How to Think About an Issue

When you have a hard time writing an opinion piece, sometimes it means you haven't really thought through the issue. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you sit down to write a piece advocating a particular course of action (as many editorials do).

  1. Is the proposed course of action possible? (It's hard to make a compelling argument in favor of doing something that is impossible.)
  2. What does the research tell us? Is there a proven track record of this kind of proposal working? Do noted experts support this course of action? What data can you find outside of your own head?
  3. Who will benefit from this course of action?
  4. Who will be hurt by this course of action?
  5. What are the benefits of this course of action? (Financial, emotional, spiritual, quality of life, etc.)
  6. What are the costs of this course of action? (Financial, emotional, spiritual, quality of life, etc.)
  7. Is there a moral component, and if so, what is it? Is there something in this proposal that is simply right or wrong, based on the values of our community?
  8. What are the three best arguments in favor of this proposed course of action? (These will grow out of the answers to the preceding questions, and may include moral arguments, cost-benefit analyses, arguments from history, appeals to authority, "greatest good" arguments, etc.)
  9. What are the three best arguments against this proposed course of action?
  10. What are the most convincing rebuttals to each of the best arguments against the proposed course of action?

Answer these questions, and you'll be a step closer to that persuasive article you mean to write.