Example (limited definition)

“A person’s generosity can be determined by examining what he or she has given to charity.”

In this example, the author seeks to provide a very limited definition of a particular concept.


Your assignment: Support the author’s definition with evidence, or show that the definition is much broader.

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