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Grade 11 - World Religions and Belief Traditions: Issues, and Challenges: Research and Inquiry skills

This course enables students to study world religions and belief traditions in local, Canadian, and global contexts. Students will explore aspects of the human quest for meaning and will examine world religions and beliefs.

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Inquiry wheel featuring the four phases of inquiry and key resources

7 Tips For Writing A Brilliant Opinion Piece

Writers Write shares writing tips and writing resources. In this post we share seven tips for writing a brilliant opinion piece.

Let me give you a piece of my mind

An opinion piece is ‘an article in which the writer expresses their personal opinion, typically one which is controversial or provocative, about a particular issue or item of news’. 

7 Tips For Writing A Brilliant Opinion Piece

  1. Give it your voice. An opinion piece is your chance to voice your beliefs, values, and insights. It must be subjective and passionate, your personal take on something that has shaken you up, that sits uncomfortably in you.
  2. Don’t be afraid of controversy. Don’t hesitate to go against popular opinion, to shake some trees or point a finger. You have to be fearless in your approach. No one wants a middle-of-the-road attitude.
  3. Think strategically. Argue logically. When you write, know what you want to say and make your case in a critical and persuasive way. Imagine your opinion is on trial. Your argument must get the jury on your side.
  4. Start with a bang. Start with an intriguing question and attempt to answer it. (Why is it there an angel to find you a parking space, but no angel to find you hot sex?) Or start with a powerful statement and then defend it. (I will never pay for toll roads.)
  5. Keep your tone consistent. Your piece can be funny or angry, indignant or perplexed, subversive or straightforward. Just make sure it suits your writing personality and that you keep it consistent.
  6. Use metaphors to simplify complex ideas. If you want to explain the world’s population explosion, say it’s like adding the population of a major city to the world every month. If you want to make a point about making dangerous partnerships in government, maybe use the allegory of the Frog and the Scorpion to explain it.
  7. Test your structure. The best opinions will fall apart if there is a mushy structure. Make sure it has a great beginning, engaging middle, and powerful end.

Learn to use a variety of sources:

Locate a variety of primary sources (e.g., interviews, observations, surveys, questionnaires, original documents in print or other media – film, photographs, songs, advertisements, sacred texts) and/or secondary sources (e.g., book reviews, textbooks, websites, brochures, newspaper articles) .

Distinguishing Fact, Opinion, Belief, and Prejudice

When forming personal convictions, we often interpret factual evidence through the filter of our values, feelings, tastes, and past experiences. Hence, most statements we make in speaking and writing are assertions of fact, opinion, belief, or prejudice. The usefulness and acceptability of an assertion can be improved or diminished by the nature of the assertion, depending on which of the following categories it falls into:

A fact is verifiable. We can determine whether it is true by researching the evidence. This may involve numbers, dates, testimony, etc. (Ex.: "World War II ended in 1945.") The truth of the fact is beyond argument if one can assume that measuring devices or records or memories are correct. Facts provide crucial support for the assertion of an argument. However, facts by themselves are worthless unless we put them in context, draw conclusions, and, thus, give them meaning.

An opinion is a judgment based on facts, an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence. (For example, we know that millions of people go without proper medical care, and so you form the opinion that the country should institute national health insurance even though it would cost billions of dollars.) An opinion is potentially changeable--depending on how the evidence is interpreted. By themselves, opinions have little power to convince. You must always let your reader know what your evidence is and how it led you to arrive at your opinion.

Unlike an opinion, a belief is a conviction based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values. Statements such as "Capital punishment is legalized murder" are often called "opinions" because they express viewpoints, but they are not based on facts or other evidence. They cannot be disproved or even contested in a rational or logical manner. Since beliefs are inarguable, they cannot serve as the thesis of a formal argument. (Emotional appeals can, of course, be useful if you happen to know that your audience shares those beliefs.)

Another kind of assertion that has no place in serious argumentation is prejudice, a half-baked opinion based on insufficient or unexamined evidence. (Ex.: "Women are bad drivers.") Unlike a belief, a prejudice is testable: it can be contested and disproved on the basis of facts. We often form prejudices or accept them from others--family, friends, the media, etc.--without questioning their meaning or testing their truth. At best, prejudices are careless oversimplifications. At worst, they reflect a narrow-minded view of the world. Most of all, they are not likely to win the confidence or agreement of your readers.

(Adapted from: Fowler, H. Ramsey. The Little, Brown Handbook. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.)

Key Terms

Search Terms

Define and appropriately use terms and concepts (e.g., agnosticism, atheism, belief, clergy, conservative, creed, cult, custom, deity, denomination, divine, ecumenism, faith, fundamentalism, habit, interfaith dialogue, laity, liberal, monotheism, mysticism, orthodoxy, pantheism, polytheism, profane, reform, ritual, sacred, secular, supernatural, tradition) 

Gr. 9-12: Ask Us/Demande Moi

Gr. 9-12: How do I start my research?

Gr. 9-12: How do I cite my sources?

Pyramid of collecting facts

3D Pyramid: 5 Steps to Analyze Primary Sources

THE 5WS: Question the source. Who created it? When and where was it created? What is the source about? Why was the source created?
CONTEXT: Situate the source in space and time, placing it in the wider picture of history. What else was happening at the time?
EXPLORING: Examine the details of the source. What is it about? What words, images or symbols are used? What was its purpose?
REACHING CONCLUSIONS: Use context, evidence and observations to develop conclusions. What can the source reveal?
FINDING PROOF: Compare your conclusions with other primary and secondary sources to corroborate your findings. Do other sources confirm or challenge your conclusions?