How to Write a Position Paper That Takes a Strong Stance

The year 2016 was pretty crazy, wasn’t it?

It was the year of the summer Olympics in Brazil, where Michael Phelps won his 13th individual gold medal, breaking a record that was set by Leonidas of Rhodes in 152 BC.

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series that year, which was the first time they had done that since around the same time Leonidas set his record, I think.

And another Leo (Dicaprio) won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the first time since ever.

In 2016, there were also wars, riots, refugees, and wildfires, all of which are sadly not as rare.

And of course, 2016 was an election year, which means we all got to experience the quadrennial ritual of attempting to avoid political conversations at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

position paper
“189 – Family Dinner” by Jason Lander, (CC BY 2.0)

However, if you were unsuccessful in avoiding that rabbit hole, I hope the debate was at least a civil one. At the very least, I hope you learned a bit about defending your own positions.

If so, this knowledge will serve you well today as we discuss how to write a position paper that takes a strong stance.

Choose a Topic for Your Position Paper

Much like a political debate, the purpose of a position paper is to present a topic that is up for debate, choose a side, and then convince others (in this case, your readers) to support your side.

The first step in the process is to choose a debatable topic. It must be controversial, with at least two or three potential arguments. Otherwise, it won’t work as the topic of your position paper.

Remember all of those topics you were trying to avoid at Thanksgiving? That’s what we’re looking for.

position paper
“Family dinner, Perth, 27 Oct. 2010” by Phillip Capper, (CC BY 2.0)

I suggest a little brainstorming session in which you list out all topics that will hold your interest while writing the paper and your readers’ attention while reading it.

As you start narrowing down your list, eliminate any topic that is so wide-ranging it becomes unmanageable or so narrow that it is inarguable.

As mentioned above, the sweet spot is a topic with two or three potential arguments. Then you just need to choose the right one.

Need a little nudge to find a good topic? Read about 16 topics that pick a side.

Choose a Side

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In all likelihood, you will immediately have a good idea of which side you will support. But don’t be too hasty. Take your time. Think about all aspects before choosing a side.

It will be hard to make a strong argument if you don’t believe in your stance. But it can also be difficult to objectively look at a topic if you are too passionate about it.

If you can’t strike the right balance between these two aspects, you may need to think about changing your subject.

You should also take a moment to think about your reader. I would never suggest that you pander to your reader, but you should at least think about who will be reading your essay (and who assigned it).

Successfully convincing your tipsy uncle at Thanksgiving will take a different approach than the one necessary to convince your professor. So will you be able to approach your chosen topic in a way that will convince your established audience? If not, you may need to think about another topic.

It’s easy to turn back during prewriting and start over if need be. That gets a lot more difficult and time-consuming once you move beyond this step. So take your time, and choose the right topic and argument.

Do Your Research

At this point, you should have some confidence in your ability to write an essay about your topic, and you should have identified a potential argument.

I say “potential” because you won’t fully be able to get behind it until you have done your research. The best way to convince others is to be 100% behind your argument.

In order to do this, it’s important to have an open mind when approaching your research. Let the research convince you, and you will be much more able to convince others.

Research is time-consuming, but it will be worth it in the end. Meticulous research makes for a strong position paper. Whereas Aunt Cindy’s Facebook feed may be enough to convince her of anything, your research will need to be more in-depth and your sources more reputable.

position paper

And don’t forget, a position paper is not just about defending your position but also refuting those of others. Therefore, your research will cover all major arguments, not just your own.

Much of this process will happen organically during your research, but you should take some time before and after your research to think about whether you have addressed all major arguments.

Only then will you be ready to start writing.

Write Your Thesis Statement

All of your research has been leading you to this point. It’s time to state your argument.

Although you may have had a strong inclination of what your argument would be before you did your research, it’s important to approach this moment with an open mind.

Look back at all of your research and ask yourself, “Regardless of all my previous biases, what is the best stance on this issue?”

Take your position.

The great and powerful thesis is the backbone of your essay. Everything you write beyond this point will be working to prove this one-sentence summation of your argument.

If you’re having trouble putting your argument in sentence form, check out Kibin’s thesis statement generator.

It’s important that you get it right before you begin writing the rest of your paper. Your writing beyond this point will revolve around your thesis.

Here are some example position papers to give you additional insight if you’re struggling to form your thesis statement:

Introduction to Your Position Paper

The opening paragraph of your position paper is more than just a vessel for the holy thesis.

position paper

First, it’s a chance to draw your reader in. Of course the introduction should clearly present the topic and end with your thesis, but before you get into the nitty gritty of your argument, use your introduction to hook your reader.

A position paper will often require some historical context, which means you’re part researcher, part debater, and now, part storyteller.

Where did this topic originate? How has it evolved along the way? Who has it affected in the past, who does it affect now, and who will it potentially affect in the future?

Make it real. Make it interesting. And then, make it clear where you stand.

Ready, Set, Argue

All your brainstorming, research, and thought have hopefully brought you to a point where you can thoroughly and confidently argue your position.

Before you get to the important work of defending your argument, you will need to dedicate a section of your position paper to addressing the competing arguments.

Your research should have been dedicated to all potential positions on your topic. There is a reason that you didn’t choose the other stances, so you should use your research to refute them.

It’s important that you strike the right tone in this section of your paper. This isn’t about accusing those who support another stance of being idiots. It’s hard to convince others by making them feel stupid.

position paper

Instead, let your research do the talking. Establish your credibility now, and it will help when you progress to the meat of your essay: the argument for your position.

The idea is to convince people that your argument is valid and defensible. It will likely take several paragraphs to do so. You will need to tackle every major reason for your position.

Remember, this isn’t an uncomfortable dinner conversation over beers with family. Each and every aspect of your position MUST be backed up with evidence.

It’s also vital that you have someone else read the first draft of your position paper. I suggest a professional editor at Kibin. A fresh set of eyes is much more likely to catch holes in your argument that you can fill with research in subsequent drafts.

Write Your Position Paper Conclusion

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In general, the conclusion paragraph is used to restate your thesis, tie together any loose ends, and wrap up your essay.

The conclusion of your position paper will include these same elements, but it’s a bit different. At this point, you have put a lot of time and energy into researching your topic and taking a strong stance. Most likely, you feel very strongly about that position.

The conclusion paragraph is your opportunity to not only wrap up your arguments in a logical way, but also make a call to action. Explain how your reader can also support your position in a concrete way.

The conclusion paragraph isn’t a place to add new information. It’s a chance to garner support for your position by referencing the main arguments of your paper.

If you’re still a bit confused, I suggest you check out the position paper examples in the Kibin essay examples library or a few detailed examples with commentary. You’ll also make writing your paper a whole lot easier if you make an outline first. Need help? Use this outline to help you get started.

Moreover, have a professional editor check your work to ensure your position paper is taking a strong stance.

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