How to Write an Opinion Essay

Instructor: Kevin Watson

Kevin has taught college English and has master's degrees in Applied Linguistics and Creative Writing.

Writing an opinion essay doesn't have to be a daunting experience. In this lesson you'll learn to follow a few steps to simplify the whole process and remove the complexity of writing opinion essays.

The Simple Path

Writing an opinion essay may have its challenges, but it doesn't have to be hard. First, here are the common steps in the process:

1. Topic - decide a topic that you feel strongly enough about to devote the time to it.

2. Main Idea - a thesis or statement that indicates your opinion about the topic.

3. Pre-writing - jot down ideas as they come to you.

4. Organizing - group the ideas that relate to each other.

5. Drafting - write about each group of ideas.

6. Editing and revising - correct small errors and make any changes in organization.

Topic and Main Idea

Let's assume you have chosen a topic that you want to write about, which could be something current in the news, some memorable life experience, or perhaps something you aspire to like a career choice. You will need a thesis, or a statement of some opinion about the topic. Basically, it's your main idea and is often seen at the end of the introduction. It gives the reader a preview of where your essay will go.

Once you've found your ideas, you might then see more clearly what your opinion is and the specific reasons that you have it. For example, you might think that think that having religion in education is a good thing. But why? Now you're moving toward a reason for writing. Here's an example of ideas flowing toward a thesis.

First, you might think that it is good to know the history that religions hold. You may also think that religions carry important moral messages. You might believe that religions encourage spiritual development. Each of these could serve as the topic of a body paragraph. For the thesis, you could combine them with the topic and opinion to form a thesis statement like this: Religions should be taught in schools to provide students with more understanding of human history, promote moral thinking, and to encourage spiritual development. This now tells your opinion with a preview of the subtopics for your body paragraphs.

You may have some ideas in mind but you may want to wait on that until you've gathered your thoughts on the topic. That brings us to pre-writing.

Pre-writing

This may be the easiest part of the assignment because all you need to do is think a little and jot down the ideas you already have. Try to think of this first as a dialog with yourself. Your first question should be this: What do I think about this? And what's next? You answer. The best part is there's no worrying about grammar or even sentences. You don't have to judge how good or bad the ideas are. You keep your momentum by throwing down ideas bad or good and later on you can decide what to keep and what to throw away. Remember, this part is only for you; no one else will ever see it.

An important result of this is that your thoughts become clearer to you, so you'll make them clearer for the reader. You're the teacher when you write. In the end, the reader may not fully agree but will appreciate your clear understanding of things.

Organizing

One way to do this is to circle each idea to see them clearly and separately. Then you can draw lines connecting the ones that focus on a similar idea. From there, you can decide the order you would like to put them in. Now you have the ingredients to a sub-topic or a paragraph. A common organization and length for understanding essay structure is the five-paragraph essay. After the introductory and concluding paragraphs, this structure provides three body paragraphs each devoted to an idea and all supporting the thesis/opinion to be argued. Each body paragraph should give a clear topic sentence followed by an example, illustration, or logical step that supports the idea. The topic sentence should be one of your reasons for your opinion, as written in your thesis statement. This should be fairly easy since you've already brainstormed reasons for the opinion and grouped your notes together that support that opinion. Now you have the meat of the paragraph and only need to combine it all in complete sentences in the next step. Congratulations, you're halfway there!

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