Learning Outcomes

By the end of this package you should be able to:

Introduction to Independent Learning

Independent learning gives you more choice about what, when and how fast to study. It also prepares you to learn after you complete full time education.

In order to study independently you need to be able to set your own aims, choose how you want to study and reflect on the usefulness of studying that you do and on your overall progress.

Since you have chosen to study one of the reading packages, we can assume that you want to learn more about the subtleties of language through reading. These include looking at the extent to which we can make educated and accurate assessments of the vocabulary and expressions within a text, distinguishing when a writer is presenting fact and opinion and reading not only the words written by the author but finding those sentiments and ideas which are hidden in the meaning, context and nuance of the text. We shall also look at the language features and text structure of different genres.

The online activities are designed to help you to develop an appreciation and enjoyment of reading so that it becomes something you look forward to doing rather than an arduous task you do in order to complete an assignment.

Fact or Opinion

In order to read and understand the news, to be able to make wise business decisions, to participate effectively in committees, or to succeed academically we need to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion. This package will focus on helping you to distinguish between fact and opinion, and will present examples which demonstrate how both fact and opinion are blended in academic writing.


Recognising Fact and Opinion

Read the text below. Highlight in the sentences which present facts, and highlight in the sentences which contain opinions. Then click on "CHECK" to see if you are right or not.


Hong Kong is a place of industry , of beauty and of culture . More that 200 billion dollars worth of goods pass through Hong Kong every year, making it one of Asia’s largest ports. With its own stock market and with at least three globally strategic international banks, Hong Kong is also a very important financial centre. To the fifteen million visitors who pass through Hong Kong every year , however, Hong Kong is probably better remembered for its beauty, and its unique mix of East and West.

This blend of East and West is reflected in Hong Kong’s political structure . The government and legal systems developed while she was a British colony – from 1841 to 1997 . With political and economic development now controlled by Beijing , many local people believe that Hong Kong will gradually become more like the rest of China, and some are concerned that the city may lose its competitive edge. There are others, however, who are confident that Hong Kong will continue to be a vibrant and prosperous place, with a character all its own .


Reading for Facts and Opinions

When trying to distinguish between fact and opinion it is often useful to think of questions that you can pose of both the text and the writer. For example:

  • Would you expect to find facts or opinions:
    • - in business writing?
    • - in scientific writing?
    • - in advertising?
    • - in a grammar book?
    • - in a newspaper?
  • Where can we expect to find more facts in a newspaper?
  • Where can we expect to find more opinions in a newspaper?
  • When and why do writers blend facts and opinions?
  • Can you identify a source to find out if the content is true?
  • Can you think of someone who would not share this opinion?
  • Can you identify which part of the sentence is fact, and which opinion?

You also need to consider the purpose of the writer because this will give you an insight into the factual and emotional content. Decide whether the writer’s intention is to:

  • inform
  • persuade
  • entertain
  • explore ideas
  • evaluate
  • argue
  • explain
  • express feelings
  • solve a problem

Finally, ask yourself one very important question - is it important to be able to distinguish between facts and opinions? Why or why not?


Before we analyse something more complex, let’s look at some simple sentences and decide whether or not they’re facts or opinions.

Read each sentence and then decide whether you think it’s:

  • FACT


BBC links and activities

Distinguishing between Fact and Opinion

It can often be difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion because of the way they are presented.

One way of telling the difference is to look at the language used to introduce the information. In particular look at the key words used. Notice the key words used here to introduce facts.

  • The experiment has demonstrated
  • According to the findings, it is clear that…
  • The results confirm
  • The data firmly indicates…
  • Researchers have recently discovered

By contrast, look at the key words used to introduce opinions.

  • The government claims
  • Chan (2011) argues that…
  • In Moldenstein’s (1844) view
  • It is generally agreed that…
  • Most experts suspect

However, life is not as simple as straightforward facts and opinions and all too often the dividing line is blurred.

Presenting opinions as facts is nothing new, in fact in the world of politics, advertising, marketing and sales to name but a few, the ‘art’ of distorting or representing the truth and ‘spinning’ facts is common.

Facts and opinions can be manipulated; opinions can often be expressed as facts simply by using the language of facts to present them.

The question we have to answer is ‘how do we distinguish fact from opinion?’

Consider this example.

Recent statements made by the government confirm that the majority of the Hong Kong population are benefitting from the huge influx of tourists from mainland China.

The information here is clearly presented factually and yet there is nothing to back up the claim or support it.

Question: Has the government recently made comments about people’s views on the huge tourist influx from China?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Do we know that the majority of Hong Kong residents are benefitting from this situation?
Answer: No.

Question: Is there any evidence to support the government’s statement?
Answer: No.

Question: How are HK people benefitting? In what ways?
Answer: We don’t know.

Question: How does the government know this?
Answer: We don’t know.

Question: Can the article use the word ‘confirm’?
Answer: No. This is clearly a misrepresentation and distortion of an idea or opinion dressed up to look like a fact.

TASK 4 – Text analysis

Read this extract from an academic paper on the effects of public opinion on politics in the Philippines. As you read, identify the parts that you consider to be fact and those that you consider to be opinion. Once you have finished, click on "CHECK"


click on the highlight to show the comments

In May 2010, national elections in the Philippines saw front-runner presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III win a landslide victory which set the stage for an orderly transition of power from the incumbent administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

To many observers, this election also signalled a larger triumph over the “guns, goons, and gold” long associated with voter mobilisation in the Philippines, with Aquino’s poll-tested popularity translated directly into presidential victory through the country’s first fully automated and computerized national ballot count.

To others, the election instead confirmed the staying power of an oligarchy of old political families and patronage-based coalitions of personal allegiance and political convenience.

These claims were based on the fact that the son of a former president and the scion of an established dynasty had resurrected the political machine built up by his late father, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. in the late 1960s and early 1970s and then redeployed by his mother, Corazon Aquino, in the “snap” presidential campaign of 1986. Like his mother a scion of the Cojuangco family, the new president not only inherited shares of vast landholdings and in a range of companies and commercial banks, but counted among his relatives such luminaries of the business establishment as long-time San Miguel Corporation chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr. and former Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company chairman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, Jr. In short, from this perspective, Aquino’s victory confirms the Philippines as an essentially oligarchical democracy.

Against such standard interpretations of the 2010 elections, this paper argues that Aquino’s victory, rather than signalling a clear departure from the old ways of doing politics or the mere reproduction of established patterns of oligarchical politics, points towards a more gradual and limited change in the mobilisation of voters in the Philippines. This change, it is further argued, reflects in part the rise of “public opinion” as a social fact in Philippine politics and society in the period since the resurrection of formal democratic institutions and regular elections. In drawing analytical attention to the emergence of this new social imaginary of an opinionated public, the argument advanced here thus departs from much of the existing literature, which tends to posit an electorate instead largely inscribed within the constraints of clientelism, coercion or machine politics in the Philippines.


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