Op-ed & Personal Essay Template
- What is the science story you want to tell, or the main point you want to make? (2-3 sentences)
- Why do you want to tell this story to the audience?
Are you trying to persuade them? Get them excited about something? Get them to do something (donate, volunteer, share, etc.)?
- Why is this a compelling topic to write about?
Is this a new discovery? Does it rethink conventional wisdom? Is it a fascinating yarn? Is it a crucially important point to add to public discourse? Is it cool, or weird, or interesting?
- Who are the characters involved?
It could be a person, like a scientist or members of a lab, or it could be that a bacterium or a virus is your main character. Maybe the protagonist is the innovative process or unexpected twist that led to a new discovery.
Write out your argument’s progression or your story timeline as a numbered series:
General structure of a piece (but there are always exceptions)
- Introduction: Often an anecdote, or a quick lead-in to your central thesis. If you’re telling a longer, slower story, this draws the reader in by tossing you into a compelling scene or perspective
- Thesis/nutgraf/central point: Why are you writing this? If the reader doesn’t know within the first couple of paragraphs, they’ll usually put it down
- The next few paragraphs sketch out your story in a way that can always be drawn back to your thesis.
- In other words, it both advances the overall tale you’re telling while referring back to the overall point you are making
- Kicker/Conclusion: end in a way that leaves an impression on the reader, be it humor, shock, irony, a pithy quotation… the basic plan is to make them coming away with the feeling that what you’re saying is the only good and right way to proceed from here on out
- Prioritize completing an entire draft, however rough, over creating something perfect
- Can you follow the logic of your piece through from start to finish? If there’s a break in the flow, there’s probably a flaw in your argument or your narrative. This means writing bridge sentences – ones at the start or end of a paragraph that carries you from the adjoining one – are vitally important
- Would your non-scientist friends understand the words and concepts you’re using? If you aren’t sure they would, then pick new ones or explain in simple language
- Simplified is not the same as inaccurate. Does a chemical reaction have eight steps? Readers probably don’t need to know every technical term within them.
- Avoid word and sentence structure repetition within sentences and paragraphs.
Last updated March 7, 2018