How to write a feature article.
Now that you know your topic and how you might want to present it, who the major figures are, what primary and secondary sources are and how to use and evaluate them, you can start writing your feature article. In the windows below are instructions on Writing feature articles, Planning a feature article, a checklist and a deconstruction activity that you will have to complete in your journal. It is now your job to write your feature article on the Wiki space and submit it to your teacher to be passed onto the University professor for feedback. After you have gotten your article back and refined it using the feedback, print a hard copy to submit for judging by the principal to be published.
Below in the Bookmark tab are the links to the five group Wikispaces in which to write your article, but do not forget to write it in Word first and copy and past it into the Wikispace. It is a good idea to keep your own copy of the work.
Like essays, feature articles present ideas and information and their particular purpose may include:
· arguing a case
· exploring a range of ideas and points of view about a subject
· discussing the pros and cons of a situation or issue.
The feature article differs from the essay in that it is much more concerned with entertaining as well as informing the audience.
The audience for a feature article depends upon the magazine or newspaper it is written for, and this in turn depends to some extent, on subject matter. Newspapers and magazines have demographic targets or particular sections of the population that they aim towards.
Demographics are important because they determine the advertising newspapers and magazines can attract and carry. Women’s magazines attract advertising for products that are likely to be bought by women, whilst magazines aimed at young people attract advertising for products marketed towards today’s youth.
Advertising is the principal source of income for most magazines and newspapers. Therefore, a significant amount of time and money is spent on researching who is reading particular publications so that profiles of audiences in terms of age, gender, occupation, annual income, hobbies and interests can be created. Demographics assist magazines and newspapers to appeal to advertisers, whose product is aimed at particular segments of the population, thereby making them very sensitive to the needs and expectations of their audience.
The context for a feature article is, of course the particular magazine, journal or newspaper in which the article will be published. Some magazines are defined by their content (eg New Scientist, Art in Australia, House and Garden). They attract an audience which is interested in particular content, and only publish articles relevant to their subject matter.
Others are more generic such as ‘glossies’ like Cosmopolitan, Cleo, Marie Claire and HQ. These have a predictable content, based on the editors’ understanding of what the target audience will be interested in and entertained by. These magazines and newspapers only publish articles which fall within this scope.
Newspapers are also shaped by expectations of what their readership will be interested in. Features contained within the main pages of newspapers tend to be about topics in the news; however, most newspapers also have a range of supplements dealing with specific kinds of content, such as health issues, travel, education and the arts. These supplements publish features related to their particular focus.
The conventions of feature articles relate to their magazine or newspaper context and also due to the fact that they are expected to be statements of opinion rather than fact.
Presentation of feature articles:
· headlines and by-lines are included
· typically illustrated with photos or other pictorial content
· captions accompany pictorial content to explain their relevance
· they are often presented with sub-headings to break up blocks of print and excite the readers’ interest.
· The headline should grab the readers’ attention and make them want to read more. It should also highlight the main idea of the article.
· The most basic by-line simply identifies the writer (eg by Peter Pusher). Often, the by-line is contained in a ‘teaser’ which supports the headline:
“Today’s explorers are more likely to be found in cyberspace than outer space. Peter Pusher looks at how one such explorer is opening up new territories in your personal computer.”
· The opening paragraph, which is often presented in larger font or in bold text, is vital in building reader interest that is captured by the headline and teaser. It often begins the article with an anecdote, or a controversial statement to engage the reader.
· The body of the article expands and explores the article’s topic. It frequently makes use of anecdotes and case studies to support its points. Statistics and expert opinions are often used to provide a sense of authority to the article’s point of view. Direct quotes from interviews with experts and people are also often used.
· The closing paragraph is designed to have impact and be memorable. It will remind the reader of the article’s main point and may also suggest what the reader should do, or at least encourage him or her to take a new perspective on the topic.
· Features are often written in a personal tone and colloquial style. The words ‘you’ and ‘your’ are often used to involve the reader as in the example of a teaser in this document.
· How personal and colloquial the writing is depends on the particular audience and context the article is written for.
· Jargon is often used to establish the writer’s familiarity with the subject.
· Vivid imagery is often used to involve the reader. So too are emotive language and rhetorical questions.
· Facts and statistics are used to create a sense of the writer’s authority.
Planning a feature article
You have already given some thought and planning to the topic of your article and what ideas you want to explore. The next aspect to decide upon is exactly what you want your feature article to say about the topic. A feature article requires a point of view.
Write your topic and your point of view in the space below.
Try re-wording your thesis statement into journalistic language below to use either in the beginning or end of your article. Try to make your thesis statement punchy and vivid.
Does the above sentence suggest that you will fulfil the purpose below? Reflect on why you are writing the article. Tick one or more of the purposes below.
· Inform your audience about the topic.
· Provoke thought about the issues involved in your topic.
· Persuade readers to share a point of view.
· Profile a person or group of people.
· Evaluate the validity of a point of view.
· Stir up emotion about an issue/s.
· Another purpose? Explain.
For example, where a writer uses the profile of a person to provoke thought about an issue. Do you think the writer has any other purpose in mind as well?
Now consider the ideas, situations, arguments and information you are going to use to expand on, argue for and illustrate your point of view. Write into the middle column in the table below to plan the points you are going to make. Construct a larger version of the table below if you require additional space for your ideas.
Next, use the right-hand column in the above table to decide the methods you could use to make each point. Below is a list of some materials you might have available for this purpose:
· factual evidence
· expert opinions
· descriptions of situations.
Even though the article is an expression of your point of view on the topic; it is suggested that you allow your materials, such as anecdotes, evidence and expert opinions to speak for you where possible. This is better than constantly stating your own opinion as it provides the article with more credibility, the article will appear less personal.
The next step is to organise the materials you plan to use. Place numbers into the ‘Running order’ column on the left hand side of the table to indicate the order in which you will use the ideas in the body of your article. Try to plan for a natural flow from one idea to another throughout the article.
Constructing a feature article
A feature article, like an essay, comprises three main sections:
· an introduction
· a body
· and a conclusion.
An introduction is vital because you need to gain audience interest from your headline and opening paragraph. Suggested methods to introduce the topic of your feature article and obtain the audience’s interest are:
· controversial statements
· thought-provoking questions
· a brief story which leads into your topic
· a moody description of scene or situation
· a combination of the above.
Ensure your introduction impacts upon the audience by being thought provoking or emotionally involving.
Re-examine your notes on the feature articles read in class and re-read the feature article that was written as an assignment by a journalism student in 2005, ‘Painting for freedom’. [As seen in the window below]
Consider how paragraph one begins with a description that introduces the subject and draws the reader into his world.
Paragraph two includes some confronting statements about the treatment of refugees, and links the topic of the article to what is occurring in the world and subsequently being reported in the news.
The third paragraph introduces the article as a whole by summarising the ideas it will develop. It also strongly suggests the writer’s point of view on the issue of detention.
Write a first draft of your opening section of two or three short paragraphs for your feature article.
Write a first draft development of each of the ideas and materials in the table in Planning a feature article. Remember that most feature articles have very short paragraphs as this makes them easy to read. An essay will use one long paragraph to develop an idea; a feature article will use two, three or even four paragraphs to develop the same idea.
The key point to remember with concluding a feature article is to utilise the final paragraph to remind the reader of the topic or issue being explored. Use your conclusion to ‘wrap up’ the article. You do not need to repeat everything you have already said but you do need to finish with a strong punch line.
A common approach is ‘where to from here’. Look at the sample feature article as an example of this approach. The writer uses her last two paragraphs to conclude the article by indicating her subject’s future plans, and to reinforce our sense of him as a person who is committed to helping others.
Attempt to compile a paragraph or two which will conclude your article with a strong last sentence.
Develop an intriguing headline for your feature article. Attempt to summarise the subject and point of view in, at most, four or five words and ensure it is eye-catching. Do not be surprised if it takes a number of attempts before you can perfect your headline as headlining is regarded by some as a form of poetry.
The purpose of the by-line is to inform us who wrote the article. The most basic by-line simply identifies the writer, for example ‘by Peter Pusher’. Often, the by-line is contained in a ‘teaser’ which supports the headline and aims to draw in the reader. An example is below.
Today’s explorers are more likely to be found in cyberspace than outer space. Peter Pusher looks at how one such explorer is opening up new territories in your personal computer.
Create a by-line teaser for your article. When you have completed the draft, consider how you will present the feature article.
Presenting a feature article
Convention states that features articles are accompanied by pictures which illustrate the story and provide visual appeal through the use of photographs, illustrations, diagrams and other visual material. Each picture or photo requires an accompanying caption or explanation, which is usually presented below the image.
The exact format or layout of a feature article depends on the style of the magazine or newspaper in which it is published. Consider the sample feature articles read in class or browse through a few magazines and papers to view other approaches and styles.
If using a computer to complete your final copy, you will be able to format your article in a similar way to a published article.
The following points may help you achieve the appropriate layout.
· Format the body of your article into three columns.
· Create your headline, by-line teaser and sub-headings in a separate document.
· Print both documents.
· Use blank paper, scissors, and glue to physically lay out your article according to the format you have decided to use.
Whatever method you use, ensure you incorporate the following conventions:
· the article itself, which is also referred to as ‘copy’
· photo/s with captions
Proofreading and editing checklist: Feature article
Have you fulfilled the objectives of the activity by checking the assessment criteria?
Have you used the feature article structure of columns, sub-headings, an introduction and a conclusion?
Have you presented your argument or point of view clearly in your introduction?
Have you used supporting evidence to support your argument or point of view eg with statistics, expert opinion, examples and/or case studies?
Have you expressed your ideas clearly?
Have you used pictures and/or photos to reinforce the ideas in your feature article?
Have you used correct punctuation?
· full stops and commas
· apostrophes for ownership and contractions
· question marks.
Have you used capital letters for sentence beginnings, names, places?
Have you checked your spelling?
· Check the dictionary if you are unsure.
· Check homonyms, which are words that sound the same but are spelt differently and have different meaning such as ‘there, their and they’re’.
When you have checked all these points, re-read your work.
Are you satisfied that it is the best you can achieve?
Give your work to someone else to check.
Signature of Co-editor
Write your final copy.
Proofread your final copy.
Make any necessary alterations before submitting your planning notes, draft and final copy on (insert date)