How to Write a Position Paper? A Simple Guide for Students

A position paper is a type of academic assignment where you are expected to reveal and explain your point of view on a particular topic. When writing one, you should imagine yourself debating with someone else. And when you argue, your task is to present a solid opinion supported by arguments and references. Of course, you will have to do a lot of research to make sure that you do understand the topic entirely. You should prepare yourself for serious and tedious research to see all the details and sides of a discussed issue.

In the following guide, we will talk about some general writing techniques that will help you produce an A-winning paper. Read on and keep these tips in mind.

Before you start: So what is a position paper?

As we have already mentioned, this type of academic assignment is all about argumentation and convincing. The main purpose of writing a position paper is to convince your readers that your position is valid and relevant. That is why you need to pay special attention to the structure, argumentation, and organization of your piece.

Even though you will argue for a certain point, you need to address the opposing one as well. This is necessary from the viewpoint of ethics. What is more, a more comprehensive picture of the problem will let your readers understand you better. Keep them informed! To create a persuasive paper, you will have to find relevant and up-to-date sources to retrieve authoritative evidence and support your claims.

Your topic

If you are lucky enough to choose the topic yourself, you should stick to something that interests you. However, not only the main issue should be appealing to you, but also you need to choose something controversial. In the other case, there is no point in debating and arguing, right?

These are the question to ask before you decide the central issue:

  • Can you formulate at least two opposing positions?
  • Is this a real controversial issue or just uncertainty?
  • Can you find enough sources to write a paper on this topic?

If you can answer “yes” to these three central questions, then your topic is suitable.

Analysis and argument development

Now the time has come to do research. The chances are that you already know which position you will take, so you need to be sure that it is well-researched by previous authors. To support your position, you need to do research using the following sources:

  • Overviews of the topic that reveal introductory data
  • Encyclopedias, handbooks, text-books
  • Books and reports
  • Scholarly journals
  • Newspapers, magazines, statistics

Most of such sources can be found online or in your college library. Don’t forget to make a rough position paper outline while reading the sources. Just list the most critical points you would like to use in your writing and then decide the order that will help you develop your idea gradually.

Your point of view and audience

Your audience determines your writing tone and specifics. Considering your potential recipient, you will use particular terms, background information, and details that will sound convincing to them. Think about your reader. If you are writing for history or political science class, your course will be different than the one you should choose for a philosophy or sociology class.

To decide your point, you should ask yourself some questions about the chosen topic. Is it really interesting? Can you produce something creative and original? Be sure that your professor has already seen thousands of such papers, so he/she will appreciate something unique and exciting. Also, think about the format of your writing – will you prove something to be right or wrong? Or maybe you have some suggestions on how to change or solve the problem? This will help you decide your further work.

Structure

  • Introduction

Start with a small topic description, give some background facts, and end your first paragraph with a thesis statement. You should demonstrate two things here – your theme and the way you work with it. You can start by presenting the sphere into which your issue fits and then get straight to the point.

  • Counterclaims

Provide some ideas that contradict your position. While including them, think about the way you will oppose each idea. Will you convince your reader that a certain counterargument is a mistake? Maybe, the counterargument is relevant, but you can explain why your point is better?

Be fair and objective when providing counterarguments. Don’t try to make them look like nonsense. Your task is not to attack someone, but to present the issue broadly.

Your arguments

In this part, you should present no less than three arguments that support your position (the quantity depends on your word count). Each evidence should be presented in a separate paragraph. First, present it briefly, then provide your opinion, and add a proof taken from the source(s). You may have more than three arguments to support your idea, but you shouldn’t have less.

Conclusion

In your conclusion, you need to restate your central argument. End your paper with a plan of action, a suggestion for further research, or idea on how to solve the controversy. Avoid adding new facts to the last paragraph. The most straightforward conclusion reformulates your previous arguments and repeats them in a brief form.

These tips will make your position paper writing easier. Just keep up with them, and your chances to create a winning piece will grow! Good luck and happy writing!

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