Why is it important to avoid the use of unsupported opinions as evidence?*

  • Unsupported opinions can weaken the credibility of the writer because the reader may lose their trust in the writer.
  • Strong opinions may offend the reader, who may feel differently about the issue or have a personal connection to the opposing view.
  • Opinions without supporting evidence can compromise the strength and perceived validity of the paper’s argument because such opinions may overshadow other trustworthy evidence.

When should an opinion be left out?

An opinion should be left out of an academic paper when it:

  • cannot be supported by credible sources or reliable research.
  • is informed only by personal experiences, religious beliefs, or strong emotions and not by relevant date.
  • can be replaced with a more compelling point.

How can an opinion be properly stated and supported?

  • Identify the root of your opinion: What is your opinion based on? If the answer is related only to personal experiences, religious beliefs, or strong emotions, you will need to do some research to ensure that credible sources are available to back your opinion.
  • Locate credible evidence that supports your opinion: Look for specific evidence in your research that supports your opinion. Citing an authority in conjunction with communicating your opinion will help strengthen the credibility of your claim.
  • Establish a connection between your opinion and reliable evidence: Demonstrate to your reader that an opinion used to support a point has been informed by research and credible sources. Connect relevant research to the opinion as clearly as possible.

Let’s look at an example:

Unsupported opinion: I believe that the current ‘anti-bullying’ campaigns aimed at today’s adolescents are useless and will only create a future society that is full of wimps.

Supported opinion: ‘Anti-bullying’ campaigns targeting today’s adolescents may create a future society that is unprepared to cope with conflict. In support of this idea, noted psychologist Peter Smith explains that while reports of bullying decrease with age, the frequency of bullying remains the same across different age groups. He attributes this decline in reported bullying incidents to the fact that older victims have developed valuable coping mechanisms to help deal with bullying (Smith 336). Smith’s idea suggests that bullying may not always be detrimental to the victim, since building coping skills during adolescence may contribute to greater resiliency in adulthood. [1]

[1] Smith, Peter, Shu Shu, and Kirsten Madsen. "Characteristics of Victims of School Bullying: Developmental Changes in Coping Strategies and Skills." Peer Harassment in School: The Plight of the Vulnerable and Victimized. Ed. Jaana Juvonen, Sandra Graham. New York: Guilford Press, 2001. 332-351. Print.



How are supporting details used?

When a writer makes a claim, the position should be backed with supporting details and examples. These details supply evidence that defends the validity of the claim, and they should be relevant, credible, and verifiable.

Why is it important to relate supporting details directly to the thesis or topic sentence?

In an academic paper, the claim and main ideas stated in the thesis and topic sentences require further explanation and support. The major components of a paper—the thesis, the topic sentences, and the supporting details—should work together to create a strong and stable essay. The thesis should be supported by each paragraph, and each paragraph’s topic sentence should be supported with relevant details and examples. If one of those components fails to do its job, the foundation of the paper is compromised and the argument is weakened.

Without relevant supporting details, the paper may lack cohesiveness and credibility. The reader may be unable to follow the progression of the argument and remain unconvinced that the claim or ideas have a credible foundation. To maintain the credibility of the author and the paper, include details and examples that clearly correspond to the claim and main ideas. It may be helpful to list some of these potential supporting details and select the most relevant before writing.

Let’s look at an example:

Claim: A stay-at-home parent performs a number of important tasks that others are paid to do.

Relevant supporting details: This list should include jobs that others are commonly paid to perform. These items on the following list could be considered relevant to the claim and could be verified by many stay-at-home parents and by reliable research:

  • nanny: children are cared for
  • chauffer: children may be transported to school and a variety of activities
  • tutor: assistance with homework and projects may be provided
  • manager: a wide variety of household tasks are organized and performed
  • chef: meals are planned and prepared
  • accountant: finances are managed


Irrelevant details: These ideas would not be appropriate to support the writer’s claim, because these activities are not usually performed by paid workers and would be considered irrelevant to the claim.

  • coach: youth sports are often coached by the parent of one of the team members
  • volunteer: parents may do volunteer work at their child’s school
  • scout leader: boy scout and girl scout troops are usually led by a parent volunteer