Social Science Question


Your final assignment in this class is to write what’s called an “Op/Ed,” which is a short persuasive essay that aims to convince non-expert readers that there is a problem to be solved, and to take an action that you suggest to help solve that problem.

For this essay, you need to identify a standpoint, identify a problem that intersects with science that is relevant to your standpoint, and convince your readers that the problem is significant and that your proposed action is important.

You will compose a 3-4 page (double-spaced) Op/Ed essay in which you clearly outline your standpoint, identify and contextualize a problem, and propose action. You will draw from course materials from Units 2 and 3, as appropriate, to support your argument. You will also turn in a Cover Letter with this assignment.

For this assignment, you will be working as an individual, though I highly encourage you to engage your peers for support, feedback, brainstorming, and editing help as you construct your essays.

We will go over examples of Op/Eds in class during Week 13 to help you get going on this assignment.


  1. Before you write, you need to identify three things: your standpoint, a problem that has a significant scientific dimension and is relevant to your standpoint, and an action that would help to solve this problem.
    1. How to think about standpoints: Your standpoint needs to accurately reflect, well, you!, and where you stand in relation to scientific knowledge, scientific education, and science communication. Maybe you are a future elementary school teacher (you will be teaching science!); a future science professional (your own career goals are relevant here!); a science communicator of any kind; or a person whose daily life is impacted by science communication (that is literally all of us!). Maybe you are aiming to serve particular communities, as well. Like with the perspectives in the “Unique Identities” reading, you can outline specific dimensions unique to you, your community, and your situation.
      1. My own standpoint example: I am an educator who teaches future science teachers and science professionals in a higher-ed Hispanic-Serving Institution who aims to support expanding access to high-quality science education for historically marginalized folks
    2. How to identify a problem: We’ve talked about several issues within the sciences, within science education, and with science communication across this semester. Pick one of those problems that you feel most drawn towards or able to write about with confidence. Make sure to think about your standpoint and think about which problems relate most directly to it that you are most interested in.
      1. If you have ideas beyond what we’ve talked about in this course, let’s talk about it!
    3. How to identify a solution/action: Many of our readings and materials offer solutions to the specific problems we’ve studied in this class. You are welcome to propose a relevant action or solution that comes from course materials. You are also welcome to advance your own solution or action to a problem.
      1. Take note: your solution needs to come with action. If you’re advocating for strong objectivity as a solution to your problem, great — but what does that look like in action? What is something you could ask people to do to create strong objectivity, in relation to your problem?
  2. Write your Op/Ed:
    1. You can arrange your paragraphs in any order you see fit for this assignment, but you need to follow these general guidelines, some of which are explained in this video linked here
    2. (Links to an external site.)
    3. , and others are specific to this assignment:
      1. Each paragraph should be no more than 4 sentences long, and each paragraph needs to fulfill a particular job:
        1. Clearly identifying your standpoint and relating it to the problem
        2. Clearly describing the problem you identify, who it impacts, and how it has negative impacts
          1. You should quote and paraphrase relevant course materials when describing your problem and you should provide statistics or other supporting evidence from research in the scientific databases that supports your description of the problem and its impacts
        3. Clearly defining a solution and action, and persuading your readers that they should take this action
          1. You should quote and paraphrase relevant course materials when describing an action, if relevant; if your proposed action is supported by outside research, you can include it.
      2. Use short, declarative sentences, no jargon unless explained for a non-expert, and active voice. You can use “I” as much as you want!
      3. Aim to include supporting evidence from two separate course materials and two research sources in your essay
        1. Use the scientific databases to search for statistics relevant to the problem you identify. If you need to start a search on Google and then follow the source back to the original publication in the databases, that is fine!
      4. Include your own experience as evidence: your standpoint matters, as do the experiences you have had or witnessed in your communities. How does your specific experience give you expertise and authority to convince your readers that they should listen to your perspective?
      5. Provide proper in-text citations and a Works Cited page citing all four of your sources in the citation style of your choice (MLA, APA, etc).
  3. Complete your Cover Letter: On a fresh page either before or after your essay, provide a heading that says “Cover Letter,” and provide short but complete answers to the following questions in order to reflect on your learning in this class over the course of the semester. It’s ok if you answer these in bullet point style, or in paragraphs, but please use full sentences.
    1. What was the most impactful thing (or two) that you learned about science from taking this class? Explain why it impacted you.
    2. What was the most impactful thing (or two) that you learned about the relationship between science and society from taking this class? Explain why it impacted you.
    3. How did you learn these things? (e.g., researching or writing a specific assignment; a reading or other course materials; class sessions; your classmates, discussion forum group, or collaborators)
    4. How did these or other educational experiences you had this semester shape your approach to this assignment?
    5. After this class, what topics would you like to learn more about?

      Format Details

      • Your Op-ed should be no shorter than 3 double-spaced pages and no more than 4 double-spaced pages. If you go over, don’t freak out, but do try to stay within those boundaries. Going under the limit is probably not great for your ability to do what I’m asking you to do.
      • Please type your Op-Ed in 12 point font, double-space your essay, and provide 1-inch margins


      A full rubric for evaluation will be posted in the module for this assignment on Canvas. You will be evaluated on:

      • Your clear identification of your standpoint, a relevant problem with significant scientific dimensions, and a solution/action you ask readers to take
      • Your inclusion of your own experience and how you connect that experience to your persuasive argument
      • Your inclusion of two course texts and two research sources to help describe, contextualize, and support your argument in the essay
      • Your ability to construct your argument with clarity and specificity
      • Your clear use of specific op-ed writing guidelines listed above
      • Your ability to stay within the assigned length
      • Your ability to write cleanly and without many typos and spelling errors (enlist your study pals and friends to help catch stuff!).
      • A complete and thorough Cover Letter
      • Turning in your assignment in an agreed-upon time

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