The following material explains how to produce a position paper (sometimes called a point of view paper). A template is provided that outlines the major parts of a good position paper. Keep in mind, however, that this is just a guide. Talk to your TAs about their individual expectations. Your TAs may want you to include some criteria that do not appear in this outline. Make sure you check with them. Like a debate, a position paper presents one side of an arguable opinion about an issue. The goal of a position paper is to convince the audience that your opinion is valid and defensible. Ideas that you are considering need to be carefully examined in choosing a topic, developing your argument, and organizing your paper. It is very important to ensure that you are addressing all sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for your audience to understand.
Your job is to take one side of the argument and persuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic being presented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure the validity of your claims, as well as to refute the counterclaims to show that you are well informed about both sides. To take a side on a subject, you should first establish the arguability of a topic that interests you. Is it a real issue, with genuine controversy and uncertainty? Can you identify at least two distinctive positions? Are you personally interested in advocating one of these positions? Is the scope of the issue narrow enough to be manageable? In the CMNS 130 courseware the article by Fleras begins to set out a range of issues you may choose to address. Your tutorial leader will also have a set of suggested paper topics. The suggested paper topics will also be available on the CMNS 130 website.
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. Many of these sources can be located online through the library catalogue and electronic databases, or on the Web. You may be able to retrieve the actual information electronically or you may have to visit a library to find the information in print. The librarian’s presentation on October 10th after your mid-term exam will assist in your orientation of the SFU library. You do not have to use all of the above supporting evidence in your papers. This is simply a list of the various options available to you. Consult your separate assignment sheet to clarify the number and type of sources expected.
Once you have made your pro and con lists, compare the information side by side. Considering your audience, as well as your own viewpoint, choose the position you will take. Considering your audience does not mean playing up to the professor or the TA. To convince a particular person that your own views are sound, you have to consider his or her way of thinking. If you are writing a paper for a sociology professor/TA obviously your analysis would be different from what it would be if you were writing for an economics, history, or communications professor/TA. You will have to make specific decisions about the terms you should explain, the background information you should supply, and the details you need to convince that particular reader. Is your topic interesting? Remember that originality counts. Be aware that your professor/TA will probably read a number of essays on the same topic(s), so any paper that is inventive and original will not only stand out but will also be appreciated.