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Fact & Opinion -- Professor Elizabeth Buchanan
Today we are going to learn strategies that will help
you tell the difference between fact and opinion.
As students you spend a lot of time listening to other
people—such as your teachers, parents, and friends.
You also listen to the radio and watch TV.
Sometimes people tell you the truth, but sometimes
they are giving an opinion.
A fact is a statement that can be proved.
You can prove it yourself
o Or you can use a reliable authority.
o Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.
o How can we prove this?
Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu,
How can we prove this?
By looking at his birth certificate.
Barack Obama is married to Michelle
How can we prove this?
Look at their wedding certificate.
It is important to understand that "facts" can
change over time for a variety of reasons.
o At one time in the past, it was considered to
be a "fact" that the earth was at the center of
o Of course, we now know that this is not true.
The requirements to vote in the United States are:
A U.S. citizen
At least 21 years old by the general election
A resident of your precinct at least 30 days prior to
Which of the three sentences on the
previous slide is not a fact?
The voting age today is 18.
However, this did not go into effect
until 1971. Before that time the voting
age was 21.
So now we know that there are many
ways to determine if something is a
fact, but what about opinions?
An opinion cannot be proved. It is
based on someone’s feelings or
Can we really prove
Or is this a matter
Opinions are beliefs or judgments that cannot be
proved by any objective means.
Any statement that deals with probabilities or future
events is considered to be an opinion because it
cannot be proved.
Opinions rely on abstract words that are not
measurable, such as value-judgment words.
I believe This
Presumably In my view Apparently It seems
Most of what we read and hear is a combination of
fact and opinion.
Because of this, it is important to be able to
distinguish between the two.
Remember, not all opinions are of equal validity.
Poorly supported opinions are of little value, while
opinions from an expert, or someone knowledgeable
in the field, are considered to be more reliable.
In general, writers usually provide evidence to
support their ideas.
However, as a critical reader, it is up to you to
review the evidence and determine the quality of
Also, keep in mind what the author has left out.
Writers often try to mislead readers by leaving
out some important information.