Political Science homework help. Op-Ed Rubric
Components of a Successful Op-Ed
● Contains an “catchy” headline
○ I should have an idea of your position from the headline
○ Good example
■ “On Social Security, Tap the Wealthy to Support a Program for All” – “On
Social Security, Tap the Wealthy to Support a Program for All”
○ Bad example
■ “How to Fix Housing Policy”
● Doesn’t tell me anything about the argument
● Establishes argument in the opening paragraph
○ Good example
■ “Social Security is in peril these days, not because of its finances, but
because politicians refuse to consider the most obvious, highly popular
reform — uncapping the payroll tax, which would essentially shore up its
finances in perpetuity.” – “On Social Security, Tap the Wealthy to Support
a Program for All”
● Describe the status quo
○ What is society like today, without the proposed policy? Why is the status quo
○ Good example
■ “After remaining essentially flat in the 1950s and 1960s, the prevalence of
obesity doubled in adults and tripled in children between the 1970s and
2000. According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control, the
epidemic shows no signs of abating. Nearly four out of 10 adults are
obese; for children, it’s nearly two out of 10. Most 2-year-olds today will
develop obesity by age 35, according to a recent projection from our
colleagues at Harvard. The obesity epidemic affects every region of the
country and every demographic group. But rates have increased the
fastest among low-income Americans and racial minorities, exacerbating
pre-existing health disparities.“ – “The Toll of America’s Obesity”
■ Directly addresses need for policy in this space using empirical evidence
to highlight problem
● Uses one piece of social science evidence for the existence of the status quo
○ What are the politics that created this problem in the first place?
○ What are the politics that are preventing your solution from being implemented?
○ Examples of theories
■ E.g., Does the concentration/diffusion of costs and benefits limit policy
action (J. Q. Wilson)?
■ E.g., Does your policy require collective action and face the problem of
■ E.g., Are people simply unaware of the status quo, or systematically
○ Good examples
■ Misperceptions of elected officials
● “Congress doesn’t know what policies Americans support. We
know that because we asked the most senior staff members in
Congress — the people who help their bosses decide what bills to
pursue and support — what they believed public opinion was in
their district or state on a range of issues….As a similar study
showed, state politicians also do a poor job guessing public
opinion of their constituents. We found two key factors that explain
why members of Congress are so ignorant of public preferences:
their staffs’ own beliefs and congressional offices’ relationships
with interest groups.” “Congress Has No Clue What Americans
● Cites a study showing that politicians are bad at guessing public
opinion, such as systematically underestimating what share of
their constituents support climate change legislation.
■ Loss aversion
● “Obviously, programs like these don’t eliminate the costs of
moving away from dirty energy. But they can change the political
calculus. When a policy calls attention to the costs of the
transition, as a carbon tax does, people are wary. When a policy
calls attention to the benefits, people often have a more favorable
attitude and are willing to accept slightly higher costs.” “Winning
the climate fight”
● ^Uses social science psychology, but needs a citation.
○ Bad Example
■ “Republicans and Democrats are gridlocked and can’t agree to a fix…”
● Unsightful. Why are they at a gridlock? What are there
arguments/values that lead to disagreement?
■ “The X political party is in the pockets of Big Y…”
● Show me evidence of why? Is there evidence of how extensive
campaign donations to key decision makers?
● Propose a specific policy change
○ What is the policy or regulation?
■ “And this legislative session, a bipartisan coalition of California legislators
is supporting the More Homes Act, which is sponsored by one of us
(Senator Wiener). The bill would override local restrictive zoning by
legalizing small to midsize apartment buildings (up to five stories) near job
centers and public transportation and set minimum affordability standards
for some of those units.” – “Why Housing Policy Is Climate Policy”
○ Who would it affect, in terms of beneficiaries?
■ “The legislation would also help existing renters keep their homes in
areas that qualify for new housing. The measures are intended to stem
the growth of super-commuters — workers who are priced out of areas
near their jobs and forced to drive long distances to get to work.” – “Why
Housing Policy Is Climate Policy”
○ How much would it cost?/Who would it harm?
● Describe at least 2 pieces of policy evidence supporting your policy effects
○ What studies support the expected effects of your policy?
○ Who wrote the studies?
○ What are the specific findings of the studies?
○ Good example
■ “Moreover, liberal economists Emmanuel Saez and Jeffrey Liebman
concluded that, because of income shifting and behavioral responses, net
collections from eliminating the cap would be less than 60 percent of what
static projections claim.” – “Don’t Raise or Eliminate the Contribution Cap”
■ “In 2018, researchers at the Education Trust found that in many states
free college policies actually end up providing more resources to
upper-middle-class students than more needy ones. A similar studythat
zeroed in on Tennessee’s community college program showed that about
half of qualifying students received no aid at all. Meanwhile, a student
from a family earning over $160,000 annually could receive more than
$1,400 in state subsidies.” – “The Cruel Irony of ‘Free’ College Promises”
● Include a qualifying paragraph (2-3 sentences)
○ What are the tradeoffs of your proposed policy?
■ Are there reasons the policy may fail or not fix everything wrong with the
■ Are there people who will “lose” from it?
■ Why should we tolerate that lost/cost?
○ Good example
■ “One objection does have merit: Though carbon pricing would spur huge
change in infrastructure and power generation, that alone would not be
enough. It would not stimulate all the innovation the nation needs in the
climate fight, nor would it change behaviors in circumstances where the
desired price signal is muted or nonexistent. Carbon pricing can do a lot
— but not everything…In those circumstances, the government would
have to do more.” – “Want a Green New Deal? Here’s a better one”
● Closing Statement/Call to Action
○ What can X group do to help achieve this policy goal?
○ E.g., “In June, the Women in Public Service Project will convene at Wellesley
some 50 emerging women leaders from around the world, focusing on countries
in transition, to offer intensive training and a cross-cultural exchange of ideas and
resources….I hope other institutions will join the movement towards leadership
parity, because if you have female students, and if you believe that they will be
integral in leading the world in the 21st century, then you too are a women’s
college. And if we get this right, the world will be a better place—not just for
women but for everyone.” “Why all colleges should think of themselves as
For public policy evidence, several trusted, nonpartisan think tanks include:
● Urban Institute – poverty and inequality related policy
● Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – federal budget and fiscal issues
● Kaiser Family Foundation – health care and health policy
● Brookings Institution – general public policy
You are welcome to cite research outside of these groups, but strive to explain their
background. For example, “The Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank,
finds…” Or, “The Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank,…” Ultimately, these categories can be
fluid, but some organizations are extremely oriented towards specific policy agendas,
threatening the objectivity of their policy briefs.
Here is a list compiled by The New York Times that categorizes the most prominent think tanks:
A draft of your op-ed to be circulated blindly to a peer for review
● Due Wednesday, March 18th, 11:59 pm
● Not graded, but will be penalized if judged incomplete/incoherent
A write-up in response to your peer’s op-ed.
● 400-500 words,
● Due Monday, April 6th, 11:59 pm
● Verify that each component of the op-ed is present
● Grade the op-ed as if you were a professor
● Your review will be graded on whether it addresses each of the defined components
○ State where the component is in the text
○ State whether the component meets your standard
To achieve an A, your op-ed must meet each criteria
● Include all of the above components
● Length between 600 and 700 words
● 1” margins, double-spaced, submitted as a pdf
● Include a ‘Works Cited’ section formatted in the APA style
○ All facts must be supported in the text by their source
○ Formal in-text citations are not required, nor appropriate for an op-ed
● Include a pdf/screenshot of the email sent to the media outlet for publication
● Contain zero spelling or grammar errors
● Be submitted by Monday, April 27th, 11:59 p