Research your opinions, use facts and evidence for support

March 21, 2017

Eleanor Sturt

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     Like many students at UCCS, I am opinionated.

     As the opinion editor for a newspaper and a college student, that is probably a good thing. But having an opinion is not as simple as making statements based on emotion or passion. It takes work to have a good opinion.

     One of the lovely aspects of opinions is that no right or wrong answer exists, only people’s reasoning as to why they are right and someone else is wrong.

     This is where opinions can get ugly.

     Who is right and who is wrong?

     The easy answer is “no one;” the complex answer is “everyone.”

     Your professor and your peers can create the perfect environment for students to discuss and debate their opinions that will benefit the entire class if done the right way.

     Before you speak up in class, it’s important to remember that opinions with a factual basis are stronger and hold their own better than opinions that are based primarily on emotion or personal experience.

     Personal experience can act as support to an opinion, but it only works if other people can relate to it.

     When expressing your opinion, remember that there is a right and a wrong way to do so. People who have strong opinions have researched their stance and tend to be more involved in their area of interest.

     Statistics, educational studies and real-life scenarios will all help you form a solid opinion. The facts make it harder for an opponent to combat your stance; the facts legitimatize your opinion.

     Legitimacy and life experience in an argument are both important.

     For example, someone who has worked with the environment for 40 years is going to have a more knowledgeable and legitimate opinion on the current global heating issues than a freshman STEM major.

     The STEM student can support their argument with as many studies and statistics as they can find, but the life experience that the environmentalist has adds an unattainable element.

     Use experiences that are relatable to the people you are trying to convince. Facts will then only further your argument.

     As students who strive to expand their knowledge, forming strong opinions is an important part of our education.

     Many English classes, for instance, will have you structure and write a persuasive paper because it teaches you to use information gathered to state an opinion.

     But the most important step to have a strong opinion is knowing where and when to express it.

     Good places to express opinions include civil one-on-one discussions, classroom discussions and opinion sections in newspapers.

     Places where your opinions will be discussed critically are imperative to learning how to better support your argument.

     Arguing why cats are better than dogs after you friend’s dog of 12 years has just died is not the appropriate time.

     Interrupting your instructor in class to argue a lecture point is not great either. Wait until after class and discuss it then.

     Even better, wait until next class and do your research before arguing a faculty member on something they have more knowledge on.

     When you go to class next time, you will be calmer, more prepared and your professor will probably be impressed that you did some digging before approaching them.

     At that, you might consider keeping your opinions off of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These outlets are fantastic social tools, but they are not the appropriate place to post your strong opinions.

     Not only is it unprofessional, but it may later cost you your job. If any employer decides to do some media checking before hiring you and sees a vulgar post about deeply emotional opinions on politics, they may decide otherwise.

     The best opinionated people are those who are willing to look critically at other’s arguments and be willing to be swayed. That does not mean you must turn to the dark side; just use empathy to understand where someone is coming from.

     Having a strong opinion is not just learning how to form your own, but also looking at how others came to theirs.