Position Paper Writing

Writing Position Papers

Write a position paper to
  • Organize and outline your viewpoint on an issue
  • Formally inform others of your position
    as a foundation to build resolution to difficult problems
  • Present a unique, though biased, solution
    or a unique approach to solving a problem
  • Frame the discussion in order to define the “playing field.”
    This can put you in an advantageous position with those who may not be so well prepared as regards the issues behind their positions
  • Establish your credibility
    Here you are demonstrating that you have a command of the issues and the research behind them, and can present them clearly
  • Let your passion be demonstrated in the force of your argument
    rather than in the use of emotional terms
  • Guide you in being consistent in maintaining your position in negotiation
The better prepared you are
the more disadvantaged are your opponents and more likely they will defer to you

Guidelines:

  • Format should be consistent with guidelines determined by the sponsoring organization or committee
  • Include topic, date, purpose, etc., and should readily identify you as the author
  • If the paper represents a group, organization, committee, do not write in the first person (not I, my, mine, etc. but rather we, our, etc.)
  • Limit yourself to two pages following the format established by previous successful position papers

Research:

  • Develop supporting evidence for both sides
    including factual knowledge, statistical evidence, authoritative testimony
  • Identify the issues and prejudices keeping in mind your audience
    List these as appropriate and anticipate counterclaims
  • Assume familiarity with basic concepts
    but define unfamiliar terms/concepts or state meanings that define your point of departure
  • Refer to those who agree with your position to assist you in developing your argument
  • Familiarize yourself with those who disagree with you to prepare your defense.
    Summarize their argument and evidence, then refute

Introduction:

Consider your audience: 
start with a topic sentence or two that attracts attention and summarizes the issue
Inform the reader of your point of view

Development:

Focus on three main points to develop
Each topic is developed with
  • a general statement of the position
  • an elaboration that references documents and source data
  • past experiences and authoritative testimony
  • conclusion restating the position
Establish flow from paragraph to paragraph
  • Keep your voice active
  • Quote sources to establish authority
  • Stay focused on your point of view throughout the essay
  • Focus on logical arguments
  • Don’t lapse into summary
    in the development–wait for the conclusion
Conclusion
  • Summarize, then conclude, your argument
  • Refer to the first paragraph/opening statementsas well as the main points
    • does the conclusion restate the main ideas?
    • reflect the succession and importance of the arguments
    • logically conclude their development?
Share a draft with others to better develop the paper and ensure that your argument is clear
Revise, spell-check, and succeed in building your case.


from http://www.studygs.net/wrtstr9.htm

Taking a Position – Article

Upon occasion, you will be required to take a side on a specific issue in order to construct a persuasive essay or an argument. Whether you are writing a long argument essay, writing a test essay,writing a speech, or preparing for a debate, you will need to know how to take a strong stance on a subject at some point.

There is an art to taking a side. You have to be a little crafty. To really persuade


someone in an argument essay, you have to know a little about each side and pick the one you can argue most effectively.
TIP: You don’t have to choose the side you believe, necessarily. If you are going to be graded according to your logical points, you might have to go against your gut feelings.
Imagine that you have been assigned the topic:
Recently, a young man was suspended from high school for wearing makeup to class. His cosmetic choices included black lipstick and eyeliner. The young man protested that the school was guilty of gender discrimination, since female students routinely used makeup. Do you agree or disagree that the school discriminated against the young man?
First, draw a line down the middle of a piece of scrap paper, dividing the sheet in half. Label one side pros and one side cons€ (or yes and no).
Think of strengths for each side. List at least three strong points for both sides.
Yes It Is Discrimination:
  • Girls and boys should be treated equally.
  • Sometimes makeup is necessary to cover embarrassing scars or blemishes.

  •  
    No It Is Not Discrimination:

    High school is tough enough for students who feel different.

  • Makeup is a personal choice.
  • The school is stereotyping, which sets a bad example.
  • If there is not already a written rule about makeup, the school can’t make one up.
  • Makeup is traditionally worn by girls.
  • The boy is just trying to cause a distraction.
  • Officials have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to distracting behavior.
  • Officials have the right to interpret dress codes to include other issues concerning appearance.
Once you have come up with several points for each side of your issue, read over the results to determine which side is strongest, and which you could argue most effectively. Decide which side has the points that you could back up with examples.

Types of Evidence

Before you make a choice, review the points you made and decide if your statements can be backed up by evidence. Types include:
  • Statistics
  • Examples
  • Expert opinions
  • Anecdotes
  • Observations
  • Precedence
  • Consequence
Choose a side that will enable you to use variety in your argument. For example, you might decide that you can argue most effectively that the school is not discriminating, because you can offer several differing types of evidence:
Precedence: Students have always been required to adhere to dress codes to avoid disruptions.
Observation: The boy’s choice of black lipstick demonstrates that he is not merely wearing makeup to cover blemishes. He is attempting to draw attention.
Consequence: The boy’s makeup can (and already has) created distractions.

Addressing the Opposition

Even though you choose one side as the strongest for your argument, you must be able to demonstrate that you understand both sides of your issue. Keep this in mind as you construct your argument essay, and use the strengths that you listed for the opposite side:
While it is true that boys and girls should be treated equally, it would be a mistake to use makeup as a measuring stick for equality. It is widely known that cosmetic makeup is traditionally associated with females, so the issue becomes the distraction that this behavior would cause.

Position Paper Guidelines

Writing Position Papers


from http://www.studygs.net/wrtstr9.htm

Write a position paper to

  • Organize and outline your viewpoint on an issue
  • Formally inform others of your position
    as a foundation to build resolution to difficult problems
  • Present a unique, though biased, solution
    or a unique approach to solving a problem
  • Frame the discussion in order to define the “playing field.”
    This can put you in an advantageous position with those who may not be so well prepared as regards the issues behind their positions
  • Establish your credibility
    Here you are demonstrating that you have a command of the issues and the research behind them, and can present them clearly
  • Let your passion be demonstrated in the force of your argument
    rather than in the use of emotional terms
  • Guide you in being consistent in maintaining your position in negotiation
The better prepared you are
the more disadvantaged are your opponents and more likely they will defer to you

Guidelines:

  • Format should be consistent with guidelines determined by the sponsoring organization or committee
  • Include topic, date, purpose, etc., and should readily identify you as the author
  • If the paper represents a group, organization, committee, do not write in the first person (not I, my, mine, etc. but rather we, our, etc.)
  • Limit yourself to two pages following the format established by previous successful position papers

Research:

  • Develop supporting evidence for both sides
    including factual knowledge, statistical evidence, authoritative testimony
  • Identify the issues and prejudices keeping in mind your audience
    List these as appropriate and anticipate counterclaims
  • Assume familiarity with basic concepts
    but define unfamiliar terms/concepts or state meanings that define your point of departure
  • Refer to those who agree with your position to assist you in developing your argument
  • Familiarize yourself with those who disagree with you to prepare your defense.
    Summarize their argument and evidence, then refute

Introduction:

Consider your audience: 
start with a topic sentence or two that attracts attention and summarizes the issue
Inform the reader of your point of view

Development:

Focus on three main points to develop
Each topic is developed with
  • a general statement of the position
  • an elaboration that references documents and source data
  • past experiences and authoritative testimony
  • conclusion restating the position
Establish flow from paragraph to paragraph
  • Keep your voice active
  • Quote sources to establish authority
  • Stay focused on your point of view throughout the essay
  • Focus on logical arguments
  • Don’t lapse into summary
    in the development–wait for the conclusion
Conclusion
  • Summarize, then conclude, your argument
  • Refer to the first paragraph/opening statementsas well as the main points
    • does the conclusion restate the main ideas?
    • reflect the succession and importance of the arguments
    • logically conclude their development?
Share a draft with othersto better develop the paper and ensure that your argument is clear
Revise, spell-check, and succeed in building your case.


Writing assignments

Writing for the “Web” | The five-paragraph essay | Essays for a literature class |
Expository essays | Persuasive essays | Position papers | Open book exams |
Essay Exams | White papers | Lab reports/scientific papers |
Research proposals | Elements of a Research Paper
Seven stages of writing assignments | “Lessons learned”

Position Paper Essay Writing

WRITING A POSITION PAPER

The following material explains how to produce a position paper (sometimes called a point of view paper). A template is provided that outlines the major parts of a good position paper. . . .
Like a debate, a position paper presents one side of an arguable opinion about an issue. The goal of a position paper is to convince the audience that your opinion is valid and defensible. Ideas that you are considering need to be carefully examined in choosing a topic, developing your argument, and organizing your paper. It is very important to ensure that you are addressing all sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for your audience to understand. Your job is to take one side of the argument and persuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic being presented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure the validity of your claims, as well as to refute the counterclaims to show that you are well informed about both sides.

Issue Criteria
To take a side on a subject, you should first establish the arguability of a topic that interests you. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure that you will be able to present a strong argument:
  •  Is it a real issue, with genuine controversy and uncertainty?
  •  Can you identify at least two distinctive positions?
  •  Are you personally interested in advocating one of these positions?
  •  Is the scope of the issue narrow enough to be manageable?
. . . .

 

Analyzing an Issue and Developing an Argument

Once your topic is selected, you should do some research on the subject matter. While you may already have an opinion on your topic and an idea about which side of the argument you want to take, you need to ensure that your position is well supported. Listing the pro and con sides of the topic will help you examine your ability to support your counterclaims, along with a list of supporting evidence for both sides. Supporting evidence includes the following:

Type of Information

Type of Source 

 How to find these sources
introductory information and overviews
directories, encyclopedias, handbooks
Use the Library catalogue
in-depth studies
books, government reports
Library catalogue, Canadian Research Index, Government web sites
scholarly articles
academic journals 
Article indexes
current issues
newspapers, magazines 
Article indexes
statistics
government agencies and associations
Statistics Canada, Canadian Research Index, journal articles
position papers and analyses
association and institute reports
Library catalogue, web sites
Many of these sources can be located online through the library catalogue and electronic databases, or on the Web. You may be able to retrieve the actual information electronically or you may have to visit a library to find the information in print. The librarian’s presentation on October 10thafter your mid-term exam will assist in your orientation of the SFU library.
** You do not have to use all of the above supporting evidence in your papers. This is simply a list of the various options available to you. Consult your separate assignment sheet to clarify the number and type of sources expected.
Considering your audience and determining your viewpoint
Once you have made your pro and con lists, compare the information side by side. Considering your audience, as well as your own viewpoint, choose the position you will take.
Considering your audience does not mean playing up to the professor or the TA. To convince a particular person that your own views are sound, you have to consider his or her way of thinking. If you are writing a paper for a sociology professor/TA obviously your analysis would be different from what it would be if you were writing for an economics, history, or communications professor/TA. You will have to make specific decisions about the terms you should explain, the background information you should supply, and the details you need to convince that particular reader.
In determining your viewpoint, ask yourself the following:
  • Is your topic interesting? Remember that originality counts. ….
  • Does your topic assert something specific, prove it, and where applicable, propose a plan of action?
  • Do you have enough material or proof to support your opinion?


Organization 

Sample Outline
I. Introduction
___A. Introduce the topic
___B. Provide background on the topic to explain why it is important
___C. Assert the thesis (your view of the issue). More on thesis statements can be found below.
Your introduction has a dual purpose: to indicate both the topic and your approach to it (your thesis statement), and to arouse your reader’s interest in what you have to say. One effective way of introducing a topic is to place it in context – to supply a kind of backdrop that will put it in perspective. You should discuss the area into which your topic fits, and then gradually lead into your specific field of discussion (re: your thesis statement).
II. Counter Argument
___A. Summarize the counterclaims
___B. Provide supporting information for counterclaims
___C. Refute the counterclaims
___D. Give evidence for argument
You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself what someone who disagrees with you might say about each of the points you’ve made or about your position as a whole. Once you have thought up some counterarguments, consider how you will respond to them–will you concede that your opponent has a point but explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing arguments.
When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have seriously considered the many sides of the issue, and that you are not simply attacking or mocking your opponents.
It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies.
Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly.
….
III. Your Argument
___A. Assert point #1 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
___B. Assert point #2 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
___C. Assert point #3 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
You may have more than 3 overall points to your argument, but you should not have fewer.
IV. Conclusion
___A. Restate your argument
___B. Provide a plan of action but do not introduce new information
The simplest and most basic conclusion is one that restates the thesis in different words and then discusses its implications.
Stating Your Thesis
thesis is a one-sentence statement about your topic. It’s an assertion about your topic, something you claim to be true. Notice that a topic alone makes no such claim; it merely defines an area to be covered. To make your topic into a thesis statement, you need to make a claim about it, make it into a sentence. Look back over your materials–brainstorms, investigative notes, etc.–and think about what you believe to be true. Think about what your readers want or need to know. Then write a sentence, preferably at this point, a simple one, stating what will be the central idea of your paper. The result should look something like this:
Original Subject: an important issue in my major field 
Focused Topic: media technology education for communication majors

Thesis: Theories of media technology deserve a more prominent place in this University’s Communication program

Or if your investigations led you to a different belief:
Thesis: Communication majors at this University receive a solid background in theories of media technology
It’s always good to have a thesis you can believe in.
Notice, though, that a sentence stating an obvious and indisputable truth won’t work as a thesis:
Thesis: This University has a Communication major.
That’s a complete sentence, and it asserts something to be true, but as a thesis it’s a dead end. It’s a statement of fact, pure and simple, and requires little or nothing added. A good thesis asks to have more said about it. It demands some proof. Your job is to show your reader that your thesis is true.
Remember, you can’t just pluck a thesis out of thin air. Even if you have remarkable insight concerning a topic, it won’t be worth much unless you can logically and persuasively support it in the body of your essay. A thesis is the evolutionary result of a thinking process, not a miraculous creation. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading the essay assignment. Deciding on a thesis does not come first. Before you can come up with an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the beneath-the-surface significance of these relationships. After this initial exploration of the question at hand, you can formulate a “working thesis,” an argument that you think will make sense of the evidence but that may need adjustment along the way. In other words, do not show up at your TAs office hours expecting them to help you figure out your thesis statement and/or help organize your paper unless you have already done some research.
….
Writing with style and clarity
Many students make the mistake of thinking that the content of their paper is all that matters. Although the content is important, it will not mean much if the reader can’t understand what you are trying to say. You may have some great ideas in your paper but if you cannot effectively communicate them, you will not receive a very good mark. Keep the following in mind when writing your paper:
Diction
Diction refers to the choice of words for the expression of ideas; the construction, disposition, and application of words in your essay, with regard to clearness, accuracy, variety, etc.; mode of expression; and language. There is often a tendency for students to use fancy words and extravagant images in hopes that it will make them sound more intelligent when in fact the result is a confusing mess. Although this approach can sometimes be effective, it is advisable that you choose clear words and be as precise in the expression of your ideas as possible.
Paragraphs
Creating clear paragraphs is essential. Paragraphs come in so many sizes and patterns that no single formula could possibly cover them all. The two basic principles to remember are these:
1)   A paragraph is a means of developing and framing an idea or impression. As a general rule, you should address only one major idea per paragraph.
2)   The divisions between paragraphs aren’t random, but indicate a shift in focus. In other words you must carefully and clearly organize the order of your paragraphs so that they are logically positioned throughout your paper. Transitions will help you with this.
….
Transitions
In academic writing your goal is to convey information clearly and concisely, if not to convert the reader to your way of thinking. Transitions help you to achieve these goals by establishing logical connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections of your papers. In other words, transitions tell readers what to do with the information you present them. Whether single words, quick phrases or full sentences, they function as signs for readers that tell them how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as they read through what you have written.
Transitions signal relationships between ideas. Basically, transitions provide the reader with directions for how to piece together your ideas into a logically coherent argument. They are words with particular meanings that tell the reader to think and react in a particular way to your ideas. In providing the reader with these important cues, transitions help readers understand the logic of how your ideas fit together.
LOGICAL RELATIONSHIP
TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSION
Similarity
also, in the same way, just as … so too, likewise, similarly
Exception/Contrast
but, however, in spite of, on the one hand … on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet
Sequence/Order
first, second, third, … next, then, finally
Time
after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then
Example
for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate
Emphasis
even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly
Place/Position
above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there
Cause and Effect
accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus
Additional Support or Evidence
additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then
Conclusion/Summary
finally, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, in summary 
….
Grammar and Spelling
You must make certain that your paper is free from grammar and spelling mistakes. Mechanical errors are usually the main reason for lack of clarity in essays, so be sure to thoroughly proof read your paper before handing it in…
Plagiarism and academic honesty
Plagiarism is a form of stealing; as with other offences against the law, ignorance is no excuse. The way to avoid plagiarism is to give credit where credit is due. If you are using someone else’s idea, acknowledge it, even if you have changed the wording or just summarized the main points.
To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you use
  • another person’s idea, opinion, or theory;
  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings–any pieces of information–that are not common knowledge;
  • quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words; or
  • paraphrase of another person’s spoken or written words.
….
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