Op Ed Essay Ideas On Responsibility

I often go out and talk to people who are interested in getting Op-Eds published in The Times. I do it because we need you, the reader, the writer. People certainly don’t write for us for the money; the payment, frankly, is peanuts. They write for the influence, for the chance to reach an audience, to say something that’s been bothering them, driving them crazy, something that no one else seems to be saying.

We appreciate that, and we need you. We need a diversity of voices and opinions about a range of topics. Anything can be an Op-Ed. We’re not only interested in policy, politics or government. We’re interested in everything, if it’s opinionated and we believe our readers will find it worth reading. We are especially interested in finding points of view that are different from those expressed in Times editorials. If you read the editorials, you know that they present a pretty consistent liberal point of view. There are lots of other ways of looking at the world, to the left and right of that position, and we are particularly interested in presenting those points of view.

As we become more international, we need you more than ever. Not long ago, Op-Ed meant just the two or so articles by outside writers that ran each day on the print page. Now, Op-Ed includes Sunday Review, a section with longer reported, opinionated pieces, and Opinionator, one of the most popular blogs at The Times and home to series like The Stone, on philosophy, Disunion, on the Civil War, Draft, on writing, and Private Lives, personal perspectives of universal matters.

We get a flood of submissions, but there’s never too much good writing in the world. There is always room for more. So what makes the cut? That’s what people always ask me, so I’ll try to explain the process. Most pieces we publish are between 400 and 1200 words. They can be longer when they arrive, but not so long that they’re traumatizing. Submissions that are reacting to news of the world are of great value to us, especially if they arrive very quickly. Write in your own voice. If you’re funny, be funny. Don’t write the way you think important people write, or the way you think important pieces should sound. And it’s best to focus very specifically on something; if you write about the general problem of prisons in the United States, the odds are that it will seem too familiar. But if you are a prisoner in California and you have just gone on a hunger strike and you want to tell us about it – now, that we would like to read. We are normal humans (relatively speaking). We like to read conversational English that pulls us along. That means that if an article is written with lots of jargon, we probably won’t like it.

We don’t just wait for articles to arrive. Every day we have a meeting to discuss the news, to toss around ideas, to think about which writers might be good on which subjects. Whether we then reach out to a writer and ask for a piece, or take on something that was submitted to us, all articles are written on spec – no article is guaranteed publication. But once we have accepted a piece, we will do everything we can to make sure it runs on one of our platforms. Sometimes, that happens months after a piece is written, an occurrence that must be absolutely maddening to writers. We wait for what seems like a good peg, the moment when the greatest number of readers are likely to find a piece relevant and interesting.

Continue reading the main story

Adam R. Pearson (Pomona College)

Please note: Instructors are welcome to use or adapt these teaching ideas for their own classes, provided the use is noncommercial and appropriate credit is given.


To: (1) introduce students to a powerful and accessible venue for engaging and transforming public debate; (2) foster critical thinking about real-world applications of psychological research; (3) develop students' research and writing skills; (4) provide students with experience communicating research findings to non-academic audiences; and (5) empower students by recruiting them as fellow educators to help advance public understanding of psychological science.


This action teaching assignment flips traditional student-teacher roles by turning students into public educators and disseminators of psychological science. Specifically, students are asked to identify a psychology-related puzzle (e.g., Why are U.S. obesity rates increasing?), examine relevant research evidence, and write a science-based opinion piece, or "science op-ed," of 750 words or less. These essays are then submitted to publication outlets of the student's choice. Through this assignment, students strengthen their research and writing skills, learn how to apply scientific findings to issues of public interest, become empowered to enter into and transform public debate, and become psychology educators as well as consumers. In addition, the public benefits from exposure to scientific evidence on matters of law and public policy. In the words of one student who completed this assignment, "I now realize that my own opinions can influence important legislative decisions and public opinion."

Background and Rationale

The phrase "flipping the classroom"—turning the classroom into a more dynamic learning environment (e.g., by saving class time for discussions, rather than lecturing)—has recently gained traction in higher education. Here I argue for a different approach to flipping the classroom—one that involves flipping student-teacher roles to recruit students as public educators and disseminators of psychological science. Specifically, I describe a powerful yet under-utilized course assignment, the science-based opinion piece (or "science op-ed"), with the potential for enhancing both student and public appreciation for psychological research.

Many undergraduate and graduate-level courses include some form of end-of-term paper. These papers are typically read by the instructor or a teaching assistant and rarely see the light of day after that. A highly engaging alternative to these types of assignments is the opinion piece. In addition to being far more enjoyable to grade than lab reports, op-ed assignments do four important things: (1) empower students and challenge them to engage and transform public debate; (2) develop students' research and writing skills; (3) engage students in "real-world" applications of psychological science; (4) treat students as contributors to, rather than mere consumers of, psychology education.

Description of Assignment

A strong op-ed starts with a bang—it engages the reader right from the beginning with a timely and provocative problem, clearly articulates a position, and is respectful of differing points of view. Even though the reader may disagree with the author, the reader comes away from the piece willing to seriously consider the author's perspective. From a writing pedagogy standpoint, the op-ed is a terrific forum for teaching how to develop clear and cogent arguments and convey them concisely (and with some flare). From a research standpoint, an op-ed can capture the public's attention and disseminate science in a way that few journal articles can.

Op-ed writing has been successfully incorporated into a variety of applied social science courses to engage students in new and ongoing policy debates (for notable examples, see Daniel Hudgins' Foundations of Social Welfare and Social Work and Kelly Brownell's Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food), but has seen surprisingly little use within social psychology. Here, I describe a general approach to this assignment that can be readily implemented in a wide range of courses, including both introductory-level courses as well as more specialized seminars.

In this assignment, used in both an introductory-level social psychology course as well as a first-year writing seminar, students write a science-based op-ed of 750 words or less that brings relevant psychological research to bear on an important social problem. Students are informed that, although op-eds come in many forms, the best papers share several key features: They identify a specific puzzle (e.g., Why are U.S. obesity rates increasing?), examine the problem in light of current scientific thinking (theory) and evidence (e.g., research findings), and communicate some novel insight about the nature of the problem or propose a solution based on available evidence. Students are required to use three or more external sources beyond course readings to support their arguments and are asked to provide either (a) evidence that the article has been submitted for publication (e.g., a submission confirmation page), or (b) detailed instructions for submitting the op-ed to two prospective outlets of the student's choice.

Students are further informed that their piece will be graded on whether a central thesis has been developed, whether the thesis has been defended scientifically, and whether the piece is written in a clear, coherent, and engaging style for their target audience. Finally, students are reminded that, although it's fine to reach high, acceptance rates are typically highest for local and regional outlets and that, because social change often originates locally, even campus publications can be quite influential. In addition to these instructions, I also provide several resources to teach them about op-ed science writing as a genre and help them develop an evidence-based argument.

Evidence of Effectiveness

From student feedback, I have found the benefits of op-ed writing to be substantial, including empowering students, educating them about new venues for engaging public debate, and providing students with experience describing psychological research to non-academic audiences. Eight student op-eds from these two classes have now been published, including two that appeared in major regional and national outlets (see Finkelstein, 2013, and Mueller, 2012, respectively). Another student published a piece in the campus newspaper that stimulated a new diversity initiative at the college (see Qu, 2012). This student has since published eight more op-ed pieces, tackling topics ranging from the use of grades as a pedagogical tool to the role of MOOCs in the liberal arts.

0 Replies to “Op Ed Essay Ideas On Responsibility”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *