At the end of Spring 2016 semester, 20 faculty members from each school and college participated in the CRASE OpEd Project where they developed ideas for public scholarship by considering evidence-based arguments that are timely and have public value. During the two day workshop, participants learned about establishing credibility, structures of op-eds, and tips on refining and pitching their ideas.
When writing an op-ed, academics must first understand that their communication goals and style for writing are different than they write for scholarly journals. On the first day, much of the discussion focused on ways of establishing credibility through evidence, being right versus effective, and how to engage in larger conversations. The goal of an op-ed is to speak about your knowledge to a general audience without jargon and get the reader to say, “Tell me more.” Unlike traditional academic writing, it is useful to bring in your personal experience because it connects you to the reader in a way that data can’t.
In the op-ed, there’s a common structure to develop your argument with evidence. Start with a news hook to establish the case for why your op-ed is important now. Common hooks include employing a current event, anniversary, holiday, trend, release of new data, something in popular culture, or highlighting news that should be news. Throughout the op-ed, utilize various types of evidence and anticipate bias from the audience that you want to reach. An important component is to include the technique known as a “To Be Sure,” which addresses potential counter arguments in such a way that it is acknowledged but then persuasively dismissed. For example, validate the counterargument and trump it with something more urgent or provide a personal caveat. It’s important to create a space to address your opposition with respect and to treat the audience as morally intelligent. In the conclusion, include a call to action that is specific and doable.
Using these ideas, participants developed drafts of their op-eds, and on the second day, they received feedback from their peers. The OpEd Project provides detailed resources on their website including basic op-ed structure, tips for op-ed writing, how to pitch, and submission information for over 100 outlets.
Many of our participants are currently working on their op-eds for submission. Monisha Bajaj, Associate Professor of Education, published “Community Walks: A Day of Learning for Schools” on Teaching Tolerance. Violet Cheung, Associate Professor of Psychology, was featured on MTV News “The Stakes: Raw Heart Podcast Part 3.” Christina Chong, Assistant Professor of Law, published “Is Hollywood Still an All-White Boys Club?” with the American Bar Association. Lisa de la Rue, Assistant Professor of Education, published the op-ed “Teen in police scandal is a victim, not a ‘sex worker’” in the San Francisco Chronicle. Professor of Law Alice Kaswan published “As court weighs clean power plan, rule’s approach could reduce carbon emissions, improve public health” on The Hill. Assistant Professor of Education, Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales published “Democracy for Some, Not for All” on the Huffington Post. James Zarsadiaz, Assistant Professor of History, published “Why candidates should court Asian American voters” in the San Francisco Chronicle. Assistant Professor Desiree Zequera published “More than Nuance: Recognizing and Serving the Diversity of the Latina/o Community” on EdExcelencia Hispanic-Serving Institutions .