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ESSENTIALS OF A POSITION PAPER

The papers MUST be TYPED and follow the format; 12 point font, double spaced, 1
inch margins unless otherwise noted. All position papers must include a bibliography! If you
have more than one topic you must write a separate Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 for each topic!

It should be written in a business memorandum format. A business memorandum makes


its main points up front, in the summary, followed by details in the balance of the report. It
also is written in a tone that is succinct and confident. Position memorandums, in particular,
should be written with a persuasive and confident tone (although you must always back up
your position(s) with research and facts). It should be typed, with one and one-half line
spacing (e.g., in between single and double spacing). The detailed business memo format is
as follows, including guidelines for length:

1) executive summary (one - one & one-half pages)


a. brief description of the issue and its importance
b. brief description of alternative positions on the issue
c. brief description of writer’s position on the issue and reason(s)
2) background (two – three pages)
a. background information/details surrounding the issue
3) alternatives (two – three pages)
a. detailed discussion of alternative positions
b. detailed discussion of reason(s) for writer’s position
4) summary (one page)
a. restate the importance of the issue
b. restate position
c. mention additional research/discovery needed from others that would be
helpful to furthering knowledge on the issue
5) works cited

What are the objectives of writing a position paper?


• Formally inform others of your position or viewpoint in an issue
as a foundation to build resolution to difficult problems.
• Present a unique, though biased, solution
or a unique approach to solving a problem
• Frame the discussion in order to define the "playing field."
This can put you in an advantageous position with those who may not be so well
prepared as regards the issues behind their positions
• Establish credibility
Here you are demonstrating that you have a command of the issues and the research
behind them, and can present them clearly
• Let your passion be demonstrated in the force of your argument
rather than in the use of emotional terms
• Consistency is a key here
“The better prepared you are
the more disadvantaged are your opponents
and more likely they will defer to you”
Research:
• Develop supporting evidence for both sides
including factual knowledge, statistical evidence, authoritative testimony
• Identify the issues and prejudices keeping in mind your audience
List these as appropriate and anticipate counterclaims
• Assume familiarity with basic concepts
but define unfamiliar terms/concepts or state meanings that define your point of
departure
• Refer to those who agree with your position to assist you in developing your
argument
• Familiarize yourself with those who disagree with you to prepare your defense.
Summarize their argument and evidence, then refute
Introduction:
Consider your audience:
start with a topic sentence or two that attracts attention and summarizes the issue
Inform the reader of your point of view
Development:
Focus on three main points to develop
Each topic is developed with
• a general statement of the position
• an elaboration that references documents and source data
• past experiences and authoritative testimony
• conclusion restating the position
Establish flow from paragraph to paragraph
• Keep your voice active
• Quote sources to establish authority
• Stay focused on your point of view throughout the essay
• Focus on logical arguments
• Don't lapse into summary
in the development--wait for the conclusion
Conclusion
• Summarize, then conclude, your argument
• Refer to the first paragraph/opening statements as well as the main points
○ does the conclusion restate the main ideas?
○ reflect the succession and importance of the arguments
○ logically conclude their development?
*note: your position paper could be in an outline form or a full blown paragraph form.

David Markowitz
Al Filreis
English 285
December 4, 1995
Position paper on Graff's Beyond the Culture Wars
Gerald Graff's suggestion that colleges make issues of academic controversy part of the
classroom dialogue, is for obvious reasons, attractive. However, his vision of a campus
where political and academic confict is subsumed by-or at least symbiotic with-classroom
learning assumes that the culture war is being fought in good faith. I think believing that this
is a good faith dispute ignores what are the most contentious fronts in the culture war,
within as well as outside the colleges.
Of course, these issues are race, gender, and sexuality. Both sides in the culture war have
proven themselves unable to contain themselves and argue objectively. They have
attempted, in some cases, to obfuscate the issue by creating code words to euphemize the
issue, but ultimately feel a passion that is too raw, too visceral for the classroom to contain.
On the right, it is not simply a matter of the decay of the canon. Graff points out that several
popular accounts mention the inclusion of marginal literature in syllabi, but I believe he
doesn't realize the significance of who their targets are. While broadly, they claim to be
standing against "barbarism" and "relativism," they're particular targets seem the same as a
McCarthyite's rogues gallery: feminists, blacks and other minorities, homosexuals--
challengers to a canon, but also, as might be expected, the enemies of the reactionaries
calling themselves "conservatives." It should be no surprise that popular spokesmen for the
right embrace this, sometimes going to anti-intellectual extremes or plain lying. These
conflicts when played out in colleges are genteel when compared with how they play out in
a larger national discourse about affirmative action and equal opportunity, civil rights,
personal liberties, and religious freedom.
Graff rightly points out that the radical multi-culturalists have become the opposite side of
the same absolutist, exclusivist coin. But Leonard Jefferies isn't as alone as Graff would have
us believe. For instance, the popularity of Nation of Islam speakers among black college
students indicates that Jefferies has a good deal of company. The stifling of "hate speech" is
a more generalized indication that colleges are justifiably terrified of letting students at each
other to resolve ideological disputes. Incidents like the Cornell students who distributed
misogynist jokes or the Penn water buffalo case, should dramatize the fact that both sides of
the culture war feel there is too much at stake in the culture war to permit opposing
perspectives. Judith Rodin, in a letter to parents and alumni, discussed the Red & Blue's
racist article about Haiti as a success for rational student discourse, but conveniently forgot
to mention the devisiveness it caused.
Graff's argument often boils down to schematizing how to represent conflicts, but I believe it
ignores the larger, more rancorous, culture wars that revolve around the same issues. In this
regard, even though I feel his solution is elegant but unrealistic. It relies on passing absolute
positions off as relative, and thus ignores how deeply felt those absolute ideologies are.
Since this flaw is in the very foundational assumptions on which his idea rests, I think he is
naive in suggesting that these arguments be contained and defused in a classroom.
http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/graff-sample-paper.html

http://www.studygs.net/wrtstr9.htm

I. Introduction

___A. Introduce the topic

___B. Provide background on the topic

___C. Assert the thesis (your view of the issue)


II. Counter Argument

___A. Summarize the counterclaims

___B. Provide supporting information for counterclaims

___C. Refute the counterclaims

___D. Give evidence for argument

III. Your Argument

___A. Assert point #1 of your claims

_____1. Give your opinion

_____2. Provide support

___B. Assert point #2 of your claims

_____1. Give your opinion

_____2. Provide support

___C. Assert point #3 of your claims

_____1. Give your opinion

_____2. Provide support

IV. Conclusion

___A. Restate your argument

___B. Provide a plan of action