Because editorial writing at newspapers is a collaborative process, you can write your entry as a team effort or by yourself. When you’re done, post it in the contest form below by April 4, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.
With our judges, we will then use this rubric (PDF) for selecting winners to publish on The Learning Network.
As teachers know, the persuasive essay has long been a staple of high school education, but the Common Core standards seem to have put evidence-based argumentative writing on everybody’s agenda. You couldn’t ask for a more real-world example of the genre than the classic newspaper editorial — and The Times publishes, on average, four of them a day.
And at a time when breaking out of one’s “filter bubble” is more important than ever, we hope this contest also encourages students to broaden their news diets by using multiple sources, ideally ones that offer a range of perspectives on their chosen issue.
So what issue do you care about? Gun violence? Sexism? Animal testing? You decide, but here are 401 writing prompts that might give you ideas, and here is a link to last year’s winners so you can see what we’re looking for.
Good luck, and please post any questions you might have in the comments and we’ll answer you there.
To help with this challenge, Andrew Rosenthal, in his previous role as Editorial Page editor of The Times, detailed seven pointers in the video above. And we published two related lesson plans, “For the Sake of Argument: Writing Persuasively to Craft Short, Evidence-Based Editorials” and “I Don’t Think So: Writing Effective Counterarguments” that offer additional teaching ideas.
We have also culled a list of 401 prompts for argumentative writing organized by category, to help inspire you — although, of course, you are not limited to those topics.
We encourage you to look at both our comments on last year’s winners and the winning essays themselves. They can serve as excellent models, and they cover topics from 3-D printing to Guantánamo Bay.
1. Use at least one Times source. You can write your editorial about any topic, as long as you use at least one source from The New York Times. That should pretty much open the whole world to you, as you may be surprised how much you can find in The Times.
Be advised that NYTimes.com has a digital subscription system in which readers have access to 10 free articles each month, but after that you will be asked to become a digital subscriber. However, all Times articles linked from The Learning Network, as well as The Learning Network itself (with the exception of lesson plans) are free. That means you can use any of the articles linked from this site for the editorial contest without exceeding the 10-article limit. (The Times has also introduced a new K-12 subscription plan, which covers digital access schoolwide.)
2. Use at least one non-Times source. Make sure, however, that the source you use is a reliable one. We encourage you to find sources that offer different perspectives on an issue.
3. Always cite your sources. Our submission form contains a required field for entering your citations. We include an example as well. Even if you use a print source or an expert interview, you must cite your sources. Readers (and judges) should always know where you got your evidence.
4. Be concise. The editorial must be no more than 450 words. Your title and list of sources are separate, however, and do not count as part of your 450-word limit.
5. Have an opinion. Editorials are different from news articles because they try to persuade readers to share your point of view. Don’t be afraid to take a stand.
6. Write your editorial by yourself or with a group. If you are working as a team, just remember to submit all of your names when you post your entry. However, please submit only one editorial per student. If you’re submitting as part of a team, you should not also submit as an individual.
7. Be original and use appropriate language. Write for a well-informed audience, but include enough background information to give context. Be careful not to plagiarize: Use quotation marks around lines you use verbatim from another source, or rephrase and cite your source.
8. Submissions must be from students who are 13 to 19 years old, although students can come from anywhere in the world. Unlike in previous years, students can now use their entire name if they want.
9. All entries must be submitted by April 4, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time using the contest form above. If you have questions about the contest, please feel free to post them in the comments section as well, and we’ll answer you there.
10. Follow these instructions if you need proof that you entered this contest. Within an hour of submitting your editorial, you should receive an email from “The New York Times” with the subject heading “Thank you for your submission to our Student Editorial Contest.” If you don’t receive the email within an hour, even after checking your spam folder, then you can resubmit your entry. Be sure your settings allow emails from nytimes.com.
After two attempts and waiting over one full day, if you still have not received a confirmation email, you can email us at LNFeedback@nytimes.com using the email address you used in the contest form with the subject heading “Please send me an email confirmation for my editorial contest submission.” Be sure to include your name and editorial title (or subject) in your email. You may have to wait up to one week for a reply.
11. We will use this rubric (PDF) to judge entries,and the winning editorials will be featured on The Learning Network.
Additional Resources Suggested by Teachers
Writing an Editorial Unit Plan by Lindsay Thompson
Reader Idea | He Said, She Said, I Say: A Researched Argument Essay by Danielle Harms
Reader Idea | Using an Op-Doc Video to Teach Argumentative Writing by Allison Marchetti
Reader Idea | Using Room for Debate to Teach Argumentative Writing and Discussion Skills by Gerard Dawson and Justin Rex
Reader Idea | An Argument-Writing Unit: Crafting Student Editorials by Kayleen Everitt
Good luck and have fun. We welcome your questions and comments in case we have somehow have omitted details that might be useful. Let us know how we can help.Continue reading the main story
We are no longer accepting applications. The winners will be announced March 26, 2018.
Should schools be able to keep tabs on students’ social media to prevent internet bullying? Should there be regulations that prohibit a president from tweeting? With our “We the Students” essay contest, you could win prizes just for sharing your thoughts on these issues!
Each year, We the Students gives 8-12th-grade students from across the U.S. a chance to share their perspective on a trending topic.
This year’s prompt: To what extent in the U.S. does the government–federal, state, and local–have the duty to monitor internet content?
We are awarding $20,000+ in scholarship and prizes to the students who submit the best essays on the topic.
- 1st Place – $5,000 and a scholarship to our 2018 Constitutional Academy in Washington, D.C.
- Runners Up – Six prizes at $1,250 each
- Honorable Mentions – Eight prizes at $500 each
Sign-up For The Contest!