How to Write a Position Paper

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In a position paper assignment, your charge is to choose a side on a particular controversial topic and build up a case for your opinion or position. Once you state your position, you will use facts, opinion, statistics and other forms of evidence to convince your reader that your position is the best one.

As you collect research for your position paper and begin to craft an outline, you must remember that the teacher will be looking for a well-constructed argument. This means that the subject matter and your topic is not as important as your ability to make a case. Your topic could be simple or complex—but your argument must be sound and logical.

Select a Topic for Your Paper

Your position paper is going to center around a personal belief that is supported by research, so you have an opportunity to tap into your own strong feelings in this assignment. Take advantage of this opportunity! Find a topic that is near and dear to your heart, and you’ll put more of your heart into your work. That always leads to a better outcome.

Conduct Preliminary Research

Preliminary research is necessary to determine whether evidence is available to back up your stance. You don’t want to get to attached to a topic that falls apart under a challenge.

Search a few reputable sites, like educations sites and government sites, to find professional studies and statistics. If you come up with nothing after an hour of searching, or if you find that your position doesn’t stand up to the findings on reputable sites, you should choose another topic. This will save you from a lot of frustration later on.

Challenge Your Own Topic

This is a very important step! You must know the opposite view as well as you know your own stance when you take a position. You must know all the possible challenges that you might face as you support your view. Your position paper must address the opposing view and chip away at it with counter evidence.

For this reason, you must find arguments for the other side of your position, present those arguments or points in a fair manner, and then state why they are not sound.

One helpful exercise is to draw a line down the middle of a plain sheet of paper and list your points on one side and list opposing points on the other side. Which argument is really better? If it looks like your opposition might outnumber you with valid points, you might be in trouble!

Continue to Collect Supporting Evidence

Once you’ve determined that your position is supportable and the opposite position is (in your opinion) weaker than your own, you are ready to branch out with your research. Go to a library and conduct a search, or ask the reference librarian to help you find more sources.

Try to collect a variety of sources, to include an expert’s opinion (doctor, lawyer, or professor, for example) and personal experience (from a friend or family member) that can add an emotional appeal to your topic.

Create an Outline

A position paper might be arranged in the following format:

1. Introduce your topic with a little background information. Build up to your thesis sentence, which asserts your position. Sample points:

  • For decades, the FDA has required that warning labels should be placed on certain products that pose a threat to public health.
  • Fast food restaurants are bad for our health.
  • Fast food packages should contain warning labels.

2. List possible objections to your position. Sample points:

  • Such labels would affect profits of major corporations.
  • Many people would see this as overreaching government control.
  • Whose job is it to determine which restaurants are bad? Who draws the line?
  • The program would be costly.

3. Support and acknowledgment of the opposing points. Sample points:

  • It would be difficult and expensive for any entity to determine which restaurants should adhere to the policy.
  • Nobody wants to see the government overstepping its boundaries.
  • Funding would fall on the shoulders of taxpayers.

4. Explain that your position is still the best one, despite the strength of counter-arguments. Sample points:

  • The cost would be countered by the improvement of public health.
  • Restaurants might improve the standards of food if warning labels were put into place.
  • One role of the government is to keep citizens safe.
  • The government already does this with drugs and cigarettes.

5. Summarize your argument and restate your position.

Get Attitude When you write a position paper, you should write with confidence. In this paper, you want to state your opinion with authority. After all, your goal is to demonstrate that your position is the correct one. Be assertive, but don't be cocky. State your points and back them up with evidence.