How to Write an Opinion Paper for College

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Writing an opinion paper for college can be a daunting task for new college students. Opinion papers by nature require you to state an opinion or take a position on a specific issue and defend that position. An opinion paper is not, however, license to rant and rave about an issue without providing any evidence. Instead, these papers involve substantial research, organization, and planning to be effective. You'll commonly find that philosophy, religion, and English composition professors hand out these assignments.

1 Research your topic

Research your topic. Stating an opinion in a paper involves more than reporting what you think. You'll often hear these assignments referred to as position papers, as you must take a reasonable position based on evidence that is grounded in fact. Determine your opinion based on your research, and know your topic thoroughly on both sides of the argument before you state it and attempt to provide any type of reasoned defense.

2 Create an outline

Create an outline for your paper consisting of the three main parts that you'll follow when crafting your document: an introduction, body, and conclusion. In your introduction, state your opinion on the topic at hand. This will set the stage for the rest of the paper. You can even hint at the reasons for your opinion, but don't give them away entirely. You'll want the reader to glean that information from the rest of your paper. The body of the outline should list the reasons for your position. The conclusion should clearly and concisely sum up your argument.

3 Construct your essay using your outline

Construct your essay using your outline. State your opinion in your introductory paragraph and then use your list of reasons for stating your opinion in the body of your essay. The body should include three to five substantive reasons why you have taken your position. Provide the most compelling reasons last and the least compelling reasons first. This will give your paper a crescendo effect and drive home the point of your essay.

4 Write a definitive conclusion

Write a definitive conclusion. Your conclusion is your opportunity to restate what you've already state in your introduction and in the body of the paper. Your conclusion should reiterate the main conclusion of your essay based on the facts that you've provided. Go over each point briefly, but be careful not to simply chronicle them without tying them together.

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.