Write an op-ed about a particular issue related to crime, the criminal legal system, or socio-legal studies. This course is called Punishment and Society and it focuses on the policies and politics of the U.S. criminal legal system. It will be your job to share your perspectives and expertise by writing an opinion-editorial piece about your issue, using 2 readings from class, 2 external sources, and your own research interests to argue your point. This is not a research paper in the traditional sense. Rather, you have to present facts, a compelling argument, and should cite your sources, but you also have the flexibility to write creatively, share compelling anecdotes, and use other rhetorical skills.
Use between 1,000-1,200 words. Cite your sources properly with ASA citation and a bibliography. Graphs and charts are welcome, if they are helpful, but are not required.
What is an Op-Ed Piece?
Op-ed pieces are a significant part of any newspaper’s editorial pages, one of the most read newspaper sections in the United States. There are typically three different types of writing in the editorial pages: editorials (written by paid newspaper staff), letters to the editor (written and submitted by readers), and op-ed pieces (OPposite the EDitorials on the physical page). Op-eds are longer than letters to the editor or editorials and are written by experts in a particular field. Op-eds analyze current news and research, but they require a lot of facts, analysis, and structure. Op-eds are often a reader’s first exposure to a very important issue.
It is important to know that while op-ed writers are experts on a particular topic, they gained their expertise in different ways. A politician, a professor, and a recently-returned soldier can all offer expertise on the Iraq war and from different viewpoints. That said, some op-ed pieces cite research while others cite personal experience. Your job in this assignment is to write a research-based op-ed.
What Does an Op-Ed Look Like?
Most op-eds are short: between 1,000 and 1,200 words. Since op-ed writers in the “real world” follow this rule, you will, too.
Op-ed writers typically reference research that is relevant to the arguments they are making. You will do the same. Your final op-ed piece must use at least TWO of our course readings and at least TWO external sources.
The typical structure of an op-ed includes:
Lede–A lede is what sets the scene and grabs your reader’s attention – it is your introduction. A news hook is what makes your piece timely, and often is part of the lede.
Thesis–statement of your argument
Argument-based on research-based sources
“To be sure” paragraph–In which you pre-empt your potential critics by acknowledging any flaws in your argument, and address any obvious counter-arguments
Conclusion–often circles back to lede.
Again make sure to:
1. Make a central argument. Is engaging. Quickly draws the reader in.
2. Use at least four readings to make an argument. This should include two course readings and two outside readings. Represent the authors’ arguments, evidence and conclusions accurately. Demonstrate a firm understanding of existing research and its implications. Sociological concepts are rich, detailed and well chosen. Employ appropriate examples. The connection between argument and evidence is clearly and compellingly articulated.
3. Acknowledge the other side of the argument, using sociological concepts and theories discussed in class or in readings. Address counterargument in a way that is convincing and respectful to possible critics.