Skip to Main Content

Academic reading: Distinguishing fact and opinion

Facts and opinions

Now that you know about the ways texts persuade us, it is also important to know the difference between facts and opinions and how to recognize them.

Facts are statements that can be verified and are always objective. A fact contains no opinion of the author and a fact can be proven. For example: I pay 500 euros per month for my room.

Opinions express the meaning of an author or his attitudes or beliefs. They cannot be proven true or false. You often see opinions in controversial topics, when the future is predicted or when opinions are expressed about people, things or places. For example: 500 euros for a room is too expensive.

Recognising facts and opinions

How to recognize a fact?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can the statement be proved or demonstrated? For example, by witnesses or documents?
  2. Can you see it happen in practice?

How to recognize an opinion?

  1. You see biased words (worst, good, worthless, ..)
  2. You see qualifiers (always, likely, possibly, should, …)

Distinguishing between facts and opinions

The ability to distinguish between opinions and facts is very important while reading. A good reader should be aware of the purpose of the author. For example, does the author want to convince you? Entertain? Inform? If you know the author's purpose, you can be more critical of the information you get. Is the information presented as fact really a fact? Or is it the author's opinion?

Use the following questions if you want to find out what the author's purpose is:

  1. Who is the author of the text? What is his occupation? Is the author an authority on the subject? Does he work for a specific company that benefits from the publication?
  2. What is the aim of the text? (e.g.: informing, teaching, entertaining, persuasion)
  3. Who was it written for? (other specialists in the field, consumers, general readers etc)
  4. Does the text reach its goal? That is to say, an informative text may have an additional purpose beyond being informative. Does this text want to persuade you to something, such as make a purchase?


Look at the blogs below.  In each case, consider author, purpose, and intended readership. Answer the questions you have seen above.

Read the following statements and decide whether they are facts or opinions.

  1. Albert Einstein is generally considered one of the most important physicists in history.
  2. Einstein was best known for his two theories of relativity.
  3. He shouldn't have gone to the US to continue his career.

  1. Fact. You can verify this by reading about it or asking physicists for their opinion.
  2. Fact. You can look up how many theories Einstein had on relativity. You can also verify it by asking physicists.
  3. Opinion. Shouldn’t is a modal verb that signifies an opinion. There is no explanation why this statement should be considered true.