Writing Plan

Op-Ed on a Specific Timely Topic

By THU OCT 31, you’ll submit a Writing Plan for your Op-Ed.

Along with your LTE for Portfolio and your Editorial, the upcoming Op-Ed is a Portfolio-eligible essay, considered a major assignment, improvable and re-gradable until its Feedback Please deadline, destined for your final Portfolio. Like the other Portfolio items, it will be represented by two drafts that represent your progress and responsiveness to feedback.

The Writing Plan you’ll produce for THU OCT 31 is not a major assignment. It’s a work product assignment that falls into the Non-Portfolio Tasks category, worth 20% of your grade overall. It will earn just one grade and can’t be rewritten for credit.

SAMPLE: I’ve produced a sample Writing Plan to guide you in completing your assignment. I wrote the Plan in 2012, the last time before this semester that I taught Comp I. (Since then, I’ve become the Department’s Comp II specialist.) Just this morning, reviewing this plan for relevance, I found this entry titled, “Whatever Guantanamo is Like, It Can’t Be Worse Than This.” Let’s read it together first.

Sample Writing Plan for an Op-Ed

1. Thesis Statement

Here you’ll make 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 own Op-Ed. 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 nothing like a significant and clear 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 that makes a clear and 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 “enemy combatants” shames America, which prides itself on its adherence to the “rule of law.”

2. Background and Evidence

Here, you’ll summarize the material you’ve gathered in a few short paragraphs. As you organize the evidence, you’ll be producing in effect a brief first draft of the essay you’ll submit by THU NOV 07, so take the project seriously. The better your Background and Evidence, the less writing you’ll have to do later.

Good Example:
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.

3. Sources I Have Found

Here you’ll provide links to the best material you have found to shape and support your point of view. The sources you identify here will not necessarily be cited in your eventual Op-Ed, which is not a research paper and which often makes only the barest citational references to its supporting documents.

Federal appeals courts have routinely failed to consider reasonable evidence that detainees at Guantanamo are being held without sufficient evidence that they have engaged in terrorist or military activities. Many detainees held in custody since 2002 have never been given a chance to challenge their detentions in court in supposedly guaranteed habeus corpus hearings.

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. His death in confinement is a travesty of American justice.

The personal narrative of Lakhdar Boumediene adds sympathetic evidence to the overall argument that detainees at Guantanamo are held without charge and without access to the basic protections of American law. Boumediene was held captive for seven years at Guantanamo, tortured, and force-fed to thwart his attempt to hunger strike, though he was utterly innocent of the suspected plot of which there was ultimately no evidence.

The National Defense Authorization Act proposes ridiculously abusive policies designed to detain indefinitely anyone captured on a battlefield engaged in any action against the United States, then expands the battlefield to mean essentially anywhere in the world. Adopting the Act would be a clear violation of every aspect of due process American treasures and is an unnecessary abandonment of our core values.

The Justice Department has declared that lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo will no longer be able to meet with their clients without the express permission of the US government. Four years after the Supreme Court upheld the right of detainees to press their habeus corpus rights, the government seems determined to thwart detainees’ every effort to prove they have been wrongfully detained.

4. Sources I Haven’t Found Yet

As the deadline looms, you’ll probably still be looking for another or a better source. Saying so here serves two purposes: 1) it indicates you know what’s missing from your argument so I don’t have to wonder what you’re thinking; 2) it may prompt somebody to share a source with you.

Good Example:
I would like to find the transcripts of the Latif or the Boumediene hearings, to demonstrate the pettiness or illogicality of the government’s arguments to continue to detain suspects against which it had no legitimate evidence.

Bad Example: I know there was a famous case of a Guantanamo detainee who was supposed to get a trial a few months ago, but I can’t remember his name.

5. Counterarguments I Need to Refute

Your paper will only be persuasive if it acknowledges and refutes obvious and strong (or surprising and strong) arguments from other points of view. Let me know here what arguments you’ll need to counter.

Good Examples:

  • Critics of my point of view will say I cannot prove the innocence of the prisoners being detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere. They’ll say that the stakes are too high, in a post-9/11 world, to let suspected terrorists make their plans to rain down terror on us.
  • The arrest of that “underwear bomber” on the flight to St Louis over Christmas is enough to make people frightened all over again of what one person can do if he’s allowed to get on a plane. At least if they’re behind bars we know disgruntled Muslims trained by Al Qaeda can’t blow our jets out of the sky.
  • If a few unlucky Afghans get swept up in the process, that’s unfortunate, but we’re at war and in any war there are casualties. At least they’re alive.

This ends the Sample and the Assignment.
Good Luck!


1. Write a Writing Plan for your Op-Ed.

2. Your Writing Plan will take a position on any controversial topic you encounter while reading our textbook, whether the story comes from the news pages or the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. Whatever topic you select, produce a Writing Plan modeled on the Sample above. Include Thesis, Background, Sources I Have Found, Sources I Haven’t Found, and Counterarguments I Need to Refute.
Due:  Midnight WED OCT 30.

3. Your successful plan will identify links to the best sources you’ve located, and also the details of the material they contain that will support your thesis.

4. Title your post: Writing Plan—Username.

Post your essay to the Writing Plan category and the Username category.

6. 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. I cannot promise I’ll have time, but when I do, I heartily enjoy helping any way I can.


  • This is a graded, one-draft assignment that will not be rewritten and cannot be re-graded after the deadline.
  • Non-Portfolio Tasks category: 20%


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