Critical Reading: Fact or Opinion   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband

FACT: statement of actuality or occurrence. A fact is based on direct evidence, actual experience, or observation.

OPINION: statement of belief, judgment, or feeling. It shows oneís thoughts about a subject. Solid opinions, while based on facts, are someoneís views on a subject and not facts themselves.

Use these guidelines to help keep fact and opinion apart:

1.  Does the author use words that interpret or label, such as: pretty, ugly, safe, dangerous, evil, attractive, well-dressed, good, and so on?

2.  Are there words that clue you to statements of opinion, such as: probably, perhaps, usually, often, sometimes, on occasion, I believe, I think, in my opinion, I feel, I suggest?

3.  Does the author have the skill and experience to make such a statement?

4.  Can you identify differing opinions and their effect on the authorís views?

5.  Does the author make clear the sources of statements from authorities? Are these authorities reliable?

Some authors present evidence to support their assertions. The following questions will help you evaluate evidence in your reading:

1.  Can the facts be trusted?

2.  Are the facts presented in an objective manner?

3.  Do the facts actually provide support for the authorís opinions?

4.  Are the facts relevant to the point being made?

5.  Have unfavorable or negative points been left out?

6.  Do the facts prove the opinion or merely suggest that the opinion is reasonable?

Your acceptance of an authorís opinion depends on your own view of the subject and of the writerís work. To help evaluate an authorís ideas, you need a clear understanding of your opinions. One way to do this is to keep a reading journal in which you record your thoughts, agreement with the author, and reasons. This journal will help you define your ideas and give you a starting point for a more thorough exploration of the topic.