Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Opinion vs Fact

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Opinion vs Fact

An essay boils down to arguments, and arguments boil down to the facts. Although defining a fact vs. an opinion ought to be cut and dry, that is far from the case. Simple explanations of facts and opinions will not provide the proper context to truly distinguish them, which is why we will explore “opinions” and “facts” in-depth: how they are different, how they are similar, and how they evolve.

Meaning of Opinion and Fact

First we will discuss the opinion, then the fact.

Opinion

Opinions are what you should avoid in your essay, and something you should never use as evidence to support your thesis.

Opinion is a personal conjecture.

Something is an opinion if it:

  • Does not require verification:

I like pizza.

  • Has failed to acquire verification:

The earth is flat.

  • Or cannot acquire verification:

Humans will evolve into beings of pure energy.

Fact

Fact is not “the truth.” Fact is “what is found” during the search for the truth.

Fact is what has continuously withstood the test of hypotheses.

Green is the color between yellow and cyan on the visible spectrum of light.

Humans have been to space and landed on the moon.

Many plants use sunlight to create nutrients from carbon dioxide and water.

Fact can either be arrived at logically (through the argumentation of a hypothesis) or arrived at by experience (through the experimentation of a hypothesis).

Fact vs Opinion Photosynthesis example StudySmarterPhotosynthesis is a fact, flaticon.

Potential facts

Potential facts are in the process of being proven or disproven. Take for example the advanced study of physics. It would be incorrect to describe the study of quantum mechanics as a study of “opinions,” simply because the topics contained in the field are not fully verified. Rather, the topics regard “potential facts” or "theoretical ideas" that are in the pipeline of research.

There is some overlap between “opinions that have failed to acquire verification” and “potential facts,” but the good news is that neither should be used in an essay as logical support. Potential facts might be referenced as a possible avenue for advancement, oftentimes appropriately in the conclusion of an essay, but “potential facts” should not occupy body paragraphs as a replacement for facts.

Potential facts are often worked upon in theoretical and philosophical fields, and can be identified by their presence near the top of academic study. On the other hand, “opinions that have failed to acquire verification” can be identified by their outsized presence on social media and by their propagation by tabloids, influencers, and celebrities.

Similarities Between Opinion and Fact

There are some fundamental similarities between opinions and facts, but don’t use these things to help you decide whether something is opinion or fact.

Opinions and facts are both conclusions

Someone can present a fact with their whole chest, and someone can present an opinion with their whole chest. Both are conclusive, which can make both of them appear like objective facts. Just because something is said like it is a fact, however, does not mean that it is a fact.

Conspiracy theorists: Fundamentally, conspiracy theorists distrust everything, including their own senses, fearing that whatever they haven’t sensed is actually true. To avoid believing in conspiracies, ground yourself in some form of logical belief. Find a conclusion that you trust. While it is beneficial to be wary of taking anything at face value, it is only beneficial if you also have a logical method to verify things.

In your essays, you will constantly provide evidence that you did not personally verify (e.g., studies that you weren’t present for), or draw conclusions about things you did not personally create (e.g. literature that you did not write). This is perfectly fine.

Note that the opposite is also true. Just because something is said in a tentative or unoptimized manner, it does not mean that it is logically flawed and thus an opinion. Do not rely on how something is presented. Instead, pay attention to the content. Right things can be said in a small voice.

Opinions and facts both evolve

This year, pizza might be your favorite food. Next year, it might be brussels sprouts, who knows?

Likewise, what we regard as fact evolves as we learn more. However, opinion is not likely to become fact in this evolutionary process. Rather, potential facts will become facts in this evolutionary process.

The fact of opinion: Say you like pizza. It is then a fact that you like pizza. That is the fact of opinion. This is the only kind of “opinion” argument that is ever likely to appear in your essay. For instance, if you are arguing that the character of a book—let’s call this character Xuan—does not love their job despite repeatedly saying that they do, then you might use evidence from the book to support this claim about their opinion. Arguing the fact of opinion is something you will only do in literary analyses and the like, where the focus is upon the humanity of the topic and not its objectivity. Literature students thrive when exploring interpretations.

Differences Between Opinion and Fact

Opinion is not concerned with verification, while facts are. Ironically, because of this, stating an opinion is far more conclusive than stating a fact. This is why a scientist might struggle to quickly prove a fact while a conspiracy theorist or fear monger will quickly “prove their point” using some form of faulty logic. Testing hypotheses is time-consuming. Making stuff up is quick.

Someone is not foolish because it takes them time to teach something or to learn something. Someone is foolish when they teach or take something to be fact because it is emotionally exciting.

Identifying Opinion vs. Fact with Examples

Let’s break down opinions and facts:

Identifying Opinions

Here is how you identify an opinion. Any of these are signs that something is an opinion.

Subjective conclusions (biased)

It is an opinion if it is subjective. In other words, if it contains a personal bias then it is an opinion.

Apples are the best fruit.

Fact vs Opinion Apple example StudySmarterThe apple, subjectively the apple of our eye, flaticon.

Contested conclusions (verification inconclusive)

It is an opinion if the verification is inconclusive. In other words, if a hypothesis has been repeatedly tested and the result consistently provides no answer, then to declare a conclusion is a matter of opinion.

Despite what studies show, which is that neither is significantly better than the other, medication X is probably still better than medication Y for those over the age of 65.

Moral conclusions

Moral judgments should not be used as logical support. Instead of writing in terms of “right and wrong,” instead write in terms of cause and effect. For instance, don’t write about why pollution is wrong. Instead, write about how it is harmful to the planet.

Conclusions about the unknown (verification impossible)

Something is unknown if it cannot be verified in any way at present, and is thus an opinion. Examples of this include: future events not observed by scientific rhythm (the moon’s orbit is not an opinion, for example); past events not observed, recorded, or logically deduced; and faith-based arguments.

Identifying Facts

Here is how you identify a fact. Any of these are signs that something is a fact.

Objective conclusions (without bias)

Something is a fact if it is methodically arrived at without any bias. If the truth is what a researcher seeks, their conclusions will not be tainted with assumptions and personal opinions.

Quantifiable conclusions (by research)

Scientific measurements are hugely beneficial in research, because they provide a baseline for validity. If a system of measurement is accurate, then something measured that way can be quantified. If something is quantified, that means that numbers can be assigned to it. Quantifiable data is used to draw conclusions based on what we know about that system of measurement.

After 10 hours, the solution had risen from -19 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Verifiable (by multiple accounts)

If something is clearly witnessed by multiple unbiased people, then it can be considered a fact. Note the words clearly, multiple, and unbiased. Something is clearly witnessed if it doesn’t happen under dubious conditions, such as someone seeing someone in pitch darkness. If the people are multiple, then more than one person saw it. If someone is unbiased, then they don’t have any preconceived ideas about what might have happened. To give an example of bias, if someone distrusts their neighbor, then that person might be more inclined to think their neighbor did something wrong before any evidence is provided.

Verification by multiple accounts is used all the time, not just in criminal investigations. People use this method of verification to verify all kinds of things that they do not personally witness. If you don’t attend a party, you can still verify that it happened by talking to those who did attend.

They didn’t televise it, but the football game was interrupted by a fan running onto the field. I wasn’t there, but my friends were. They saw it, and so did dozens of others who posted about it online.

Fact vs Opinion Football example StudySmarterVerified by more than a few folks, flaticon.

Trusted sources (and common knowledge)

When analyzing a passage or writing your own essay, you will frequently rely on trusted sources and common knowledge. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is an example of a trusted source. “Most birds fly” is an example of common knowledge.

All of this said, just be sure everything is what it claims to be!

How to Avoid Misleading Facts

Do not be hoodwinked by faulty conclusions and sneaky sources. Here are some common ways that “facts” can be misleading.

Be wary of unverified sources

Vague phrases like “studies show...” are often misleading because they don’t cite the studies. Even if something cites a study, don’t trust it just because it’s a study. Some studies are biased and bogus. Consider: what is the actual source of this evidence?

Be wary of unread context

If you haven’t read the study or book that someone cites, you should probably take a glance at it. They could be using it out of context. This goes for videos or photos as well, which are particularly hazardous when used out of context, because photos and videos are often considered to be positive proof. They can be positive proof, but only when correctly attributed, contextualized, and verified. In the age of photo and video manipulation, videos and photos must be verified. "Deepfakes" now exist that can conjure real-seeming people and voices using a computer.

Be wary of generalization

If a study or idea is generalized, be wary of it. Don’t trust broad conclusions drawn from a single source or study. Don’t trust broad conclusions about a genre based on a single book or song. Don’t trust broad conclusions about a society, a philosophy, or a people based on one piece of evidence. Bottom line: huge conclusions require huge amounts of evidence. This type of logic should be avoided:

Because some are X, all are X.

Be wary of sets of information

Here’s an example:

After tests, the AC unit was shown to be working within manufacturer parameters.

A phrase like this may or may not be helpful to an argument, even when it is verifiably true. For instance, this statement of fact does not support that this AC is energy efficient, or particularly effective at cooling down higher temperatures. Before you cite a set of information as evidence, you must be sure that the set of evidence contains what you think it does.

Rarely can huge sets of information be used to broadly support one contention. Break down reports, regulations, and even laws in order to use them as evidence. Do not cite the whole when only one part is relevant to your argument. For example, do not appeal to the United States Constitution as an ultimate authority by its own right. After all, at one point, Article 1 of the United States Constitution contained the three-fifths compromise, which helped to constitutionalize slavery. Obviously, even authoritative documents are not right all the time. This fallacy is called the argument from authority.

Be wary of all logical fallacies

Logic is an extremely powerful tool that you can use to verify ideas all on your own. However, if you take a single misstep in your logic, your conclusion will not be correct. These missteps are called logical fallacies. An argument from authority is just a single fallacy among many. Others include circular reasoning and missing the point. Study logical fallacies and look out for them when analyzing something or when writing something yourself.

Opinion vs Fact - Key Takeaways

  • Opinion is a personal conjecture. Something is an opinion if it:
    • Does not require verification
    • Has failed to acquire verification
    • Cannot acquire verification
  • Fact is what has continuously withstood the test of hypotheses. It is not "the truth" but rather "what is found out" during the search for the truth. Facts can be arrived at logically or practically.
  • Potential facts are in the process of being proven or disproven. They tend to exist in advanced and theoretical fields, and should not be used as evidence.
  • Opinion is not concerned with verification, while facts are.
  • Be sure to identify whether something is really a fact before citing it as evidence. Understand logical fallacies, and don't trust conclusions based on them.

Frequently Asked Questions about Opinion vs Fact

Verification. A fact is verified, while an opinion is not. If something is verified, then it is a fact. 

Many plants use sunlight to create nutrients from carbon dioxide and water.

Apples are the best fruit.

Verification. A fact is verified, while an opinion is not. If something is verified, then it is a fact. 

Whether something is a fact or an opinion matters a great deal when trying to prove a point. If you are trying to prove something, it is meaningful to include facts as evidence, not opinions.

Final Opinion vs Fact Quiz

Question

What is an opinion?

Show answer

Answer

Opinion is a personal conjecture.

Show question

Question

Should you use an opinion to support your thesis?

Show answer

Answer

No.

Show question

Question

"An opinion does not require verification."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

If something has failed to acquire verification, what is it?

Show answer

Answer

An opinion

Show question

Question

"Humans will evolve into beings of pure energy."

Is this an opinion or a potential fact?

Show answer

Answer

An opinion. It cannot be verified, whereas potential facts are in the process of verification.

Show question

Question

Fact is not ____. Fact is what is found out during the search for the truth.

Show answer

Answer

The truth

Show question

Question

Fact is what has continuously withstood the test of _____.

Show answer

Answer

Hypotheses

Show question

Question

Can a fact be arrived at logically?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. Through the argumentation of a hypothesis. 

Show question

Question

If a conclusion has been arrived at practically through the experimentation of a hypothesis, is it a fact?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, assuming there are no flaws with the experiment.

Show question

Question

What is a potential fact?

Show answer

Answer

Potential facts are in the process of being proven or disproven. The advanced study of quantum mechanics involves potential facts, for example.

Show question

Question

If something is a conclusion, is it a fact or an opinion?

Show answer

Answer

It could be either. Facts and opinions can both be conclusions of a kind.

Show question

Question

Can facts evolve?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, people are learning new things all the time. This should not be used an argument for conspiracies or pseudoscience, which have no basis in real learning or research. 

Show question

Question

Opinion is not concerned with _____, while facts are.

Show answer

Answer

Verification

Show question

Question

Is a subjective conclusion an opinion?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. Subjective conclusions contain bias.

Show question

Question

If a hypothesis has been tested repeatedly and the results are inconclusive, is taking a stance on it an opinion?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. If a hypothesis has been repeatedly tested and the result consistently provides no answer, then to declare an answer is a matter of opinion.


Show question

Question

If something is quantified, is it fact?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. However, quantified results can lead to all kinds of conclusions, including incorrect ones if used fallaciously. 

Show question

Question

If many people have seen something, is it a fact?

Show answer

Answer

Not necessarily. If something is clearly witnessed by multiple unbiased people, it is a fact.

Show question

Question

In what ways should you be wary of what you see or read? You should be wary of what? 

Show answer

Answer

Be wary of unverified sources, unread context, generalization, sets of information, and all logical fallacies.

Show question

More about Opinion vs Fact
60%

of the users don't pass the Opinion vs Fact quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.