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Critical Writing Guide: WRIT 0760 Spring 2023 Mass Manipulation and the Politics of Irrationality: Researching the Op-Ed

Researching the Op-Ed

Many of the same research techniques you learned during the white paper can be applied to your op-ed research (e.g., finding images, searching news articles, ethical treatment of sources). 
To get started, you will want to search for a publication that features Op-Eds and that would have an interest in your topic. 
As a college student, you are likely to find your local newspaper receptive to publishing an Op-Ed by you, because they are eager to present the views of younger writers and to attract a younger, college-educated market. However, if you wish to publish your views in your hometown paper, you will need to make your topic relevant to hometown readers, as we’ll discuss in the next section. 

Finding Op-Eds; Analyzing the Publication’s Genre

Once you have identified a venue, it’s important to see if they have already published Op-Eds on your intended topic or a related topic. For example, let’s say you wish to publish an Op-Ed on the housing shortage. You search your target publication to see if they have written other Op-Eds on the housing shortage, rental shortage, housing affordability, and related kinds of Op-Eds. This will tell you if they are receptive to your topic, and also tell you if what you wish to write about has already been covered by this publication. If so, you will either need to move on or take a different angle. As you peruse the history of their prior editorials on your topic, you will also get a feel for whether they will only publish a certain viewpoint (say, conservative or liberal, teens or seniors, and so forth). Whenever you encounter a new genre, it’s important to do a genre analysis. As a professional writer (one who is publishing Op-Eds, in this case) you should be sure to research your target publication before pitching an editorial to them.  Individual newspapers and other publications often have a very distinct style and set of conventions.   
Along with the search tools mentioned above, you can also search for Op-Eds using the following databases: 

  • Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) or Business Source Complete (EBSCO) - Enter your term(s) into the search box; in the "Document Type" box, select "Editorial;" click on the "Search" button at the bottom of the page to see your results. 
  • Nexis Uni - To the left of the large search box, click on the "All Nexis Uni" dropdown. Select "News," and under "Article Type," check the box next to "Editorials & Opinions;" enter your search terms into the search box and click on the magnifying lens to the right to see your results.   
  • Factiva - Under the "Free Text Search" box, click on the "Subject" arrow; click on the + sign next to "Content Types," then click on the word "Editorial," which will highlight it in yellow; enter your term(s) into the "Free Text Search" box; adjust the "Date" under the "Free Search Box;" scroll down and click on the arrow next to "More Options," and select “Headline and Lead Paragraph” from the drop down menu labeled "Search for free-text terms in" so that you get better, more relevant results; click on the "Search" button to see your results. 

Linking Current News to Your Op-Ed Topic

Editors of Op-Eds generally prefer that your editorial is linked to current news, particularly in their market.  For example, the Philadelphia Inquirer will favor Op-Eds that are discussing matters of direct interest to Philadelphians, and will welcome it if you have links in your Op-Ed to other stories or Op-Eds the Inquirer has published. If you are writing about a topic that is of interest to your selected venue’s readership, but its not linked to current news or to the venue, do your best to emphasize its relevance to the venue’s readership. Use the tools above, and the search box of your target publication, to see if there are any news stories related to your topic.

Where to Send your Pitch and Op-Ed

Once you settle on your intended publication, use their search box to find their “submission guidelines.”  For example, here is the link to The Philadelphia Inquirer - Opinion Submission Guidelines: Op-Eds, Commentary and Letters to the Editor

Typically if you cannot find a “submission guidelines” link for a newspaper, you will likely find that information on the paper’s Op-Ed Page. The same is true for most online publications. If you cannot find submission guidelines, look for the "Contact Us" section of their website, which is where they sometimes list the submission guidelines. If not, send an email to the person listed as the editor of the Op-Ed, editorial, or opinion page. Failing that, send an inquiry to whomever seems to be the most logical choice for advising you of where to send an Op-Ed.

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