Write a 500-700 word op-ed that enters the civic discourse in our current world about either race, politics, or values in the world.
This is obviously a charged and sensitive set of issues. My goal in this unit is not to teach you what to think. Instead, I want to help each of you consider how you arrive at your beliefs and how you express them to an audience who doesn’t agree with you. Frankly, our nation is stuck in a “this-is-what-I-think-and-here’s-why” loop rather than the fertile ground of “this is what I think, and let me see if I can understand your ‘hook’ so that we can have a productive talk.”
Part of your task will be your ability to engage less with the conclusions of our sample texts and your own writing, and more with the norms of this writing genre. In other words, you will earn your grade by showing adherence to the norms of the genre, staying focused on the actual issue, and exhibiting writing mechanics indicative of an upper-division college student.
In order to guide each of you down an appropriate path of critical thought, I will provide a few prompts to spark your ideas. Your op-ed can address one of them, not multiple, or you can think of your own issue to write about. For those of you who have an idea of your own, feel free to consult with me and I will help you target the idea in a sufficient manner.
While I will not grade you on your beliefs, I will be highly critical of your commonplaces, premises, and logical fallacies.
Be prepared to structure your pieces similar to the examples. For your op-ed, consider the following structure:
- 1st Point
- 2nd Point
- 3rd Point
- “To Be Sure” Paragraph
Note: An average opinion-editorial contains between 12 and 20 paragraphs, so do not dedicate a single paragraph to each element outlined above. You may have to split some of the above ideas into multiple paragraphs.
In terms of citation practices, you refer to where your evidence comes from, but it will be cited according to journalistic standards rather than academic norms. You should not have a References or Works Cited page and will lose points if you break this norm. Just make sure all information is accounted for in narrative citations. Your voice will be intellectual, but it will be less formal.
PROMPT: To what extent does social media help or hurt political and social movements? How can we veer away from the pitfalls and steer our use of these platforms toward the benefits? Be concrete, and please dedicate your focus to a single issue.
Genre expectations. This is an opinion-editorial intended for an audience of people who typically read newspapers and stay “tuned in” to world affairs. They do not agree with your worldview, but they are open-minded to shifting.
DO: Use the academic voice. Write focused, effective ledes and arguments that meet the expectations of this genre. Appeal not only to logic, but also to emotion and credibility. Consider counterarguments in your piece, and address realistic (and reasonable) apprehensions your readers may have.
DON’T: Use formal language; cite your sources in an academic fashion; assume your reader understands your worldview; mistake your values for facts.
DO: Have a title and header (including your name and the date). Structure paragraphs in a manner that will create the most impact, which sometimes will include using the “single-sentence” paragraph or splitting an idea into multiple paragraphs. Single-space the piece and make it “look the part.” Stay within the word count window, as op-eds tend to have highly restrictive amounts of space in their publications.
DON’T: Use APA or MLA formatting; write a five- or six-paragraph essay; have a title page or a references list; forget to credit your sources in narrative form; leave out any of the above elements and expect to get an A!
Decide who “holds a stake” in the matter. This will be your audience. What is their “hook”? What do they have to gain? What do they have to lose? Why does this matter?
Write the opinion-editorial according to the norms online and from lecture. The op-ed should be between 500 and 700 words in length, and it should include appropriate appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos, where appropriate. Citations should follow typical journalistic norms (i.e., introduced as a lead in to the text or as a tag after – not parenthetically cited like APA/MLA).