Monday, January 11, 2021

Improve your skills: writing an opinion essay

The basic five-paragraph essay structure, which you have probably used many times by this point, works extremely well for an opinion essay. It’s a starting point, and when you get to university your profs will expect a more complex approach to essay writing. If you feel confident about your essay-writing skills, you can certainly branch out into longer and more complex essays. But this basic five-paragraph outline is a good starting point, especially if you feel uncertain of your ability.

An opinion essay exists to prove your main point – your thesis. This should be clearly stated in your opening paragraph. Don’t leave the reader to guess what your position is on the issue – make a clear stand!

Next, develop your argument in the body of your essay. Each paragraph should contain a single, clear idea that support your point of view. You can use examples and illustration, cause-and-effect reasoning, comparison/contrast or other methods of development to support your argument.

Research: Any statements you make that would cause a reader to say, “Wait, how do you know that’s true?” need to be backed up with documentation from outside sources (“I saw something on TV about it one time” would not be considered adequate documentation). Refer to the handout “What is Research?” for further details.

Remember that a paragraph is three to five sentences that develop a single, clear idea.  A good paragraph often begins with a topic sentence that sums up your main idea.

·         Paragraph One -- The introduction.  Here you state the main idea of your entire essay -- the point you are trying to make or prove.  This paragraph should include your thesis statement plus three reasons why you believe this statement to be true.

·         Paragraphs Two, Three and Four.  These are the body of your essay.  Remember back in Paragraph One, you gave three reasons for your opinion? Three reasons, three body paragraphs.  Each of the body paragraphs should take oneof your reasons and explain it in more detail, citing sources where necessary.

·         Paragraph Five -- The conclusion.  Former Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood once said about giving speeches: "First I tell them what I'm going to tell them, then I tell them, then I tell them what I told them."  That's how you write an essay.  In the conclusion, tell them what you told them.  Sum up your argument by restating your thesis statement and reminding the reader what your three reasons were.  In an argumentative essay, you can finish with a "call to action" -- tell the reader what you would like them to do as a result.

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