This Position Paper Outline Will Help You Get Started

Given the choice between going to the dentist for a root canal and writing an outline for a position paper, I’d guess there are at least of few of you who would choose the root canal—simply because you hate outlining that much.

Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. Writing an outline can’t be that painful, can it? Trust me, it’s not.

Outlining can actually save you time and plenty of frustration and pain. So let’s create a position paper outline to help you get started.

The Position Paper: A Micro Definition

position paper outline

The goal of a position paper is to convince your audience that your argument is valid.

Don’t confuse the position paper with an opinion essay. The opinion essay is a little bit like a position paper because it takes a stance on a subject, but an opinion essay is just that: your opinion.

A position essay, on the other hand, is not simply your opinion. It supports an argument and uses evidence from sources to validate your position.

Okay, with those quick points in mind, let’s get to work.

How to Write a Position Paper Outline

Like most standard essays, the position paper needs a strong introduction, well-formed body paragraphs, and a good conclusion.

That means we need to get those basic components into an outline. For my sample outline, I’m going to use the topic of textbooks and tablets. First I need to take my stance:

My position is tablets should replace traditional textbooks in the classroom.

Ready to dive into the outline?

position paper outline

Introduction

In a position paper, the introduction has two primary goals:

  • To identify the issue. (This is the focus of your paper.)
  • To state your assertion. (This is the thesis statement of your paper.)

Start your introduction with a clever hook—you know, something that’s going to grab a reader’s attention. These first few lines of your essay will not only identify the subject of your paper, but they’ll also make your readers want to learn more.

Your introduction should end with a solid thesis statement that expresses your position on the topic.

Keep in mind that you’re writing a research-based position. That means you’ll likely be writing in third-person. (You’re not writing your opinion, which will usually be written in first-person.)

position paper outline
“Apple iPad 2 event” by Blake Patterson, Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Here’s what a brief introduction to a position paper might look like:

“Students who used an interactive, digital version of an Algebra 1 textbook for Apple’s iPad in California’s Riverside Unified School District in 2012 scored 20 percent higher on standardized tests versus students who learned with print textbooks” (mobiledia.com). With the ever-increasing pressures of standardized testing, and with the need for students to compete in a global economy, students need every edge they can get. Using tablets instead of textbooks can give students the advantage they need. Yet this small increase in test scores is not the only advantage of replacing textbooks with tablets. Tablets are also less expensive than textbooks and are a lighter option for students.

This introduction opens with a quote to grab the reader’s attention (the hook), introduces the topic, and ends with a thesis statement that states the position (that tablets should replace textbooks in the classroom).

Body paragraphs

The body section forms the core of your essay and will consist of at least three body paragraphs. Each paragraph will contain a main argument that will help clarify and support your position. In these paragraphs, you’ll include evidence, such as quotes, statistics, and interviews that support each argument.

If you’re looking for help with finding evidence, read 5 Best Resources to Help with Writing a Research Paper.

The body section of the paper is also where you’ll address the opposition. Examining the opposing viewpoint will strengthen your argument because you will be able to not only illustrate the counterargument, but also refute the claim and explain why your point of view is valid.

Here’s a sample outline for the body of my position paper: Tablets should replace textbooks in the classroom

Argument 1: Tablets increase standardized test scores

position paper outline

Evidence from sources:

  1. “A research study, conducted in Auburn, Maine showed that kindergarten students using iPads scored much higher on literacy tests than students that didn’t use the device” (8 Studies Show iPads in the Classroom Improve Education).
  2. “Among the main findings were that fractions knowledge increased an average of 15%, and participants gained confidence in their fractions ability and reported liking fractions more after playing the game [on an iPad]” (gamedesk.org/project/motion-math-in-class).

Argument 2: Tablets cost 50%-60% less than textbooks

Evidence from sources:

  1. “Discovery’s lessons – branded ‘Techbooks’ that run on laptops, desktops, iPads or other tablets – run between $38 and $55 per student for a six-year subscription. The average traditional textbook is $70 per student” (Schools shift from textbooks to tablets).
  2. “According to the FCC, the U.S. spends about $7 billion per year on textbooks, but many of them are seven to ten years out of date. Advocates believe using tablets instead will save money and improve learning” (The Future of Education: Tablets vs. Textbooks).

Argument 3: Tablets are lighter than textbooks

Evidence from sources:

  1. “Benefits of students using tablets instead of textbooks are that they’re lighter than print textbooks, can hold hundreds of books in one place, have the ability to expand memory to hold even more information, and are cheaper than textbooks” (As More Schools Embrace Tablets, Do Textbooks Have a Fighting Chance?).
  2. “Between studying, homework and extracurricular activities, going back to school may make kids feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. And sometimes, they literally do. After you pile a lunch, school supplies, binders and textbooks—which typically weigh 3.5 lbs each—into your child’s backpack, the load he or she is lugging around could be huge … and potentially dangerous. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year” (The Dangers Of Heavy Backpacks — And How Kids Can Wear Them Safely).

Counterargument: Tablets cause too many distractions in the classroom

position paper outline

 Evidence from source:

  1. “…a consistent finding across several studies was that the iPad could potentially be a distraction as it is associated more with entertainment then [sic] education. The ability to connect to the Internet is another big potential source of temptation away from the learning job in hand. Multitasking is highly prevalent with screen technology, and evidence is clear that multitasking during study or learning hinders academic performance” (Five Reasons iPads Should NOT Be In Classrooms).

Evidence from source(s) to refute opposing view:

  1. There’s a reason that students are so often distracted by their digital devices: they’re interesting. But who’s to say learning outside the device can’t be just as compelling? Engage students with projects that challenge them and give them creative autonomy” (7 Ways to Deal With Digital Distractions in Class).

THE TAKEAWAY: Before you start drafting your position paper, you should have the following:

  • At least three solid arguments to support your position, with at least two pieces of evidence to support each of these arguments.
  • At least one counterargument, with at least one piece of evidence to support the opposing view.
  • At least one piece of evidence to refute the counterargument.

Conclusion

The concluding paragraph(s) will re-emphasize the key arguments of the paper. You don’t want to simply repeat the key ideas, and you don’t want to reword the introduction. Instead, you want to stress the importance of your ideas. You may even want to suggest possible solutions.

Here’s a sample conclusion:

Ultimately, using tablets over textbooks is a smart strategy for schools. Even though tablets can become a distraction, they also have the potential to increase standardized tests scores, save schools money, and relieve students of the burdens of heavy backpacks. With so many advantages, tablets should replace textbooks in the classroom.

This conclusion provides a brief overview of the paper’s key points and a statement to again emphasize the position.

position paper outline

Okay, so it’s not quite the end of this post. It’s just the end of the flushed-out example. Ready to tackle your own? Here’s the outline structure I used above in bare bones form. Use this as a guide for your own position paper outline:

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook
    2. Identify the issue
    3. State your position
  2. Body Paragraphs
    1. Argument #1
      1. First piece of evidence
      2. Second piece of evidence
    2. Argument #2
      1. First piece of evidence
      2. Second piece of evidence
    3. Argument #3
      1. First piece of evidence
      2. Second piece of evidence
    4. Counterargument
      1. Evidence from source(s)
      2. Evidence from source(s) to refute opposing view
  3. Conclusion
    1. Overview of the paper’s key points
    2. Statement to emphasize the position

If you need to add extra levels to your position paper outline (for whatever reason), make sure to follow these simple rules for outlining.

More Help? Yes, Please.

position paper outline
“Wassup?” by TC Morgan, Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Before I turn you loose and send you off to write your position paper outline, check out these three additional resources:

Kibin editors are also amazing resources, so let us help by providing feedback on your outline or your final paper.

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