Writing an Opinion Essay

male and female student at a table
Hero Images/Getty Images

You may be required to write an essay that is based on your own personal opinion about a controversial topic. Depending on your objective, your composition could be any length, from a short letter to the editor to a medium-sized speech, or a long research paper. But every piece should contain some basic steps and elements.

Collect Research to Support Your Opinion

Make sure that your supporting statements match the type of composition you are writing. For example, your evidence will vary from observations (for a letter to the editor) to trustworthy statistics(for a research paper). You should include examples and evidence that demonstrate a real understanding of your topic. This includes any potential counterclaims. In order to truly understand what you are arguing for or against, it is imperative that you understand the opposing arguments of your topic.

Acknowledge the Previous Opinions or Arguments That Have Been Made

More than likely you are writing about a controversial topic that has been debated before. Look ​at the arguments made in the past and see how they fit in with your opinion in the context in which you are writing. How is your point of view similar or different from those articulated by previous debaters? Has something changed in the time others were writing about it and now? If not, what does the lack of change mean? 

“A common complaint among students is that the dress code restricts their rights to freedom of expression."


“While some students feel uniforms restrict their freedom of expression, many feel the pressure to uphold certain standards of appearance by their peers.”

Use a Transition Statement

Transition statements show how your opinion adds to the argument or suggests those previous statements and arguments are incomplete or faulty. Follow up with a statement that expresses your opinion.

"While I agree that the regulations do hamper my ability to express my individualism, I think the economic burden that the new code brings about is a bigger concern."


“The administration has developed a program for students needing assistance in purchasing the newly required uniforms.”

Be Careful Not to be Too Sarcastic

"Many students come from low-income families and they simply don't have the resources to buy new clothing to suit the headmaster's fashion whims."

This statement contains a bit of a sour note. It would only make your argument less professional-sounding. This statement says enough:

"Many students come from low-income families and they simply don't have the resources to buy new clothing on short notice."

Use Supporting Evidence to Back up Your Position

  • "The recent increase in fees has already led to a decrease in enrollment."
  • "Some of my friends are struggling to purchase necessities, due to the rising costs."

It is important to keep the tone of your essay professional, by avoiding emotional language and any language that expresses an accusation. Use factual statements that are supported by sound evidence.

Note: Any time you develop an argument, you should start by thoroughly researching your opposition's point of view. This will help you to anticipate any potential holes or weaknesses in your own opinion or argument.