A think-piece is a thought provoking piece of writing on some issue of concern that includes some background, analysis and opinion. It is often less formal than academic writing, and speculative, meaning it reflects the mind of the author as opposed to extensive journalistic reporting, research or knowledge of a given discipline. It is most often written for a broad, internet-based audience. Sometimes the word “think-piece” is used pejoratively to describe online writing that is shallow or self-righteous. But these evaluations are very much based on judgements that are influenced by many factors. For our purposes, think-pieces are not good or bad in the absolute; they must be evaluated on an individual basis. We might think of at least four different kinds of think-pieces:
1) Analysis of an event or trend
This kind of think piece is sometimes called a “hot-take.” It is a response to something happening in the news, a trending topic, or a development of some pressing social, political, or economic concern. The piece of the news it connects to is called a a news peg, meaning the article begins with something recent to discuss a topic the author is interested in. In truth, its connection to current events might might be marginal.
Diala Shamas and Tarek Z. Ismail, “Calling the Capitol riot terrorism will only hurt communities of color” (Links to an external site.) The Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2021.
2) Personal narrative or memoir
Personal narrative or memoir is a powerful means to reflect on a topic. The possibilities of this kind of think piece are as wide and diverse of human experience itself. This kind of think piece requires the author to be vulnerable and can be emotionally taxing. The upshot to such hard work is that it helps readers to connect with what’s being said and for in the best-case scenario it grants the author the satisfaction of working through something meaningful to them.
Anand Venkatkrishnan, Hemophilology (Links to an external site.), The Revealer, August 9, 2019.
3) Review essay
The review essay is a very common kind of think-piece as the work to be reviewed, whether it be a book, a TV show or an album, often affords the author of a think-piece an incredible range of interpretive possibilities. Much like the news analysis, the item being reviewed might only be the point of departure for an essay that goes far beyond a summary of a work an assessment of whether it is good or not.
Ashon Crawley, Forgotten: The Things We Lost In Kanye’s Gospel Year (Links to an external site.),NPR.org, October 23, 2019.
J. Barton Scott, Religion in Lovecraft Country (Links to an external site.), The Revealer, February 4, 2021.
This form of the think-piece brings together elements of at least two of the other types. Indeed, many think-pieces of this variety are among strongest and most compelling as they integrate the analysis of timely developments, the vulnerability of memoir, and engages deeply with a creative work,
Wendell Marsh, Re-Memebering the Name of God (Links to an external site.), Chimurenga. March 19, 2015.
Assignment: for March 29th
In 3-5 sentences, write an essay pitch that identifies the topic of your think-piece, briefly presents your take on that topic, and what material you will use to write it. Be sure to use standard 12 point font in Chicago or MLA style formatting and citation, double-spaced, without cover page.
Questions to consider as you prepare this assignment:
What books, films, music, etc would be useful in talking about this subject?
Why is this subject interesting to you?
Why do you think it should be interesting to other people?
What does this have to do with Black Religion?