Portfolio task: Persuasive essay or speech

This portfolio task will take some time, so I suggest doing it over 2 or more weeks.

  1. Choose a topic you feel strongly about. You can choose any topic you want, but it will be a better essay/speech if the topic is a little controversial (not everyone agrees). There are some ideas below.
  2. Learn as much as you can about both (or all) sides of the topic. You can do this in both Japanese and English. You should try to read/listen/watch in English, too, because that will help you learn the appropriate vocabulary you’ll need to talk/write about it in English.
  3. Don’t forget to take notes and cite your sources. You must include these in your essay or speech.
  4. Outline your essay or speech. See examples below. Please share this with me in class before you start Step 5.
  5. Use your outline to write your essay or speech.
  6. (not required but recommended) Share a rough draft with me and your classmates and then revise it.

A small collection of topics you could use (example “thesis statements”):

  • The main purpose of university is …
  • University classes should be pass/fail and not graded (no GPA).
  • The …  system should be abolished. (for example, ELC at TUFS…)
  • English should not be a mandatory subject in Japanese schools.
  • English should not be taught from primary school in Japanese schools.
  • Lecture classes are more/less effective for learning than discussion classes.
  • To become president or prime minister of a country, a person must have lived in another country for at least one year.
  • … should be legalized (for example, medical marijuana, same-sex marriage…)
  • Japan should accept more refugees.
  • Article 9 of the Japanese constitution should be changed.
  • Freedom of speech is absolute.
  • …. should be fired/impeached.
  • The solution to the North Korea problem is …
  • Japan should establish a universal basic income.
  • Why “freemium” is better/worse than “free” on the internet.

Suggested outline format:

(You don’t necessarily have to follow this exactly, but it’s a good “road map” that works well for this type of essay/speech.)


  • Start with an “attention-getter”  or “hook” — Use a suprising event or statistic or photograph/image, a quotation by someone related to the topic, or an anecdote or a question directed at the readers/listeners — something that grabs our attention and makes us interested in what you’re going to say.
  • Background — Is there any general background we need to know to understand the topic? Are the readers/listeners going to feel connected to the topic? Make sure we do. Don’t give too many details yet, though.
  • Thesis — What’s your main idea? What do you want to persuade us to believe or do?
  • Plan — What are the parts of your argument going to be? (This will offer a guide to the listeners/readers so we know what to expect.)

Main “body”

  • The Issue — Explain the problem or issue in detail.
  • The Cause(s) and Player(s)— Explain why the problem exists, the agents involved (who are the “key players” in this issue?) and anything else we need to know. Make sure you use evidence and specific examples.
  • The Solution(s) — State your thesis again (in slightly different words) and explain how it will work.


  • Summarize the issue and your idea again briefly and end with a powerful, memorable last sentence.

Here’s a variation on this outline:

  1. Hook (see above)
  2. Need (What’s the problem or need and why is it important?)
  3. Solution (What’s the/a solution to solve the problem or satisfy the need?)
  4. Visualization of the future (How will we benefit from the solution?)
  5. Action (How can the solution be implemented?)

If you’re looking for examples of persusaive speeches, many of the TED Talks are persuasive. For example:

Here are a few examples of persuasive writing related to current events. And you can find many more if you browse the Opinion sections of news sites.

Here are links to the Opinion sections of the following news sites: