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An opinion essay is a written work in which the writer expresses an opinion and supports that opinion with facts and examples. Unlike other types of essays, the opinion essay does not necessarily need to rely on hard facts; it can, instead, rely on the writer's opinion only, provided the writer can support his or her opinions with compelling arguments. The essay will consist of an opening paragraph with a thesis statement, supporting paragraphs, and a closing paragraph with an effective conclusion to the essay. Most essay writers should avoid using phrases such as "I think" or "I believe," but the opinion essayist is free to use such terms.
The opening paragraph of the opinion essay should consist of three basic parts: the hook, which draws the reader into the essay topic; the thesis statement, which is the main argument of the writer clearly stated in one sentence at the end of the paragraph; and the transition, which is a sentence or series of sentences that connects the hook to the thesis statement. The hook can be an example, a basic description of a scene, a quote, or other compelling sentence that will encourage the reader to keep reading. The thesis statement is a clear statement of the writer's opinion and the reason he or she has chosen that opinion. The transition helps connect the scenarios or examples of the hook to the writer's thesis, or opinion.
The supporting paragraphs of an opinion essay will all relate directly to the thesis; the point of these paragraphs is to explain why the writer believes his or her opinion on a matter is correct. These paragraphs may also serve to explain the opposing arguments; the writer can then work to discredit these arguments by presenting facts and other information that supports the writer's assertions.
The conclusion of the opinion essay is one paragraph that essentially summarizes what the essay was about. The goal for the writer is to give the reader the vital information he or she needs to remember once they finish reading the essay. This should not be a simple re-statement of the thesis, but instead a well crafted paragraph that provides a synopsis of the important facts and arguments presented. The writer should think carefully about what he or she wants the reader to continue thinking about once they have finished reading the essay and craft a paragraph to present those ideas.
@jennythelib - I like your idea of using professional models. Writing an opinion essay in class can seem like an artificial exercise, and even though op-ed pieces will generally follow a different format, it's good for students to see that this is a genre that does, indeed, exist in the "real" world.
The mistake that a lot of students - and adult - make is thinking that an "opinion" doesn't have to be backed up with facts. They say, "Well, that's my opinion," as if there's nothing further to say.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Opinions can't be "wrong," but they can certainly be ill-informed. An opinion essay must include research and facts from which arguments are drawn.
As a librarian, I often help students find op-ed pieces as opinion essay samples. A bonus is that it can help them come up with ideas - a lot of op-ed pieces have a fairly narrow political focus, but others deal with more essay-friendly topics.
I've actually noticed that these professional writers rarely say "I think" or "I believe." They just lay out their arguments and sort of assume that the reader is following and agreeing - that no reasonable person would do otherwise. It's actually quite powerful.
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