Distinguishing Fact from Opinion

Importance of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is important in all aspects of your academic life especially in research and other writing assignments. You need to b critical when you analyze the ideas and information you have gathered for your academic work. When you engage in critical thinking, you are able to weigh and evaluate various information. By separating those that are useful from those that are not, those that support your belief from those that do not, you become more discerning. Being discerning means being able to let go of preconceived notions and valuing viewpoints that are contrary to what you believe.

How do you develop critical thinking? One way to be more critical is to avoid personal and cultural biases. When your mind has been conditioned to think a certain way, you are no longer open to new ideas, making you close-minded and vulnerable to faulty thinking, which could lead to weak arguments. Being mindful of your emotions may be your best guard against weak arguments.

Distinguishing Fact from Opinion

Critical thinking in the context of academic writing demands being able to distinguish facts from opinion. Facts are statements involving ideas and information that can be verified, while opinions involve one’s personal beliefs. In academic writing, you are allowed to express opinions you feel strongly about, provided you support your conviction with enough evidence. For example, if you are writing a paper about the mental health of senior high school students and you believe that too many academic requirements have a negative influence on students’ mental health, you should be ready to provide evidence in the form of testimony from students, as well as data from guidance counselors and teachers.

Identifying Statements of Facts

Statements of fact are verifiable statements based on an objective int and sourced from credible websites and learning resources. Statements of fact are written in a straightforward manner, often in the declarative mode. Stated in an objective manner, a fact cannot be altered personal feelings and judgment.

When making statements of fact:

  • Do your research.
  • Get your information from as many sources as possible and compare. 
  • Retain that which is credible and useful and delete those that are not. 
  • Be able to cite your source/s of information. 
  • Be mindful of your tone.

Identifying Statements of Opinion

Statements of opinion reflect the person’s perspective and judgment about issues of a subjective nature. Because people have different opinions, even the least controversial issue can generate multiple viewpoints, based on people’s interpretation. Some topics such as same-sex marriage, religion, political parties are more contentious than others, and people regard these issues based on their beliefs.

When making statements of opinion:

  • Ask yourself if your opinion is the result of someone else’s influence; if so, be able to defend it. 
  • Be able to express your opinion clearly. 
  • Be mindful of the tone you use in your writing. 
  • Be able to support your opinion with credible facts, statistics and reliable argument.

Certain words and expressions convey opinion.

Here are some examples:

  • In my opinion, … 
  • I feel that… 
  • I believe that… 
  • If you ask me… 
  • I guess… 
  • Based on what I know, … 
  • I would estimate that…

Identifying Incorrect Information

In academic writing, erroneous information is taboo. Unfortunately, these kinds of statements still find their way into academic writing, especially if the writer is not quick to see these errors. Often the errors consist of erroneous information as a result of careless writing, lazy editing, or sheer ignorance. The more unacceptable error consists of flaws on the basis of faulty judgment or out of insincere motives such as attempts to sidetrack people and manipulate them, as what happens during political rallies. This kind of manipulation is also present in certain forms of advertisement in print, radio and TV advertisements.

In our “media-saturated world” you need to be on the lookout for erroneous information. It would be wise not to believe everything you hear, read, and see. Be ready to get at the bottom of things, to investigate if necessary. In this age where pictures can be digitally enhanced and news can be tweaked and passed off as real, it would be wise to do some fact-checking to be sure about the authenticity of information.