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368642: Writing the Thinkpiece

  • Summer 2019
  • Section 1
  • 3 Credits
  • 07/03/2019 to 09/10/2019
  • Modified 09/16/2019


Perhaps no genre is more shared, read, and critiqued than the online thinkpiece. As much as these essays capture and analyze the current cultural landscape, they are often misunderstood as quick, cheap, or reactionary. The truth is that the genre is malleable enough for any writer to find their footing and to craft their voice within its limits. Together, we define what a thinkpiece is and is not by reading some of its most well-known writers, including Roxane Gay, Kiese Laymon, and Rebecca Solnit. Then, we work on honing your voice, researching your argument and giving structure to your ideas. Participants walk away from the course with several pieces of polished work.


Participants will:

  • Discern what constitutes a "thinkpiece"
  • Learn the craft behind writing a thinkpiece and be able to identify tools to best suit your writing
  • Develop an understanding of the news cycle and how to work off of it
  • Learn research techniques that will make their writing more robust
  • Analyze a number of works from the genre to be able to make any piece of writing a lesson in craft
  • Write and rewrite works to promote the importance of critiquing one's own work
  • Learn how to sell themselves to online publishers


At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • write a timely, concise thinkpiece in relation to the news cycle
  • identify cultural phenomena ripe for exploration in online writing
  • write at least 6 thinkpieces on a variety of topics
  • submit thinkpieces to appropriate outlets


All course materials are available online as either PDFs or URLs.


Students will be graded for their writing and critical thinking skills. Each week students are expected to:

  • Read all assigned work and come ready to discuss it in class. 
  • Write an 800-word thinkpiece at home and hand it in before class the next week.
  • Do a revision of one 800-word thinkpiece for the fourth and eighth assignments. 
  • Conceive, craft and execute a thinkpiece that identifies a cultural problem.


Each assignment will be graded using this rubric: 

Nutrgraf/Thesis — 10 points 
Argument/Analysis —  25 points
Research/data  —  15 points
Structure/organization — 25 points
Writing style/voice — 15 points
Grammar/ sentence structure  — 10 points 

Late assignments policy: 

Late assignments will lose 5 points per day, for up to 3 days. Assignments handed in more than 3 days late will not be accepted. 

Although there are several practical reasons why you might enroll in this class for credit, many of you are not for­credit students. The opportunity to take the course without having to worry about a final grade can be a very good thing. For one, focusing on grades can sidetrack some students from creative exploration and learning through risk­taking. In the worst cases, the student might pay more attention to the letter grade than the comments provided. When you enrolled in the course, you were asked to indicate whether you wanted to take the class for a grade or not. If you didn’t select an option, the choice defaulted to a letter grade. It is possible you are unwittingly taking the class for a grade, so double­check your status to make sure it reflects your intention.

You may request a grading status change anytime before the midpoint of this class by phoning the Registrar’s Office at (310) 825­9971 or requesting a grading status change online by logging into “MyExtension” at After the midpoint of this class (but before the instructor’s submission of final course grades) you should ask for the instructor’s approval of a status change.


Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
7 thinkpieces total (5 originals/ 2 revisions) 60 points total

Each week, you'll be asked to write a thinkpiece about something happening in the current news cycle. On two weeks of class, a revision of one of your pieces will be due. Each counts for 10 points of your final grade. 

Class participation/ discussion posts 15 points total

Each week, you'll be asked to give your thoughts about one of the readings from the week. This part of your grade comes from completing the post each week. 

Final assignment 25 points total

Your final assignment is a 1400-word thinkpiece due on the final day of class that incorporates a personal angle with research. 


A 100% to 90%
B < 90% to 80%
C < 80% to 70%
F < 70% to 0%

Institutional Policies

Student Conduct

Students are subject to disciplinary action for several types of misconduct or attempted misconduct, including but not limited to dishonesty, such as cheating, multiple submission, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University; or theft or misuse of the intellectual property of others or violation of others' copyrights. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with policy provisions which proscribe these and other forms of misconduct at:

Services for Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, UCLA Extension provides appropriate accommodations and support services to qualified applicants and students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, auxiliary aids/services such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired individuals, extended time for and proctoring of exams, and registration assistance. Accommodations and types of support services vary and are specifically designed to meet the disability-related needs of each student based on current, verifiable medical documentation. Arrangements for auxiliary aids/services are available only through UCLA Extension’s Service for Students with Disabilities Office at (310) 825-7851 or by email at [email protected]. For complete information see:


Your instructor may post the interim grade Incomplete/I if at the end of the class your overall work is of passing quality but a portion could not be submitted for understandable reasons (e.g. illness). It is your responsibility to petition your instructor for permission to submit work late and to provide an explanation, and it is his or her sole decision whether to accept the explanation. If permitted, the Incomplete/I grade will be posted and a time frame defined for you to submit the missing work, ranging from one to twelve weeks. Incomplete/I grades that remain unchanged after twelve weeks will lapse to F, NP or U. Receiving an I grade entitles you to submit only the missing work your instructor has agreed to accept late, and does not allow other work to be retaken or oblige UCLA Extension to provide continuing access to course materials via Canvas. The Incomplete/I grade is not an option for courses that do not bear credit, such as 700, 800, or 900-level courses. For complete information, see:

All Grades are Final

No change of grade may be made by anyone other than the instructor, and then, only to correct clerical errors. No term grade except Incomplete may be revised by re-examination. The correction of a clerical error may be authorized only by the instructor of record communicating directly with personnel of Student and Alumni Services.

Sexual Harassment

The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals who participate in University programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Every member of the community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual harassment and sexual violence, and that such behavior violates both law and University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates our policy.

All Extension students and instructors who believe they have been sexually harassed are encouraged to contact the Department of Student and Alumni Services for complaint resolution: UCLA Extension, Suite 113, 10995 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Voice/TTY: (310) 825-7031. View the University’s full Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence at

Additional Items

Course and Instructor Evaluation

UCLA Extension values your feedback on course and instructor evaluations. We ask all students to take a few minutes to complete an end-of-course evaluation survey. Updates to the course and instruction are influenced by your feedback. Understanding your student experience is essential to ensure continuing excellence in the online classroom and is appreciated by your instructor and the UCLA Extension academic leadership.

Your participation in a survey is voluntary, and your responses are confidential. After instructors submit grades, they will be given an evaluation report, but this report will not contain your name.

About Your Online Course Materials

Please note the following about online course components at UCLA Extension:

  • Students must have basic computer skills, including the use of word processing software, email, and the ability to use internet browsers, such as Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the technical requirements of Canvas and familiarizing themselves with the Canvas Learning Management System.
  • Students are responsible for keeping a copy of all assignments and work submitted, and to be aware of all assignments, due dates, and course guidelines.
  • Students are encouraged to keep and/or download a local copy of their assignment files, as access to the online environment of a specific course is limited to 30 days after the final course date, as listed in the course catalog.

    If you need assistance downloading student materials from your course, please contact Canvas Support or the UCLA Extension Learning Support Team.

UCLA Extension Canvas and Learning Support

For immediate 24/7 Canvas technical support, including holidays, click on Help (located on the menu to the left) where you can call or chat live with a Canvas Support representative.

UCLA Extension Instructional Design and Learning Support
The UCLA Extension Learning Support staff assists both students and instructors with Canvas-related technical support, as well as general and administrative questions.

Learning Support staff is available Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM (Pacific Time), except holidays:

Campus Safety Escorts

For students taking classes held on the UCLA campus and in and around Westwood Village, the UCLA Police Department provides a free walking escort service every day of the year from dusk until 1 a.m. Community Service Officers (CSOs) are available to walk students, faculty, staff members and visitors to and from anywhere on campus, in Westwood Village, and in the village apartments. CSOs are uniformed students who have received special training and are employed by the UCLA Police Department. To obtain an escort, please call (310) 794-9255 and allow 15 to 20 minutes for your escort to arrive. For complete information, see:


Course calendar and related activities
When Topic Notes
Week 1
"What Is a Thinkpiece?"


  • What Is a Thinkpiece?
  • Readings
  • Final Writing Assignment


Week 2
Identifying an Issue


  • Writing assignment #1


  • Final writing assignment topics
  • Readings 


Week 3
Reacing to the News Cycle


  • Writing assignment #2


  • The News Cycle
  • Final assignment progress

Post: Responses to reading

Week 4
Cultural Critique



  • Writing assignment #3 


  • Research techniques

Post: Responses to reading

Week 5
The Personal Is Political


  • Essay Revision #1


  • Pitching techniques

Post: Response to reading

Week 6
Personal Is Political Pt. 2

Hand in:

  • Thinkpiece #4 

Post: Response to reading

Week 7
Sensitive Topics

Write: Thinkpiece #5

Post: Responses to reading


Robyn Kanner -- "Running Away from Drinking Myself to Death," Jan 7, 2019, Vice

Tre'vell Anderson — "I Won't Apologize for Believing Jussie Smollett," Feb. 23, 2019, Out

Week 8
Cultural Critique pt. 2

Write: Thinkpiece #6

Post: Responses to reading


Roxane Gay -- "Girls Girls Girls," May 3, 2012, The Rumpus

Michael Blackmon — "The Cultural Appropriation Conversation Around Ariana Grande Is Too Simplistic" February 15, 2019



Week 9
Writing About Writing

Write: Essay revision #2

Post: Responses to reading


Larissa Pham — “Our Reaction to ‘Cat Wedding’ Shows That We Are Failing as Readers,” Dec. 2017, The Village Voice

Andrea Long Chu — “No One Wants It,” Nov. 2018, Affidavit

Clarkisha Kent — “There Is Such a Thing As Too Woke,” INTO, Dec. 2018,

Week 10
This Media Moment

Write: Final thinkpiece

Post: Responses to reading


Lewis Wallace — "Objectivity Is Dead and I'm Okay With It," January 27, 2017, Medium

Soraya Roberts — "The Personal Essay Isn't Dead. It's Just No Longer White," The Walrus