How would you describe your critique writing experience? Looking back, what strengths and weaknesses did you exhibit while doing the task? How do you plan to develop these writing strengths and minimize your weaknesses?
A position paper, also called a point of view paper, is a common writing piece that is expected to be mastered by students like you. Knowledge of and practice in writing this type of document is essential for you. You will be most likely asked to write a good number of position papers when you start practicing your profession. Your superiors, clients, stakeholders, and colleagues are the ones who will read your position paper in the future.
Writing a position paper is a good follow up to writing a critique. In writing a critique, you practiced your skills in analyzing and evaluating a topic by focusing on its positive and negative aspects. You were trained to search and read credible references, to weigh important details and evidences, to form logical opinions, and to use appropriate words to express your ideas. The same skills will be further developed now that you are about to write a position paper.
A position paper explains your opinion on a specific issue or topic based on logical support. If in a critique, you try to present the pros and the cons of the topic as balanced as possible, in a position paper, you tend to highlight your viewpoint and your reasons (called arguments) for your stand on an issue. However, you still have to discuss the opposing side of the issue, but with the purpose of downplaying it at the end to prove that your arguments are stronger.
Below are some important things you have to consider in preparing to write a position paper.
- Choosing a topic
- Locating and reading credible sources
- Forming a thesis statement and arguments
- Outlining the position paper
- Drafting the position paper
Choosing a Topic
In selecting a good topic for a position paper, you have to ask yourself if the issue/topic you have in mind is truly controversial at present. If it’s not, then it is a topic not worth discussing. Also, you must establish that there are at least two sides to the issue (which means it is debatable). Third, assess if the issue can be narrowed down enough to be discussed in a (more or less) five-paragraph position paper. If the issue is very complex, it is wise to focus on a major aspect of it for this requirement rather than to attempt to discuss all areas in one class requirement. Finally, you should be personally interested in whatever topic you decide to work on. It would be difficult to focus on writing if you are not motivated to work on the topic.
Evaluate the topics that follow. Work with a seatmate to examine whether each is a good topic for a position paper. Be ready to share your ideas in class.
- Parental control over children’s access to technology at home
- The government’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program and its failure to help the poor
- Evolution of racial discrimination over time
- Alarming environmental problems
Now, in preparation for your position paper writing, present a minimum of three topics to your teacher and wait for feedback. Be ready to explain how you plan to discuss the topics; it may be good to rank the topics according to your preference/interest so your teacher could give a more accurate assessment of your intended topics.
Locating and Reading Credible Sources
Because the aim of a position paper is to present your opinion or stand on an issue, it is necessary that your stand/claim on the topic is based on sound reasoning. One way to establish this is to base your arguments on reasonable sources/references. Similar to what you used in writing your critique, research articles from academic journals, government and well-known agency reports, and books, newspaper, and magazine articles written by experts are preferred. Do check the background of the author/s. Don’t forget to check the year of publication especially when your aim is to present current statistics and records. It would also save you time if you read the abstract or summary of a report if it has the information that you need before you consider it a good source. Your teacher will check and approve your sources before you use them, and he/she will likewise tell you how many sources you must use in writing your position paper.
As you read a source, do not forget to take down notes. Try using the note-taking graphic organizer below.
|Source (Author/ Year/Title)||Line/s from the Source (Page No.)||Why Is/Are the Line/s Important to My Paper|
You may want to have a graphic organizer for each of your sources. Once accomplished, the graphic organizers will help you arrive at possible thesis and arguments. These will also help you decide whether the topic you have in mind is narrow enough, too narrow, or too broad.
Forming a Thesis and Arguments
As you should know by now, a thesis statement should clearly identify your stand on the issue and mention your argument/s as well. It is usually stated in one to two sentences. A good thesis statement will help the readers immediately know your opinion on the topic. Similarly, it should also tell what will be covered and will not be covered in your paper.
Identify the possible good position paper thesis statements from the following sentences:
- Mr. X is the best presidential candidate because he has the experience, knowledge, and heart to lead the country.
- The traffic problem in the city should be solved as soon as possible.
- Values and morals of teens have changed through the years.
- Visible and active police officers and strict implementation of laws will likely lessen crimes in metropolis.
Outlining Your Paper
As in typical academic papers, a position paper needs an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should discuss what the paper will cover and familiarize the readers with the (technical) terms and concepts that they will read in the body. Try to make your introduction attractive but short for your readers, and remember that you will have readers who feel strongly for or against your topic. You should attempt to engage both types of readers to read your paper and possibly take the same stand as you do. Also, as a beginner, you are advised to end your introduction by mentioning your thesis and your argument/s.
The body is where you will discuss your arguments: the reasons for your opinion/stand. Plan how you will arrange your arguments in the clearest and logical way. Make certain that you have enough supporting details for your arguments.
The conclusion will be as short as your introduction (more or less). It should restate your arguments, but will not repeat exactly what you have in the body. Do not discuss a new point in this section. You must plan a conclusion that will have a takeaway for your readers.
Drafting Your Paper
Make sure that you develop each argument by citing enough appropriate evidence like statistics, factual knowledge, and testimonies of people with authority and knowledge of the topic. Develop the arguments clearly by using suitable rhetorical patterns. Your voice should stand out; your opinion should be highlighted. However, if you will use someone’s idea, work, or theory to help you explain your opinion, always give credit to the person by mentioning his/ her name. The presence of a phrase like “According to Dr. XYZ who has cured several patients who have this disorder…” signals that the information came from an authority and not from you. You are giving credit to the source of the information. This is being intellectually honest.