Make a Difference

Make a Difference

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Hello. My name is Bill Moseley and I’m in the Geography Department at Macalester College. Today’s microlecture is about writing to make a difference. A well reasoned, thoughtful argument can be powerful. If you are a geeky academic intellectual like me, you know that we construct arguments all the time in scientific papers. We collect and analyze information, we consider various theories and then we articulate an argument for how we believe a particular phenomenon operates. Take for example this brilliant article written by Dr. William G. Moseley. Pithy prose, maps, graphic information, tabular data. Sadly however, very few people actually read these articles. Sometimes we need to reach broader audiences on topics for which we have some insight to offer. Curiously however, I would argue that many American academics and students are strangely divorced from popular debates. If you have had the luxury of studying a topic and have relevant insight to offer on an issue, then I would argue that you have an ethical obligation to contribute to the public discussion on the topic. One way to do this is via a form of public scholarship known as the op-ed found at the back of most major newspapers. These articles are penned by individuals who have some insight on the topic but are not in the employ of the newspaper. But writing for broad audiences is different than writing for specialist academic audiences. Would you go to a soccer match and dress and behave like you were at the Kentucky Derby? Good day, I say. I could use a cup of sherry before the match begins. Why aren’t the other fans dressed in a coat and tie like myself? (stuffy English accent) No! At a soccer match you would whip out your vuvuzela (blows the vuvuzela) and cheer on your team. Similarly, op-eds are written in a different style. They require that you use plain, straightforward language. Drop all the fancy specialist vocabulary. You need to start the piece with a grabby opener and quickly tell the audience where you’re going. Finally, you need to carefully lay out a compelling and concise argument that is based on evidence. Thank you. Good luck. Write well. Write to make a difference.