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WRITING AN OPINION PIECE
Due Date-26 Sep 2020
In the academy, we learn to back up opinions with evidence-based arguments. Some would go as far as saying that scholars should not disclose their own personal opinion on a topic. Social movements often focus on redressing the way in which personal everyday lived experiences of the marginal have been entangled in political issues, which are connected to a history of much deeper and broader struggles of inequality, power and justice.
Popular opinion about marginalised social groups is often phobic, misleading and harmful, so social movement scholars often start on the back foot when engaging with public debates. This assignment asks you to rise to the challenge of using your knowledge to engage with public debate. The aim of such writing is to influence and persuade readers of a position, perhaps introduce a new or nuanced perspective on a tired argument, or even change the very terms of debate.
The difficulty with writing an opinion piece with academic knowledge is that the language of the public sphere aligns more readily with mainstream common sense and unfortunately sometimes also with popular prejudice. The task of the opinion piece is to engage the reader and get them thinking, talking and acting. The tone is thus quite different from the supposed position of neutrality and objectivity of much academic writing. The challenge is to find your own voice in your acquired academic knowledge (with as little jargon as possible) to engage with public debate.
CHOOSING YOUR AUDIENCE AND TOPIC
Opinion pieces need to be tailored to a target audience and the topic needs to find a way of connecting to readers. Imagine you are writing for a newspaper or popular journal. The type of opinion piece could suit anything from the Herald Sun, through to TeenVogue, The New Yorker, or Overland. Also have a look at opinion writing on the ABC and SBS websites. Writing a piece for a publication that you read yourself is probably the best way of working out what you want to write about and who you want to talk to.
Like the mock tweet exercises on padlet, this assignment also asks you to find something that you are passionate about that relates to deliberation, participation, statecraft and social movements. Feel free to use the same topic you have chosen for your mock tweets, or choose a new one. Contact Carol via email or arrange a zoom meeting if you want to discuss your choice.
STRUCTURE OF OPINION PIECE
Usually around 5 paragraphs, inclusive of introduction and conclusion.
There are plenty of how to guides on the internet – a simple wikihow high school-ish guide provides a good overview of the structure that can be applied to more complicated topics. The WritetoDone website offers a nice general guide, which is useful for thinking about voice and how to write for an average (non-academic) reader.
It is also useful to look at opinion columnists whose work that you like. Search for opinion pieces by Celeste Liddle, Masha Gessen, Alana Lentin, Chelsea Bond, and Randa Abdel-Fatteh for examples of good op-ed writing.
You are assessed on the task of engagement for this assignment, not the end product. You are not expected to write like those who have been doing a couple of op-eds per week for decades. You will be assessed on getting the task done and taking the risk of engaging with a public issue.
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