Writing an Editorial about a Current Issue of Controversy (A Research Essay)

Essay 3: Writing an Editorial about a Current Issue of Controversy (A Research Essay)

An editorial is an article that presents a newspaper’s opinion on a current issue. Much in the same manner of a lawyer, editorial writers build on an argument and try to persuade readers to agree with their point of view. Editorials are meant to influence public opinion, promote critical thinking, and sometimes cause people to take action on an issue. In essence, an editorial is an opinionated news story backed by credible research.

Editorials have…

1. An introduction, body, and conclusion like other news stories (or essays).
2. An objective explanation of the issue, especially complex issues (necessary background information).
3. A timely news angle (it addresses a current issue of controversy).
4. Opinions from the opposing viewpoint that refute directly the same issues the writer addresses (this is called counterargument).
5. Opinions of the writer delivered in a professional manner (premises, backed up by quality evidence, to support your conclusion). Good editorials engage issues, not personalities, and refrain from name-calling or other petty tactics of persuasion (logical fallacies).
6. Alternative solutions to the problem or issue being criticized. Anyone can gripe about a problem, but a good editorial should take a proactive approach to making the situation better by using constructive criticism and offering solutions.
7. A solid and concise conclusion that powerfully summarizes the writer’s opinion.

For Essay 3, I would like you to write an editorial-style research paper on a controversial topic of interest (to you). If you need inspiration on which topic to choose, browse the editorial section of some current newspapers, especially ones that reflect varying viewpoints. I will also provide a list of potential topics to choose from. Your editorial should be 4-5 pages long (double-spaced, MLA format). I will be strictly enforcing the essay length for this assignment (writing within the confines of a page limit forces you to determine an appropriate scope for your thesis, and to be selective about what to include—and not include—in your argument).

Some tips on how to proceed…

1. Pick a significant topic that has a current news angle and would interest readers.
2. Collect information and facts about this topic; include objective reporting; do quality research (though most editorials don’t include a works cited list, yours will need one).
3. State your opinion briefly in the fashion of a thesis statement.
4. Explain the issue objectively as a reporter would and tell why this situation is important.
5. Give opposing viewpoint(s) with direct quotations and facts.
6. Refute (reject) the other side’s position and develop your case using facts, details, figures, quotations from experts, etc.
7. Concede a point of the opposition — they will likely have some good points you can acknowledge that would make you look rational/balanced.
8. Give a realistic solution(s) to the problem that goes beyond common knowledge. Encourage critical thinking and pro-active reaction.
9. Wrap it up with a concluding punch that restates your opening remark in a fresh way (thesis statement).
10. Keep it to 4-5 pages; make every word count.


1. Choose your topic wisely

For maximum impact, choose an issue that has been making the headlines recently. For instance, if the Presidential elections are around the corner, focus on a particular political topic. Additionally, be very specific about the issue you wish to focus on. You might have a lot to say about a dozen issues, but save your knowledge for later. Narrow down your area of interest with as much precision as is possible.

2. Declare your agenda outright

An editorial without an unequivocal opinion is bound to fall flat on its face. Right at the very beginning, define your agenda in clear terms. Make sure that you state your opinion or thesis coherently. Remember those research papers and thesis statements you wrote in college. It’s time to refresh your memory and concentrate on thesis statement writing skills. The essential structure of a thesis statement in an editorial remains the same, only the language is more informal and journalistic.

3. Build your argument

A good editorial expresses your point of view while a great one manages to persuade others to join your camp. In order to persuade people, you need to have a sound argument based on facts and analogies, not vitriol and diatribe. Once you have stated your thesis, acknowledge contradictory opinions and explain why you disagree with them. Use facts, statistics, quotations and theoretical explanations for criticizing your opponents’ views. Rejecting them outright without any explanation screams of cowardice and unprofessional ethics.

To build a foolproof argument, you will need to achieve a balance between content and style. Not only will you need substantial data, you will also need to structure it coherently.

4. Strengthen your argument with analogies

Nothing disarms your opponents better than cultural, social or political analogies. For instance, if you are writing about a controversial issue like secret surveillance, look for similar instances in other countries and how they tackled the problem. You can use such an analogy to your benefit by highlighting both the similarities and the differences. This will also be a good time to speak about the ultimate consequences of a policy/law if appropriate action is not taken by concerned agencies.

5. Provide possible solutions

So, you have made a case for your views and demolished your opponents’ claims. The journey doesn’t end here. An editorial is primarily meant to indulge in constructive criticism i.e. even though it critiques one point of view, it must be able to provide a possible alternative. Say, your editorial attacked the efficacy of steps taken by the government to curb domestic violence in a particular region, conclude your piece by discussing other viable options. Once again, build an argument and talk about why these proposed steps are better than the ones already in place. Don’t mistake an editorial for an opportunity to indulge in mindless criticism; instead, use it to offer a better vision for the future.

(From Udemy blog, How to Write an Editorial)


A Sample Structure (P.S. this is not the only way to structure an editorial essay, just one possible organizational strategy)

1. Lead with an Objective Explanation of the Issue/Controversy

Include the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why) and the H (how). (Members of Congress, in an effort to reduce the budget, are looking to cut funding from public television. Hearings were held …)

Pull in facts and quotations from relevant sources.
Additional research will be necessary (reference to a minimum of three outside sources is required)

Or, Consider Presenting Your Opposition First

As the writer, you disagree with these viewpoints. Identify the people specifically who oppose you. (Republicans feel that these cuts are necessary; other cable stations can pick them; only the rich watch public television.)
Use facts and quotations to objectively state their opinions.
Give a strong explanation of the opposition’s views. You gain nothing in refuting a weak position.

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