Strategies for Writing Position Papers

There are no set formulas for writing position papers, but there are accepted strategies that work especially well. Think about both thesis-first and delayed-thesis strategies, and decide which is most advantageous for your particular case.

Thesis-First Pattern The following is an effective way to organize a thesis-first paper, but keep in mind these are guidelines, not rules:

1. Introduce the issue by providing a brief background that defines, describes, and explains it, for example: Excessive growth of water plants are clogging Lake Champlain, causing fish to die, and ruining the lake for recreational purposes.

2. State the issue as a yes/no question so that the two sides are clear, for example: Should a phosphorous-free buffer zone be created along the shores of Lake Champlain to prevent excess nutrients from entering the lake?

3. Assert your thesis as the position your paper will support, for example: To reduce pollution in Lake Champlain, a phosphorus-free buffer zone should be implemented along the lakeshore. Introducing the issue, stating it as a yes/no question, and articulating your thesis commonly take place in the first paragraph of a thesis-first position paper.

4. Summarize the counterclaims against your position, for example: A phosphorous-free zone is not a cost-effective way to reduce pollution since it will hurt many farmers and be difficult to enforce. Do this briefly and before you state your own claims, so that your claims refute the opposition and conclude your paper. The most powerful position in a paper is at the end because it's the last thing a reader sees and is most likely to be remembered. You want to save this for your own claims.

5. State claims that support your thesis and refute the counterclaims, for example: A recent study of the sources of pollution in Lake Champlain indicate that seventy-five percent is the result of farm fertilizer runoff. Stating your claims and supporting each with evidence will constitute the major part of your paper.

6. Provide evidence for each claim your paper makes, for example: According to the Lake Champlain Action Community, "748 metric tons of phosphorous are deposited in the lake annually" (Tropus Status and Phosphorous Loadings of Lake Champlain, EPA, 1970). The stronger the evidence, the more convincing your paper. Strong evidence will only result from serious research on your part, both in the field (interviewing experts, visiting sites) and in the library (locating periodicals, local documents, books). Any argumentative paper you write will be many times stronger with substantial and varied research information to support your claims.

7. Conclude by restating your thesis, now synthesizing your claims into a brief summary of your case, for example:

All the recent studies of pollution in Lake Champlain point to the same conclusion: that farm fertilizer runoff must be reduced if algae growth is to be curtailed. Only by legislating a phosphorous-free zone will the problem be solved and the lake become clean again.

The advantages of leading with your thesis are that:

1. Your audience knows from the start where you stand.

2. Your thesis occupies the strongest parts of your paper: first and last.

3. It is the most common and conventional form of academic argument, hence the one most expected by your instructors.

Delayed-Thesis Pattern To use the delayed-thesis strategy, reorganize your paper so that it presents and explains both sides to the reader before you reveal the side you support. Your organization would look roughly like this:

1. Introduce the issue.

2. State the issue as a yes/no question.

3. Summarize the claims of the opposition.

4. State your counterclaims,

5. Provide evidence to support your counterclaims.

6. Conclude by stating your thesis based on your counterclaims.

The advantages of delaying your thesis are that:

1. Your readers are allowed to weigh the evidence for and against, and are invited to make their own decisions before hearing yours.

2. The audience is kept in suspense, thereby increasing engagement.

3. The audience empathizes with the writer over the difficulty in making a decision.

I write with a delayed approach when both sides of an issue seem almost equally persuasive; I want my audience to reason with me and see that this has been a difficult conclusion to reach. I use the thesis-first approach when I see the issue as more clear cut; I want my audience persuaded from the start that there's really only one reasonable choice to make.

0 0

Post a comment