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ENGLISH FOR ACADEMIC & PROFESSIONAL PURPOSES

Teaching Guide: Writing a Position Paper

By doing a thorough and careful enumeration of sound arguments in your position paper, you are able to make sure your stand on an issue is strong and believable.

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Was there an instance in your life before where you voiced out your opinion on an issue? What issue did you give your opinion on? Were you challenged or forced to do it? Did you do it out of your initiative or concern? How did you do it? Did you do this orally or in written form? Voicing out opinions on an issue is one skill that you must develop as a student, and one effective way to do this is by writing position papers. By doing a thorough and careful enumeration of sound arguments in your position paper, you are able to make sure your stand on an issue is strong and believable. In this lesson, you will be acquainted with the elements and parts of a position paper and the contexts where a position paper is used.

Introduction

ACTIVITY 1: STATEMENT ANALYSIS. Examine the below statements carefully. Decide on which side you are; English or Filipino. Write your opinion regarding the advantages of learning and patronizing the language you chose in the table below. 

Speak English; your future depends on it.

Love the Filipino language.

Motivation

ACTIVITY 2: WORKING INSIDE A TEXT. This activity is in preparation for the text you are about to read. It guides you as to what ideas in the text you shall look out for. I have provided you questions that will guide you in your reading; answer these questions on the right column of the table.

Surveying the Text

What is the title of the text?
Who is the author?
Comment on the text’s structure;  e.g., length, number of paragraphs,  use of words, etc.

Predicting the Main Idea

Make predictions of the text based on its title. What is the text about?
Comment on the text’s structure;  e.g., length, number of paragraphs,  use of words, etc.

Predicting the Genre

Based on the structure and words  used in the text, what genre is it?
Predict how the text will be shaped and developed.

ACTIVITY 3. ANTICIPATION GUIDE. Encircle agree or disagree under column 1 beside each statement before you read James Soriano’s  “Language, learning, identity, privilege.” When you have finished reading, consider the statements again based on the new information you read. Encircle agree or disagree under the third column beside each statement and check whether your stand based on new evidence has changed.

Before ReadingStatementsAfter Reading
Agree / DisagreeEnglish is the language of learning. Agree / Disagree
Agree / DisagreeFilipino is the language of the world outside the classroom. Agree / Disagree
Agree / DisagreeFilipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject— almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics,  except that it was graded the same way as Science,  Math, Religion, and English.Agree / Disagree
Agree / DisagreeFilipino has its own system, with its own grammar,  semantics, sounds, even symbols. Agree / Disagree
Agree / DisagreeFilipino is not the language of the learned. It is not the  language of the privileged. Agree / Disagree

ACTIVITY 4: MARKING THE TEXT. Read the article entitled Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege by James Soriano. Mark the article according to the strategies for effective reading.

  1. Number the paragraphs. 
  2. Encircle key terms, cited authors, and essential words or numbers. 
  3. Underline the author’s claims and other information relevant to the reading purpose.

Answer the following questions.

  1. Why do you think the article is entitled “Language, learning, identity, privilege?”
  2. How was the English language described in the article?
  3. Why do you think the author regards Filipino as the language of the streets and English as the language of the learned? Cite the author’s reasons for coming up with such conclusions.
  4. Do you agree with the assertions made in the article about the Filipino language? Explain. 
  5. Why did the writer describe himself as worse than a malansang isda and a split-level Filipino? 
  6. Why do you think he considers English as his mother language? 
  7. Do you also consider English as your mother language? Why or why not? 
  8. Does the writer make a strong stand about the issue presented? How did he convince the reader to believe in his claims? 

Delivery

ACTIVITY 5. DISTINGUISHING FACTS FROM OPINIONS: One skill in textual analysis is the ability to distinguish fact from opinion. 

fact is something that can be verified with evidence. 

Examples: 

  • The 1987 Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic of the Philippines. 
  • Filipino is the national language of the Philippines. 

On the other hand, an opinion is something that people think, believe in, feel, or prefer without evidence or verification of the truth. 

Examples: 

  • Many young people below eighteen are mature enough to choose a rightful government leader.
  • Only educated people know how to write and speak in English effectively.

ACTIVITY 6. THREE-COLUMN NOTES: Make an informal outline that lists the main points presented by the author. Make sure to support it with details from the article. List them down below. Distinguish whether the main points presented are facts or opinions.

ACTIVITY 7. QUESTIONS AND PROPOSITIONS: Based on the main points and evidence cited, say whether you agree with Soriano’s claim in his article or not. Be ready to defend your stand. Write your possible questions and propositions in the table below.

Delivery

Read the discussion on How to Write a Position Paper for this part.

Practice

Read the following essay, which was submitted as a position paper for the 41st Yale Model United Nations conference. The author is Benjamin Waldman, a student at Kingswood Oxford School.

Country: Russia 
Committee: Advisory Panel on Water Security 
Topic: Water Wealth Nature is an inexorable force. 

Typhoons, hurricanes, and tsunamis (among other water-based forces) have battered the earth from prehistoric times. Perhaps spurred on by climate change—although this claim has not yet been proven decisively—these occurrences have become even more deadly in recent years. Tsunamis and related events end and disrupt lives, interrupt governments and require vast sums of money for rebuilding and recovery. The difficulty of implementing national warning systems and building codes has blocked progress in preparing for catastrophe. However, an international response is usually timely and effective, if not financially responsible; for example, in response to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, the United Nations “helped provide food, medicine, water and sanitation, and hygiene assistance,” according to a U.N. report 100 days after the typhoon struck. Furthermore, the U.N. implemented emergency employment programmes that helped [families] get back on their feet and pumped money into local economies,” said the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines. Russia believes discussing the threat posed by devastating climate events like tsunamis is more pressing than discussing the threat posed by sinking islands due to the former’s immediacy.

Russia is a tsunami-prone nation. The 1952 Severo-Kurilsk tsunami, for example, killed more than 2000 Russians from a local population of 6000. More recently, in 2012, at least 171 people were killed in a “tsunami-like flood” in southern Russia. According to RT.com (formerly Russia Today), this flood was the worst event like it in about 100 years. Although Russia had put in a place a flood hazard alarm for these situations, head of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, Vladimir Puchkov noted that “the population was notified [of the flood], but not in a sufficiently thorough way.” This failure did not go unnoticed in Russia, and she participated in the 2014 Tsunami Warning Exercise, which “revealed some technical dysfunctions in the transmission of alerts and showed the need to improve the reliability of communication technologies used to disseminate alert messages,” according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Therefore, Russia has taken steps to protect her citizens against these threats, but more international cohesion and assistance is required.

Russia believes that solutions to mitigate the effects of tsunamis must focus on international collaboration. For example, systems that relay early warnings of floods and tsunamis must be installed throughout the world, in order to allow for a more timely response both by the affected country and by other nations and international organizations. An international commission should be formed, consisting of at-risk countries and experts, to investigate the most effective solutions, both preemptive and reactive. These countries would provide relevant information, such as what consistently goes awry during crises, whether it be architecture or emergency response systems failing. Russia would welcome the input of such a well-qualified commission in regard to building codes and other possible solutions, as well as the cost and feasibility of each idea. As for sinking islands, Russia stresses that any resolution cannot and must not infringe upon the power of a sovereign state. That is, the U.N. many not force an unwilling country to provide land to the government and people of a sinking island; the land in question must be sold willingly. Russia completely supports a humanitarian solution, but when a country sinks and there is no land already allocated for migration, the government must also cease to hold power over these displaced people in order to minimize unrest, and former citizens should become naturalized in another nation.

The safety of nation’s citizens is of paramount importance, and the above ideas are a few ways to make water-based natural disasters less threatening.

Enrichment

Analyze the position paper above by identifying its important parts (thesis statement, counter-argument, refutation, argument, and supporting evidence) Furthermore, evaluate its components by shading the stars according to your rating (1 star as the lowest and 5 stars as the highest). Make your analysis and evaluation in the table that follows.

Evaluation

POSITION PAPER. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a United Nations program concerned with children’s rights and welfare, has organized an international conference to discuss certain issues that involve children in developing countries. This conference is open to all young individuals who can share their country’s position in issues concerning children’s education, nutrition, health, and security. As a delegate of the Philippines, you are tasked to choose a topic that covers the current challenges faced by Filipino youth and make a stand on it. You may use the outline as a guide when writing. Your position paper will be assessed on criteria established in the rubric on Writing a Position Paper. 

Format: Paper size – long; font style – Century Gothic; font size – 12; margin – 1”; spacing – 1.15.

Closure

LESSON IN A NUTSHELL: A position paper is an essay that presents the stand of the writer about an issue. For a position paper to be effective, it must support its claims with evidence gathered from research investigations, reliable informative materials, and trusted authorities. 

The following are the steps to write a position paper:

  1. Analyze an issue and make a stand. 
  2. Develop an outline. 
  3. Write the introduction, body, and conclusion. 
  4. Revise, edit, and proofread. 

To write an effective position paper, it is vital that the writer’s personal stand and ideas are communicated successfully.

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