POLI0019 Editorials

Again on Mr Wong's good advice, I thought I would write about what makes a good editorial topic. But first, I should announce that we will push back the deadline for the POLI0019 editorials to give you more time to do them. Instead of Friday, 16 November, they will be due on Friday, 23 November, with hard copies delivered to the PPA Department office by the close of business that day. Please see the syllabus for some guidelines. There will be a penalty for late assignments (1/3 a grade per day); an assignment turned in more than three days after the due date will not be accepted.

Even though you have more time for this assignment, I would advise you not to leave it to the last minute, particularly since you will have the debates and the exam for which to prepare. The tutorial-free afternoon on 14 November would be a good time to catch up with any work.

As for selecting a topic, this is very much your choice. If you are working with a partner, you must of course choose a topic together. As I mentioned, I am happy to have those who wish to work alone to do so, but the required length of the article (about 800 words) will remain the same. I strongly recommend that you settle on a topic by the end of the first week of November.

What makes a good topic? The idea is to discuss some aspect of Hong Kong's role in the world.
First and foremost, it should be something that interests you. Because the editorial is only about 800 words - 1,000 maximum, you should really choose a topic that can be easily dealt with in an essay of that length. Decide on a question that you want to consider or answer - or one, two or three points that you wish to make. Do not pick anything to broad. Try to narrow your topic, without getting too "micro" in your perspective. For example, it may be more manageable to write a piece arguing that "the direct election of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong cannot be delayed until 2012 because that would be a blow to the SAR's international standing" than it would be to take up the sweeping proposition that "democracy is good for Hong Kong."

Pick a topic that is timely, particularly if you would like to get it published. For example, it might be more interesting to write about the coming Beijing Olympics and the opportunity that this affords for Hong Kong than it would be to write something about the tenth anniversary of the handover.

When it comes to writing the piece, keep it simple. Structure your piece so that it has an introduction that grabs the reader's attention, a topic paragraph up front that tells the reader what it is that you want to say, and then subsequent paragraphs that make your points systematically. Make the paragraphs flow logically from one to the other. Remember that 800 words can go by rather quickly. Buttress your points with any relevant facts or figures. Quote certain authorities if necessary, but this is NOT an academic paper; it is an opinion piece for publication in a newspaper. Finally, stick to a clear line of argument.

I suggest that, if you have not already done so, you might read some of the opinion-page pieces in the South China Morning Post. That would be the best way to get an idea of what good (and perhaps some bad) editorial pieces are like.

As I have mentioned before, you should make your best effort to write with correct grammar and spelling, but I fully appreciate that not everybody's English is to native standard. And of course please take note of the university's policy on plagiarism. I still intend to submit the best of the essays to the South China Morning Post or another publication so this could be a good opportunity for budding writers and journalists.

If you would like to discuss your topic or any aspect of this assignment, please feel free to approach me or Mr Wong. We would be happy to arrange an appointment.