Op-ed writing for population and public health researchers (webinar)


To develop the skills of population and public health researchers to write op-eds about their work for the mainstream media and consumption by a lay audience.


  • Steve Buist — Mr. Buist is an award-winning investigative reporter and feature writer at the Hamilton Spectator.
  • Sharon Manson Singer — Dr. Manson Singer is a professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy. She is the co-founder of EvidenceNetwork.ca.
  • Michael Wolfson — Dr. Wolfson is Canada Research Chair in Population Health Modeling / Populomics in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

Key points

  • Journalists are looking for a news hook. Researchers and health policy experts need to be able to convey a clear message that can be easily digested by journalists and news editors.
  • Many academic researchers feel there are gaps between research and media coverage of research. Researchers are inclined to be cautious and not make wide-sweeping “miracle cure” statements that journalists tend to like. Scientists frequently use more academic language while journalists use simpler language to reach a lay audience. Most journalists don’t have scientific training and it can be difficult for them to understand science and translate it into language accessible to a lay audience.
  • Op-ed pieces should:
    • be 650-800 words
    • be timely and related to something in the news
    • be focussed
    • be relevant to readers of the publication you are pitching to (use local examples where possible)
    • use plain language
    • use anecdotes and analogies
    • focus on one main issue and have a clear opinion on that issue
    • put the issue in context and acknowledge all sides of it
    • explain the author’s expertise so readers know why he or she can speak on the issue with authority
  • Op-ed pieces should not:
    • have a bibliography (credit given to others should be explicitly written within the piece)
    • be full of jargon and numbers
  • EvidenceNetwork.ca works directly with health experts and researchers to help them write focussed op-ed pieces that are pitched to Canadian print publications.



This webinar was co-hosted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Institute of Population and Public Health and EvidenceNetwork.ca. The webinar aired in October 2012.

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