Politics of the Environment: Take a position on an environmental issue and support it using evidence from scholarly (peer-reviewed) or authoritative sources.

Assignment #2: Op Ed Piece

In this assignment, you will take a position on an environmental issue and support it using evidence from scholarly (peer-reviewed) or authoritative sources. The paper will be evaluated based not on the position you take (there is no clear right or wrong answer in most policy debates), but on the quality of your argument and how you deploy evidence to support that argument.



Op Ed pieces are short essays that express an INFORMED opinion on an important public issue.  Typically, newspapers run these essays opposite the editorial page (hence the name). They are signed by their authors, who usually have a specialty in the subject matter. The Toronto Star regularly runs a feature on Tuesdays called “The Big Debate” which consists of side-by-side “pro” and “con” Op Ed pieces. You can see recent examples here: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/thebigdebate.html.

Assume your audience is similar to The Star’s: the general public, interested in being informed but not well-versed in your topic area.

The file called “Advice on writing Op Eds” has three how-to articles I pulled from the Internet. Please read them. There is some repetition but that should help you understand what is really important to do. I have highlighted some advice I feel is very relevant for you.


[NOTE – The words in brackets are explanatory & not meant to be reproduced]

POL 203-1 or 203-2 (F18) OP ED PIECE [centered at top]

NAME:  First LAST (Student #) [Use the last name Ryerson knows you by and put it in CAPS.]

WORD COUNT:  [Total # words in main text]


[Your introductory or “lede” paragraph(s) should draw the reader in, establish why your topic is worth reading about, and introduce your argument for a particular proposal or policy.]

[Optional sub-heads to help the reader follow your argument]

[This is the body of your essay. You may include further or different sub-headings if you wish. However, they are not common in Op Eds and should be kept to a minimum.

For this paper, your argument should be based on evidence. Moral arguments should not constitute more than a sentence or two. Your evidence should be put into context for a general audience, mentioning the source and year, even though I still want citations.

As part of arguing FOR something, it is expected that you will also comment on the AGAINST side, explaining why its arguments are weaker or discountable.]

[Don’t use the word “Conclusion” . . . Try “A Modest Proposal,” “What to do?” etc.]

[Wrap up without repeating yourself. A call to action or a prediction of what will happen if we fail to act are good ways to end an Op Ed.]

References or Works Cited [at end of text . . . no need to start on a fresh page]

[Use APA, Chicago or other social science system. Whatever you use, be consistent!]


  • Follow the template. It makes it easier for markers to locate your paper, follow your argument, and enter your grade properly.
  • Use 1” (2.54 cm) margins all around.
  • Double space your text.
  • Use black 12-point Times New Roman or Calibri or the equivalent. Only use italics and bold as required.
  • Create a footer that includes your last name and the page number. (See bottom of this page.)
  • Before submitting to D2L, rename your file with your last name as the first word (e.g., <Burton movie analysis v2> with v2=version 2). Submit to D2L in WORD (in case markers want to use the Track Changes feature). If you are having trouble uploading, you may submit a PDF. Do not use Pages; it doesn’t upload properly (even if it tells you it does). NOTE: Once you submit to D2L, your submission automatically goes to Turnitin. You do not have to go through any extra steps.
  • You may submit more than once (up to 3 times in total). We will mark the most recent (readable) submission. (This is a good way to avoid the late penalty of 2% a day.)
  • If you have received an extension, add the email of permission to the back of your paper so the marker (who is probably not me) knows.
  • A hard copy is not required at this point. If for some reason we ask for a hard copy, please use plain white paper. Print on both sides of the page. Staple papers in the top left-hand corner. Do not use any bindings or covers. Submit in class or to the Politics Dept. dropbox on the 7th floor of Jorgenson Hall in the lobby just off the elevator.



  • Use proper “business” English. There is no need to be overly academic. Short sentences are preferred over long ones. But you should avoid informal phrasing and colloquialisms as much as possible.
  • You may occasionally write in the first person when discussing your personal observations to avoid awkward sentence construction. Try not to overdo it, though.
  • You may occasionally use bullet points as long as they are part of a sentence so the context and meaning are clear. However, they are not usual in Op Ed pieces.
  • Properly cite your essay, using in-text citation and providing a reference list. Use APA, Chicago or another social science style. Whichever one you choose, use it consistently.
    • Refer to at least three scholarly sources. One may be from the course readings. One chapter of the textbook = one source.
    • At least one other source, which may be scholarly or authoritative sources, such as government or NGO reports, or articles from major newspapers or magazines. An authoritative source is one that in some way is accountable to the public.
  • Stick to the word counts. Make choices. It is normal practice for most writers to cut about one-third of the words from their first drafts. Avoid repetition!



POL 203 (F18): Politics of the Environment

Assignment #2:  OP ED Piece



Assignment Criteria


Marks Worth
Quality of research & analysis:

There is a definite argument / point of view.

It is supported by reasoned observations & evidence

ú  At least 3 scholarly sources (one may be from the readings)

ú  At least 1 more source, which may be scholarly or from an authoritative source

Essay properly cited (Author, date, page), social science style


20 60%
Quality of writing:

Correct grammar (spelling, word choice, punctuation, agreement, etc.)

Good sentence & paragraph construction

Good essay form, with a beginning, middle & end, and logical presentation of information (easy to follow)

Appropriate style: business-like, concise, first person as appropriate, easy to read, for a general audience


10 30%
Required elements:

Correct formatting & use of template (LAST name in caps, headers, page #s, double spacing, 2-sided printing)

Consistently formatted in-text citations & reference list

750-1,000 words

Submitted on time to D2L


5 10%


35 100%


 “A” papers (80-100%) are error-free, with a well-developed and supported argument, and superior understanding of relevant geographic concepts. The writing is clear, logical and error-free. Papers meet (or, in the case of A+ papers, exceed) the requirements of the assignment – for instance, with regard to sources – and do so within the stated page/word limits.

B” papers (70-80%) show a less well-developed argument or understanding of the concepts discussed and contain some writing errors. They have all the required elements but may not use them as effectively or convincingly as possible.

C” papers (60-70%) have a basic or partial argument and show less evidence of understanding of concepts. The writing contains minor content errors in addition to grammatical errors. Papers have only a portion of the required elements and fulfill only the basic requirements of the assignment.

D” papers (50-60%) have a poorly stated or defended argument and demonstrate only partial understanding of geographic concepts, draw on few sources, probably include more than one major error in content and many errors in writing and logic, and fail to meet key requirements of the assignment.

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