Prompt: As a regional health economist in the DFW metropolitan area, you are asked by The Dallas Morning News to write a long-form op-ed or persuasive piece(1000-2000 words) responding to the following question

“Should the prevailing practice in medicine allow clinicians to predominantly exercise to their own judgement or require them to adhere to evidence-based guidelines?”

Use Charles F. Manski’s “Patient Care Under Uncertainty” are your primary source for this argument. Supplement your paper using lectures from the class and at least three other credible academic, journalistic or institutional sources (if you have questions about what is considered a credible source look at the syllabus for examples, or ask me). A dataset will count as two credible sources.

Writing Guidelines

There is considerable freedom in how you can approach the prompt. It matters what side of the argument you take and more how you argue it. Policy makers and professionals are often asked to write short opinion pieces for news journals (such as the New York Times or the Dallas Morning News) in which they attempt to make a persuade or challenge readers on relevant topic in current events. Please see the Kennedy School document on Canvas about how to write a good op-ed.

Some key things I am looking for:

  • Clarity. You are allowed to use your own voice when writing an op-ed. Be clear with your arguments and ensure your point of view isn’t lot.
  • Briefly set-up the background for why the question is important, how it’s been debated, and why the readers should care. Assume the reader is a general audience member who is educated but likely has never thought of this question before and is not in the field of health economics.
  • Substance. Not only should the side you’re arguing be clear but there should be enough substance to your argument that you could credibly convince an educated reader to take your side. Support your argument by citing credible sources, economic theory, and/or data. It could be helpful to include graphs or tables in your argument, just be sure to explain them in a way that the average educated reader could interpret them correctly. Further, avoid fluffy sentences that don’t add to your argument. If you could cut a sentence or thought and convey the same information, it doesn’t belong in the paper.
  • Consistency. Does your argument contain contradictions? When you cite sources do you accurately represent them? If you utilize economic theory, do you do so correctly (and are the assumptions in the theory transparent)? If you use data, does your argument accurately represent what is seen in the data?
  • Tone. I prefer that you write with a conversational tone vs. an authoritative tone. While this is my personal preference, I find an authoritative tone detracts from an argument and makes me less likely to take the writer seriously. Take the reader along for the journey and work to convince them. Telling them what they must believe can come across as insulting to the reader’s intelligence.
  • Accuracy and Integrity. Avoid typos or grammatical mistakes. Do not misquote sources or misrepresent their claims. A good op-ed should be written with academic integrity. Be honest and avoid misleading the reader. Many op-ed writers are not honest and end up hurting the reputation of their field in the process. While it is an opinion piece, you should not have to resort to mistruths to support your opinion. If you feel like you do, re-think your opinion. As an expert in a field you want to ensure that you foster and respect the trust that the non-expert readers provides you with.

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