How to Write an Opinion Essay in 6 Steps


Should students be required to do homework? The answer might seem obvious to you, but sit with it for a minute. If yes, why? If no, why not? Thinking through your answer to questions like this can form the basis of an opinion essay, an essay written to express and defend an opinion.

What is an opinion essay?

An opinion essay is where a writer shares a clearly formed opinion backed by research, logic, and anecdotal evidence. The purpose of an opinion essay is to clearly articulate a position, often in response to a question. It’s a writer’s way of demonstrating both what they think and why they think it.

Being able to express an opinion well is an important skill to have in the world. For example, being on social media exposes you to a wide array of opinions, so it’s good to be able to recognize which opinions are backed up with substantial evidence and which ones aren’t.

You will also find opinion essays in the Op-Ed sections of newspapers. The most famous op-eds, like those printed in the New York Times, are read by millions of readers and can have a serious impact on the way that people think.

How is an opinion essay different from other essays?

Opinion essays are only one type of essay that you might be assigned. Different essay types have different goals. Opinion essays are great for sharing an opinion, while persuasive essays are useful for convincing the reader that an opinion is correct. Argumentative essays also demonstrate why something is correct, but they do not rely on emotions as much as persuasive essays do. Expository essays explain the reasons why something is a certain way without taking a side.

Opinion essay: States an opinion and backs it up with facts

Argumentative essay: States a fact and backs it up with more facts

Persuasive essay: States a fact or opinion and tries to convince the reader to agree using facts and emotions

Expository essay: Explains a subject by laying out all of the evidence connected to it

How to structure an opinion essay

If this is your first time writing an opinion essay, a good way to start is by using the five-paragraph essay structure.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Capture your reader’s attention with a good hook. Present the prompt and state your opinion.

Some tips for a good opinion essay hook:

  • Use a surprising statistic.
  • Profess an unpopular opinion.
  • Ask a rhetorical question.
  • Share an anecdote.

Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4: Body

Use facts and anecdotes to explain why you hold your opinion. Make sure you use credible sources! It’s not enough to just say what you think; you should also explain what evidence led you to that opinion.

You can also use these paragraphs to work through any counterarguments or alternative points of view that you might encounter. Addressing those in the body of your essay will strengthen your argument and help you clarify why you believe something to be true.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

Draw a logical arrow through the body paragraphs and point it at your opinion. The conclusion is a place to remind the reader of your evidence and make your point.

What to include in an opinion essay

A clear opinion (thesis): Your opinion is your thesis. Forming your opinion might happen quickly in response to the prompt, or it might be something that you’ve been mulling over for a long time. Either way, your opinion should be clear from the start of the essay.

Novelty: A good opinion essay adds something to the discourse. Maybe your opinion doesn’t align with the mainstream. Or, if your opinion is generally agreed upon, you could find some interesting new research that supports it.

Semiformal tone: It’s easy to drift into a casual, conversational tone in opinion essays because you’re writing about a personal topic. Keeping a measured, semiformal tone that’s not too stiff or too casual will lend more credibility to your opinion.

What not to include in an opinion essay

“I think”: It’s true that technically an opinion essay is all about what you think. It’s OK to use this phrase to begin, but your essay will fall flat if you rely only on “I think” statements without providing external evidence for how or why you think those things.

Ambiguity: By the time you sit down to outline and write your essay, you should have a clear understanding of what you think and why you think it. It’s fine for your opinion to stretch over the course of your essay, but if you aren’t clear about your opinion at the beginning of the essay, you can’t expect your reader to have a clear understanding of your ideas after reading it.

Rambling: Stick to the subject. Again, because the material begins in your own head, it’s easy to get off track following your own wandering thoughts. If you need to, allow yourself to go off on those tangents, but just remember to go back and cut out any material that isn’t relevant to your thesis before you turn the essay in.

Write an opinion essay in 6 steps

1
Brainstorm 

If you don’t have a prompt, this is where you will start brainstorming all of the topics you might want to write about. If you do have a prompt, then brainstorm all of the possible answers to it.

2
Research 

In this step you’ll form your opinion. As you form it, continue to ask yourself why. Why do you believe something to be true? Do you have data to support it? Have you heard similar stories from multiple sources? If something sounds true to you, but you’re not sure why, continue to investigate it using primary and secondary sources. If it’s a valid opinion, you will find the support somewhere.

This is also a time to research any counterarguments or alternative perspectives. Including these in your essay shows you have done your research thoroughly. However, make sure you are presenting them in a way that still supports your point.

3
Outline

Create an outline according to the five-paragraph essay structure mentioned above. Adjust the paragraph count according to the assignment you’re given and how much room you need to explain or support your opinion.

4
Drafting 

It’s finally time to write! Start with a rough draft and remember that it’s called rough for a reason. Write it all down. You’ll have time to clean it up and make it sound nice when you’re revising. If you don’t write anything down, you won’t have anything to revise. For opinion essays, include any quotes or research you’ve gathered and cite your sources.

5
Revise 

Now is the time to revise, or clean it up. Make sure your essay flows logically; jumping from one topic to the next will disorient the reader. Check that all of your evidence supports your opinion. Listen to the way your essay sounds (literally, read it out loud to yourself). And triple-check that your opinion is crystal clear!

6
Proofread

The proofreading stage is where you get granular. Make sure your words are spelled correctly and that your commas and periods are in their places. If you aren’t confident in your proofreading skills, you can use Grammarly to review the essay with you.

Opinion essay outline (example)

If you’re not sure what an opinion essay should look like, here is an example of an opinion essay outline using the five-paragraph essay structure.

Prompt: Should students be required to do homework?

Introduction

Hook reader with a statistic about how much time the average student will spend on homework.

State the prompt: We accept homework as a natural part of our scholarly lives. But should we?

Thesis: I do not believe homework should be required of students because it widens inequality and damages students’ mental health.

Body paragraph 1

Homework widens the gap between socioeconomic classes because those with access to time and resources, like tutors, will do better on their homework and get higher grades in class.

Talk about the paper showing the gap in education investment between high- and low-income families. 

Body paragraph 2

Homework creates extra stress in students’ lives and can have a negative effect on mental health.

Quote from Stanford study: “students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance and even alienation from society.”

Body paragraph 3

Counterargument: Some may argue for homework as a way of instilling discipline and persistence in students, regardless of how well a student performs on the assignment.

While that is true, students learn and demonstrate discipline and persistence simply in the act of getting up and going to school five days a week. Provide an anecdote about your morning routine and getting ready for school every day.

Conclusion

Restate opinion: I do not think that homework should be required of students.

The way that homework exacerbates inequality and harms mental health creates costs that far outweigh the benefits of homework.

Opinion essay FAQs

What is an opinion essay?

An opinion essay is an essay where the writer forms an opinion about a topic, often in the form of an answer to a question, and uses factual and anecdotal evidence to support that opinion.

What is the purpose of an opinion essay?

Opinion essays are used to clearly and informatively articulate a position. Sometimes these positions go against the grain and need extended explanation. Sometimes they are a fresh take on an already popular belief. The opinion essay allows a writer to form an opinion and demonstrate to their reader why they believe it to be true.

How is an opinion essay different from other kinds of essays?

Opinion essays are different from other types of essays because the thesis is based on the writer’s own opinion. Other essays, like argumentative, persuasive, and expository essays, require the thesis to be formed around an external fact, event, or argument.



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