Historical Op-Ed On War & Terror

What is an Op-Ed?

Op-Ed is short for “opposite the editorial page,” though is often interpreted as “opinion-editorial.” Op-Eds regularly appear in major and not-so-major newspapers such as the Seattle Times, WSU’s Daily Evergreen, or the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. While you will take a position on a topic, you will ground your position not in feeling or belief (opinion) but in substantiated evidence (historical analysis).

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Who is your audience?

Your audience for this written assignment is not an academic one but the general reading public. Write in a way that engages the casual newspaper reader. Because this assignment asks you to simulate a newspaper column, be sure to keep to the world limit of 500-750 words. 

What is the purpose of an Op-Ed?

Your goal in a historical op-ed is to connect an important and very specific contemporary event/controversy to the historical issue we’ve just covered.

Basic questions that should inform any good historical op-ed include:

  • How does the past help us better understand today’s world?  
  • In what ways do past events clarify the origins problems we face in the present?  
  • Do past events parallel present-day controversies?  
  • How does an understanding of the historical origins of a current problem help us solve the problem?
  • How might we learn from the mistakes and triumphs of the past? 

How do I approach and structure an op-ed?

Your op-ed must: range from 500-750 words (excluding the title and footnotes; be single-spaced with paragraphs of no more than 3-4 sentences; and use 12-point font and one-inch margins.

First, select a specific, concrete current event and/or controversy that can be better understood by looking at the past. Scour recent headlines to find your hook. Stick with a headline no more than a month old for the purposes of this assignment. Write a succinct argument about the event’s/controversy’s connections to history. This is called the “lede.”

Second, provide at least 3 concrete historical examples drawn from assigned readings, films, and discussions that inform and support the argument you are making about the contemporary event/controversy in question. At least one of your examples must come from a primary source.

 

Quote sparingly and when you do, be sure to set up and provide context for quotes. While you need to provide Chicago-style footnote citations for your sources in your op-ed (you should have at least three – see example), you should also cue your examples in the text of the op-ed itself.

For example: In a 1915 letter to Sharif Husayn, Sir Henry McMahon wrote…” Or…”In his 2001 book Late Victorian Holocausts, historian Mike Davis argued…”

Third, return to your argument and to the contemporary event/controversy in question in your conclusion.

*Consult the example provided below, examples published in newspapers, and visit theopedproject.org for additional structural guidance.

 

 

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