Week 4

OPINION ESSAY PART 2: Writing a strong, clear thesis

Aside from a strong, clear thesis, the second most important element of your essay is your organizational format. Believe it or not, the impact of your ideas on the reader depends more on how well you present them, than on what you actually write. Evaluators are much less concerned about what you write than with how you write it. You must persuade the reader that your opinion, no matter what it is, demonstrates well-founded reflection. You must structure your essay so that it is clear, convincing and easy to follow. You can visualize your essay looking like this :
  • The top pyramid is your INTRODUCTION. The three middle boxes are your BODY PARAGRAPHS and the bottom pyramid is your CONCLUSION.
  • Simply put, your essay should have a clear beginning, middle and end. Of course, this is not the only way to write an essay, but it is a simple and effective essay structure to follow for the TOEIC Writing Test that you may find helpful.
  • (NOTE: The number of body paragraphs you write depends on how many ideas you have about the topic. For the purposes of the TOEIC, 3 ideas is a good number. If you only have 2 ideas, that’s okay as long as you develop and support your ideas completely. If you have 4 ideas, that’s fine too, as long as you manage your time effectively.)

PLAN OF ATTACK: Writing an outline

One key to organizing yourself well is to plan your essay BEFORE you start writing. Reflect on your sincere thoughts about the topic, think of 2 or 3 ideas, and then pair each idea with at least one example or supporting explanation. You don’t even need to write full sentences for this step. You can sketch your ideas out in point form to save time. For example:

  • Question: Some people think that cats make better pets than dogs. What is your opinion on this topic?
  • THESIS: I strongly believe that, especially for people with busy lives, cats make much better house pets than dogs.
  • Idea #1: Cats are clean and independent.
  • Support:
    • - you can leave a cat at home alone
    • - give enough food, water and a litter box
    • - I leave my cat alone overnight
  • Idea #2: Cats don’t need much training.
  • Support:
    • - easy to train and don’t require as much ongoing reinforcement as dogs
    • - spend a short time training when you first get a cat
  • Idea #3: Cats are loveable and cuddly without being overbearing.
  • Support:
    • - dogs are friendly, sociable and fun to play with, but also overbearing in their needs for love
    • - cats are cuddly and like to be petted, but don’t need your physical presence as much.


Here are some exercises you can use to practice creating an outline.
For the following topics, write a brief thesis as well as 3 ideas and support as a frame for your essay.
Remember, you can use point form to save time.

  • Many companies test their employees regularly to ensure that their skills and knowledge are always up-to-date.
    Do you think this is a fair policy or not?
  • To succeed in life, what you know is not as important as who you know. Do you agree or disagree with this?
  • People these days are searching for a more comfortable life. What do you think is the best way to balance family and work?

PERSUASION THROUGH LANGUAGE: Connecting your ideas with key phrases

Once you have your ideas planned and paired with support, you are well on your way to writing a superb essay. With your basic frame, all you have to do is expand your ideas and fill in the gaps. Well-chosen language is a very useful tool in persuading your reader of your opinion or creating flow. You want to grab your reader’s attention in the first paragraph with your eloquent thesis, and then keep your reader’s focus by writing a logical, easy-to-follow set of paragraphs that relate back to the thesis simply and directly.


Here are some phrases you can use to organize and connect your ideas between paragraphs:

First ideas Adding to an idea
First of all
The first consideration/point is
First off
Moreover / For example
In addition / For instance
Furthermore / In fact
Also /Likewise
What’s more / Similarly
Following ideas Showing contrast
In addition
Another point
Although / On the other
In spite of/ Yet
Despite/ In fact
Even though/ However
Whereas / In contrast
Final ideas Showing cause and effect
A final point is
Due to
As a result
Concluding Showing condition
In conclusion
To conclude
In short
To summarize
So long as
touch slide


Now practice using this organizational language. Use the topics from the previous exercise and pretend that you are actually writing these essays out in full. Write the first sentence or two for each paragraph of the essay, using the phrases in the chart above.

  • For example:
  • Body Paragraph #1:
  • First of all, cats are much cleaner and more independent than dogs. You can leave your cat at home alone for a fairly long period of time, and nothing dangerous or terrible will happen.

Writing Topic

1. Picture Description
2. Opinion Essay
Some people prefer a simple life with very little luxury or convenience-enhancing products, whereas other people take advantage of every new piece of technology they can to make their life more ‘automated’. Which lifestyle do you prefer? Give specific reasons to support your preference.