Position Papers

Lessons

What is a Position Paper?

 

A position paper is a type of essay where the author chooses a controversial topic, picks a position, and argues that position throughout the essay. The position being argued must be backed up with evidence and the author must show that other sides of the issue have been considered by discussing the counterarguments and refuting them to persuade the reader that the author's position is the best position. 

Position papers are similar to literature reviews in that they both present information about a topic. Instead of just providing a wholistic review/summary of information on the topic however, position papers aim to also persuade the reader that one position (position of the author) is the best position. 

Position Papers vs. Literature Reviews

 

Literature Reviews

  • Thoroughly researching a topic and summarizing

  • Identify and explain controversies (without picking a position)

  • Synthesis: based on the conclusions of other studies, you form your own conclusions

  • Creates a scholarly discussion around the topic

Position Papers

  • Thoroughly researching a topic and summarizing (helps provide background information)

  • Identify the controversy and pick a position to argue

  • Uses evidence (articles, examples, studies) to support claims/position

  • Identifies counterarguments but provides evidence to dispute them (strengthens your position)

Writing a Position Paper

 

Step 1: Choosing a Topic

The first thing you will need to consider is what your topic will be.
 

Your topic must...

  • Be arguable/controversial: there needs to be more than one side to the issue

  • NOT have a clear side that everyone already agrees on. If everyone already agrees on that position, then is it necessary to even argue it?

Step 2: Choose Your Position

After choosing a controversial topic, you will need to determine which side you want to argue (your position). You will want to research your topic and get to know all sides of the issue before deciding what your position will be. Being familiar with all sides of the issue will also help you to defend your position. 

Make a pros & cons list to help you get started. Listing out the pros and cons for each side will not only help you pick a position, but will help with deciding on arguments/claims later on. 

Step 3: Build Your Argument

In order to argue your position, you will need to make claims as to why your position is the best one. As always, claims will need to be backed up with evidence. 

Another part of building your argument is discussing a counterargument to your position. You should identify a counterargument and, using evidence, dismiss that counterargument. This will help strengthen your argument, as it shows you have considered all sides of the issue. 

Step 4: Develop Your Thesis

After you have done sufficient background research, chose a position, and thought about arguments to back up that position, you will need to develop a thesis statement that will determine the direction your paper will go in. Look at the evidence you have gathered and the points that you want to make to help guide your thesis derivation. 

Step 5: Write Your Paper!

Now that you know the direction that your paper will go in and you know what you want to argue, it's time to put everything together! Make sure to pay attention to spelling, grammar, citation, and formatting rules, and follow the expectations given to you by your professor.

Paper Structure

 

Introduction

Body

Conclusion

Notice how the triangles for the introduction and body sections are upside down. This means that you want to start general and be more specific as the paper progresses. 

 

Introduction

  • Provides background information/general knowledge on the topic

  • As you near the end, the content should become more and more specific (thesis & position)

 

Body

  • Each small triangle represents a body section that either provides evidence in support of your position or discusses a counterargument 

    • ***You must discuss other sides to the argument (not just your own position)​. When discussing other sides, don't attack the other side. Instead, dismiss the claims using facts/evidence.

    • Use an active voice and write in third person

    • There can be more than three body sections (This was just to show how it should be structured). Always follow guidelines that are given to you for assignments. 

  • Each body section should start off broad and become more specific (upside down triangle!)

    • Make sure that each body paragraph/section has a strong topic sentence. Think of this like a mini thesis that will control your entire paragraph​

  • Overall, the entire body section should also flow from general to specific (Notice how there is a big triangle that encapsulates the smaller triangles? This means that your body sections should all still be related and tell a story even though each section discusses a separate claim!) 

  • Notice that the triangles overlap! There should be a smooth transition in content when you move from one claim to the next

 

Conclusion

  • This section is different from the rest! You want to start off specific and become broader towards the end

  • Start by restating your thesis and summarizing your main arguments in support of your position. You should also include any counterarguments that you have refuted here. 

  • Usually position papers will end off with a call to action (broad— why your position is the best and any potential implications it may have or suggest resolutions to the issue)

    • e.g. Children need a safe place to play, so the only choice is to install new park equipment (argument/position was that funding should go towards renovations at a local park)​

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