Public Project Education

Public Writing Assignment

For your final assignment this semester, you will use the research you’ve done for the annotated bibliography to write a blog post/ op-ed piece about your topic.

“Op-ed” is short for “opposite the editorials,” because in a traditional newspaper op-eds appear on the page opposite of the editorials page. Op-eds are opinion pieces that discuss issues relevant in our general society, and they often argue a position on a topic or propose a solution to a problem. Most op-eds are written by people with substantial knowledge of a topic; after completing your annotated bibliographies and group presentations, you are on your way to being experts on your topic, and now you’re going to have a chance to put your knowledge to work to communicate something to the world.

You’ll be posting your pieces to a personal blog or website; if you don’t already have one, I’ll show you how to use MUblogs in class. You will also need to turn in a hard copy of your piece, typed and double-spaced.

Timeline

Nov. 26 Model blog or op-ed related to your topic due

Nov. 29 Draft of your Public Writing Assignment due

Dec. 3 Individual conferences about your Public Writing

Dec. 6 Revised Public Writing Assignment due

Requirements:

An introductory hook that grabs readers’ interest and tells them clearly what the piece will cover.
Basic facts and some description about a specific problem or angle related to your educational topic.
Quotes, paraphrases, and/or summaries of at least 3 sources from your group research presentation.
A conclusion where you wrap up your discussion. You might look forward to the future of your topic, encourage readers to take action on your topic, leave us thinking about the larger implications of your topic, etc.

Some things to keep in mind…

Op-eds are shorter and less scholarly than a traditional research paper, and their audience is the general public, not a specialized group of people. However, your piece should still use concrete, specific, and credible evidence from your research and/or personal experience to support your ideas.
While op-eds often argue opinions and push a particular viewpoint or agenda, your piece does not need to adopt such a clearly argumentative approach. Rather, you can present an “angle” or “take” on your issue, or you can present a possible solution to a problem you’ve discovered in researching your topic. What do you want to say to your audience (the general public) about the topic? You’ll need to make sure your piece is focused narrowly enough for you to cover the topic fully. What facets of the topic really caught your attention as you were doing your research? What kinds of thoughts or opinions did you come to as you were putting the project together? Have the cuts to arts funding in DC resulted in fewer educational opportunities for students? Did you discover a particular angle on the problem of cyberbullying that we need to address as a society? Do you have a possible solution to offer? Think of a particular angle you want to present to your audience, and use that angle to shape your piece.
You’ll need a clearly stated thesis that takes a position or angle on your topic, and you’ll need to remain focused on that position throughout your piece.
You’ll need to use good paragraph structure; each paragraph needs to treat one main idea that clearly relates to the thesis, and each paragraph needs a good topic sentence that links backward to the thesis and forward to the content of the paragraph.
Op-eds usually have clever titles that get readers’ attention and clearly indicate the main idea/ thesis.
You’ll need to use at least three sources in this project, and these sources can be taken from your rhetorical bibliography or from the group presentation. You can cite them only within your text, as many blogs and op-eds do, in which case you need to provide author, title, and a link to the source. Or you can cite only the author in the text and provide titles and links at the end.
Your piece should be about 3-4 pages long.
We’ll read some examples of op-eds and blog posts and talk about how they work. You will also need to find your own model op-ed or blog post that relates somehow to your topic.

Some rules for good arguments:

Support your points with good specific evidence, either from your research, from your personal experience, or both. Generalizations and unfair assumptions usually won’t help you to convince readers of anything.
Establish common ground with all readers, even those who may disagree with you.
Know (and acknowledge) other views on your topic, even (and especially) when they don’t agree with yours. This will show that you’ve listened and heard other views, but still feel yours makes the most sense.
Be passionate about your subject, but use a fair and balanced tone; an overly aggressive, condescending, or angry tone will turn your readers off and make you seem untrustworthy.

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