Op-Ed on a Specific Timely Topic
Op-Eds are worth studying and emulating not because they appear in newspapers but because they’re persuasive and responsive to the writing of other authors. Every skill required to write a good Op-Ed will serve you well in academic writing.
You’ll find an unlimited number of Op-Eds on our textbook, easily accessible from the Opinion heading, each identified as having been produced by an “Op-Ed Contributor.” Read a few before you try to write your own. The articles we read this week for our Unfair Summary Exercises are good examples.
You’ll choose your topics from articles anywhere in our textbook and locate additional sources to support a thesis you’ll identify and refine throughout the multi-week revision process. You have hardly any time to get started, but plenty of time to improve the end result.
Like any good Op-Ed, yours will respond to a recent event or current situation, or directly to an article by another author. In addition to being timely and responsive, your essay will reference at least one additional source in the first draft, to demonstrate that you’ve done some background research to earn the authoritative voice that will support your clear and direct claims.
When I say reference, I don’t mean quote. You may quote of course, but you may also simply summarize the argument of another author or point us with a link in the direction of someone else’s research. One way or another, though, you will mention and make use of two sources, one primary, one secondary. Later, you’ll add others.
Tips for Good Op-Eds
Make one in your opening paragraph. Be sure it’s a clear and compelling claim on a very specific topic you believe you will be able to persuasively prove with adequate evidence in the course of your Op-Ed style essay. Keep in mind that, while the standard of proof for a research paper might be “irrefutable evidence,” the standard for an Op-Ed is “reasonable and persuasive evidence.” The purpose of the Op-Ed is to provide a logical and convincing case for a personal opinion; Op-Eds offer sympathetic readers a well-made argument they can use to support or focus their own opinions.
Bad Example that makes no significant claim:
The American Patriot Act is a very controversial piece of legislature that has some people worried about whether it violates basic human rights.
Good Example makes a significant claim:
“Enemy combatant,” a category of war prisoner unknown until the passing of The American Patriot Act, has made it possible for the US to wrongfully, indefinitely, and without access to due process, detain individuals “suspected of offering assistance” to terrorists who could never have been taken captive—let alone imprisoned for years without charges—under the Geneva Convention. The treatment of our “enemy combatants” shames America, which used to pride itself on adherence to the “rule of law.”
2. Background and Evidence
In later paragraphs, you’ll summarize sources, quote where needed, make reasonable arguments, and present the material you’ve gathered.
Bad Example (vague development):
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni citizen and one of the first detainees sent to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in January 2002, died there earlier this month. Despite his “low-level danger” assessment, he is still in US custody.
A law may soon pass that will change the definition of “battlefield.” It’s unclear whether that will increase the number of people detained at Guantanamo. Detainees can ask their lawyers to permission the Department of Justice if they believe they do not belong in custody.
Good Example (specific development):
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni citizen and one of the first detainees sent to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in January 2002, died there earlier this month. Despite his “low-level danger” assessment and the fact that he’d been recommended for release by several presidential administrations, Latif was routinely denied release. He was never charged with a crime.
The American government refuses to grant these detainees the most basic legal rights: to be told of their charges, to confront their accusers, to dispute the charges on which they’re being held. Some have been held for 10 years without a chance to appear before a judge. One was tortured and force-fed to thwart his hunger strike before his ultimate release.
Legislation currently pending would grossly expand the definition of “battlefield,” arguably to include the entire world, making it possible to find “enemy combatants” anywhere. The Justice Department provides no relief, declaring that detainees need permission to meet with their lawyers, if they can get one.
1. Write an essay in the Op-Ed style with a very specific thesis on a very specific topic of your choosing.
2. Adopt the tone and formality level of the opinion columns published every day in the New York Times. Because Op-Eds are understood to be the opinion of a single person, unlike Editorials, they may use first person singular. (You may refer to yourself as “I.”)
3. Your Op-Ed will draw support from at least two sources. You’re not required to quote them, but you must refer to their content in your essay and provide hyperlinks to the originals whether you quote them, paraphrase them, or summarize them.
4. Op-Ed writers are paid to be opinionated. They do not get published by stating the obvious or reflecting common knowledge. Their essays do much more than simply state facts. Their claims are either controversial or uncommon or surprising. For example, they don’t say, “Our health care system could be improved.” Instead, they say: “The Affordable Health Care Act is killing people.”
5. Title your essay: Op-Ed—Username.
6. Post your essay to the A05: Op-Ed category.
7. Early Feedback
As always, if you post early and I have the time, I will provide early feedback you can use to improve your draft before receiving your first grade.
- MW Section: DUE 11:59PM SUN OCT 19
- TR Section: DUE 11:59PM MON OCT 20
- There will also be an Op-Ed Rewrite assignment. This week’s Op-Ed assignment will receive its own grade, which cannot be improved after it’s recorded. Make it good.
- Grade will start and end in the 25% Shorter Argument, Non-Portfolio grade group.
- Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)