This course assignment required me to choose a topic, research it and write an opinion piece. The expected learning outcomes for this assessment were to demonstrate an ability to analyse professional texts, and to adapt written discourse for different audiences and purposes. For this assignment, I adapted a discipline-specific topic into an opinion piece which required me to describe complex approaches using simple language that a non-specialist audience could understand. Preparatory activities to complete this assignment included choosing an opinion piece from The Conversation and analysing it in terms of its content, language use, audience and purpose. I chose an article on the state of indigenous languages in Australia because sociolinguistics is one of my areas of interest. The purpose of this awareness-raising activity was to identify the elements of opinion pieces, such as their structure, levels of formality, vocabulary, audience and intention. Another preparatory activity we completed was to discuss our chosen articles with peers in order to receive and provide feedback on our analyses. For this assessment, I submitted an opinion piece on a topic I am passionate about and that I have previously investigated for my a research course. I wrote 867 words discussing the use of mobile applications for language learning and the reasons why some popular mobile apps may not be effective for learners to successfully acquire a target language. I presented my ideas in a simple yet professional language to convey my views on this topic to a non-academic readership.
After completing this assignment, I developed a confidence in my writing and gained new insights on how academic writing and opinion pieces differ in terms of their structure, vocabulary, intention and audience. In the first week of class, we were introduced to the topic of opinion pieces and how academic and professional writing differ in terms of their purpose and participants. I was initially unfamiliar with what opinion pieces were, even thought I had come across them before. Only after analysing an article from The Conversation and discussing it with my peers, I began to understand the purpose and structure of opinion pieces and how scholars in my field usually write opinion pieces about their research or work. Completing a handout in which I had to identify the elements of an opinion piece was the most helpful activity. I began to understand how research articles can be adapted to opinion pieces for a general audience of non-specialist readers. After reviewing other opinion pieces on The Conversation, The Guardian and The New Yorker, I began brainstorming ideas for my opinion piece. I finally chose the topic of mobile-assisted language learning because it is one of my areas of interests and I hold strong opinion against the use of outdated mobile applications for language learning. When writing my opinion piece, I realised that focusing on a topic that I have some expertise on can help accelerate my writing process. The only challenge for me was to write a less formal and less academic text, and to explain complex concepts in the area of linguistics in more simple terms. To overcome this, I had to consult English dictionaries and language resources to produce a grammatically accurate text, which was written in simpler yet professional language. I have prior experience in searching high quality images for blog posts and inserting URL links into texts, so this was one of the easier aspects of the assignment. However, useful instruction was provided for me to format my text to make it look professional and organised. Overall, I gained confidence in my writing to be able to write an effective opinion piece in the future. The reason is that I gained enough knowledge of the main elements of an opinion piece from preparatory activities and from the feedback I received. Being able to write opinion pieces is undoubtedly a valuable professional skill for the work I intend to do in the future. To continue developing my ability to analyse and adapt written texts for professional purposes, I intend to continue reading opinion pieces written by scholars in my areas of interest. This will also help me grow my vocabulary in English, become familiar with new topics and continue improving my critical and analytical skills when writing professional texts.