In addition to examining what op-eds include, you will also want to look at how op-eds respond to a topic. That is, writers of op-eds make one of several moves to provide the structure and organization for the op-ed. I’ve provided you with a handout created by one of my NWP colleagues that I think you will find useful. You’ll want to consider how the examples you read use one of the moves described on the handout from Linda Densteadt. Thinking about these moves and how the writers use them will help you plan how to organize your own op-ed later. The moves are the way the op-ed is organized—where does the writing start and how does it move through the evidence, reasoning, claims, and counterclaims? Where does it end or how does it conclude?
Note: I’ve chosen these op-eds specifically because they do the following things:
- They demonstrate the “unending conversation” that Burke describes in his parlor metaphor. That is, they show that many educational topics are ongoing, never ending, and have multiple perspectives—lots of people talking about what needs to happen in education. The big, unending topic is what should students learn in school?
- I chose these op-eds because they further your ability to respond to the specific conversation about educational issues. That is, your op-ed that you will eventually write will need to respond to the conversation. Seeing how others respond through op-ed can help you develop your own argument later on.
- These pieces are good models for the essentials, possibles, and structure of op-eds in general.
Review: As you identified essentials and possibles, you should have noticed that op-eds represent an argument or someone’s stance (claim) on an issue or topic. That is, I hope you noticed that each op-ed responds to an argument (conversation) with its own nuanced claim (thesis) about the topic.
- In order to support the claim (thesis), each writer used logical, reasoned evidence from research.
- Writers provide commentary on the evidence used. That is, the writer explains in his/her own words what the evidence means and how it connects to the claim he/she is making.
- Writers also address the counterclaim in some way—some explicitly and others use the entire op-ed to respond as a rebuttal to a counterclaim.
- Op-eds begin by explaining the problem.
- Op-eds often end by providing a “call to action”.
To better see the structure, you will do a closer reading of one of the op-eds that you have already read. Choose one of the op-eds that you read to read more closely. You will complete a blog post that responds to the following reading exercises:
- FIRST READING—Trace Key Words Key Words: The writer focuses the OpEd on key points or values that ground the writer’s purpose. These points may be at the heart of making change or shifting thinking, or they just may express what seems most important for the writer. They connect the evidence to the claim and develop the organization of the piece. TIPS for Identifying Key Words: If the article has a headline, use the headline to identify key words to trace. If it doesn’t have a headline, start with words in the first paragraph and claim. FIRST READING TASK: Trace the organization by underlining words that repeat or emphasize key points in the argument. Look for repetition and/or synonyms of the key
- SECOND READING—Identify Claims and Commentary Claims and Commentary: Readers expect the writer to state a claim and explain how the evidence connects to the claim. Claims are generally repeated and refined in OpEds. Readers look for and expect the evidence to shift or adjust the claim. The nuanced or refined claim is generally at the end. · Commentary is the connective tissue of an OpEd. Readers depend on and expect the writer to make connections and explain relationships between supporting and countering evidence and views. The commentary helps a reader understand why the key points or values matter and how the evidence effectively supports the claim.
- THIRD READING: Annotate OpEd Moves OpEd Moves: A purposeful argument is built by thinking about the heart of the issue. What matters? Writers ask: What do I want readers to understand? What is the best way to get their attention and influence them? OpEds use all the basics of argument writing: claims, commentary, and use of sources. But there are three writer’s moves that seem most common. Look for them in all the OpEds you read. Use them in the OpEds you write. 1. Something Happened: OpEds are written in response to current social issues. This names the reason a writer is taking a stand to call for change or offer alternate views to a public conversation. 2. Claim Series: OpEd writers often state and change their claim several times from the beginning to end of the argument. The series of claims have different purposes, but together they form a line of visible line of logical thinking. o Early Claim: An early claim frames the focus of the argument at the beginning of the argument. This early claim establishes the issue and often states a personal view or ask a question. Questions launch an inquiry that allows the writer to provide answers and inform a reader and argue a perspective or claim at the same time. o Call to Action Claim: A call to action claim states what is being done, or what needs to be done and who is or should be doing it. This type of claim often appears in the middle or end of an OpEd. o And so, now…Claim: OpEds usually close with a nuanced or refined claim. This claim emerges from the organization. As the writer comes to new thinking on the issue, the claim emphasizes that new thinking with an and so, now…claim. 3. Multiple Views: OpEd writers often pair two views. They use sources to counter and refute. TIPS for Identify Multiple Views Look for signal phrases that introduce an opposing view: another view, etc.
After you’ve taken time to complete the three close reading exercises, write your part 3 blog post for this week. The blog post would reflect on what you learned through the three reading exercises. That is, what can you add to your essentials list for what an op-ed does and includes? What about the rhetorical situation? How does that influence what the writer does?