Research assignment and newspaper op-ed social work and violence

Research assignment and newspaper op-ed social work and violence


Instructions for Research Assignment and Newspaper Op-Ed

Social Work and Violence

Please note:  You may propose to focus your assignment on a specific form of violence experienced by men; however, please be advised that if your proposal is approved you must still use the assignment format below (including a consideration of why it is an important issue for feminists).


Part 1: Research Assignment (20%)

For the topic area selected, students are asked to conduct a review of the relevant research, conceptual, and theoretical scholarly literature on this topic addressing the following issues (as appropriate or relevant to the topic):

  • Key concepts and/or definitions that may be needed for your reader to understand this issue
  • Prevalence and scope of this form of violence (e.g. How common is this form of violence? Do we have a sense of how many women are likely to experience this form of violence?)
  • Victims’ experiences of this form of violence (e.g. What do we know about the characteristics of individuals who are most likely to experience this form of violence? Are there specific factors or circumstances that elevate the vulnerability to violence for some victims? What do we know about how this specific form of violence impacts the lives of the women who experience it?). 

Please note:  You are welcome to include qualitative data, narratives, or quotes from victims about their experiences of violence if you are able to find such data in public sources (such as qualitative research studies, personal blogs, media accounts, etc.)

  • Overview of the state of research knowledge on this topic (e.g. Are there major topics, trends, or themes that emerge across the literature you’ve reviewed on this topic?  Are there controversies in the field or points of contention? Are there significant gaps in the literature on this topic or things we still just don’t know?)
  • Significance of this issue for feminist anti-violence activists (e.g. Why is this form of violence an important area of concern for feminists?  How might feminist anti-violence activists frame or approach this issue?)
  • Significance of this issue for social workers (e.g. Why is this form of violence an important area of concern for social workers?)

Your review of the literature should be 7-9 pages (double spaced, excluding cover page and reference list).  In the paper, students must cite a minimum of six external sources (at least four of which must be peer reviewed journal articles from the scholarly literature published in the last 15 years) that were not required readings for this course. 

Sources from the required reading list for the course may be used in addition to (but not in lieu of) the six external sources from outside of the class.

Part 2: Newspaper Op-Ed Piece (10%)

For the second part of this assignment, students are asked to take what they learned from their review of the literature in Part 1 to craft a newspaper op-ed piece to educate the public on this topic.

Note:  650 words is approximately 3 pages (double space, Times Roman Numeral)

Remember, newspaper op-ed commentary pieces are meant to be persuasive in nature. They are intended to persuade the public to think about a particular issue in a particular way. As such, op-ed pieces have a central thesis that the author is trying to prove.  Sometimes the thesis is as simple as “this is an important issue that you should care about and here’s why.”  Sometimes the thesis challenges the reader to think about the issue in a new way and/or challenges common stereotypes, misconceptions, or misinformation about an issue. Sometimes the thesis proposes a specific solution to the issue or argues that one type of solution will be more effective than another solution that has been proposed. Whatever the specific nature of your thesis happens to be, good op-ed commentary pieces make the reader care about your topic and think about it from a specific perspective.  Although op-ed pieces may vary, most contain a similar structure:

Paragraph 1:

·  The hook:  Here you say something compelling or interesting to draw in your reader, capture their attention, and make them want to read more (it could be an anecdote, a staggering statistic, a provocative question, a vivid image, a popular culture reference…anything that makes your reader want to keep going).

·  The context:  Here you say something briefly to explain the central issue and provide a brief background of the issue.  Remember, you are talking to the general public, not social workers, academics, or specialists in the field of violence.  Assume that your reader is intelligent but has limited knowledge of the specific issue that you are raising.  Avoid use of “jargon” if possible; if not, make sure that you explain any terms that might be unfamiliar to those in the general public.

·  Thesis:  Here you say in clear terms your central premise (what it is that you want the reader to think about the issue).

Paragraphs 2 and 3 (more if needed):

·  The evidence: Here is where you make your supporting arguments (aka why the reader should agree with you). Provide multiple pieces of “evidence” to make your case.  Persuade your reader.  Some people are persuaded by “the head” (statistics and research findings), other people are persuaded by “the heart” (stories, narratives, personal experiences that humanize an issue). Whatever evidence you choose to use, make it compelling.

Paragraph 4 (or more if needed):

·  The rebuttal: Here is where you anticipate a counter-argument (aka why someone might not agree with you). Name it, and then tear it down! Why is the possible rebuttal flawed, based on inaccurate information or assumptions, or simply not relevant?

Final paragraph:

·  The conclusion: This is your last chance to bring it home.  Summarize your main points and emphasize what you want your reader to take away from your piece.  Do you want them to think differently?  Do you want to call on them to take a specific form of action?

Op-ed pieces are short and sweet (remember, you have a maximum of three double spaced pages to work with here), so you’ll need to fine tune your argument to pack the most punch in the least space possible. Use this as your chance to educate the public about your issue and to get them to care.

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