Position Paper Writing Guidelines

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When your opinion matters, you must find a way to publicize it in the hope that it will change the way things work. A position paper is a good way to do this; express what you feel is the right choice while supporting your reasoning. As a position paper must be persuasive, you should follow some guidelines to increase your chance of success.

Formatting

  • Make it easy for those reading your paper to quickly surmise what you're writing about and who you are. According to Study Guides and Strategies, you should also include a cover sheet that clearly explains your topic and the reason you're writing the paper, in addition to information about yourself and your motivations for writing the paper. Further, if you're writing the paper on behalf of a committee, provide information about each of the members and any other important personnel.

    Match your position paper to the guidelines if any have been given to you. In general, the paper's margins should be 1 inch on all sides. The paper should be set in 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font. You can feature graphics, but you shouldn't use too many, or ones that detract from the seriousness of your paper.

Structure

  • Keep it short and sweet. Your position paper should be packed with factual information that validates your position. You may be tempted to keep going on and on, but if the people reading the paper have questions, they will ask you. Your goal is to present a self-contained opinion and the reasoning behind it.

    If an agency has contracted for the paper, include the sections required. A representative example comes from the Department of Risk Management and Insurance at Georgia State University. Unless instructed otherwise, a position paper should be cast in business memo format and contain at least most of the following sections: an executive summary, a background of the issue, alternatives to the solution you're proposing, a summary of your position and a list of works cited.

Rhetoric

  • Maintain a calm, detached tone. While you might be quite passionate about your thoughts, it's best to simply present your facts and lay out your argument using logos (logic) instead of pathos (emotion). A position paper is often an accessory to an in-person debate, and emotion will, perhaps, come into play there. The University of Washington urges, "Although they should not be overly inflammatory or otherwise offensive, these position papers will naturally have a strong bias."

    Make use of ethos (authority) by emphasizing whom and what you represent and why that means your position should be taken seriously.

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