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Academic Writing
Expressing Opinion

Where do we find opinion in academic writing?

Where opinion occurs in academic writing depends to a large extent on the genre, or type of writing; for example, in essay and report writing expression of opinion and attitude is more predominant in introductions (where the essay's thesis is outlined), and conclusions (where reflections and recommendations are sometimes made) although opinion can also be expressed throughout the piece of writing. Look at the following examples of writing which come from a variety of disciplines. Read each text for more information about how opinion has been expressed in each excerpt.

Conclusion to Accounting and Finance essay1 Language features
Under the appropriate social and economic conditions, Value Added Statements (VAS) may become important in presenting additional or recognised information about an entity to a wider audience. They are of most use when they can be compared with those of past years or with other companies. However, if the publication of the VAS is to become widespread throughout the United Kingdom and in Australia for that matter, there is the need then for accounting standards on their form and content. This is due to the variety of methods that are currently employed in their preparation. Opinion is qualified so that it applies only to certain situations.

Low modality

Adjective used to express evaluation.

Opinion is qualified so that it applies only to certain situations.

The need = this step is necessary in my opinion. Nominalisation makes the opinion sound objective, more moderate and less obvious than if it had been expressed in the verb form 'I think we need to'. More information on nominalisation.

Evidence supplied to validate opinion.

Introduction to a biology report  
Many plant species have structures on their seeds to enhance their dispersal. In Australia, over 1500 plant species produce seeds that bear a fleshy appendage called an elaiosome (Berg, 1975). Plant species that produce elaiosomes in Australia are generally found in dry sclerophyll vegetation (Berg, 1975). Elaiosomes are thought to be an adaptation to attract ants, who then become agents of seed dispersal (Beattie, 1985). This study investigates whether elaiosomes increase the removal of seeds from Fabaceae species plants by ants. It is hypothesised that the removal of seeds with elaiosome by ants is greater than that of seeds without elaiosomes. Modality of the claim is lowered to match the supporting evidence.

Claims are qualified to a specific situation or object. Exact information is provided about the nature of the situation or object.

The results of the experiment discussed in the report will either prove or disprove this statement.

Explanation of investigation (in Introduction) of scientific report for nursing  
In many radiotherapy centres where planning for external beam treatments is performed by radiation therapists, the treatment sheet and its calculations are independently checked by staff from a different educational background, typically a radiotherapy physicist. The benefits of this practice were evaluated in a radiotherapy department with two linear accelerators: one combined superficial-orthovoltage unit and one telecaesium unit. By using the nominalised form of beneficial, 'to benefit', the writing sounds more objective and unbiased. More information on nominalisation.

Body paragraph of a Management case study  
Open lines of communication are necessary to ensure clarity in the expectations of both management and staff. In the case study, it seems clear there is a disparity in the manager and the staff's perception of their roles. It is essential that the manager clearly set out the organisational goals, and establishes guidelines that outline the contribution of staff towards these goals. As Moorehead (1992:52) suggests members of staff have their own psychological contract with the organisation which embodies their personal expectations about what they will contribute to an organisation, and what, in return, the organisation will contribute to them. The use of job descriptions can ensure that an individual's psychological contract and the expectations of management are compatible. In this case study, some staff obviously believe that part of their psychological contract is not being met, resulting in their workplace dissatisfaction. Statement of argument (Writer's voice).

High modality language has been used to make a recommendation.

Evidence from authoritative sources supporting the writer's argument is integrated into the paragraph.

The evidence is reflected upon and a further statement of the writer's opinion is made.


1 Adapted from: Woodward-Kron (1997) Writing in Commerce, Revised edition, CALT, The University of Newcastle, p. 17.


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