This is the op-ed topic : “My proposal is going to be about immigration. It will focus on families with children who are citizens but illegal immigrant parents and that the parents should be granted amnesty.”
This assignment will follow the rules for most op-eds â€“ e.g., short (800-1100 words), pithy, have a point of view, use evidence, be persuasive â€“ according to guidelines from New York Times op-ed columnists spelled out below.To produce the best work, you must use outside research with reputable (academic or think tank) sources for any facts/evidence you will bring to bear;
Why:It is a good idea to learn how to write persuasively, how to write in different genres, and how to write clearly for a wide readership.The experience explicitly calls for sociological thinking about current events.The assignment may lead some students to get published in news venues.
- Students should identify a topic relevant to the sociology of family (the syllabus features a sample of possible topics, but many possible topics are not represented there, such as communes, religion, child labor, gun violence, etc).Topics should be timely and involve some public interest.
- After they have received feedback/approval from the TA about their topic of choice, students should then do some research on the topic to develop their own views/opinion, and then write an op-ed that makes an argument. (See below for tips from New York Times columnists about how to write an op-ed).
- Arguments should be based in fact, and all facts should have citations (appended in footnote form).
- Sources should be of high quality origin, including academic journals, university presses, or non-partisan think tanks; consult your TA if you are not sure.
- Op-eds do not have to cite course readings or discussion, but if students make an argument that contradicts what we know from course materials, the student should use academic sources to defend their position.
- The only constraint from the course is that the op-ed should demonstrate some sort of sociological thinking, meaning some awareness of the impact of larger systems on individuals; the entire point of the op-ed should not rest upon the importance of luck, personality or individual choice (although you can invoke these ideas sparingly if you must).
- The total length should be between 800-1100 words.Students can submit the piece for publication, although waiting to do so after receiving TA feedback is recommended.Let us know if it is published â€“ we will collect and disseminate among your classmates.
Tips on Writing Columns for a General-Interest Audience
(as collected from New York Times op-ed columnists)
Picking a topic:
1. Start out with a very clear idea in your own mind about the point you want to make. It doesnâ€™t have to be quite reducible to a bumper sticker, although that might help. Somebody should come away remembering the central point of your essay, and thatâ€™s possible only if there is a central point.
- If you boiled it down to one sentence, what would it say? And does it sound fresh and original enough? Ask these questions of yourself before you begin writing.
- Can you make a timely connection with something important that just happened, or is about to happen? Example: Donald Trump just mentioned this. Or, Silicon Valley executives will soon meet to discuss this. Remember that your reader will ask: Why should I read about this subject now?
- As you choose your topic, remember that youâ€™ll have to prove to an editor why readers should listen to you rather than someone else on this subject. Ask yourself: can I add value on this subject that others can’t, maybe because of personal experience or research I’ve done?
2. Donâ€™t choose a topic, choose an argument. In other words, donâ€™t select a topic and make various points about it. Rather, start with a contentious argument that you want to persuade people of. And it should be something that people might disagree with or take the opposite view; â€œbusinesses should obey the lawâ€ isnâ€™t an interesting argument because no one would openly make the opposite argument.
- And propose solutions, as specifically as possible. Publishers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Bloomberg View want solutions.
- If youâ€™re struggling to find a topic, ask yourself, â€œWhat makes me mad?â€™â€™ If it makes you mad, you can write more passionately about it.
3. Start with a bang. Youâ€™re fighting for readers, and frankly most probably arenâ€™t going to read what you have to say. Even in a newspaper opinion page, very few people read every column and op-ed to the bottom. Theyâ€™ll look at the headline and the first half of the first paragraphâ€”and then plenty of them will move on. So donâ€™t take time to clear your throat.
4. Personal stories are often very powerful to make a point. It can be your story or someone elseâ€™s, although itâ€™s often most compelling if thereâ€™s a personal connection. Youâ€™re much better off telling one story, or perhaps two, than five.
- The ideal column proves its case with persuasive statistics as well as stories. Use numbers, but not too many.
- Before writing, say it to a friend and then write it as you said it. I’m struck by how often a reporter can tell me a story better than she can write it. And once you’ve written it, read it aloud. Pretend you’re delivering it to a friend or an audience. It will help you edit out unnecessary or unhelpful words. And it will help you sound less pretentious. Take this advice from Kurt Vonnegut: “I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.’â€˜
- Come up with a ritual that makes writing this op-ed piece feel different from, say, writing a report or memo. For example, write it as an email in your Gmail, as opposed to a Word document.
- Pretend you’re typing on your phone — it’s so unpleasant to use those keyboards, you force yourself to say it in fewer words.
- Use shorter, simpler words — help rather than assist or facilitate, use instead of utilize, start instead of commence.
- Avoid jargon: encourage instead of incentivize, carry out instead of implement.
- Consider a list of “bullet points” â€“ very readable — to supply your evidence.For example: Consider these remarks about the importance of brevity:
–“The more you say, the less people remember.”
–“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
–“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.’â€˜
- Use shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. There’s a reason a newspaper can be more readable than a business report.
- When you finish writing, read the piece one more time and ask yourself: If my friend read this, could he understand it well enough to summarize it to a friend?
5. If the platform allows it, use photos or video or music or whatever. Surprise people. The Web allows all kinds of ornaments, and they draw in readers.
6. Donâ€™t feel the need to be formal and stodgy. Think of an opinion piece as a letter to a friend, rather than as a formal university essay. Crack a joke. Use quotes. Or even sentence fragments.
7. Acknowledge shortcomings in your arguments if the readers are likely to be aware of them, and address them openly. Itâ€™s fine â€“ and often more persuasive! â€“ to note that there are legitimate counter-arguments, or uncertainty about what will happen, but that you still stand by your argument.
8. Itâ€™s often useful to cite an example of what youâ€™re criticizing, or quote from an antagonist, because it clarifies what youâ€™re against.
9. If youâ€™re really trying to persuade people who are on the fence, remember that their way of thinking may not be yours. Advocates often cite the arguments that they themselves find most persuasive, rather than those that those in the middle might favor. Itâ€™s fine to pound the table and make the maximalist argument, but thatâ€™s less likely to persuade others.
- Put yourself inside the head of the reader youâ€™re trying to persuade â€“ sheâ€™s more important than the reader who already agrees with you.
10. Once youâ€™ve written your essay and seen it published, thatâ€™s when the work begins. Assuming that itâ€™s online, try to spread the word through social media or emails or any other avenue you can think of. The point of writing is not just to exist; itâ€™s to be read.