This is a guest post by Sam Pealing. Make sure to visit his website EnglishForStudy.com for more academic English help!
I admire international students. Seriously. If you’re a non-native English speaker doing a degree or doctorate in English, then I take my hat off to you.
I get a lot of questions about writing essays, and I’ve taught hundreds of students how to write effective essays (which get good grades). One of the most common mistakes that I see is a lack of opinion.
Most of the time, students describe a situation, but they don’t give their opinion or stance. This can really damage your grade because lecturers are always looking for ‘critical thinking’. If you don’t give your opinion in your essays, your lecturers can’t see your critical thinking.
To put it simply: If you don’t put your opinion or stance in an essay, then you’ll probably lose marks.
In this article, you’ll learn 10 effective phrases that you can use to give your opinion in your essay. I’ve also created a free lesson pack which will help you to practice the phrases in this article. CLICK HERE to download it.
Introducing the Phrases
If you’re looking for a quick fix for your essay, these phrases should help you to start putting your own opinions in your essays.
But, before you rush over to your essays to start putting these phrases in, there’s something you need to know.
If you’re writing an academic essay, you will need to support your opinions with strong evidence. This is especially true if you are using some of the stronger phrases.
This evidence can be a journal article, a lecture, a textbook, or something else which is a trustworthy source of information.
In a more informal essay, like one in an IELTS or TOEFL language test, you don’t need to support your answers with strong evidence. Your experiences or opinions will be enough.
Quick note: I know! You’re ready to see the phrases.
This won’t take long and it’s really important.
1. For these phrases to be really effective, you’ll need to review your grammar. Shayna has some great videos on her Espresso English Youtube channel.
I recommend these:
2. If you want to know the structure of a good essay paragraph, check my post here.
Informal English Phrases
These phrases are suitable for language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. In an academic essay, these phrases will probably be too informal because they are too personal.
“In my opinion, + [your sentence]”
- In my opinion, a good education is more important than a good car.
“I believe that + [your sentence]”
- I believe that schools should encourage students to walk or cycle to school rather than drive.
“In my mind, + [your sentence]”
- “In my mind, no-one should have to pay for medical care.”
More Formal Academic Phrases With ‘That’
These phrases are more suitable for academic essays. If you are unsure whether you should use an informal phrase or an academic phrase, use an academic one. If you think your writing might be informal, read this post to learn more.
The patterns here are quite straightforward. Just add your sentence after ‘that’.
“It would seem that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you support your opinion with evidence.
- “It would seem that children learn best when they are feeling comfortable.”
“It could be argued that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you want to challenge an existing opinion.
- “It could be argued that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in this situation.”
“This suggests that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you don’t want to fully commit to an opinion. You’re giving yourself some distance.
- “The evidence suggests that people who speak more than one language have more job opportunities.”
“This proves that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you are confident with your opinion. This phrase is quite strong*
- “This proves that the best way to lose weight is through a controlled diet and a good exercise program.”
“This supports the idea that + [your sentence]”
Use this one when you are supporting an opinion that you have already made.
- “This new research supports the idea that successful English learners look for opportunities to use English.”
Other Ways to Express Opinion
“Although [idea you disagree with], [idea you agree with]”
Use this when you want make your opinion seem balanced.
- “Although reports suggest that cigarettes could help people to lose weight, there are too many serious health problems associated with smoking.”
Note: The ‘although’ pattern is very effective because it shows two sides of the argument. In the example, I support the idea that smoking is bad for your health –BUT- I recognise that it could have some benefits.
Structure your ‘although’ sentence like this: Although, [weaker argument you disagree with], [stronger argument you agree with].
Using Adverbs, Adjectives and Nouns
You can use adjectives to show your opinion.
- “This research was poorly conducted with a lack of control.”
The adjective and nouns in the example are negative. You can get some good ideas from this video on Extreme Adjectives. Note: try not to use any emotional adjectives.
Make Your Own Phrases!
Of course, these phrases aren’t the only ones that you can use! You can find more –or– you can create your own by combining different patterns.
Here’s an example of #7, #9 and #10 used together.
“Although it is difficult for older adults to learn a second language, an important study by Smith (2014) proved that the elderly can successfully learn new languages.”
What Should You Do Now?
So now you should have a better idea of how to include more opinions in your essays. But that’s not all; there are probably some new words here that you don’t know.
So here’s what you should do:
- Choose three of the opinion expressions and phrases that you want to try.
- Practice writing sentences using them (if you don’t have a topic, try this: should students do homework? You can see examples of this in the lesson pack)
- Get the Lesson Pack for this lesson (which contains the vocabulary and the phrases from this lesson) CLICK HERE to download it.
About Sam Pealing
Sam Pealing is an English language coach who specialises in two important areas: 1. helping you to get great grades at university, and 2. helping you to become an effective and confident English user. If you’re feeling frustrated or confused with English, Sam has created the perfect email course for you! You can join his course here –or- you can read more by him on English For Study.
I previously wrote about sticking to the same formula of a 4 paragraph structure. Once you practice this approach, it will be very easy to plan and organize your essay when you’ve only got 40 minutes.
For the agree/disagree essay, I think it’s probably easiest to just completely agree or completely disagree because you just need to have 2 reasons to support why.
Remember, the examiner is marking you on how you express, organize and support your ideas. They aren’t judging you on your opinion. As long as it’s logical and cohesive (your argument is supported and your ideas stick together) and written clearly, you will get a higher mark.
You can follow this 4-paragraph structure:
- Introduction– introduce topic and give your clear answer to the task question (I fully agree or disagree with the claim)
- Main Reason #1 why you agree or disagree – give examples and supporting details
- Main Reason #2 why you agree or disagree – give examples and supporting details
- Conclusion – restate your opinion (this is a very short paragraph – probably 1 to 2 sentences)
Here’s an example:
Many children these days have an unhealthy lifestyle. Both schools and parents are equally responsible for solving this problem.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
My outline of ideas for my essay (not fully written out):
1. Introduction – Write a sentence about the topic, paraphrase the claim and give my opinion – I completely disagree. I think only parents are fully responsible for solving this problem.
2. Main Reason #1
I believe parents are fully responsible for solving this problem.
- main caregiver and spend the most time with their kids
- should be the primary role model of living a healthy lifestyle
- most effective because parents provide child’s food/meals and guidelines for child’s free time and activities
3. Main Reason #2
Schools should not be responsible for solving this problem.
- Schools should focus on academics – reading/writing/maths and science
- Teachers have a relatively small amount of time with each child – they have to worry about a classroom full of 30+ children
- least effective because they don’t provide for the child’s regular diet
4. Conclusion – restate my opinion that I completely disagree and believe that only parents, rather than parents and schools equally, are responsible for changing children’s unhealthy lifestyles.
See my full sample essay for this question here.
Want to get your essay writing checked? Here’s how: Essay Correction & Feedback
Posted in IELTS Writing, Writing Task 2 Tagged with: IELTS Writing, Writing Task 2