How to Write a Good Discussion Board Post: WritePapers’ Crash Course
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How to Write a Good Discussion Board Post: WritePapers’ Crash Course

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Author:
Samantha W.
Apr 11, 2024
7 min

Our Guide on How to Write a Discussion Paper or Post

Remote learning dominated the lives of students around the world during lockdowns. So, it’s no wonder why some of its aspects remain an integral part of the educational process even today. Love them or hate them, but discussion board posts are one example of the legacy of remote learning that has survived to this day.
If you’re reading this, you don’t just have to write a discussion post. You also know you need to make it a good one. Most likely, it’s going to count toward your overall grade for the class. Or, perhaps you have to demonstrate your knowledge and prove your writing skills to your professor even if the discussion board post isn’t graded.
Can’t seem to squeeze a great discussion post out of yourself? Or just don’t know how to approach the assignment in general? Here’s your guide on how to write a discussion paper or post!

How to Write a Good Discussion Board Post

While it may seem intimidating, writing a discussion board post isn’t all that different from how to write a discussion essay. The only thing you should keep in mind is the word limit: depending on the prompt and your e-learning platform, you may be quite limited in characters.
Here are the seven steps that will take you from staring at the prompt to hitting Send:
  • Read the prompt carefully and make sure you understand it well.
  • Take your time to research the subject and note down sources and ideas.
  • Create an outline for your discussion post.
  • Write the first draft with evidence-backed arguments.
  • Cite sources and remember to follow the netiquette.
  • Let your draft sit for a bit and return to proofread and edit it.
  • Publish your discussion post and engage with any replies you may receive.
Keep in mind that not every discussion paper allows you to focus on defending your position exclusively. Therefore, you should read the prompt carefully to understand if you should express your opinion or craft a discussion essay instead.
On top of that, make sure you take a balanced approach to the topic and cover both arguments for and against your stance in the body.

Part One: Preparing for Writing a Discussion Post

Preparation is key to writing any academic text – so much so that it can easily take as much or even more time as writing and proofreading itself. Here are the four tips on how to write a discussion board post by investing your time and energy into preparation:
  • Make sure you understand the prompt. It’s impossible to stress how important this is. Read and reread it to ensure you have a clear understanding of the topic’s scope and any requirements or limits (e.g., required reading, word limit, citation style).
  • Invest your time into research. Great discussion posts don’t appear in a vacuum; they’re based on multiple reputable sources. Invest your energy in researching the topic and take note of every relevant figure or interesting point of view.
  • Start with an outline. Organize your notes and ideas into a more or less coherent post structure (more on that below).
  • Maintain the right balance. While a discussion post should reflect your opinion on the matter, you can’t shy away from or omit arguments against it. You have to present a balanced view of both sides on the matter and back your stance with concrete evidence.

Part Two: The Nitty-Gritty of Writing a Discussion Board Post

With the research done and the outline written, you can finally delve into writing your discussion board post. Here are several tips for this part of the process:
  • Write your draft using a word processor (e.g., Microsoft Word or Google Docs). This way, you don’t risk losing all your progress because you accidentally refresh the page.
  • Remember to be polite and follow the netiquette. If you engage in discussion with your peers, keep it professional and fact-based.
  • Let your draft sit, even if for just 15 minutes. Then, revise it to ensure it’s mistake-free, concise, and well-structured; has all sources cited; and responds to the prompt.
Here’s the general structure your discussion board post can follow:
  • Personal introduction. If it’s your first post on the board, it can be a good idea to introduce yourself at the beginning. How to introduce yourself in a discussion post depends on the context: you can mention your name and why you chose to enroll in this class.
Introduction. Describe your thesis (i.e., a short answer to the prompt that you will be expanding on in the main body).
  • Main body. Explain why you settled on this thesis and provide sources to back up your claims. Follow the topic sentence + supporting evidence formula for every paragraph.
  • Conclusion. Sum up your opinion on the matter. It’s always a good idea to add a question here, too, to spark further discussion with your classmates.

How to Cite in a Discussion Board Post

“Wait, do I have to deal with citations when I write my discussion board post as well?”
Yes, we get it: citations can be the bane of a student’s existence. Luckily for you, online discussion posts have one substantial advantage: you can use hyperlinks to provide sources.
Now, keep in mind that the way you should cite your sources depends on the initial prompt and your professor’s requirements. It’s quite possible that you’ll still have to add a reference list using a citation format like the APA or MLA at the end of your post. However, when unspecified, you can make your life a bit easier and simply link your sources in the text.
Here are several tips on citing sources in a discussion board post:
  • Add in-text citations. If allowed and applicable, you can add hyperlinks right in the text. Otherwise, add the parenthetical or narrative citations.
  • Leverage multimedia. Don’t hesitate to include images, videos, or other files that could serve as your sources or references.
  • List your sources at the end. Adding a full reference list is always a good idea, even when not absolutely required. Make sure to follow the required citation style as specified by your instructor and sort it alphabetically.

How to Write a College Discussion Board Post

In broad strokes, tips on how to write a discussion board post for college aren’t that different from writing one for any other class. You should clearly understand what’s expected of you, follow those requirements, and rely on facts and evidence in presenting your response.
However, college-level discussion posts tend to have stricter requirements regarding tone of voice, source citations, and formatting. Not the “write my thesis paper for me because it’s too difficult” kind of requirements, though. So, make sure you:
  • Adopt a neutral, academic tone of voice and keep your text concise and free of slang or conversational phrases.
  • Avoid using the passive voice unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use the sentence case in writing and the required formatting style for citations.
  • Include a full reference list at the end of the discussion post.
  • Take your instructor’s feedback for your previous assignments into account.

How to Answer a Discussion Board Post

Want to participate in a discussion under someone else’s post? Here are eight tips on writing a good response to your peer’s discussion post:
  • Read the post with an open mind but think critically about its contents.
  • Make sure to read the original post at least twice to ensure you haven’t misinterpreted it or skipped crucial details.
  • Pinpoint which exact points of the post you agree or disagree with and why.
  • Keep your arguments academic and evidence-based; in other words, don’t make it personal.
  • Remain respectful and polite in your answer; don’t use exclamation points, slang, or all-caps text.
  • To further drive the discussion, ask open-ended question(s) at the end of your response.
  • Stick to the academic tone of voice as you would when writing a discussion board post.
  • Proofread and edit your response to ensure it’s concise and mistake-free before you hit Send.

4 Technical Tips on How to Comment on a Discussion Post

Depending on the platform you’re using for your class, you may have several handy tools to make your response even better at your disposal. Those include:
  • Attachments. One thing that makes online learning platforms great is that you can insert images right into the body or attach them, along with videos, PDFs, spreadsheets, and more. If your platform allows it, don’t hesitate to add your sources as attachments!
  • Formatting. Check the line spacing and indents to make sure your comment is easy to look through. Don’t hesitate to use bullet points or numbered lists to organize your thoughts.
  • Tagging and quoting. If you want to refer to one or several users and the platform allows it, do it. And, more importantly, when you describe your agreement or disagreement with a specific point in the original post, make sure to quote it.
  • Comment preview. Is your post easy to read? Use the preview feature (if there is one) to make sure!

How to Compliment Someone’s Discussion Board Post

Most likely, you’ll want to comment on someone’s discussion post because you disagree with it entirely or in part. But that shouldn’t be the only reason you engage in a discussion. You can also find someone’s discussion post incredibly insightful – and if so, you should let them know about it!
Here are several tips on how to compliment a discussion post – and drive the discussion further:
  • Be specific in your compliment. Quote specific sentences or passages that you find insightful – and explain why they made an impact on you.
  • Keep it academic. Focus on what makes the post or the argument good in your eyes (besides eloquent phrasing or the author being your friend). For example, you can praise the author’s way of connecting the dots between multiple sources.
  • Be genuine. Avoid sending out shallow compliments simply because you think it’s expected of you. Compliment someone because their post made an impact on you instead.
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How to Cite Sources in a Discussion Post

As mentioned above, the way you should cite sources depends on your instructor’s guidelines. If they tell you to use the MLA or APA format, use it.
With that out of the way, let’s reiterate: always cite sources in your discussion posts and responses. A text without any evidence cited whatsoever won’t qualify as academic writing.
As for how to cite a website in a discussion post, for example, it can be as simple as adding a hyperlink (if allowed):
Generative AI is already used by search engines like Google (Gemini) and Bing (Bing Chat).
Now, what if you need to cite an article? The rule of thumb is to use the standard citation style for in-text references. For example, here’s a citation in the APA format:
“Generative AI is expected to generate $4.2 trillion in additional revenue in the next five years.” (Doe, 2023, p.5).

How to Cite a Discussion Board Post in MLA

If you need to cite your sources under the MLA format, here’s an example for in-text citations:
“Google and Bing have already launched their generative AI search” (Doe 7).
Reminder: the number in the parentheses refers to the page number.
You can also use the MLA style to cite others’ discussion board posts:
Doe, John. “Thread title.” Forum name, 12 February 2024. example.com/post-url.
As for the reference list, remember to:
  • Use the heading Works Cited for the list.
  • Sort the items alphabetically by author’s last name.
  • Use double-line spacing.
  • Use a hanging indent.
You can always refer to the Purdue OWL’s guide to MLA citations for more examples.

How to Write a Discussion Post in APA Format

You can add direct quotations as you would in any other APA paper. Here are two examples:
According to Doe (2024), “The APA format is the most common one in the education setting” (p. 3)
“The APA format is the most common one in the education setting” (Doe, 2024, p.3).
Make sure to check out the APA guidelines if you’re in doubt.
Now, what if you want to cite another person’s discussion board post? Here’s the formula for how to cite a discussion post in APA:
Doe, J. [username]. (2024, January 15). APA popularity [Online forum post]. Coursera. https://example.com/post-url/
Keep in mind that you should add a reference list in the APA format, too. So, remember to:
  • Use double-line spacing.
  • Sort the items alphabetically by author’s last name.
  • Use hanging indentations of 0.5 inches.

In Conclusion

Writing a good discussion post may seem like an easy feat, but it’s hardly so. In the academic setting, it can easily require as much time and energy as a short essay. That’s because you have to do your research, brainstorm ideas, create an outline, write your draft, and then proofread it for good measure.
However, it’s not all in vain – and we’re not talking only about receiving a good grade for your discussion board post. Writing detailed discussion posts – and engaging in conversations under your peers’ posts – allows you to get a better grasp of the material, think critically about others’ arguments, and argue for your point of view.
On top of that, you get introduced to multiple other perspectives, which only enrich your own worldview.
So, if you’re dreading writing that discussion post, don’t: it’s an opportunity for you to dig deeper into the topic and flex your research, argumentation, and critical thinking muscles.
And if you need a little nudge when it comes to academic struggles, you can always drop our support reps a line, “write my papers for me,” and they’ll take it from there.

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FAQ

As with any other piece of academic writing, be concise and back your arguments with evidence. Use an academic tone of voice while keeping your sentences simple.
That said, there are a couple of tips on how to write a good discussion post in particular:
  • Leverage multimedia and attach files if relevant;
  • Use hyperlinks;
  • Avoid writing in all caps or all lowercase.
To write a good discussion post:
  • Strive to be concise and keep your text easy to read;
  • Avoid overgeneralizing or relying on your personal opinions; use evidence instead;
  • Format your discussion post with indents, line spacing, and lists when appropriate;
  • Finish your post with an open-ended question to drive the conversation forward.
Yes, you absolutely should. As for how to cite them, it all depends on the instructions you’re given in the prompt. Even if you don’t have to abide by one specific style, make sure to cite your sources in-text and list all sources at the end of the post.
Here are several tips on responding to a discussion post:
  • Read the original post carefully and reread it once more for good measure;
  • Keep your arguments evidence-based and refrain from personal attacks;
  • Remember to compliment your peers;
  • Use quoting to structure your response and tag other users if applicable.