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Fact vs. Persuasion vs. Informed Opinion in Nonfiction

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  • 0:01 Information Is Everywhere
  • 0:36 Fact
  • 1:24 Persuasion
  • 2:06 Types of Persuasion
  • 3:51 Informed Opinion
  • 5:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

How do you know what to believe and what to doubt? Watch this video lesson to learn how to differentiate between facts, persuasion, and informed opinions.

Information is Everywhere

Our society today is saturated with information. At one time not long ago, information could only come to you through some sort of reference book or, more often, a person with experience. Now any type of information can be accessed through the touch of a few buttons on a computer.

Because of this influx, it is even more important that you can analyze and evaluate the information out there. You need to be able to determine what information is actually accurate and believable. To do this, you need to be able to differentiate between facts, persuasion, and informed opinions.

Fact

Let's begin by looking at facts. A fact is a statement that can be proven. An opinion, then, is something that cannot be proven; in other words, a person's belief.

For example, look at this statement: 'My school is located in Cleveland, Ohio.' Is this statement a fact or opinion? Can it be proven that the school is in Cleveland? Of course it can. The building is either there or not. This is a fact. Now, look at this statement: 'My school is the best school ever.' Fact or opinion? Ask yourself, 'Can this be proven? Or is this simply a person's belief?' This statement cannot be proven and only shows one person's thoughts.

Many times writers of nonfiction present their opinions as if they were facts. This is why you need to be able to recognize the difference.

Persuasion

Now that you know how to differentiate between facts and opinions, let's look at how others might try to disguise opinions as facts. This most often occurs through persuasion, which is the act of encouraging a person to believe something by appealing to reason or understanding. Essentially, persuasion involves convincing. If someone is ever trying to convince you to believe something or do something, then they are persuading you.

In today's society, persuasion occurs everywhere. Businesses are constantly trying to persuade you to buy their products, or websites may try to convince you to believe a specific idea. You only have to watch commercials, read the newspaper, look at ads in a magazine, or read the billboards as you're driving home to see that persuasion is all around you.

Types of Persuasion

Now that you know what persuasion is, let's look at some common forms of persuasion. One form is called big names. In this type of persuasion, you use experts or famous people to support your argument. If you have ever seen a celebrity endorse a product on a commercial, then you have seen big names.

Another type of persuasion is logos. This form actually uses facts to support their claim. Either logic, numbers, or data can all be used as supporting facts. An example for logos would be a commercial stating that a toothpaste reduces cavities by 99%. This company is using this percentage to try to persuade you to buy their product.

Next, pathos is another very common type of persuasion. Pathos involves appealing to the audience's emotions to try to persuade them. Have you ever seen a commercial for a dog rescue shelter? Usually a sad song plays while images of hurt and abused animals pan across the screen. This is an obvious example of pathos. They want you to feel so bad for the animals that you donate to the shelter or even adopt one of the dogs. Pathos is a very common form of persuasion because so many things can tug at your heartstrings.

The last type of persuasion is kairos. In this form of persuasion the person is building a sense of urgency. This involves creating a short time frame in order to get the person to panic about missing a certain opportunity. You see this all the time on commercials or ads. Limited time only, Black Friday Sale, Fourth of July Savings - these are all popular examples of kairos, or stressing a short time frame to create a sense of urgency.

There are actually many more forms of persuasion, but big names, logos, pathos, and kairos are some of the most common forms seen in advertising.

Informed Opinion

The last concept we must consider while identifying facts and persuasion is the informed opinion. Remember, an opinion is a personal belief or judgment about something. An informed opinion is also a judgment, but it is supported with information or knowledge on the subject. This is also known as an educated belief. Informed opinions rely on evidence and not personal experience.

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