How to Write a Brillant Position Paper and Ace an A

How to write a Position Paper

What is a Position Paper?

Position essays make a claim about something and then prove it through arguments and evidence.

What is the objective of a position paper?

In a position paper assignment, your responsibility is to choose a side on a particular topic, sometimes controversial, and build up a case for your opinion or position. You will use facts, opinion, statistics, and other forms of evidence to convince your reader that your position is the best one. To do this, you’ll collect research for your position paper and craft an outline in order to create a well-constructed argument.

When writing  a position paper you generate support on an issue to describe your position on an issue and the rational for that position and, in the same way that a research paper incorporates supportive evidence, is based on facts that provide a solid foundation for the author’s argument.  It is a critical examination of a position using facts and inductive reasoning, which addresses both strengths and weaknesses of the author’s opinion.  

Preparing your Topic.

 It might be helpful to think of your topic as a question you want to answer, such as: Is it wrongful to terminate a woman because she is pregnant?

a. The goal of your paper will then be to research the area of law around this topic and come up with an answer.

b. You should take a position in response to your topic. That is, your paper should include an answer either Yes, it is wrongful to terminate a pregnant woman (and why) or No, it is not wrongful to terminate a pregnant woman.

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. 

Locate Your Sources of Information.

a. Your textbook may be an excellent starting place.

b. Library. The Perkins Library staff may be able to point you to useful secondary sources that they have in their collection. These may include books, databases, magazines, law texts, etc.

c. The Internet. The World Wide Web will probably be the primary tool for your research. There are several search engines that might provide you with interesting articles, blogs, texts, laws, charts, interviews, answers, analyses, etc.

  • Be careful on the Internet. As you are reading material that you’ve found, make a note of the author. Who wrote it? Do they have a bias? Are they a trustworthy resource? Are they credible? Does it look as though they have checked the truth of the facts upon which they are relying? Are you reading an editorial, which is biased by definition, or a news article?

– If the source does not cite its author, it is most likely not a trustworthy source!

d. Make sure you make a note of every resource you use. Even if you don’t directly quote from a source, your paper should contain a bibliography of your research.

As you use a source, make a note of the source, its author, and the date it was written.

Do Your Research.

a. Fact check: Are you sure the facts upon which you are relying are trustworthy?

b. Take and organize notes.

i. As you do your research take notes about issues you think relate to your topic. You may find it easiest to take notes on note cards so that you can organize your research as you prepare to write your paper.

ii. One way to organize your notes may be:

  1. Facts relating to topic
  2. Current legal standing with respect to this topic
  3. Problems with this topic
  4. How these problems should be resolved
  5. Questions I have or things that don’t make sense

iii. If you find a great quote or statistic, make a note of that, making sure you copy the quote correctly. Don’t forget to make note of the source and the page number of the quote…you’ll need that for your citations!

iv. AVOID PLAGIARISM!!! Make sure you can tell the difference between your notes and the direct words of the author! If you are using the words of another, you need to cite that author or you will fail!

1. Use quotation marks to indicate when you are using the words of another. Follow the quotation with a parenthetical citing the source, author, page number (if possible).

2. E.g. “Use quotation marks to indicate when you are using the words of another.”

Draft Your Paper.

Different students will tackle this part in different ways, but at a certain point, you need to start writing. We call this first writing a Draft or simply creating an outline, because it is my hope that your paper will go through at least two, if not several, revisions as you organize your thoughts, research and analysis.

Create an Outline for you position paper

A position paper can be arranged in the following format:

1. Introduce your topic with some basic 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. Introduce possible objections to your position. Sample points:

  • Such labels would affect the 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 acknowledge the opposing points. Just be sure you aren’t discrediting your own views. 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. This is where you can work to discredit some of the counter-arguments and support your own. 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. End your paper focusing on your argument and avoid the counter-arguments. You want your audience to walk away with your view on the topic being one that resonates with them.

When you write a position paper, write with confidence and state your opinion with authority. After all, your goal is to demonstrate that your position is the correct one.

Proof Read Your Paper.

Before you hand in your paper, check it for the following:

a. Is my topic clearly stated? Is the answer to my topic question clearly stated?

b. Is it well-organized? Does one paragraph follow logically from the last?

c. Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling!

d. Tip: Read your paper out loud. You will often catch mistakes this way. Even better, if you have time, let your paper sit for a day (or even an hour) and then read it out loud. Fresh eyes, fresh perspective.

Organizing Your Paper.

Your paper should follow this loosely defined format:

a. Introduction:

i. State your topic question and the answer to your topic question clearly.

Also state how you will find this answer. Try to find an interesting or powerful way to begin your essay.

ii. E.g. This paper will discuss the question of whether it is legally wrong to terminate a woman who is an employee at will solely on the basis of her pregnancy. To answer this question, we must look to the employment at will relationship, its exceptions and the laws of discrimination. Lastly, this paper will demonstrate why it is not in the public interest of society to hold that a woman who is an employee at will should be protected from termination on the basis of her pregnancy.

b. Facts:

i. What are the facts surrounding your issue? Why is it an important issue?

This will set the framework for your analysis. This is your chance to set the story.

ii. In the example above, facts might include that pregnant woman are a growing part of our population, pregnant women who are employees at will lose their babies at an alarming rate, etc.

c. Legal Issues:

i. What are the legal issues surrounding this issue? Are there legal rights at issue? Is there any statutory law that is on topic? Any relevant case law?

How are courts handling this issue right now? Are their conflicting legal issues and, if so, how are they being balanced?

d. Analysis:

i. Now that you’ve set the framework, it’s time to start answering your question! How does the law apply to the facts? Is it a favorable response?

If so, why? If not, why not?

1. Show your thinking clearly!

2. Don’t forget to use quotation marks (“”) around quotes and follow it and other facts with a footnote or parenthetical citing the source.

e. Conclusion: Wrap it all with a summary of your analysis and a re-iteration of the answer to your topic question.

f. Bibliography: This does not need to be fancy, just a listing of the sources you used and the authors.

Sources

Fleming, Grace. (2021, September 9). 5 Steps to Writing a Position Paper. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-a-position-paper-1857251