Breaking Down PEEL

The PEEL method is the most-commonly taught method when it comes to essay writing in Singapore. Despite that, many students still struggle with understanding how to use the PEEL method across different subjects.

In this three part series, I discuss the following:

  1. list the keys to communication through essay-writing,
  2. break down the PEEL method (complete with examples), and
  3. explain how “Science persons” are not at a disadvantage in humanities essay writing.

If you have not read part 1 yet, you may do so here. If you already have, do continue reading for part 2.

First, let’s do a quick recap.
However you write, your ultimate goal is persuasion through communication.

One of the keys to effective communication, as discussed in the previous post, is to communicate in an easy to absorb flow. This is why we use the PEEL format. Whilst it is not the only way to effectively communicate a stand, it’s an easy-to-adopt structure to use until you have gotten a hang of persuasion.

  • P – Point
  • E – Evidence
  • E – Explanation
  • L – Link

Let’s explore each of these segments.

1. Point

Any secondary level essay should have at least 3 points. Two points supporting your stand, and one opposing point. The opposing point is necessary, so that your essay will not be deemed as biased.

When writing a point, be direct and precise. Always have a reason, and a perspective. The reason exists to support the perspective. Let’s explore this with an example.

“To what extent were the Japanese forced to wage war on the Asian-Pacific?”

In this example, there are two perspectives:
1. They were forced to wage war.
2. They weren’t forced to wage war, but did so anyway.

Let’s explore the three points that we can use in the essay.

For every perspective, we state a reason directly, and clearly. There’s no need to explain further, because that’s will be done later in the paragraph. Putting the above into full sentences, this is what you’ll get:

  • First Point: Japan’s ambitions to establish itself in Asia and Europe drove them to wage war against its neighbours for control.
  • Second Point: When presented with the opportunity, Japan took advantage of the League of Nation’s weaknesses to further expand where they could.
  • Third Point: The economic crisis faced in Japan meant that they didn’t have enough resources for their ever-increasing population, and, for their citizens’ sake, they needed to look elsewhere for resources.

Note how the first and second point show that the Japanese were not forced to wage war on the Asian-Pacific, and the third point gives reason for them to do so. This is a balanced argument, where all the sides were considered.

2. Evidence

Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion. There is nothing wrong with having a different opinion, or a unique opinion. However, whatever your opinion, you have to be able to substantiate it with evidence. Without solid evidence, you will sound unconvincing, and you will not be able to persuade your reader to accept your opinion.

Likewise, when you write an essay as instructed by your teacher, your goal is to demonstrate how much you understand of the subject at hand. If you express an opinion without being able to back it up with the facts that you have been taught, you will not be able to convince your teacher that you have sufficiently learnt enough about the subject at hand to warrant a good grade.

Let us use an earlier Point as an example.

“The economic crisis faced in Japan meant that they didn’t have enough resources for their ever-increasing population, and, for their citizens’ sake, they needed to look elsewhere for resources. Japan was facing economic problems due to the rapid growth in population, and a shortage of land use. In fact, Japan’s population grew from 45 million in 1900 to 64 million by 1930. As there was a lack of land for farming, farmers could not grow enough crops to make a living, and farming then was also a slow and labour intensive job. Due to this, there was a shortage of rice and many people were discontented.

From the evidence provided, we now have a better understanding of what happened during the economic crisis in Japan. The rapid growth of Japan’s population led to them having insufficient food and land.

They would have had to do something about it to solve the problems that they faced. The evidence given supports the point that they were forced to wage war. It has made the point understandable, and acceptable. That is the goal you should strive to achieve with the evidence you provide for each point.

3. Explanation

Many confuse explanation with evidence. They are related, but they are not the same thing. The explanation is necessary to ensure complete understanding. Sometimes, when evidence is provided, its link to the point is not entirely obvious. The evidence should be explained to leave no room for doubt.

Here’s an example:

“In order to further its ambitions to establish itself in Asia and Europe, Japan took advantage of every opportunity presented to wage wars and expand her colonies. In 1931, Japan made use of the Mukden Incident to invade Manchuria. An investigation by the League of Nations showed that Japan’s actions went beyond self-defense. However, the League of Nations was also powerless to stop Japan. Japan turned Manchukuo into a satellite state, and took advantage of the Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937, which led to a full-scale war between China and Japan.”

In the example above, the Point tells us that the Japanese were not forced to wage wars, but did so anyway whenever the opportunity presented itself. The Evidence provided lists two situations to support this point:

  • They used the Mukden Incident to invade Manchuria, and
  • They used the Marco Polo Bridge incident to wage war against China.

However, it is still not explicitly clear whether they were forced to wage war or not. We merely know that those two incidents led to the start of more wars. Thus, the explanation to state it:

“Japan continued with their expansion plans, even after colonising Taiwan and Korea. In fact, whenever the opportunity presented itself, for example, the Mukden incident and the Marco Polo Bridge incident, the Japanese would invade and wage war. This was especially the case after they realised that even the League of Nations could not stop them.”

Note: the explanation is not a summary or re-phrasing of the evidence. It is an elaboration of the evidence in relation to the point.

Additionally, some types of evidence are so obvious, that a lengthy explanation is not required. Nevertheless, do not skip explaining. For the sake of avoiding doubt, give at least a one-line explanation.

4. Link

If you’ve managed to read up to this point, well done! This post is coming to an end. Persevere, because the Link is just as important as the previous three segments. The same way you must end each point and paragraph as strongly as you start, let us complete our understanding of the PEEL method just as strongly as when we began this breakdown.

As mentioned, the Link is just as important as the previous 3 segments, but it is also the segment that is most often neglected. After all, what is a link but a summary of the paragraph or a repetition of the point?

Alas, the Link is much more than that.

There are three purposes of the Link, and which purpose you should strive to achieve depends on the flow of your essay.

  1. To remind your reader/audience of your point, because the fact is this: most people have short attention spans. To ensure that they fully understand your point, remind them once more of your point, in relation to the rest of the essay. This is to ensure that their thoughts do not deviate from what you’ve been trying to tell them. Writing this Link is easy.
  2. To link your point to the next one. This is not an option that is always available for your use, but it does further cement your stand. Instead of having two or more wholly separate points to support your stand, having one lead to another makes your stand more convincing, and your argument for your stand more persuasive.
  3. To link your supporting point back to an opposing point, making it clear how your supporting point carries more weight than your opposing point. This is possibly the most difficult type of Link to write, of the three. However, if you manage it, not only does it lend weight to your supporting point, it will clearly show how the opposing point, whilst also true, is not significant enough to be an acceptable stand. This type of Link is particularly useful in answering “To what extent” essay questions. Perhaps, I will write a post about this in the future, if there is demand for it.

Let’s use points 1 and 2 as an example, to illustrate the second type of link. I have skipped the evidence and explanation for the purposes of keeping this article from being even longer than it already is.

[Point 1] Japan’s ambitions to establish itself in Asia and Europe drove them to wage war against its neighbours for control.
The wars that the Japanese engaged in from 1894 to 1915 in the Asian-Pacific were not forced, but were the result of their expansionist ambitions, and it was those same ambitions led to them take opportunity of advantages that presented themselves after to wage more wars.

[Point 2] In order to further its ambitions to establish itself in Asia and Europe, Japan took advantage of every opportunity presented to wage even more wars after 1915.”

From this method of linking the paragraphs, we see how the Japanese had their initial plans of expansion, followed by a furthering of those plans not because they needed to, but because they could. This solidifies the argument that they were not forced into waging wars on the Asian-Pacific, but did so anyway.

Of course, if you’re writing the paragraph for your last point, there isn’t always opportunity for you to link it to your concluding paragraph, in which case, a simple link back to the question and your stand will suffice.

That was quite a long write. I do hope this post sufficiently clarifies the PEEL method for you.

If you have any further questions about essay-writing, feel free to contact me or connect with me via Facebook.

In the next article, I’ll clarify the commonly mistaken belief that “Science persons” are at a disadvantage when they are asked to write essays, just because they think differently from “Humanities persons”. Stay tuned, and follow me on Facebook if you’d like to be immediately updated every time I write a new article.


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