Writing opinion pieces
Researchers have a lot of knowledge and many ideas and suggestions which deserve to be put forward in public debate. Opinion pieces are a good channel for those who wish to influence, be active and take initiatives.
There is not much space in the opinion pages of the major newspapers and the editors receive many requests. Therefore, it is a good idea to call the relevant editor in advance to find out whether they are interested in the topic before you start writing the article.
Increase your chances of appearing on the opinion pages
Follow the debate and try to be topical. “Today/soon/recently a new report on …” can be a good start. Consider whether you can provide a new angle on a subject or present previously unpublished statistics.
The idea is to generate debate, not for everyone to agree. Clarify various positions and, when relevant, call someone to account so that the debate can continue.
Straight to the point! Be clear with your message. It should not be necessary to read to the very last line in order to understand what the issue/controversy/views are.
Structure the text. You can present several arguments but avoid too many messages in one single text. Don’t drift away from your main message.
Write briefly and to the point. Stay within the rules of the forum on the maximum number of characters.
Write simply, avoid bureaucratic turns of phrase and technical terms.
Affect the reader. The aim of an opinion piece is naturally to convey your own view but nobody will care if they don’t understand how it affects them or others. Argue from the point of view of public interest – the more people feel concerned the better. Be concrete in stating the consequences of a proposal, for example.
You can co-author an opinion piece with others (within reasonable limits). Colleagues across subject boundaries/faculties or equivalents can contribute to increasing the public’s interest in the debate.
Remember to report any special interests such as external affiliations or funding from industry organisations.
It is hard to produce a strong message in 3000 characters. Practise! A red pencil is also a good thing to have handy.
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